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

17 July, 2009

Not Exactly the Wrong Questions

Then there are the times the answers are wrong. Or something like that. Not sure how to riff this bit right.

I was recently in a discussion of safewords elsewhere that got me into a contemplation of bits of kink culture and my somewhat complicated relationship with it. It's a hard subject to try to articulate about, because a lot of this is in the superficial impression level of things, and I'm well aware that I have not explored things with much depth - in part because of that impression.

The thing with me and safewords is that if I'm in a position where I might want to use one, I'm almost certainly not in a position where I'm capable of using one. (The other thing with me and safewords is that if I'm verbality-enabled, I'm quite competent to say, "You don't want to be doing that" or something similar about a boundary-crossing behaviour, and I'm not generally engaged in stuff that would require something other than plain language to communicate.) I alter state so significantly that the safety latch option doesn't come up on possible options - often, possible options to think about, and that's without getting into the implementation problems.

A community discourse that focuses on the usefulness (and indeed necessity) of safewords is a community discourse in which I cannot be a full participant. I need to be able to build what relative safety I can by other means, and the construction of those other means is something that I've pretty much had to do on my own, through trial and error. Fortunately, none of those errors have been traumatising for me - even the 'now that I'm back in my ordinary mind I would rather not have done that' stuff has been educational rather than upsetting.

For someone like me, for whom nonverbal trust state is one of the fundamental components - indeed one of the desired goals - of submission, trying to frame that all through the safeword lens breaks it. Between that and the SM focus of a lot of kink discussion, I wound up wondering if what I was hooked into was something different that was not kink, if the BDSM community had anything in common with me. I could get some use out of bondage discussions, but SM and the importance of safewords were bulletins from an alien planet.

A lot of things were bulletins from an alien planet. "The scene", clubs, play parties, all that stuff that's normative within a lot of kink-contexted discussion? About as emotionally comprehensible as approaching a relative stranger and asking them if they're interested in siring a child in the next half hour or so. And that's because this central thing, the whole reason for being there, is this my-mind-is-blown-open-my-god-it's-full-of-stars-and-kittens experience, and looking for that kind of trip off someone with whom I'm not already intimate is not merely unappealing, it's bizarre. I'm not someone who can get an endorphin high off a casual flogging and be happy with that - the only value a flogging might have to me is in whether or not it can get my mindscape somewhere interesting, and all of those 'somewhere interesting' places orbit around that ego-death thing and are more likely to go there the more satisfying the interaction is.

My kink gets more intimate than sex; sex can be a real trip, but it's something where the skin is still a barrier, a boundary, something that holds the difference between me and a lover as a tangible thing even through the inversions and entanglements of being twined through each other. My kink gets more intimate than sex, and I'm a thirty-one year old woman who has never really had a monogamous relationship and has had six lovers in her lifetime. My kink gets more intimate than sex, and it's not as easy to find a partner who can hold that stuff as it is to find a lover, even if I really want to, even if I try, even if I'm frustrated by my inability to make ... that ... work with someone I love.

And this is a giant lump of dangerous mental juju to propose to drop on someone, asking them to hold that safe space, to create that dissolved and fluid state and to keep it from being ripped apart. This is not easy, and this is not a small magic. But where does one learn this shit? Talking about safewords, one experienced top suggested that people like me are not for novices because this is high-proof stuff - but how does one become not-a-novice at this in the first place? Not with safewords, because safewords belong to a different reality than the altered state.

I don't know these things. I know that the first time I slid into a submissive state while nestled into the arms of the one who is now my liege, before we talked about kink and wiring and responses and fantasies much at all (it was at the end of the Initial Sexual History Conversation, actually), the first time he saw me on the edge of that state, he knew I could not give meaningful consent to what he wanted to do, and he brought me back up out of it so that he would not hurt me, so that he could ask and get a meaningful answer. It didn't matter that he had no prior experience with d/s there; what mattered was that he recognised where I was and made the right choice. (And left me with a horrible case of thwarted desire, but as a consequence to risk that's hardly a bad outcome.)

That same care guided me through a reenactment of my sexual assault, a transformative experience that still blows my mind. That same care has only majorly messed things up once, and it was rough, and we got through it eventually. it is not a simple thing, and I don't know how I mustered the luck to have it work, but it is what it is. I don't know how to make for a world where people can learn how to find this if that's what they want, how they can get there with fewer blunders than I had to go through. I think it matters, and I don't know how to do it. At all.

I sometimes think I'm at least two kinds of submissive; the service, the devotion, all of that seems a different reality than this blown-open space so full of stars. And yet it's the same thing, somehow, in a way I have yet to be able to articulate, the way the risk-strewn madness at the core snuggles into protocol and ritual and support and making tea on the other side. "Safe" and "sane" only exist in the penumbra of the sorcery, but maybe that's the secret. I've seen people whose kink has SM in it talk about knowing their 'dark side' and letting it have its place; maybe this is letting the mad side have a home.

I don't know these things. And they're hard to talk about.


lilcollegegirl said...

This is so so good. It's so hard to make someone understand that, no, when you ask me what I want, it's not that I don't know, it's that I can't tell you. Really. And I feel so guilty about leaving my partner kind of...hanging. Especially if they're new, and while I wouldn't blame them for making the wrong call, they still have to live with the consequences of hurting me.

Eve said...

I don't have the right words, but I think I know what you mean. Thank you.

Oli said...

I sometimes think I'm at least two kinds of submissive; the service, the devotion, all of that seems a different reality than this blown-open space so full of stars. And yet it's the same thing, somehow, in a way I have yet to be able to articulate, the way the risk-strewn madness at the core snuggles into protocol and ritual and support and making tea on the other side. "Safe" and "sane" only exist in the penumbra of the sorcery, but maybe that's the secret.
Thank you for this.
(starfrosting on lj)

Ranat said...

I have not quite figured out how to explain my state of mind when I feel centered in my dominance, when I feel like I've ripped back tens of layers instead of one or two. When I first began exploring my sexuality I took it for granted that this was 'top-space,' and I didn't really question it until my most recent sexual explorations where I didn't experience even a hint of altered state. It really threw me for a loop.

I'd mentioned it to people completely unfamiliar with kink before, and the easiest way several of them could understand it was as a transcendental spiritual state, something I'd never really thought of it as. Certainly it's spiritual, but not necessarily more so than anything else.

Very recently I reached that space for the first time with the person I'm exploring with currently, which was incredibly rewarding, and also very different than the times I'd experienced it before. Often times the catalyst for me is giving pain, but there was no pain in this context, not even the desire for pain.

I feel both incredibly satisfied by my current sexual exploration, and also bereft of that state of mind. Also, before I felt like what I had experienced was what there was, and now I realize that I've only paddled in the first few surface feet of the water.

Anonymous said...

I find I don't have anything intelligent to say, but I really enjoyed reading this.

Stuff like safewords and SSC and RACK get popular (especially to talk about) because they are nifty ideas for a lot of people and also can help outsiders understand what it is that we do. Reality is way more complicated in all but the most superficial situations.

I think the best way for a novice to proceed is cautiously, taking care, paying attention, and resisting greed and selfishness. Hopefully there is a little slack for when mistakes are made.

Aqua, of the Questioners said...

This issue, that the SOP (safewords) for something (BDSM) requires something else (being verbal) and it being painfully obvious to me that that's just not going to work for some of us, is something I have deal with a fair bit at the moment and I don't quite know how to get through without terribly offending people I don't want to offend.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Love your writing, as always, Kia.

Graydon said...

I don't think "submissive" is always the right term; sometimes what is wanted, or what's going on, might be better described as "responsibility transfer". The point is not to do what you're told; the point is not to have to decide. (Note that there is a ton of language in various Abrahamic religions about having this kind of relationship with God; it's definitely something that has been repeatedly approached via a religious angle.)

The general BDSM language gets into a confusion between the meanings of "want" and "need", too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dw3t. This encapsulates something I've been realizing as I look at the kink "community" or scene or whatever it is from the distance of the internet.

Much of what people have written speaks very directly to my own experience out here in the middle of nowhere. But a lot of it seems to be more like the rules and regs of an elaborate institution; understandable, but of no real use to me.

Alcibiades said...

As difficult as it must be, I kinda wish I had your sexuality. Slipping into that kind of headspace must be a really tranformative experience.

I don't think there's anything I can do to help you through this, but I hope you find your answers eventually!

bybloemen said...

Thank you for this inspiring post. I rambled on about the topic (somewhat incoherently, I'm afraid) on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I so recognise the lack of language: when I occasionally bottom I lose all verbal ability. The problem is that if my boundaries are overstepped at that point (and I notice it...) I come up snarling, and most likely fighting - which is why I'm very careful with who I bottom to.