Archive for June, 2009

All right, people: I see I’m getting a lot of hits. I want to see some questions! Email me at delilah@dommedelilah.com or comment here to ask a question – I promise to protect your anonymity and to let you know when I’ve answered your question.

For today, I’m going to answer a question which I don’t really have much of an answer to, but I’m guessing that people wonder these things and I suppose I have more knowledge about them than most.

Is there dungeon space with all the big fun equipment that can be rented by couples for bdsm and penetrative sex, with privacy and no pro-domme involvement? Where could such space be found? (Ideally in NYC.)

I live and work in the Boston area, and I gotta tell you – what you’re asking for is like some kind of Holy Grail of kink. (Hm, weird image. Made of stainless steel, I guess, with spikes sticking out of it? Meant for holding, I don’t know, blood? Piss, maybe? In any case…)

I’m not sure what it’s like in NYC, but I do know that there’s been a huge crackdown lately on dungeons and many pro dommes have been arrested. In the Boston area, it’s illegal to run any kind of public space for the purposes of sexual activity, due to outmoded bawdy-house laws. And in places where dungeon space is available, it’s usually either for pro domme use, or for large party or club-type activity.

The best shot I found for NYC is The Arena, which claims to do private rentals for couples, but all of the pages pointing that way show 404 errors. You could try emailing or calling them, though my guess is that they’ve shut down or at least gone underground.

One awesome space I explored when I was last in San Francisco is The Citadel, which is a cooperatively owned private club where you can do kink and sex, and where membership is as easy as walking in, filling out a little form, and paying your door fee. Privacy is, of course, not so much, as it’s more of an open playspace. But the ettiquette and crowd I found there was pleasingly similar to that I’d found at the more private play parties I’ve enjoyed.

In Boston, Princess Kali runs The Kink Academy, but it too seems like more of a space for hosting parties, classes and other larger events (10 or more) than it is for private use.

What you’re looking for seems like it would be difficult to sustain as a business model, though I think it would make a great themed B&B: each private room equipped with different types of bondage equipment or roleplay setups and rentable by the night. I want to hear about someone setting something like this up in NYC, Boston, or anywhere, really.

As it is, the leads I could find were in Australia, British Columbia, and San Francisco – though that last article – written in 1999 – implies that folks in Seattle and Massachusetts have started establishments as well. (Names would be helpful, but are not immediately forthcoming, for obvious reasons. And it’s bloody likely that they’re out of business by now, anyway.)

My advice to you and other readers is to make your own home as pervertible as possible – that is, create possibilities for bondage and sex that can be plausibly disguised as ordinary furniture, or hidden away with relative ease. If you’re a Home Depot type, there are endless possibilities. If you’ve got money to spend, there are many lightweight, portable things like suspension rigs and frames for sex slings. I know it’s difficult for most people to set up their homes like dungeons, given kids, pets, visiting parents and so on. But it may be the best option for what you’re looking for.

Loyal readers – correct me, please, if I’m wrong! Send me links to spaces that do this!

And send me your questions!

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I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it anymore. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t been over to the radfem blogs lately, though I’m sure I’ll keep on reading Trinity and then it’ll be all over.

But I just finished reading two essays from the old standby that I’m ashamed not to have read yet, Coming to Power, edited by Pat Califia. The first, by Gayle Rubin, is entitled “The Leather Menace: Comments on Politics and SM,” and was completed in the very early 1980s.

It begins with the wonderful line, “It is difficult to discuss the politics of sadomasochism when the politics of sex in general are so depressingly muddled.” As I read on through the article, as well as Califia’s article on the founding and first few years of the lesbian leather association Samois, I was struck by what my leather ancestors, as it were, went through. Raids; attacks by not just the mainstream media but by NOW and other feminist organizations, including lesbian organizations; exclusion from the gay rights movement; silencing by the feminist movement; demonization by nearly everyone; arrests, child custody contests, and so on.

But the thing that killed me was the rhetoric from feminists of the day, like this gem from Diane Russell:

I see sadomasochism as resulting in part from the internalization of heterosexual dominant-submissive role playing. I see sadomasochism among lesbians as involving in addition an internalization of the homophobic heterosexual view of lesbians. Defending such behavior as healthy and compatible with feminism, even proselytizing in favor of it is about the most contra-feminist anti-political and bourgeois stance that I can imagine.

Not to mention Susan Griffin, whose essay “Hunger as Ideology” I have taught to freshman writing classes, who had this incredibly insulting thing to say about it:

The fact is, the whole culture is S/M, we’re all sadomasochists. The people in SAMOIS, or gay people who wear leather, have a more severe form of the disease.

Nice. Sound familiar to anyone here? Has this rhetoric changed in thirty years, like, at all?

I guess it’s nice that we’re now living in an age where S/M is a fact of life, suffuses the fashion industry and music videos, and will not generally get you arrested. Getting tongue-lashed by feminists is not the worst thing that can happen. But I just find myself really sad that this segment of feminism, which tends to claim to speak for all feminists, hasn’t gotten its collective head on straight yet about this issue.

For those following along at home, Pat Califia said it best, back in 1981 or so: “Until women own their own bodies and have the right to seek erotic pleasure completely, with no restrictions, women will not be free.”

As the kids were only too recently saying, period-dot.

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I’m writing this (but not posting it, of course) on a plane heading from Austin to Boston. I’ve been on vacation in Texas for about a week, and while I learned many things here and had bunches of fun, the most important thing I learned was this: Austin is full of blindingly hot waitstaff. In particular, a type I never thought I’d go for: tall, blond, skinny waitresses wearing incredibly short skirts and cowboy boots. It might have been the heat, but I couldn’t stop wanting to grab them by the hair and bend them over the table, or slide my hand up their skirts as they passed, or just throw them down, find some gloves and lube and make them scream for a few hours with my fist buried in them…haaah. Yes, it was a good trip.

But it’s also why I missed Monday Advice this week, and am bringing it to you now. Today’s question also involves a bit of sexual frustration, and is seemingly from the advanced camp.

Dear Delilah,

I like tying up men and making them feel vulnerable and helpless and used, and I like hurting them. But I also like orgasms! Unfortunately, being female and wired the way I am, the only way I can get my first orgasm (the next billion are easy) is by masturbation or by a lot of direct clitoral stimulation, which involves active participation by my partner. The other physical complicating factor is that it really is easier for me to orgasm when I am lying on my back, though I am still working on training my body out of that.

I hate masturbating myself to orgasm when I have a lover there because it feels wasteful of the opportunity and is generally faster and less intense, but I have trouble reconciling my love of bondage with my love of orgasms otherwise. Yes, I could always just untie his right arm when I’m ready to get off, but then it feels like my orgasm comes after the scene instead of being part of the scene, which also really bothers me. Any suggestions?

(I mostly solve this by creative bondage. Just enough wiggle room to reach me if he really tries and I go out of my way to let him, but that’s about it. It can get pretty annoying and frustrating, though, especially since he really likes both being completely immobilized and giving me orgasms and whatever else I may want of him.)

Okay, so obviously you’ve come up with one solution to the problem already, which is probably the first thing that I would have suggested. But you want a way to have your orgasm while he’s still all tied up, that doesn’t involve you having to do the work. (Because why do tops always have to do all the work? I mean, fuck.)

A couple of things come to mind. First off: do you enjoy oral, and is he good at it? If so, it’s trivial to have him completely immobilized and on his back, and for you to, as the good folks at Monty Python would have it, sit on his face and tell him that you love him. If you prefer being on your back, you could put him in a bent-over kneeling position, face down, with his arms at his sides, and position yourself underneath him. This also has the bonus of making it difficult for him, which seems to be part of what is working for you here.

As far as creative bondage: how much of his arm needs to be free to get you off? If you tied him, say, with his hands in front and his arms completely pinioned to his sides, you could hold onto him and let him use his fingers on you without his arms and hands actually being free. For the on-your-back position, you could even throw him on his stomach on a bed and scootch under him so his hand is in the right place.

Another solution, if vibrators work for you, is a compromise: tie a vibrator to some part of his body. Build it into his bondage somewhere where it will be nice and secure. If you want to be nice, let it stimulate some part of his body as well. If you want to be mean, attach it to his stomach. If you want to be really mean, attach it to his back and don’t even let him watch as you get yourself off by rubbing against him. There’s a delicious objectifying aspect to this as well, as you’re essentially making him into a sex toy.

Which brings me to frottage. Are you able to orgasm by rubbing against something, like his thigh, or shin? This could be another way to accomplish this.

Let me know how it goes!

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Thanks in large part to Trinity, but also to a good friend of mine from grad school, I’ve been spending a lot of time over in some of the radical feminist blogs, particularly in the discussions about BDSM. My friend was hungry to find the intersection of radfem and BDSM online, in intelligent, academic discussions, but couldn’t find much. I have to say that even after some searching and much reading, I have to agree.

Even Trinity is tired, and I can’t blame her. Like so many of us, I get sucked into comment threads that infuriate me for hours, mainly because I can’t stand the idea that there are people out there who are supposed to believe in the total liberation of women, but not in a woman’s capacity to make choices about her own sexuality. I can sympathize with Trinity: I just have to go over there and prove them wrong, right?

But it’s exhausting. It’s draining, reading the same arguments over and over and trying to refute them with logic over and over. It’s like arguing with Objectivists: their theory of rationalism is completely airtight, and so if you disagree with any part of it, you’re just being irrational. All a certain kind of radical feminist has to do is drop the word “patriarchy” into the conversation, and automatically your arguments are moot because you’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy. It’s circular, and completely unproductive.

But my friend – who by the way is a pro-porn, pro-sex-worker, pro-BDSM radical feminist – raised this question to me, and I felt the need to answer it.

A lot of pro-submissive blogs say, “True feminism would never judge a woman’s sexual choices or desires.” True. Unnegotiably true.

But does anybody have a real choice when awash in a culture that equates feminity with submission? That defines female identity via female sexuality? That objectifies all women, regardless of what they want? It makes me think of one of the cases we studied in my psychology class in college – a fifth grade teacher had one black student in her all white class. He was smart, played well with the other students, appeared to be comfortable and socialized just fine. But from day one in her class, he wore gloves. After a few weeks, she asked him about the gloves, and over a period of gentle questioning, she learned that he wore them not because he had a health problem, but so he couldn’t see his hands. During the day, when he was in the mirror-free environment of the school, the only reminder he had of his black skin was when he looked at his hands.

This is, of course, a horrifying parallel: what might we be doing, unconsciously, out of an internalization of misogyny? This is the radfems-against-BDSM’s main point, most of the time: how can we be sure that female submission – particularly to men – is a real choice with informed consent, when that woman is operating in a society that consistently reinforces the idea that women should in fact be subordinate to men?

I really want to address this right now, in a non-sarcastic way, not coming from a place of anger and disbelief. Because however wrong-headed I think some arguments are, I can’t ignore the seriousness of the question that engenders them.

My answer? We can’t be sure. We can’t be sure of anything. We hope that women who are choosing to be sexually submissive are doing it out of a combination of healthy self-aware sexuality, earnest desire, and personal power. We try and educate people about BDSM so that they can distinguish it from physical and emotional abuse. We examine our own desires when and if we find them disturbing to us, and try to ascertain – not necessarily where they are arising from, which in a patriarchy may indeed be a dead end – but where they are leading. How does our expression of our sexuality affect us, both in the moment and in the rest of our lives? Are we loving to our partners? Our children? Our friends? Are we happy and productive in our work? Does our sex leave us feeling fulfilled, joyful and relaxed?

These questions, of course, all have to do with the personal sphere: how do you experience your own sex life? If we agree that the personal is political, then we must look outward as well. But this, to me, is where radical feminist arguments get really problematic.

In the comment thread above, for example, Nine Deuce asks her readership whether a private sex act can be anti-feminist, as opposed to feminist or simply neutral. This led into a discussion of “degrading” acts, the most oft-referenced one being the “facial.” One commenter defined “degrading” as follows: “If you engage in a sex act that a reasonable person would agree is degrading or humilating, whether or not you do (this one is tricky, I know, and relates to the abovementioned brainwashing), then it’s anti-feminist.”

To which I say: okay, what? So you’re engaging in the act, you don’t find it degrading, but if some mythical “reasonable person” would, then it’s anti-feminist and you must have been brainwashed? Oh great, we’re back to Ayn Rand.

Sorry. I know, I said I wasn’t going to be sarcastic.

Another commenter responded rather brilliantly: “if we start off with the idea that men find certain sex acts degrading (and perpetrate them on women in order to express misogyny), and we then state that any reasonable person would also find these sex acts degrading, then are we not granting that men have established the standard of reasonability?”

This, exactly. And this is where this questioning of female agency – which is what this kind of thing most certainly is – really burns my ass. Not only are they saying that in a patriarchy, a woman’s ability to make choices for herself is compromised by the messages she receives from society. They’re also responding to this supposed state of reality by letting the patriarchy define the discourse of what women should rightfully choose for themselves! I.e.: if it’s a standard heteronormative sex act, or if it’s portrayed in mainstream media, or worse, if it’s been popularized in pornography – it must be wrong to desire it, and you can’t trust yourself as a woman if you do.

Which brings me to my firm and unshakeable belief about sexuality, BDSM, and the whole enchilada: however a woman chooses to express her sexuality, when it is her choice, is okay inasmuch as it causes her no harm either in the act itself or in the remainder of her life. And because the alternative – self- and other-policing, self-denial, shame and closeting – is so much more dire, the only choice we have is choice itself. We must be permitted to express ourselves in loving relationship in the way that makes the most sense to us, feels best to us, is hottest to us. Trying to cure someone of his or her kinky desires is not only futile, it’s monstrous. If we start questioning our ability to make choices for ourselves because we don’t live in a perfect society…I’ll let the reader speculate for a while, hopefully in abject horror, as to where that leads.

The other thing that I think a lot of radfems miss is the following: when two consenting, self-aware adults take an act that is supposed to be degrading and do it together in a loving context, this is a subversion of the dominant paradigm and thus has the potential for healing on a personal and on a political level.

I already talked a bunch about how BDSM can potentially be healing. On a personal level, I’ll add to it the concept of shame, since the subject of degradation is on the table. In my own experience as a submissive, I have had a lot of my shame stripped from me by what some might call “humiliation play.” While embarrassing, even mortifying at times, the further I go in this direction with my dominant – who incidentally, insists that this is not “humiliation,” as he is more interested in helping me break through unnecessary taboos than in making me feel bad – the result is that in my everyday life, I am more relaxed, less uptight, less worried about what people think, and prouder of who I am.

When BDSM play strips you down to your bare humanity, without all of the social constructs that cause neurosis – that’s subversive. That’s healing. That’s radical.

When people like us go out into the world and show how the patriarchy is broken – not by parrotting it, as we’re accused of, but by exaggerating it, fetishizing it, entering into its incredible power in a deliberate way and releasing that energy in ecstatic union – that’s radical.

Suppressing pornography doesn’t make it go away. Never has. Adding to the body of work pornography that you find more accurately expresses your truth – that’s a healing act.

Patriarchy exists. It is systematic, and deeply entrenched. But we cannot stop it by setting up a utopic alternative where freedom of choice in sexuality is even further suppressed because it frightens us to look at it. Another commenter on the same thread finished a comment by saying, “It might be difficult to imagine what a politically progressive sexuality would entail but I’d think it’s worth the effort anyway.” I don’t know. Sounds pretty boring to me. Not to mention terrifying. It may be true that certain kinds of kink arise out of patriarchy. I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I don’t think it’s so; if it is, then where does gay leather come from? Where does femdom come from? Why are there people who like to pop balloons? I think that kink arises from how everything in our lives affects us and can get kinked in our heads, usually at a young age. And I think erotic powerplay is so pervasive because power dynamics are an inescapable part of the human condition. The struggle for dominance is age-old and comes down to biology. And no, this is not going to be an evolutionary defense for Gor. I just think that feminists are fooling themselves if they think that in Teh Future of Post-Patriarchy, there will be no BDSM because everything will be all egalitarian and shit.

Oh crap, there’s the sarcasm again. Just a little speech impediment.

Patriarchy is the current reality. Power dynamics are an overarching reality – human beings organize themselves into hierarchies, no matter what utopian formula you try. The best thing we can do to reality is to embrace it if it works, and deliberately subvert it if it doesn’t. The more I do kink in my own life, the more I learn about my own assumptions, my own struggles with power, my own relationship to others. It makes me stronger, by showing me what I can take, by showing me what I’m capable of, by dancing me close to the edge and pulling me back. Playing with power is like taming fire. You have to take care not to get burned, but the benefits and the opportunity for growth are near-endless. You don’t want to let it get out of control and burn your house down. But the answer to that should never be to relinquish fire.

I’m sure I’ll be spending more time over at the radfem blogs, pissing myself off; it’s hard to stop. But I realized that I get a lot more joy out of reading beautiful things like this explication of the uses of the bizarre in kink. A blog I stumbled across by clicking off of the radfem blog comments when someone said something reasonable. I guess it wasn’t a total loss after all.

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Today’s question is a juicy one, which is just how I like it. Lots of issues to address – so let’s get right to it.

Dear Delilah,

Can you talk a little about psychological hang-ups around topping? (If that’s the right term–I get top & dominant mixed up.) Here’s the thing. If my partner and I are doing a dom/sub or top/bottom play, and I’m on top, I’d like to feel pleasure beyond “I’m doing this because it makes you feel good.” Likewise, when I’m being submissive, I would like it if the dominant person was getting something out of it more than just pleasing me. As wonderful as it is to know that you’re making another person feel fantastic, it’d be nice to get some more…direct?…satisfaction.

But that’s where the hang-ups show up. You see, if I’m being dominant…what if I really do like seeing my partner helpless? Getting satisfaction out of that feels icky and wrong in a way that getting pleasure out of being tied up doesn’t. And I’d be weirded out, during a bit of play-humiliation, if I thought that my partner really wanted to humiliate me. Can you suggest ways to develop a sense of enjoying dominance without this guilt? How do two submissive-inclined switches develop their dom sides? Is it about drawing the hard line between play and reality, or about accepting power, or about…

There are so many issues in this question that I don’t know where to start, but I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, let me differentiate between top/bottom and dom/sub, since it’s a question that comes up a lot. Midori addresses it really well using a kind of graph and including the sadist/masochist binary as well; I’ll try to address it here in words.

“Top and bottom” come from gay nomenclature originally, and tend to designate who is the active partner and who the passive or receptive. If you’re getting fucked, fingered, or fisted, you’re “bottoming.” If you’re fucking, fingering, or fisting, you’re “topping.” This translates into BDSM the way you would expect: the person tying the knots, holding the whip, or attaching the clamps is the “top.”

“Dominant and submissive” refers to power dynamics. The dominant is the one controlling the scene, whatever activities are going on.

“Sadism and masochism” gets into the question of who likes to give pain and who likes to receive it.

This is where things get tricky: while traditionally, the person holding the whip is certainly the top and probably the dominant as well, some people are dominant masochists – they want their submissive to whip them according to their orders and specifications. Some people are service submissives: though they are subs, they are also tops in the sense of being the active partner (performing oral sex, worshipping feet, serving tea). Their actions, however, are controlled by the dominant.

It’s worth knowing, however, that “top” and “dominant” are often used interchangeably, as are “bottom” and “sub.” And I’m willing to bet that a submissive that goes from being tied up and beaten to being released and made to suck cock doesn’t think of him- or herself as having gone, within one scene, from “submissive masochist bottom” to “submissive service top.”

What I hear you saying here is that since you are both submissive-leaning switches (I’d call myself the same, incidentally), you can both more easily identify with what’s hot about being tied up or otherwise “done to” than what’s hot about doing. It also sounds like it feels okay to like having power taken from you, but not okay to enjoy power over someone.

Your instincts about how to resolve this within yourselves are good: it is partially about remembering that your power dynamics are confined to playtime and aren’t about who you are to each other in everyday life. But it also is, indeed, about accepting power.

Submission is a gift. It’s a gift of trust, and of one’s body. It is a (usually) temporary and well-boundaried giving-over of control in a way that is, in the best of circumstances, about love for the dominant partner as well as about the pleasure of the submissive. And it is profound in the sense that the submissive truly puts his or her life in the dominant’s hands.

This leads to a lot of responsibility for the dominant, which can be overwhelming. But the acceptance of this responsibility, the awe of the power of the gift, is possibly the first step to allowing yourself to enjoy the power of it. Just think of it: there’s your partner in front of you, ready to do whatever you ask. You may give them pleasure or pain, allow them to orgasm or force them to hold back, make them your servant or your slave or your special toy. And it’s okay to enjoy it – because it is freely given.

You ask, what if I like seeing my partner helpless? What if my partner really enjoys humiliating me?

And I say, what’s the point of doing it if you don’t enjoy it?

That’s somewhat glib of me, of course: it can be a struggle for both dominants and submissives to accept their desires given what we’re told is culturally acceptable. And while suffering as a means to ecstasy is a time-honored tradition, being the one who inflicts that suffering is a much less respected role.

So I’d say: start with appreciating the gift of the submissive. Next, there’s what’s easy to enjoy about topping: getting off on your partner’s pleasure, and knowing that you’re the one delivering it. Dominating someone isn’t very exciting for me if the submissive doesn’t react; I can’t stand stoic submissives. Accept that part of the pleasure of being dominant is, in fact, transitive: you’re taking pleasure from the pleasure you’re causing.

The other thing to remember is that you can take direct pleasure from the submissive. What gives you pleasure? Remember that being fucked doesn’t make you automatically submissive. (There are much-more agreed-upon models for this with male doms: what male top porn scene doesn’t end with him fucking her?) Or make him go down on you in an uncomfortable position. If you can get into taking pleasure from your submissive as well as giving pleasure to him, you might begin to see what all the fuss is about with domming.

As far as going beyond that, and beginning to take pleasure in your partner’s pain, or humiliation…well, do you? You don’t have to, you know. But your question makes me think that you’re beginning to, and you’re wondering about what it might mean.

My honest answer? I wouldn’t worry about it unless you feel it’s going to affect how you behave in the rest of your life. If you start enjoying how it feels when your partner is suffering at your hands, and then you start treating your friends like shit? That’s a red flag. But I think for people who are as clearly thoughtful and self-aware about this stuff as you seem to be, given your question, I don’t think that this is a concern. Kink, for you, may provide a safe context in which to explore these feelings in a way that not only doesn’t harm anyone, but is actually good hot fun for all involved. (Major win, there.)

I will also add that when I started working as a dominatrix, I experienced an increase in confidence. I didn’t become a bitch, as I think some women do when they take on this mantle. Instead, I found I got the attention of customer service more quickly, was more able to get what I wanted in a polite way, lost my temper less often (having more power means you don’t have to get angry or mean), and generally moved in the world more easily. So you can get positive changes out of accepting erotic power as well.

One last thing about this, though, for those married couples out there who are doing kink. It is often true that people who do heavy kink have better luck exploring it outside of their primary relationships; doing it together, when there are bills to pay and dishes to wash and kids to raise, can sometimes be too weird. It’s also probably true that the two of you know each other better than anyone, and so you not only have the best access to each other’s hot buttons, you also are more vulnerable to each other than to anyone else. This makes it easier to do actual damage within scene, so while I don’t think you should worry too much about enjoying it, I would talk to each other a lot beforehand about what things might truly hurt you. In my experience and knowledge, these things are more likely to be psychological than physical, so I would negotiate a lot more beforehand about, say, a humiliation scene than I would about, oh, a spanking.

Most of all, though, have fun. Revel in each other. And hell – play with switching within the same scene! Turn the tables! If you’re both so inclined, why not mix it up?

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Today’s questioner brings up the very valid question of what happens when we start getting all meta on ourselves – or as I like to think of it, human.

I’m a switch, so I enjoy both domming and subbing. I’m also a scatterbrain and an overthinker, which means it’s hard for me to stay in the mindset of either. I can deal with this fine when I’m subbing – when I get distracted, I can hide it until I get back into it. I am not the one managing the scene and the other person.

However, when I am the one who does-to, it’s harder to hide that I am distracted or out of the “zone”. I start thinking that it’s all very silly, or I start thinking about any of a zillion other things, and suddenly I’m not into it. This then triggers the usual nervousness that I look silly, or am saying silly things, and then I can’t do much of anything.

What do I do?

First of all, I want to acknowledge that what you’re experiencing is common. None of us can be an uber-dom or an uber-sub all the time. Sometimes scenes go, as Midori is fond of saying, “beige,” and we zone out thinking about what color to paint the ceiling. Sometimes we start thinking about our shopping lists. Sometimes we even freeze up, especially in the dominant role, and don’t know what we should do next. Or we step outside ourselves and lose focus.

A couple years ago, in the long process of introspection about pro-domming, I wrote the following:

Most days, when I’ve just spent the bulk of an hour with a grown man over my knee bruising his ass with a hairbrush, and am sitting disdainfully on his head, fully clothed, while he whacks off, I tend to step just outside of myself for a moment, look down, and think, Damn, I have a weird job.

Sometimes, it’s just weird, what we do. Or as you say here, “silly.” And we get self-conscious, which is really the curse of being people.

As far as what to do. First off, good on you for going easy on yourself when you’re in the sub role; it can be very painful for a dominant if the sub reveals, during scene, that he or she is bored or distracted, and sometimes it’s better to just fake it until you come back to yourself. You may talk to your dominant afterwards, too, about making the intensity level higher if this happens to you frequently: a great way to stay in the moment is to have something that is insisting on your attention, like, say, a knife at your throat.

Drifting off during domming, though, can be quite a can of worms. Not only is there the danger of losing sight of the sub’s physical safety in some cases, but subs are often in a heightened state of emotional vulnerability as well, and can be devastated if they realize that you’re not really with them.

So here are some ideas.

1. Blindfold the sub. While you’re practicing other ways to stay in the moment while you’re controlling a scene, keep your submissive blindfolded. This is a great way both to conceal from them that you might be distracted or screwing up, and to increase their sense of helplessness. Blindfolding can also induce a deeper sense of “subspace,” and the trancier your sub gets, the less he or she will notice if you, say, need to trim a hangnail all of a sudden.

2. Center yourself beforehand. What kinds of things center you, make you feel present and capable? Sometimes, I’ll do a brief meditation before a scene. Some people find that having a cigarette, some caffeine, or a small amount of alcohol (like, half a glass of wine – no more!) will bring their minds into focus. Sometimes, physical exercise works this way. Figure out what gives you focus and do it before you meet up for your scene. You’re more likely to be able to stay present throughout it.

3. Plan what you’re going to do beforehand. If you have an order of events in mind (e.g., First I’ll tie him up by his wrists and put a spreader bar between his ankles. Then I’ll run this vampire glove over his body for a while. Then I’ll spank him with the following tools. Then I stick on the nipple clamps while I let him fuck me), it’s easier to not get sidetracked and wonder what you should be doing. If you blindfold him, you can even have this written down. Or, if you want to do a roleplay, you can have a list of tortures that you check off right in front of him.

4. Do something else. You mention that sometimes when you start thinking it’s silly, you’re no longer into it. If this happens and you feel you can’t get back into the swing of what you’re doing, start doing something else. You might even comment on it honestly: “Well, isn’t this just ridiculous. I can’t have you all twisted up into a hogtie when what I really want to do is fuck you in the ass, now can I?” Of course, it all depends on what you’ve negotiated beforehand, but one of the nice things about being the dom is that you are in charge. This can be a burden at times, but it can be very freeing at others, when you realize that you don’t have to keep doing whatever you’re doing when it ceases to interest you. If you can think of something to do in the moment that you would find super-hot, that’s even better, as it’s much more likely to keep you engaged.

Sometimes you might lose interest in the scene entirely: what then? Do be mindful of the sub, and don’t just stop a scene cold when this happens. Think of some graceful way to end the scene, and make sure that you include extra of whatever kind of aftercare – for both of you! – that you like.

5. Be gentle with yourself. When you get distracted – because in spite of all this you still will – stop, recognize it to yourself, and take a deep breath, remembering especially to let that breath out again. It can help to come up with a symbol – like a word and a gesture, or a mental image – to anchor your centeredness to. When you find yourself drifting, call up that image or word to return you to yourself. If you simply can’t and find yourself stuck – again, find a way to end the scene that’s not too hard on either of you.

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I made an announcement recently that I’m quitting the domming business. So, you might ask, what am I doing now?

I’ve added a new permanent page to this blog which describes the services I’m currently providing in some detail.

Check it out.

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I recently stumbled across Mollena’s blog, and in particular her four-part interview on race play (listen to the woman and read them in order – it’s worth it).

Race play is a topic that I’ve mostly avoided, both in my life and my work. I’ve had people ask me to play the white mistress to their black slave boy, and I’ve always refused. I respect the desire, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing it. Mollena lays out her main rule for race play scenes for herself: the bottom has to be the one to ask for it. I wonder if I could do it, for someone I really cared about. It’s a very complex thing to play with, and I’m not sure I’d ever be ready for it.

Years ago I interviewed one of the great old porn producers, Duck Dumont, who founded Redboard with the great Kim Wylde. He talked a lot about Jamie Gillis, who did movies like Humiliated Jew Boy and other seriously edgy stuff. We talked about race play in the interview, the taboo of it, and what the draw to it might be. The magazine I was working for cut all of that material, until I argued its value as journalism, which occasionally won out against chickenshittedness at that publication.

But Mollena’s interview is the first place I’ve really seen it talked about with the passion, depth, care and intelligence the subject really requires.

Please to read and enjoy.

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After several Mondays of post-travel logistics-fail, holidays, and outright laziness, I finally present to you yet another Monday Advice column on – who would have guessed it – Monday.

This week’s question is a little confusing to me.

My would-be girlfriend likes to put people in boxes; I want to buy her a whip, a present, but I am not sure how to shop for this kind of gift for someone else. i.e. How to choose between a riding crop or a cat o’nine tails? and other such taste issues…

Okay, where to start. “Would-be girlfriend”? What does that even mean? Like, would be if she weren’t married to that seven-foot bodybuilder Zed? Would be, if she only knew you existed (but she will, ohhhh she will)? Or would be if she didn’t like putting people in boxes? And if she likes to put people in boxes, why not get her a refrigerator carton rather than a whip? Seems much more thoughtful. It’s tough to whip people once they’re in a box. Cages are maybe a little easier, but the leather tends to get wrapped around the bars, and then there’s all the clanking…

Anyway, bizarreness of phrasing aside, I assume what this person is trying to ask is: how do you know what kind of kinky gift to get someone you know would enjoy a kinky gift? Which is a different question from how do you know whether someone would like a kinky gift. Though given the whole would-be girlfriend thing, I’m suspecting some of this as well. “Heh-heh. Uh, hi. I got you this iron maiden. For a present. Heh-heh.” Eesh. Maybe you should try flowers first.

In any case.

If the object of your affection (friend, would-be girlfriend, potential victim) is already into kink and has shared this fact with you, the trick is just to slip it into conversation. Some possibilities: “Hey, have you been to The Fetish Fair Fleamarket/Beyond Leather/Insert Kink Convention Name here? Do any shopping?” “So you’re kinky. What kinds of things do you like to play with? I like paddles/singletails/live pythons myself.” Or, if you’re really being flirty, “So if you were gonna beat me up, what would be your ideal tools to do it with?” If this kind of thing gets her going, and she’s interested in beating you up, this has the double advantage of warming her up to the idea and getting you some valuable information.

Questions of taste are always difficult, whether you’re dealing with a kink-related gift or any other gift. One question is: what are you getting her this gift for? Is it a testament to your friendship? A symbol of how you feel about her? Is it something for her to actually use on people, or just a keepsake? If it’s for use on someone, are you hoping that someone will be you? If so, it’d probably behoove you to get something you think you’d enjoy being hit with.

A good friend of mine, who traveled in the same kink communities as I did, once got me a wonderfully hilarious purple glittery riding crop when she’d learned that I was going pro. It was incredibly thoughtful, not because of what it did but because of what it symbolized: the riding crop was all about honoring a typical symbol of the work of a pro domme; the purple glitter was all her particular shiny aesthetic. I’ve never forgotten it, though I’ve never used it in a session, either. It’s more of a thing I keep around to make me smile and think of her. On the other hand, clients have sometimes bought me gifts (I now have many riding crops) that I have found beautiful and useful, but which have very little sentimental value for me. It all depends what you’re trying to achieve with this gift – and how much money you have to spend.

Whatever you do, if you’re looking to have this person use the gift, don’t get something cheaply made. Many sex novelty shops carry crops and whips and floggers that are of abysmal quality; these are fine as gag gifts, but if you friend is serious, you want to get her something nice. As nice hitty things go, riding crops are probably the cheapest; you can find high-quality ones at any equestrian shop. Canes are generally inexpensive as well, but neither may be what she’s looking for. Some places carry small floggers that are under $100, and floggers are generally a safe bet. But you won’t find a good singletail at that price, and anyway, singletails require a pretty specific skill set and a lot of practice. Gifting somebody with one seems like more of a directive than you might want to communicate here.

Finally, if this person is just a friend and you’re not on a basis for talking about these things, then…I can only recommend that you do not get her a kinky present. Because that would be weird and imposing, I think. Just maybe. Though I wish it were otherwise, many people are very closeted about their kink, and with good reason. If she hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with you, a kinky present might come across as creepy and threatening.

So here’s the low-down: If you know she wants such a thing, draw her out about what she likes. If you get her something, make sure it’s good quality. And make your questions more specific, mmm-kay?

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