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

30 May, 2009

And Now The Angry Post

Now, I was thinking of writing a moderately cranky post about the way Susie Bright's otherwise neat post of June 2006 goes right off the fucking rails where she says that she's decided to no longer believe in the existence of women whose sexual reactions to pregnancy aren't basically rooted in the same experience as she had, but at this point I'm just going to sum it up with "Fuck off, I exist, neener neener neener so there" and take apart something that annoyed me.

If you want the reasonably rational and sane response to the annoyance, you will want to go over to SM-Feminists and read there, because this ain't gonna be it. Trin has a couple of followups over there too.

Now, it's not the post I linked to that's the annoyance. Nor even the first few comments. But eventually, the inevitable happens, and the creepiness starts to crawl out. Particularly enraging is the way the creepiness focuses around someone who claimed to be interested in listening to women's stories and understanding kinksters, who has since become rabid. Possibly because (before she triggered the everliving fuck out of me) I asked her to stop posting rape apologia to SM-F, and other people asked her to cite her statistics.

The actual post is an interesting exploration and comparison of roller coaster rides with BDSM, which is a functional and useful analogy that a lot of people seemed to find illuminating, at least in the first round of comments. Just another attempt by a kinkster to go to the work of translating the kink experience into terms that might be more accessible and understandable to people who aren't into that sort of thing.

I will link general subthreads, not individual posts, because otherwise this will take me four hours to write and cranky pregnant lady is cranky.

So. Someone posting under the name 'Brad', who I will therefore presume is probably male, says: "Your post does a fantastic job highlighting rape vs. consensual sex and voluntary vs. forced roles. I will remember this example for a long time."

The immediate response to that was deleted; however, one can extrapolate something about the followup from becstar's later "When someone admits to their desire to hurt women I am not going to sit by and say nothing. I am also not going to agree with the postmodern BS that "consent" makes everything okay." Setting aside what must be a fascinating definition of 'postmodern' (presuming, that is, it means something in this context other than "that bad thing I don't agree with", which is probably excessively generous), there is a level of projection here that approaches an artform.

(I am not going to compare this to surrealist art, even though, given the 'postmodern' comment, it's really tempting to point out that the random interjection of "violence!" "rape culture!" and "patriarchy!" into otherwise productive conversations bears some resemblance to the inspiration for "How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?*")

The conversation goes on with "If they were to seperate themselves from such sexualised violence on a daily basis though and worked on their self-esteem then consenting to such things wouldn't seem like such a great idea after all."

(I think here is where Belle would say, "I'm every woman! It's all in me!" Because we're dealing here with someone who has repeatedly claimed to have her primary experience with BDSM being in an abusive relationship that she continued with due to lack of self-esteem. Who, further, continues to suggest that she is being pressured into kink by her current partner and appears to have a fatalistic attitude towards his inevitable victory on the matter. So of course that's what everyone bloody else is dealing with.)

But, y'know, that whole 'try really hard not to be kinky because being kinky is bad'? Been there. Done that. Burned the T-shirt. Got the flashbacks, too. Dealt with the self-esteem issues that told me that I was the wrong kind of sexual, some kind of defective, someone who shouldn't ever be allowed out in public; unfortunately for Teh Theory, that's when I started defining myself rather strongly as a submissive, because it was due to crippled self-esteem that I wasn't able to be that self-determining.

Someone named Kate replies to this with "Stop it. You are not discussing theory, you are implying that anyone who enjoys BDSM has low self esteem and isn't thinking critically because that was true in your case. Pro tip: We're not all like you," to which bectar replies, "I'll stop when other people stop legitimising sexual violence, okay?"

Given that she triggered the hell out of me with rape apologia, I'm ... glad I didn't take my irony meter out of its sealed box for this trip down Aggravation Lane.

Next up, someone asks if consensual sex legitimises rape under Teh Theory here. And certainly, some people are of that opinion. No, BDSM is different and magical somehow, treating women more as sex objects than sex does, due to ... magic.

It's magic! It doesn't have to be explained!

Oh, and it legitimises the widespread view that women want violent sex that I've never encountered in my life, so probably I was living on another planet at the time. As opposed to, y'know, the flowers and chocolates tedium in most every damn romantic flick ever released, including the ones where the Spunky Independent Woman really just needs the right flowers and chocolates to fall in lurve with Our Hero, generally played by some version of the Tediously Not Actually Attractive Actor For This Decade. All of the cultural harping on how women like soft girly things and foreplay and cuddling so much more than actual sex, totally illusory. And there are no people out there arguing about how women need to be persuaded or tricked into being sexual like the pickup artist crowd, or that women are intrinsically asexual lesbians like certain radical separatists with their clear-eyed gazes, or anything like that. I made them up right now.

Next thread. One raq says, "Sexual fetishes are incredibly hard to ignore and change, and why should you engage in that type of self-loathing?"

becstar again: "Actually its not that hard at all. Remove yourself from as much of society's misogyny as you can and you'll find that your submissive tendencies will fade."

And once again! I'm every woman! It's all in me!

And over in my rational post on SM-F I commented that the thing that encourages what I understand as "rape culture" is the bit where people -- and women are hit with this harder than men in most cases -- aren't given the space to define their own sexuality. So here comes little miss I'm-so-wise, making sure that everyone knows she thinks that she understands their sexuality better than they do. My snake oil will work for you!

(Why on earth aren't there more people on the feminist clean up crew? Because damn, are there a lot of snake oil hawkers sometimes.)

I also get a kick, in the dark and sardonic way, out of someone saying, "Stop being submissive. Just do as I tell you." The misogyny there is subtle, and limited: directed at kinky women, rather than women in general, but the same sort of basic infantilising and attempts at humiliation that all forms of misogyny come up with. And it either contains the basic presumption that the submissive is simply there to take orders -- or a remarkable lack of grasp of ironic subtext.

The thread then degenerates into the standard dominant-women-aren't, submissive-men-are-freeloading-off-female-sexuality, and everyone-is-straight fails that I can't even begin to prod at humorously because they're so pathetic.

"A woman is in control when she isn't buying into the exact ideology which keeps her subjagated in the first place."

The snarky bit of me wants to respond to this with "Yep. That's why I left feminism. This would not be helpful. But really, nothing I could possibly say would ever be helpful to this sort of discussion. If I said "I'd rather get kicked in the head" I'd get mocked for being a self-abusing masochist rather than being sane enough to avoid both getting kicked in the head and avoiding places that are abusive. Not that I'm doing so well with the avoid at the moment, since I'm going through this comment thread in detail bitching about it. At least I'm doing it here.

"Where is your proof that hitting a woman with her consent is any different to hitting a woman without consent?"

Um, sweetie, you've defined two situations: "hitting a woman with her consent" and "hitting a woman without consent". They're explicitly stated as different situations. Therefore, that they are different is tautological.

(And aside from that, stop equating BDSM with "hitting a woman". I'm pretty damn sure one of these discussions we went around and around and you had the clueboat arrive on "submissive" and "masochist" not being synonymous. Though you're demonstrating yourself not capable of grasping that "submissive" and "female" aren't synonymous, so maybe I'm too optimistic about your capacities.)

"Well continue to consent to your own abuse then." Don't you love the personal attack victim-blaming of not-actual-victims? That's so feminist, you know. Especially directed at someone who has not commented on their sexual preferences that I'm aware of, so we've got a 'failed to medal in the polevault to conclusions' in here too.

"When people have low self-esteem they participate in their own abuse because they don't believe they deserve any better." Maybe that's why I'm still reading this thread. Clearly I need to develop enough self-esteem to not feel compelled to dissect the incompetent arguments of frothing assholes for purposes of public mockery.

I think this may be the same subthread, but I'm not sure, and I'm pulling it out because we have a New Contestant.

EGhead, come on down!

"What I'm concerned with is that it doesn't address the legitimate critiques of BDSM, those questioning the possible negative influence of power politics and gender roles on sexual practices."

... oh gods. A theory junkie. Theory theory verbiage theory theory critique theory theory.

"The ethical question, for me anyway, is how BDSM affects ourselves, our partners, and society at large."

Myself: Actual satisfaction of my personal sexual and spiritual needs, treatment of myself as a whole being rather than an emotional cripple, and a generalised improvement in my health, sanity, personal esteem, and generalised emotional balance.

My partners: Well, I seem to be vigorously driving my liege into fits of self-improvement in between other things, though some of that is complicated. My [legal] husband, it's a wee sticking point in our relationship sometimes because we kink in directions that don't actually have much chemistry for me and thus there's very little of that in our relationship. My dear competitor is amused by the stories.

Society at large: I didn't invite any creepy voyeurs into my bedroom; I'll thank EGhead not to do so either. In general, the major effect I've seen from the alt-sex communities of whatever sort I've had much observation on has been the introduction of concepts of overt negotiation into a culture in which "But women like lingerie, what's wrong with my girlfriend that she isn't thrilled by my gift?" is normal.

And I'm reminded of the story of the little girl who was not having much luck convincing the adults to stop tickling her until she snapped "SAFEWORD!" at them. (Many people have trouble respecting the boundaries of children. I remember this from when I was one, and I'm kind of concerned about it on behalf of my current inhabitant.) Tools for self-defense good.

And then dear becstar returns with: "But BDSM *is* real abuse and cruelty. If you admit that it has its basis in the patriarchy which uses it as way to legally hurt women, then how does it differ from any other form of abuse?"

Why should I or anyone else admit something that isn't true? I mean, there are all kinds of things out there that people believe that have no actual basis in reality, so this one isn't all that special, but I'm not responsible for other people's wacky nonsense and I'm not gonna cop to it.

I will take a brief interlude from this rant to declare that this comment completely and totally rocks and draw people's specific attention to it. It's too long to quote here, and I'm not gonna rant about it so it's off-topic anyway.

Back to the ranting, in a subthread about Dworkin or something:

becstar: "But you said it yourself, they are against sex that degrades women, not all sex, ever."

I've been told all kinds of things are degrading. I wrote about language and degradation once, in response to one of those things I've been told. I wrote about embarassment and humiliation, too, and about not being into that sort of thing, because I kink on being whole and becoming larger and more and powerful and just, well, not getting it. And because I don't get it, I don't do that sort of thing, like I don't do roleplay because I'm kind of scarred and battered about being treated as a sexual other and not myself.

And this sort of thing hits my buttons: the whole examine-and-elide-your-kink thing is being treated as a sexual other, not myself, an object to be corrected. This is the particular 'patriarchy'-trauma that most affected my sexuality, the idea that it was something that needed to conform to the desires of others, and I ... kind of twitch whenever I see people doing it in the name of feminism. I wrote about that, too, the humiliation-and-degradation-sexplay intrinsic to this nonconsensual white knight gig. Knock the gal down and be the one to pick her up again and take the credit for getting her off her knees.

It's creepy, okay? And it's creepy in a way that reminds me of being sexually harassed and assaulted, because I'm just the object that gets scored with. So many notches on the bedpost, so many souls redeemed for feminism, whatever. In many ways, I find the bedpost-notchers less creepy; they're easier to protect myself from than the ones who pretend to care about me as a human being (while not actually going to the effort to do so).

Becstar again:

"If pro-BDSM people cared so much about safety why encourage someone to participate in it when they obviously have problems with it? That isn't caring about the person, that's caring about your precious sex."

I don't know, becstar, why is that?

(From that link:)

becstar: I still think that I will never be able to participate in it as a sub because of this (although if my partner has his way I will). I definitely don't use it as a way to try to cover my desire for it up. Its more like a way to try and actually like it so I can just do it and get it over with without it destroying me.

Trinity: I really think you should leave your boyfriend if you can. He's trying to push you into something that really upsets and triggers you and doesn't seem to care about your boundaries. That's just not acceptable.

Me: This, right here: get out. Get out yesterday. That you keep having these moments of "But he keeps pushing for this even though I've said I don't want to, and I may give in"? Is making space for you to be raped again. Please, protect yourself. Please.

SnowdropExplodes: This guy has ALREADY crossed the line into coercive behaviour and that pressure is in my mind an element of an abusive relationship developing.

EthylBenzene: Fourthing Trin, Dw3t, and SD. Becstar, I hope you realize what your boyfriend seems to be coercing you to do is not what we on this site are advocating. Take care of yourself and let us know if you need anything.

SunflowerP: I'm jumping on the bandwagon, too, Becstar. This is the same-old same-old routine, with the idea being that you'll get tired of saying "no" and do what he wants just so you don't have to deal with the whining - that's coerced consent (and thus not really consent at all), whether the guy is someone you just met, or someone you're in a relationship with. DTMFA!!

Yep. We're all just encouraging people who have problems with BDSM to get involved. See all that encouragement? Why, it's positively overwhelming.

More from Feministing: "This entire thread and other places which debate it are about shaming people about not liking BDSM. People who don't like BDSM are always called "sex-negative", "ashamed", "repressed" and its all simply not true."

She tried to pull this one on SM-F too, by the way. I replied. I'm not saying I haven't seen people call certain positions "anti-sex", but, y'know, given that she mentioned this and had a couple of, "Er, no, actually, not," responses that she replied to, or at least had the opportunity to read before going for the Golden Flouncearama, a little intellectual honesty might be nice.

(And part of being the clean-up crew, as previously linked, is calling out people who pull that sort of unwarranted shit. But remember, that post never happened!)

"As long as you're okay with BDSM you're a wonderful person in their eyes." She doesn't actually pay much attention to BDSM discussions, does she? Man, the number of people I've seen categorised as "Yeah, s/he's kinky, but such a goddamn jackass. Don't deal with them if you can avoid it" is ... large.

"The minute anyone dares to critique it they are verbally abused and harrasses - not exactly proving how non-abusive and accepting they are." I think the 'verbal abuse' came in on SM-F when people asked her to provide citations for her statistics. Big meanie-pants.

Another subthread. Someone's a wee bit chatty, eh?

"You must have a strange view of what is safe if you think being hurt is safe." Dude, I have a tattoo. (Don't have any piercings. Piercings are for the most part over my line of acceptable perception of safety. By the way: when I've mentioned I don't have pierced ears, I've had people "jokingly" suggest that they can correct that, up to and including insinuating restraint and coercion. And yet somehow I don't go around railing about how people with pierced ears are victims of teh patriarchee who aren't capable of recognising violence due to their internalisation of defective values.)

"By encouraging BDSM in someone you are encouraging them towards accepting violence towards women. Exactly why would someone who respected women want to hurt them? The answer is, they wouldn't. Similarly, a woman who honestly believed she was worth something as a human being would not want to be hurt."

And we return not only to "BDSM is about hitting women", but some deeply wacked-out perspectives on worth and desire. I mean, one can bring up marathon runners, people in service jobs, or, hell, the original point about people who like roller coasters (in case anyone remembers the topic of the original post at this point), but it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

I continue to think that respecting a woman means listening to her preferences and desires and not overwriting them with one's own opinions, but I'm just kind of radical that way.

Gotta link this comment directly, it's just that special. It starts "Actually I have just returned from doing a lot of research about BDSM." Like this conversation she had with Hope. Or the several threads in which a huge number of people provided her with informational links, some of which are in previous entries in the blog.

No, what snapped her into "Then the longer I stayed there the more creepy their conversations got" appears to be that people wouldn't accept her statistics blindly and asked her to stop putting responsibility for rape on porn rather than rapists. Oh noes.

Skipping some other stuff that mostly just makes me go "buh" to get to a new thread with our star becstar.

"There is nothing sane about wanting to be beat up. It only shows how far the patriarchy has gone in making women internalise self-hatred simply for being born in a certain body." I've heard, though I haven't read, that she was in a different thread (that one on trans issues) on Feministing recently saying how any self-respecting woman would hate having breasts because they're just there for male ogleage and nobody would really want to be a woman if they had a choice. But enough with consistency.

ggg_girl pointed out quite reasonably that becstar would be better off not assuming that kinky people "want to be beat up", and got a response of "I know plenty about the people who practice it." But not enough to, y'know, actually know anything.

"(humiliation in this case meaning any relationship where you are not considered as an equal)"

So, for me, a strictly vanilla relationship, then. Good to know you're willing to support me in that, becstar.

(Ha. Ha ha ha.)

Oh hey, since I last scanned the comments this cool one went up, which is much the same as one of my old posts linked above. Neat.

Meanwhile, return of EGhead with:

"I try to make my critiques as impersonal and thoughtful as possible. In doing so, I don't see myself as shaming anyone, just having an important philosophical debate."

Have a nice philosophy.

Forgive me if I value my life more than your important philosophical debates.

And over here we have more EGhead, to wind the whole thing up:

"I agree that condemning fantasies is harfmful, but condemning actual sexual practices that may cause harm is ok. I suppose we disagree what what harm BDSM may cause. Either way, I don't want to shame individuals, but the sex practices themselves."

How very ... special.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin", eh?

And if the 'sin' is an intrinsic part of who the 'sinner' is, something that they consider important and value, something that's a part of their foundation on the world, well, they just shouldn't take it so fucking personally. It's not about them, it's just this thing they're doing.

I hate theorywonkage. Or theorywankage. Whatever. If the theory doesn't acknowledge me as real, it can bugger right off.

Oh, anyone who wanders over from that clusterfuck and wants to argue with me about why I'm kinky or tell me that I'm only pissed off because I'm improperly examined or whatever else is required to demonstrate that they have read this post before I can be arsed engaging with them, because I've already answered your fucking question and I am too busy having that life I value more than your philosophical dribblings to be your dancing monkey. Listen a little, use your brain, and don't treat me as your one-stop shopping resource for a submissive to shame or a sympathetic ear to take advantage of and maybe we can have a conversation.

If you'd rather not do that, of course, you remain free to write me off as a cranky bitch and one of those horrible anti-feminist harpies who's a sekrit pillar of the patriarchy if you find it easier than crawling out from under your rock. I will remain one of the more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Your irrelevance to me (and other kinky people) as anything other than a gadfly to swat occasionally will only grow the more you cradle your theories and prejudices close and love them more than you actually care about real women.

And I am just fucking fine with that, too.

* Answer: "A fish."

27 May, 2009

In the Aftermath of Prop 8: Please Correct Your Fucking Ignorance

Dear the internet:

Marriage is not a religious ritual.

It may be a ritual in your religion. It may be treated as a ritual in common implementations of your religion in order to 'pass' under the hegemonial status of Christianity. You may be sufficiently swamped in the hegemonial status of Christianity that you can't imagine a religion that doesn't treat it as a matter of theology.

Your ignorance is not the same thing as historical fact.

You know when the Christian religion held sole sway over marriage in England (the law of which supplies the backstory for the legal systems of many and probably most of the people who might have a chance of reading this rant)? Between 1753 and 1837. There's your historical basis for the exclusive ownership of marriage by the Church (with exceptions for Jews and Quakers, IIRC).

Before that, in England, people could, if they so desired, get married by claiming they were married and fulfilling certain social parameters (common law marriage). Afterwards, there was established a public registry of marriages (civil marriage). In England's colonies, things varied widely - my Puritan ancestors were totally squicked out by marriage as a religious thing, as I've noted before, not that anybody damn well noticed. Various other cultures have treated marriage as falling under forms of trade, of contract law, of sundry other things.

I don't want to hear anymore about how this upholding Prop 8 separates church and state. I don't want to hear anymore about how this religious thing should never have gotten legal status in the first place. I don't want to hear anymore about how the government - enforcer of contract law - should be out of the business of enforcing the contract of marriage because somehow marriage is magically different because the right-wing asshats think they own it.

Marriage is a human universal. Anthropologically, it is the formation of a family under the witness of the community, with the creation of the responsibilities and benefits that that community considers a part of that process.

You may think it weird that I don't consider marriage a religious thing.

That's fine, I think it weird that the loud religions in my vicinity don't consider childbirth a religious thing.

22 May, 2009

When Monsters Call Out the Names of Men

I want to be more cheerful now damnit and get the post about being triggered all to hell off the top of the page, so I'm going to do something I've been chewing on for a while. I mentioned to Hope that I had been sort of semi-compiling a set of songs into a playlist of kink expression, and at this point I've put together enough to make a post with, I think. Though I haven't found anything to express my thoughts about bondage, I suspect that's a wee bit tricksy to make it into music readily.... (And the religious intersection is complicated.)

Links in song titles go to YouTube videos. Band-release videos when I can find 'em, stills or weird constructed videos when I can't. I know there are other ways of pointing at music online, but YouTube is the most consistently available I know of. Other links go to prior blog posts about some of those concepts, when I could be arsed digging them up.

"Tonight and the Rest of my Life", Nina Gordon. (Link appears to be a movie trailer, and a slightly different version than the one I have.) Refrain in particular is a lovely description of subspace for me, both in the dreaminess of the rendition and the words themselves.

"Deep as you Go", October Project. Descriptive of deep substate and the altered-consciousness craving that underlies a lot of my kink - as well as some of the risks involved.

"Faster than the Speed of Night", Bonnie Tyler. Can't go without at least acknowledging my switchy bits, and this is the best me-domminess song I've got. And wow, is that an 80s video. And terrible quality. Ah well, the sound is fine. Alas, that the song about what the pretty boy should be doing so lacks in actual pretty boys.

"The Music of the Night", Andrew Lloyd Weber (The Phantom of the Opera). I certainly cannot neglect my first Master.

"Sleepwalkers Dream", Delain. Spiritual content, some, and some more about the experience of the altered consciousness state. In a lot of ways, this one is probably one of the most evocative in the total shape of things for me -- "the truth lies out there".

"Eye of the Storm", the Cr├╝xshadows. The best I've got at the moment for some of the straight-up religious stuff, both in my relationship to Neb.y and in my sacred Work as a submissive partner. If that sounds a bit uppity for the sub, well, that's not my problem. That's still my Work here.

"Nothing Else Matters", specifically the cover by Apocalyptica. Not explaining this one, just enjoy the sensual rendition of Metallica. Never seen a cellist headbang? That's fixable!

And to round us out a bit, a couple of things that didn't quite make it with relevant lyrics quotes:

"Beauty of the Beast", Nightwish

You told I had the eyes of the wolf
Search them and find the beauty of the beast

All of my songs can only be composed of the greatest of pains
Every single verse can only be born of the greatest of wishes

"Sweetness Follows", REM
It's these little things, they can pull you under.
Live your life filled with joy and thunder.

20 May, 2009

Scenes from a Life, Trauma Ward Edition

The fingers of my left hand grip the edge of the sink because my balance rocks back and forth with the sobs; I am trying to brush my teeth, a process rendered notably more complicated by the way the crying keeps bringing up washes of bile for me to strangle on.

I hear his voice in the hall, asking me what's wrong, asking me if I'm all right, and I don't have enough leftover breath after the tears to make any voluntary sounds. I spit into the sink, still clutching it for stability. There is a tap at the door; eventually it opens and he winds an arm around me, holding me as I sniffle into his shoulder.

Another round of bile comes up; I turn and spit it into the sink. "Is that blood?" he asks, concerned. I cough. "Yes. I'm pregnant. My gums bleed." The bleeding doesn't have anything to do with the trigger, it's just normal, unremarkable. The tears are something else. He holds the hair back from my face in case I have something else to spit up.

I cling to him a little longer, and then lurch out of the bathroom. "Since I'm awake..." he gestures into the bathroom, and I nod and crawl into bed, slowly strip off my clothes and fling them into the closet where I'll need to sort them into the laundry later, and take a sip of water from one of the mugs there. Then the nausea comes again in earnest, bringing with it panic: the bathroom is still shut. I grab the other mug, the empty one that needs to go down to be washed, and throw up in that.

When he gets out of the loo, I lurch back, dump the contents of the mug into the toilet, rinse it out. "We need to remember that," I mumble as I slump back into the bed. He holds me a while, I forget how long, whether there was any talking, any explaining of the ripped-open space in me, the way I was thrown back to old thoughts, old patterns, back to fighting for the mental space to actually blame the one who tried to rape me for the assault rather than letting the responsibility dissolve in a wind of excuses.

"Do you want me to take the mug downstairs?" I shrug. "It's on the bathroom, uh. Thing." "I'll rinse it out." "I did that, it just needs to go down." He takes it down and, I presume, puts it in the dishwasher; I curl up in a kind of null space and snivel.

He settles back next to me, strokes my skin gently. We talk, curled up together; the cat climbs up on the bed, walks up the length of my body, wanders off again. His questions bring me out of shaking trauma reaction and into analysis, taking apart my responses, working through where it came from; making me realise what, precisely, triggered my meltdown, what bit of damage needs washing clean and sewing up so it can mend a little. I track it back, thinking of all the ways I have blamed myself for the assault, the ways I made excuses for my attacker, the ways I let him off the hook, cut the slack: remembered that every time I've told a part of that story, every single person has been harsher about him than I have ever been willing to be. I remember that I have never been able to forgive myself for being fourteen, for not knowing how to take up the responsibility to police some dumb boy's penis and thus being - in that defective image - entirely to blame for the consequences of his erection.

I remember identifying the colonists in my mind, and the way that lanced the rotten wound, oozing out pus and blood, and I can feel its ragged edges and know that it has still not healed. It is an old wound, old and familiar and unscarred and suddenly torn deeper and sharper and bleeding fresh.

I am shaking, spent, wracked with pain and memory; even my own room, my own space, does not manage to give me shelter.

"Could you take me down a little and hold me?"

He strokes my neck, gently. "I'm surprised you're not down a little already, after--"

After earlier, when he had told me that he was going to bed, fingers laced into my hair and sending me into half-dreamspace with a perfect touch, earlier when I had looked up into his eyes and told him, wonderingly, how gorgeous he is. Earlier, when he said he was too tired for anything now, but a few hours of sleep and he'd probably be happy with whatever inclinations I had.

Earlier, when I had anticipated crawling into bed for the love and comfort that I got, but without the raked-open heart needing emergency sutures, when I might have been able to bury my face in his chest and feel his hand on the back of my neck and just feel the joy of it. When it might have been possible to make love in the gentle warmth of the dark, rather than just cling and claw to presence, too fragile, too brittle, to be able to accept the comfort of anything other than the burying my face against his skin and shaking.

"There's been a bit of an emotional interruption," I say, trying to say it lightly, with that lilt of understatement, and failing.

Another future speared through with reality. Too much lost opportunity, too much lost time, with one thing and another; my distraction or his, my medical needs, his schoolwork, now this quaking betrayal of savage memories and old wounds. By this point, the birds are starting to greet the sun, a fact which I greet with bitter sarcasm that makes him smile gently and cradle me close. I will need to be awake in a few hours, at this point, and I cannot imagine sleeping well.

He held me, and I felt the tickling, teasing tears roll down my cheeks.

15 May, 2009

Growing Up Vulcan

(I am endeavouring to not make this a spoilery post, but I recognise that some people are very sensitive so such things. Here's your warning. All direct references to the movie itself are from the character-background setup scenes rather than, y'know, the plot.)

I saw Star Trek: Rebooted on Wednesday.

I'm not old enough to be heavily steeped in ST:TOS, but I've been a Trekkie for all my life, so I know the gestalts. I have a handful of the novels, level of know the gestalts. Went to Trek cons in high school. That kind of thing. So I knew enough to make a reasonable judgement on how the new movie treated the characters.

What I didn't expect was the intense familiarity of Spock's childhood.

It is one thing to know that the Vulcan contemplation of logic and reason and strict emotional control is because they have a history of violence and extremes that they are attempting to avoid recapitulating, and another to see a child, keenly aware of his half-alien nature, confronted by a set of taller bullies whose sole desire is to provoke that emotional reaction, that explosion, that display of response to their taunting. The game is to break Face, to get that feeling engaged; it is a life-or-death game, and if one loses, then one is a lesser being, an alien, not really qualified to take up space among real people.

I know that path, know the cultivation of intellectualism as a form of Face, the deadly risk of emotion that comes up in shaking tunnel-vision quakes. I invented the beginnings of Surak's stoic discipline before I ever saw a Tribble, to survive at home, to survive at school, to never break Face. And I know the gnawing, undermining doubt of the half-alien, wondering if I am destined to fail because of my tainted nature, driven to succeed to prove it is no taint, proud and tenuous and fragile and able to make "Live long and prosper" come out like "Fuck you" with no more than a quirk of an eyebrow.

I know Quinto's Spock in a way I never could know Nimoy's - know the painstaking awareness of every detail, every limitation or feared limitation, every weakness, the guarded protection of every place that might possibly be vulnerable, be a place where someone could get that final snap into violence or sorrow or joy that would show too much and expose everything. Nimoy's Spock was too polished and familiar, too skilled, to ever show that he had a Face rather than was Face, and I was not old enough to empathise.

And now I can remember growing up Vulcan.

11 May, 2009

The Cleanup Crew

(Semi-set off by a thread of commentary at SM-F.)

A number of years ago I was working the local polyamory group's table on Pride Day. Just talking to people, being visible, that sort of thing. I bought a t-shirt (I think it was the one with 'Sharing is a family value' on the back), changed into it in the freedom of the clothing-semioptionality on the Common that day, and just chatted with people.

At one point I went for a walk through the crowds, possibly looking for a drink, as it was reasonably hot; possibly wanting to browse through the vendors. I wound up snagged for conversation by a woman who spotted the shirt and wanted to demand an explanation.

It's been long enough that I don't remember the details of her story precisely and have quite likely replaced them with archetype, but the truth of the matter is that this happens often enough for me to have an archetype to substitute for lost details.

She was a lesbian who had been, briefly, in a relationship with a married bisexual woman. She had been told that the woman's husband expected to be involved in their relationship as a matter of course, at least as a jacking-off observer, and, further, that if said husband was unhappy with the way their relationship was going, she would be dumped without a second thought. She found the interaction understandably disappointing and frustrating, and because she had been told that that was a perfectly normal way of conducting polyamory, widely accepted within the community, was more than a little pissy about the entire thing and, I rather suspect, wanted to know why the assholes were invading her Pride event.

About half the resulting conversation consisted of me assuring her that no, it didn't have to work that way. That everything they'd said about how that's what polyamory means was a lie, in fact, by the simple fact that plenty of people don't do that sort of thing. Much of the rest was talking about what I do, in matter of fact terms, peppered with more assurances: no, I don't expect everyone else to do it that way. No, I don't think that I'm a better person because of this. No, my way isn't What Polyamory Means either, it's just what I do. No, it doesn't bother me that she wants a monogamous relationship, I think that people should have the sorts of relationships that work for them.

I think, though I'm not sure, that we parted with her somewhat baffled by the weirdness of humanity, but at least familiar with the fact that the poly community consists of more than entitled bisexual women and the creepy voyeurs they're married to.

Another time I got into a throw-down fight that I don't think escaped beyond the bottle of the poly community with someone who wanted to create an organisation claiming to speak for the interests of polyamorous people - that was not actually about polyamory at all, but about a certain left-anarchist set of politics that he assumed was the reason people were poly, because who would have multiple relationships who wasn't interested in Breaking Down The System and proving the superiority of their liberationist worldview? I hammered on consent, that he did not speak for me unless I gave him permission and I explicitly denied him permission, and that no, I was not interested in subscribing to his newsletter until he snarled about evil reactionaries who had destroyed his happy fluffy vision of what Polyamory Was All About and were just there to subvert Teh Movement and probably didn't have more than one partner anyway and finally, blissfully, shut the fuck up. I hope he took his sooper-speshulness somewhere pleasant so he could be superior in a more congenial environment.

I get aggravated by the whole thing. I write about pretty much this thing when I wrote about the word 'lifestyle', pointing out that some people hook into Gor Is The Way What I Want Is Okay and try to universalise it, as well as, from the flip side of that particular kink perspective, the people who have an ideology of universal female superiority and abuse any woman who doesn't agree. Hell, I explicitly drew attention to someone making up just-so stories about an anti-BDSMer once upon a time, because someone claiming to be on my side being a fucking hypocrite does me no favors.

And this is the thing. My polyamory, my kink, my religion, my whatever else, these do not make me sooper-speshul. To the extent that I may be sooper-speshul, it's because sooper-speshulness is my birthright as a human being, and expecting everyone to bow down before it is unrealistic; if we were all bobbing and genuflecting to the sooper-speshul all the time we'd never get anything done 'cos there just isn't the time. Yeah yeah yeah namaste but the onions still need hoeing.

A couple of weekends ago I got into a long conversation about sex and power and individual choice and similar matters, and among the things that came up was using kinkspace to recreate and reprogram a trauma. And there was a story of someone who did this on a second date, which horrified all of the kinksters (and everyone else for that matter) in the room, even (perhaps especially) those of us who had done some sort of work of that sort in a controlled environment with trusted partners. There were discussions with people who had been interested in BDSM until they ran into someone who used it abusively, who wanted assurance that their perspectives on the existence of abuse was justified. There was exploration of what it meant to do power exchange sex in the context of an ethic that does not tolerate the bending of the head to accept shackles from the outside. (And I did not talk about the time, in a similar context, that I said I refused to submit my life-force to an ethic that required me not to do d/s, that I was too settled and secure in my power to put up with being lesser like that.)

There are no cure-alls and panaceas; there are only people working out what works for them. I can scream my story into the void all I want, but I have to take care to not drown out the stories of others, the people who do it differently. Monocultures die in plagues.

I've spent too long cleaning up spaces that have been damaged by people selling their social and sexual snake oil. "Take this, and your problems will be solved!" "This is the way the best people do it!" "This is just the way things are!"

In the memory of that confused and hurt woman at Pride, who went away maybe a bit more confused but also maybe a bit less hurt, I will always strive to be part of the cleanup crew.

09 May, 2009


I commented to a friend earlier today that I sometimes wished I had a place where I could talk about the stuff where my religious and spiritual life interacts with my sexuality. (Maybe if I had such a place, I would know how to articulate things, as opposed to getting tangled up in the edges of privacy all the time, not knowing how to talk about what is speakable, leaving me frustrated and mostly just wanting to talk to my liege so I can talk to someone.)

I talk in code, maybe halfheartedly trolling for someone who can unravel the language and share an insight, probably an insight similarly wrapped up in old names out of old myths and fragments of archetypes, something I can take away to my own space and chew on a while. I find bits of old stories that point at what I do, I build my own archetypes so I have someone to represent.

Last weekend I was in a space where I was among people who were working out the roots of sex and life and power, and we talked about that extensively, enthusiastically, what is healthy sex and healthy power and healthy passion and making ourselves proud and healthy and whole. And I murmur kennings, not speaking the names of these gods, knowing Them in whispers. I can think of drawing out a litle god, offering worship and companionship and the appropriate things for such a being, but that is not a story to be told above susurration, if at all.

I know maybe one or two people who walk the same Mystery, or at least a close enough one that they can see what I say and know what I'm talking about. Who kneel at the altar and are transformed, as one person said to me once about a piece of this.

I want to claim the name for what this is, but it is hubris, now, to speak it aloud, to make more than a trembling murmur of it in the safe container of the bedroom. Whether or not this path is shai, right now it is where I am and what I want and the bloody taste of how I love, and it is my work, and I ... have nowhere to talk about it.

(To know, to will, to dare, and to be silent.)

05 May, 2009

At The Beginning

I got a lot of laughs this weekend commenting that I finally had everything in order, and now I was at the beginning. There was a gesture made at my six months pregnant belly and a "Just you wait."

It's a big deal, though. Because I do.

One of my long, secret fears was that the empty space I had that just wanted these things to be satisfied would not, in fact, be satisfied by them: that it was like my mother's empty space, a yawning chasm into which all the universe could be poured and never be enough. That every time I achieved the milestones or got things settled that my gut told me I needed to have in order something hidden in the next layer down would reveal itself with an, "And before you get settled, you need to deal with me," and send me off on some new chase into the wilderness looking for something to feed the emptiness. That, perhaps, the emptiness was something within me, a crack in my personal pot that would leak out anything that I might possibly try to fill myself with and greedily try to suck up more.

But no.

I have everything I need, and I am finally at the beginning.

I have had my [legal] husband in my life as a partner for the past fifteen years, and he has been a tremendous and amazing support to me all that time. Without him, without his unfaltering love and support, I could never have made it this far. He is my lion, my love, my mate.

I spent years afraid that I would never have partners the way my heart and mind seemed to settle: first, the fear that a second partnership would never last out much beyond a year; then a fear that no time in such a partnership could ever lead to a commitment, a settling down, a place where I could relax and be confident in my possessiveness without it feeling like it was crossing a line or demanding too much. Years and years of this, and now I can take my liege's hand and feel the ring that I put on his finger, and the release of it makes my eyes water with tears of relief as much as anything else.

I never truly believed I would have anything even remotely like the partnership I have with my liege, something where my kink could be uncramped and live wholly, where my religious life could interweave with someone else's, any of those things. It was not even on my plate as something to want, to think a part of the beginning, but having it and being as whole as having it has helped me to be, I do not think I could really begin without something that at least let me find that wholeness.

My spiritual life is settled into a course of knowing where I am going, with roots deep enough to nourish me where I am. I am at peace with not knowing everything, and learning.

I have worked hard on my mental health, and am finding myself in a place where - overall - I suspect that I am okay. I have untangled huge reams of complexes, including my fear of motherhood, and can now open myself up to wanting what I want, taking steps towards the future.

And in overcoming that fear and taking on this life tucked under my ribs, I found a last piece that I did not know that I needed: I have found peace from the yearning for motherlove. It is not unattainable, not something that cannot be hauled out of the bottomless pit of need for any price. It is something that I have in sufficiency, not only for my child to be, but for myself, sufficient to make up for all the yearning after something that I could never have from my actual mother. This amazing gift leaves me awestruck each time I notice it, each time I realise that I am no longer bound.

I have built my foundation and made it secure. This is not to say that I will never step in a hole or get in over my head - life is not so tidy - but I am at the beginning now, and I have everything I need to begin.

I am grateful, beyond grateful, to be able to be at the beginning.