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Archive for July, 2010

Through Orlando’s Tumblr page, which is already hot enough to keep me distracted, I’ve stumbled across the Leathermen Tumblr page, which might be enough to destroy my productivity forever. Particularly distracting thus far are this image of a top wringing a washcloth (presumably full of his own sweat) over the bound and bruised body of his boy, who looks out at the camera with the most glorious expression of mingled humiliation and challenge; this prototypical image of a couple in an alley in full leathers, where the top’s expression is rough with power and pleasure and doesn’t seem to be for the camera; and this shot of a man in uniform, casually enjoying a cigarette while he rests his booted feet on a boy who’s worshipping his leathers.

What can I say, I’m an old fashioned kind of gal.

Still other images I love for their simplicity and beauty in what they evoke, like this one of a leather pantleg, hand, and boot on some stairs, or this sweet one of a Daddy cutting his boy’s hair.

If I haven’t mentioned it in this space before, I’m something of a leather slut. I’m not too excited by the kind of leather female dommes are expected to wear, though I’m happy to wear it because hey, leather. But the gay leather iconography gets me so hot it sometimes feels like I’m one of those fetishists I see from time to time whom I feel sorry for because they can never truly fulfill their fantasies: giantess fetishists, for example, or people into vore.

But from time to time I butch up and treat my girl nice, and from time to time I boy up and get kicked around by my Daddy a bit. And those are times when I feel my gender dissolve into something new and mythical and beautiful. It’s painful, too, though: I know the unreality of it, and I also embrace the femme side of me, and wouldn’t want to change. There’s something terribly poignant about this type of play, and something godlike to me about these images of men doing terrible, wonderful things to each other without shame or doubt.

One time, I got to go to Provincetown with my Daddy, and watch him get picked up, picked over and appraised by a number of men. We went cruising and drinking with these guys, hung out in front of Spiritus after closing, got shown the infamous “dick dock.” I felt like Goldilocks surrounded by all these warm and loving bears, and at the same time I felt like a squealing fangirl, a fag hag, the least interesting person in the room. Still, there was something freeing about it: I didn’t have to perform, only to admire. Only to wish I were one of them.

It was a night when I got to face down my high school demons at last, in a way I never expected. I was in love with a gay boy in high school, and I always thought it was because I wasn’t ready to have a real sexual relationship. My crushes on gay men continued through college – particularly when I didn’t know someone was gay. Later in college I dated a bi man, and would continue to stumble into queer space for a long time to come.

It’s only recently that I’ve come to recognize that fag haggery isn’t part of my sexuality: it’s more that I’m part gay boy. My attraction to gay men and leathermen isn’t entirely unrealizable: my own Daddy proves that, as do my interactions with other amazing bi men who see fit to draw me into their worlds. I’ll never be a real boy; I’m a bit like Pinocchio in all this. But I’m proud to be a part of what seems to be an ever-expanding definition of queer leather.

And still totally distracted by that Tumblr account.

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I’m still seeing clients here and there, if I meet someone I like and feel that the fantasy is something I can fulfill with integrity and a sense of fun. Plus, the money’s good. What can ya do.

The type of client I seem to keep coming back to is spankos. Not because spanking fantasies are particularly un-problematic to me; if anything, I often find the types of activities that spankos seek somewhat disturbing. But in the interest of being non-judgmental and promoting the sexual health of all individuals, I think I probably keep coming back to it because it’s problematic for me, and the problem inherent is one that is not the fault of the spankos themselves, nor even of the professionals they sometimes visit in order to indulge their fantasies. It’s a tweak I have about the rhetoric that often forms around the spanking roleplay.

The sexy idea of “I’ve been baaaad and need to be punished” is probably as old as time; the kinking of punishment into pleasure isn’t what troubles me (much, more on that later), though it’s not really what I go in for personally. Professionally, though, I’ve often found it to be a hoot to play the strict aunt or headmistress or Victorian lady doling out paddlings and canings to irrepressible “young boys.” It’s a chance to do some acting, to stretch my roleplay capacities and hone my quick responses, and often, it’s hilarious.

But what bugs me is what many of these men are wanting to be punished for. Sometimes it’s sassing an elder, sometimes it’s violating someone’s privacy, usually a girl or woman and usually involving a panty drawer or curtains carelessly left open of a summer evening. But more often than anything else, they want to be punished for masturbating.

As a staunch supporter of masturbation (stand tall and salute!), I find this a troubling trend. I think that the healthy habit of pleasuring yourself is the first step of exploring and loving your body, getting to know what you like, and being able to share a healthy sexuality with others. Granted, there are all kinds of things that people fantasize about and enact that would be horribly unhealthy in “real life,” things that they wouldn’t want to happen: rape fantasies are an excellent example, and many people fantasize about being kept as slaves in a cage in someone’s basement, but would hate it were it to really happen, even in an erotic context.

But the fetish for being spanked as a response to natural pubescent impulses troubles me because a lot of the time, it stems from true experience – an experience in which a child was punished for trying to know himself. This fantasy has the tendency to expand, too, into talk about the need for a strong female authority to control men’s wild sexual urges – which in turn recapitulates an irresponsible and misogynist narrative about how men are just beasts who can’t control themselves, and women are the moral, moderating influences who must rein them in, lest they go out and rape every woman they meet. (See also: maybe the way to prevent rape is not to stop women from wearing short skirts and drinking alcohol, but for men to STOP RAPING WOMEN.)

One of my favorite longstanding clients enacts multiple versions of this fantasy with me, and given our relationship and our lunches post-factum, I often have discussed this problem with him. Over time, his detailed fantasy letters began to shift: it wasn’t masturbation he was being punished for, but inappropriate, non-consensual attention to women, or being a cocky, misogynist 17-year-old asshole (one of his more entertaining incarnations), or the classic: going into a female classmate’s room and stealing panties from her drawer. We developed a story over several visits which wound up with the young man masturbating under the caring supervision of a slightly older female intern, which I thought was strangely sweet. In earlier versions of the fantasy, the boy’s ongoing discipline and recidivism ultimately ends in castration. In a later version, over lunch one day, he told me that he imagined that young man finally settling down with one of the imaginary young women we wove into our scenarios, having a healthy, female-led relationship with her. My sessions with him, to a certain extent, mirrored my own attitudes about my work – and, I like to think, began to heal that boy inside him.

I still have trouble with some of these punitive scenarios: for myself, in kink, punishment is a bad thing, so much so that it’s something I don’t really play with as a bottom. Punishment, as in the real world, is something to be avoided. For spankos and some others, the punishment is the kink, is the pleasure. There’s no teasing and denial, no finishing themselves off afterwards. It’s chastisement, smart-mouthing, face-slapping, and butt-reddening with fast, hard strokes meant to cause real pain. It’s something that I don’t fully grok, as it’s not about the pain being transformed into pleasure, or the pain being endured as part of a trial by fire, or even the pain as atonement, though I’m sure that’s part of it. And unlike a lot of kinky activity in the more leather side of the scene, it almost always seems to stem from childhood. As with foot fetishists, it’s something they knew about early and have sought for much of their lives (or began to kink on later in life).

As with the sessions with my old client, with this new client I chose to punish him for looking in his little neighbor girl’s window while she was dressing, rather than for masturbating. I always have this strange need to punish for something I feel is just, rather than for something I want to encourage. I just can’t reinforce that idea that masturbation is bad and sexuality is immoral and wrong – even in the context of a session that’s clearly sexual for the person receiving it!

There is, of course, the possibility, as with some kink, that enacting these scenarios is in part about re-framing and healing the wound. But I just never hear about that from spankos. It just always seems like a somewhat compulsive, likely ultimately harmless, and usually pretty playful thing that got kinked for them at an early age. And probably there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m always bemused by my own reactions to these things.

What are your thoughts?

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Last night’s Diane Rehm Show was a panel discussion on France’s recently passed ban of the veil and the burqa. It included the voice of Asra Nomani, a journalist and American Muslim whose heritage stems from a strict Indian sect who forced women to veil their faces. She herself was raised a modern woman by her mother, whose own mother-in-law literally tore the veil from her face and thus began her liberation.

Nomani’s story is touching, and I can’t say I support the wearing of the veil or the burqa, though I don’t claim to fully understand the nuances of the practice. But more to the point: regardless of what I think of it, I cannot support the idea of state-mandated or -forbidden religious practices, no matter how oppressive we on the outside may believe they are to the women in question. As another panelist asked, what’s next? Is the state going to go into Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods and stop Hasidic women from shaving their heads?

Why am I writing about this here? Well, I couldn’t help but think of those well-meaning – but usually ultimately vitriolic – feminists who believe that all women who choose to be engaged in BDSM are simply brainwashed by the men they are with, and by extension, by the patriarchy. According to these folk, there is no way a woman could actually desire, or consent to, sexual submission or erotic pain. She is just the unwitting victim of a larger society that promotes and reinforces the supremacy of men and violence against women.

French Muslim women who wear the burqa – only a couple thousand in all, incidentally – couldn’t possibly be doing so because they want to as part of their personal religious beliefs. It must be and can only be an expression of the most radical political elements of Islam, which are seeking to oppress their women and will not stop until every Muslim woman is veiled and locked in the house. A sad story, to be sure – but unfortunately, it’s simply not the case. And even if it were – that is no call for a state to step in and punish the victims by forbidding them from appearing in public in the only mode of dress they know to be correct. Way to isolate, punish the victim, and further radicalize Islam. Thanks, France!

I was listening to Maymay’s podcast, Kink on Tap – and I’m several episodes behind, mind you – but it was the one where one of the panelists was discussing how Rhode Island was re-criminalizing prostitution. In that story, it was explained how the best way to stop the supposed horrible human trafficking that is going on is to punish prostitutes who are caught with hefty fines and even prison. This was so the heavy penalties could be used as a bargaining chip to get these women to testify against their awful human-trafficking pimps.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?

On going to Kink on Tap’s site, I found that naturally, Maymay got to this ahead of me. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has seen this connection. When are people going to stop trying to protect women by removing their freedoms and questioning their agency?

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Saw a wonderful, sweet client today. He was terribly nervous, for all the usual reasons: not wanting to get found out, worrying that his desires were strange, not believing that he could broach the topic with his wife, constantly window-shopping pro domme websites.

It amazes me how needed the services I’m now offering seem to be. I find myself, these days, in this wonderful space of healing: of validating, of normalizing, of bringing people more into themselves.

What kills me, though, is how much I talk to people about stuff that is freely available on the Internet and in books. How little people actually research, and how much time they instead spend looking at porn, or trawling pro-domme websites for gems that only very rarely exist. They’re seeking answers for what they find hot, what keeps drawing them back, in places that are designed to draw them in commercially, take their money, keep the closet door locked and avoid self-analysis.

It’s amazing how many people come to me just because they need someone they can talk to about their fetish, or because they just want to hear someone say that what they’re into is okay.

I’m thrilled to provide this service, don’t get me wrong. And when it’s appropriate, I will still recommend some of these people to particular service providers. After all, I’m not going to get everyone to ask their wives to dress them in women’s underwear and peg them. For some people, it’s just not going to be possible.

But it continues to be my ideal. The thing I strive for: to bring people’s desires out into the light, to offer them a space where it’s even possible to explore those desires with someone they love, instead of with a stranger.

It’s a weird job, but somebody’s got to do it.

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