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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

It’s a long time since I’ve answered any advice questions here, which makes the name of the blog somewhat incoherent. But I’ve had one sitting on the back burner for some time, and I figured I’d come back and answer it.

Please, any advice questions, comment, or send me email!

Some friends of mine are considering embarking on a power exchange relationship (probably more the Master/slave kind than the dom/sub kind). They have very little experience so far. Can you recommend any websites that would be good educational resources for them?

-A Nonymous

Part of the reason it took me so long to get back to you on this, A Nonymous, is because I honestly don’t know a lot of educational resources on the web for this sort of thing. The resources that tend to be available are 1) porn, and 2) erotica. Both of these, generally speaking, present a distorted view of how these kinds of relationships work, but they tend to be where people go when they’re looking for how to structure a BDSM relationship. This, for obvious reasons, is problematic.

There is a marvelous little book, entitled Miss Abernathy’s Concise Slave Training Manual, which details a particular way to train a slave, including real-world advice on contracts and other generalities.

The best resources I know of on the web tend to be thoughtful blogs by people who are in relationships like this; I especially love Orlando’s blog, which details his incredibly loving relationship with his partner, Murre; Little Girl’s blog is also a beautiful detailing of a relationship that has evolved over time; and I think Maymay’s blog is essential reading for anyone who is interested in kink and how it is evolving.

But the best resource of all for people just starting out in this is each other. They need to do a lot of talking: about what each of them might want, what they’re afraid of, what they currently believe their hard limits to be. About what being a slave, or a master, means to each of them; about what each of them expects from such a relationship; about how the arrangement can be changed or ended once it begins. What their responsibilities are to each other. What “punishment” means.

I hope that helps.

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Hi there! It’s been a really long time. I was just checking my stats, and it looks like at least a few people still look at my blog daily.

As this started as an advice column, I’d love to get it going again as at least that, and maybe start making other more substantive posts again, too. So please: comment here with your question, or email me.

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It’s been a while since I’ve been answering questions here, but I got one recently and have been stewing on it a bit. Here’s my stab at it.

Dear Delilah:

I hope you had a delightfully kinky May Day! Maybe the change in season will inspire a fever of questions ;). I know I have one for you!

In my kinky relationships, I am primarily Mistress. Sometimes that aspect of the dynamic extends to financial and practical matters, in which I pay for the majority of meals, evenings on the town, and even household bills. I didn’t ask for anything sexual or otherwise in return, but it always felt nice and different on the rare occasions when the roles were reversed, and I was treated. When that happened, I found myself even hornier than usual.

Still, I never thought that the concept of actually having an “official” Sugar Daddy or Sugar Mama would seriously intrigue me and turn me on, but as I continue to explore the wide world of fetishes, it’s the one I keep coming back to. I am turned on by the idea of having someone, preferably someone older, provide support in exchange for companionship. I’m not interested in receiving things like jewelry or cars, but I want to make sure I know how to get my value.

I have joined related communities on Fet Life and conducted Internet research, but you are the guru when it comes to exploration. How do you suggest I pursue my interest and be taken seriously? Have you encountered any reliable resources for those searching for a Sugar Daddy or Sugar Mama?

Thanks in advance, and have a great day!

M.

Oh, my dear, I do appreciate your confidence in me, but having the word “guru” bandied about makes me just a tad uncomfortable. Still – let’s look at this, shall we?

Let me start with a disclaimer. Having been a sex worker for some time, I have a particular bias when it comes to kinks around money. I quit in part because I wasn’t comfortable monetizing my sexuality, and that discomfort gives me a little bit of a blind spot when it comes to people who kink on it. However, I also recognize that money is just another way to exchange energy, and a powerful one at that. Our society is almost as sick about money as it is about sex, and it’s not all that surprising that they frequently get snarled up together. I know a dominatrix who used to make her clients kneel at her feet and count the money out to her, because she wanted to highlight the humiliation of having to pay her to make her pay attention to them. I, conversely, used to have them leave it in an envelope on a desk on the way in, as I wanted to de-emphasize the monetary part of the exchange. Call it differences in style, call it differences in kink, or call it me perpetuating the denial about what was really going on. I was never comfortable doing blackmail or financial domination, either.

Part of my discomfort, though, also stems from the simple fact of how easy a monetary relationship is to abuse – from both directions. A person being given money for sexual favors can leverage his or her attentions, demanding more money for increased time, special activities, or even being nice. A person giving money is in an even greater position for abuse: just look at traditional patriarchal marriage. To many people’s minds (particularly men, unfortunately), the fact that they’re paying for something gives them carte blanche to treat it however they wish: it’s their car, they can crash it if they want.

I’m saying all of this by way of highlighting the peculiar dangers in what you’re looking for: tread carefully.

Before you go ahead and look into finding a sugar daddy or mommy, I’ll ask another question: do you need the money? It sounds like you don’t, as you have had some fun being something of a sugar mommy or “mistress” yourself. If you did need the money, I might caution you against engaging in this type of play, as you may find yourself being a sex worker when you don’t want to be.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a sex worker. But if you’re not interested in being one, this is a slippery slope: you might wind up spending a lot of time with someone you don’t really care for because he or she is providing support that you need. If you’re not realistic about that, you can start feeling pretty icky, pretty fast. And you can start allowing someone to have power over you in ways that are uncomfortable and difficult to dislodge.

If you still feel comfortable going ahead, here’s what I’d recommend.

Start off just playing with this fetish. As with most things in kink, it’s a good idea to dip a toe in and do some role play first rather than diving in collar-first to a 24/7 arrangement. You might even try this with someone you’re already kinky with, who is willing and able to pamper you a bit financially. Go on a weekend with them, where they pay for everything, and in return, make yourself available to them in whatever ways they like (within reason).

Here’s where another caveat comes in. We all know how fun it is to play with power dynamics – that’s why we’re here. Sometimes it’s really fun and challenging to push yourself to do things you might not ordinarily do in order to please your dominant. Keep in mind that when money enters into these kinds of dynamics, it can get really blurry: women especially are burdened in this society with a lot of guilt telling them that they have to do or put up with certain things because after all, the guy is paying for everything. This goes back to my original caution: be sure you don’t need the money too much.

If you can’t find someone to experiment with, and/or if the experiment is successful and you want to dive in, you’ll need some resources – which is what you asked for to begin with. (Gods, Delilah, yap much?)

The hottest site for this right now is called Seeking Arrangement, and it puts together rich older folks with “ambitious” younger folks. It’s free to join if you’re the “sugar baby” (which term gives me the heebs, for some reason). Also, the guy in the picture on the front page of the site is smokin’. Unfortunately, the site is a bit creepy in terms of condoning extra-marital affairs and citing “human nature” and historical references about concubines. It seems much more focussed on the monetary aspect than it is on any potential fetish, and it sounds like you are more interested in playing with how “dirty” the whole sugar daddy thing is than you are with doing it seriously. Also, are you 19?

If you search for “sugar daddy” on Google, you’ll get a bunch of sites like this. A search on “sugar daddy fetish” turned up Alt Sugar Daddy, which focuses on people who are kinky but “also appreciate the finer things in life.” This might be closer to what you’re looking for, but I definitely wouldn’t discount the potential creep factor here, either. You’ll probably be a hot commodity there, though, if you’re already someone who has her freak on; this site is more likely populated with sugar daddies who have odd tastes than with kinky people with a sugar fetish, if that makes sense. My bet is that here you’ll find guys who want women who will let them piss on them or suck their toes, or who will want you to wear particular clothes, or whatever.

Something you have to decide is whether you’re wanting to play with the sugar daddy/mommy idea in a kinky context, with the self-awareness and slight irony that that implies, or whether you want to enter into a real arrangement like this with someone who may or may not be kinky in other ways, or be able to see the potentially problematic nature of such an arrangement. If it’s the former, you may want to stay within the circle of people you already know; if it’s the latter, go to town, keeping all the caveats I’ve put out there in mind.

***
Got a question? Email me!

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Okay, admittedly, I’ve often heard questions about how to do play without marks. But I’ve rarely received the reverse. But there’s a first time for everything.

Dear Delilah,

I really like it when my partner leaves marks on me that last a few days, so that I can look at them as they fade and reminisce about the fun we had making them. However, my pain threshold isn’t terribly high and often it hurts too much before we get to the point of bruising. Can you recommend hitting equipment that would be more likely to leave marks? So far we’ve been improvising with hands and belts.

Thanks for your help,
N.

Hey, N. Marks are kind of awesome, aren’t they? A lot of us seem to spend a lot of time and energy avoiding getting them for one reason or another: our partners might get upset, the cashier at the grocery story might think we’re getting abused at home; there’s this doctor’s appointment…but the truth is, for some people, marks are exceedingly powerful and enhance and extend the life of our scenes.

But marks are often also a sign we’ve been through some serious pain; I had some cane marks on my thighs from two weekends ago that spread into huge, purply bruises that lasted nearly two weeks, and let me tell you, earning those HURT.

There are ways, though, to get bruises and other marks without enduring too much.

1. Be in a heightened state of arousal. Often, when I’m done with a certain someone, I have these mysterious bruises on my inner thighs, and sometimes a couple of smaller ones on my outer thighs, too. With a bit of thought, I realized that these were coming from my partner holding, pulling and squeezing my thighs while he’s fucking me. Thighs are pretty easily bruised in general, and yet also have a lot of fatty tissue to protect them; they’re also a good place to get bruised if you want to hide your marks from the everyday world. It’s worth noting that I never notice these injuries as I’m receiving them, only the bruises afterward, which make me smile. Other marks may be possible in the throes of passion: you may find you can take harder bites and harder squeezes (the upper arms are a great place for this) when you’re really turned on and in the moment.

2. Biting. Biting can really really hurt, but it can also be one of the easiest ways to leave a mark. If your partner sucks while biting, or squeezes the flesh between the teeth rather than pressing down with the jaw (a good way to bite hard without leaving marks, btw), you can get a nice mark from it without too much pain. If you don’t want to take biting pain at all, hickeys are another great option: just have your partner clamp on and lamprey away.

3. Brief moments of extreme pain. You’re not going to have a lot of luck leaving marks with bare hand slapping: you have to get really really going before bruising or other lasting marks can happen, and by then you’re probably tapped. Here’s some general rules about marks: 1) you’re more likely to get bruises from thuddy things than from stingy things; 2) the thinner the object, the more likely you’ll get surface welts. So if you want marks but find your pain tolerance lacking for a long session, another option is to put up with a lot of pain just once. A hard cane strike hurts like hell but stops hurting in about 30 seconds. You get a beautiful welt that may or may not bruise. A hard punch (in the buttocks, thighs, upper chest or upper back, please), particularly a dirty one with the knuckle out, will probably raise a bruise and will hurt for a similar amount of time, then have a yummy soreness when you press it for a few days.

Hopefully this helps. Let us know! Send pictures!

To ask a question, email me or comment here!

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This week’s question is a doozy, and it comes at a time when I’ve been thinking about the topic of identity a lot. A big post is in the offing about shifting identities, switching, genderfuck, orientation, and a whole bunch of other shit that I found myself navigating this past weekend. But now, to the question.

Dear Delilah,

In the kink scene, we tend to get attached to certain identities – top, bottom, dom, switch, sub, master, slave, crossdresser, straight, bi, queer, and on and on. Sometimes these labels start to feel confining over time, though. What advice would you give to someone who is starting to feel that an old label might not be fitting them so well anymore, but isn’t sure they want to embrace a new one? How related are identity and behavior? How do you communicate the right information to the right people?

Boy, did you ask it. A snarky part of me wants to say, “You sure that’s enough? Anything else??” Because jeebus, this is a big question, and it’s probably going to take me several posts to address it with anything approaching completeness.

But I’ll take a first stab at it.

Others might disagree, but I tend to think that identity and behavior are very strongly related. I just happened to listen to an episode of Dan Savage’s podcast today, on which a lesbian called him out for saying that anyone can identify any way they want, even if they are a woman in a relationship with a man who wants to call herself a dyke. The caller said that such a person “doesn’t get” to call herself a dyke. Dan respectfully disagreed and said that yes she does, but the caller of course has the right not to believe her.

I for one think it’s absurd when someone is so attached a particular identity that they insist on hanging onto it for dear life even when their actions indicate a different identity. If it’s an exception to a general rule, that’s one thing: I would never say that a butch who femmes out from time to time shouldn’t call herself butch, or that a straight man who wants to touch someone else’s cock once in a while must identify as bisexual. But I don’t think that a woman who is happily married to a man can really sincerely continue to say that she’s a lesbian. Or rather: she can feel free to do that, I’m just not going to believe her.

On the flip side of this, though, is the closeted gay man who’s married to a woman and has fourteen kids. His actions strongly indicate a straight identity – which, after all, is what he is desperately trying to promote. That doesn’t mean that he is not gay. However, it once again shows the strong relationship between identity and actions.

Identity, after all, is mutable, and it’s a tool. People talk about and use identity as a way of presenting themselves in the world: I have a bisexual identity, you have a black identity, he has a gay identity, she has a Latina identity, and so on. Your identity is a combination of who you are, and how you want to be seen. Some aspects of identity cannot be changed: an African American person is 99% of the time visible as such, and so will be seen as such regardless of how deeply that person decides to embrace and promote that identity. Some racial identities must be more actively constructed: not every Hispanic person “looks” Hispanic, and not every person of Latin American descent identifies as Latino. Sexual orientation can also be immutable, as in some gay people who knew from the time they were five years old. Or it can shift over time, as the bisexual who later realizes she’s functionally a lesbian, or the lesbian who gradually opens to the possibility of male partners.

And so on. But another part of identity is decided upon by the individual. That visible African American may grow up in an immediate culture that is mostly white, and grow up queer and kinky. That person may feel more resonance with a queer kinky identity than he does with his black identity. This doesn’t mean he stops being African American (and dealing with all that that brings in this culture); just that it’s not the part of his makeup that he emphasizes. That closeted man from the example above may finally come out, at which point he had traded his straight identity for a gay one.

One of the dangers of shifting identities within the kink scene, of course, is that people will just think you’re flaky. If you’ve been in the scene as a straight female submissive for like five years, and suddenly you demand to be addressed as Mistress McToppyDomme by all the women you’re hoping to fuck, that can cause some spinning heads, and like Dan Savage’s caller, you might not be believed. But one of the advantages of the kink scene is that you can enact those aspects of your identity you want known in public, so that over time, people who may have seen you one way will begin to see other possibilities.

Which brings me (finally) to my advice: if you’re tired of a given label, if you feel your identity is shifting, then simply act on it. Be the change you want to see in yourself, to paraphrase. If you want people to know that you’re not just that one thing that everyone thinks you are, then do other things in front of those people. Even better: suggest that you might like to do those other things with those people. Start with people you already trust, who know you well and will have your back. And if you don’t feel the need to take on a new label, but simply to softly shed one you’ve outgrown…then go naked for a while. Humans are great at labeling – too good, in fact – and if you need a new one, I’ve no doubt it will appear.

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It’s been a while, as I haven’t had a backlog of questions. (You people are obviously just too well-adjusted. Or you think my advice stinks. Or something. Anyway!) I have a new question this week that’s fairly simple, but may send me off on a tear about the topic anyway. So here goes.

My partner and I have discovered that we love it when he puts his hand around the front of my throat. Is there a way to do this that is safer than any other way, in terms of placement or pressure? We’re not trying to restrict air or bloodflow; it’s just the symbolism of it.

So, knowledgeable questioner: you obviously already know that restricting either airflow or bloodflow can be dangerous, and in fact, there’s no “safe” way to do it. Does that mean I don’t do it, or don’t think anyone should? Hell no. It just means that it’s all about managing risk, rather than believing that you’re being safe. I saw an amazing presentation on breathplay in all its permutations by Lee Harrington some years ago, and that was the main message I took away from it.

What you’re doing, though, is much less risky, though I would advise you to look more deeply into the risks as you go forward, because we all know how these things can escalate. As far as simply placing a hand around the throat, though, here’s some things to keep in mind.

First off, don’t press hard or squeeze. If the symbolism is all you’re after, there’s no reason for him risk entering into actual choking. If you’re doing this as part of vigorous sex, watch out for him being on top and putting his weight on that hand, or you on top and leaning into his hand, both of which will put more pressure than you want or may even be aware of in the heat of the moment.

Second, get the placement right. The temptation when putting a hand on someone’s throat is to place the palm over the Adam’s apple and squeeze a little with your fingers. This position very easily tips over into the two things you want to avoid: airway and bloodflow restriction. Just a little pressure on the larynx can begin to restrict airflow, not to mention that the trachea is fairly easy to crush. This type of choking is also much more unpleasant in general than the bloodflow-restricting kind, as it causes a choking feeling in the throat and can easily initiate panic – for good reason. The fingers at the sides of the throat, on the other hand, can begin to restrict carotid artery flow – the blood going to your brain. This is what causes that floaty feeling that eventually leads to fainting – a very high risk type of play.

But that position, done very gently, can feel very protective, loving, and controlling without any pressure at all. Save it for times when you’re not also engaged in anything vigorous that might distract him from how much pressure he’s applying.

A safer and still symbolically strong position goes like this: Hold your hand up in front of you with the fingers together and the thumb out (your fingers and thumb will make an “L”). Now put the crook made by your fingers and thumb against your throat, directly under your chin and above the larynx. Your fingers and thumb should point upward, lying along your jawline. From this position, you can press upward with your whole hand, creating a feeling of control and force without actually putting any pressure on dangerous points. Do not squeeze the hand together, as this will cause the same problem of putting pressure on the blood vessels at the sides of the neck. Do this to yourself, and then teach him to do it.

Remember: pretty much any type of BDSM play is going to involve a certain amount of risk. This is why I prefer the RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) system to the SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) system: I don’t really believe that any kink, or any sex for that matter, can be completely safe. (I prefer the term “safer sex” to “safe sex” for that reason as well.) Then again, why do we do these things if not for the thrill? Besides, skydiving, playing sports, and driving your car carry far more risks than BDSM. I often think that some people do kink – and extreme sports – because we live in a way that our ancestors never dreamed of, and that is almost entirely without physical risk. Or rather, there is risk, but not in a way that we’re consciously aware of in the moment. (You’re probably driving on the highway daily and inhaling enough pollutants to kill you in thirty years, but when was the last time you were chased down by a tiger?)

Which reminds me: if you haven’t seen David Cronenburg’s Crash, you should.

And if you have a question for me, you should comment here or email me!
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I was moved by the letter I got this week, and though it’s not topical in terms of kink, it’s a complex question about alternative relationships that might as well be discussed here as anywhere.

I welcome your questions, not only about kink, but about polyamory, bisexuality, and any other relational issues you think I can speak to. I can’t promise to know a ton about specifically gay, lesbian or trans issues, as it’s not the life I lead. But then again, Dan Savage answers straight people’s questions all the time, and most of the time I don’t really think that the issues of gay and lesbian folk in relationship are much different from anyone else’s. (Actually, I bet I have more in common with gays and lesbians in poly relationships than I have with straight or bisexual people in monogamous ones.)

To make a long story short: if you feel, whoever you are, like honoring me with your difficult questions, I’ll do my best to answer them well. And if it comes down to it, I’ll call in a guest expert, just like Dan would do. (Because ya know. Dan’s my hero.)

Dear Deliah:

I enjoy reading your column, and when I stumbled into an alternative relationship dilemma of my own, you were were the person I most wanted to consult.

I have been romantically involved with both members of a legally married couple for nearly four years. Although the husband and wife were together before I entered the arrangement, we let our own situations progress organically (I was never brought in as the hot bi babe, for instance) and consider all four relationships to be “on the same level.” There have been ups and downs, and I have been very concerned about matters like the possibilities of moving in and of having children with my partners.

I recently learned that my female partner miscarried after being pregnant for nearly two months. Although I have been doing my best to be supportive, I still feel hurt and rejected: I didn’t even know they were actively trying to get pregnant, nor that she had conceived. I know it’s good practice to wait a reasonable amount of time before informing others about a pregnancy, but I am supposed to be a part of their family.

I guess it goes without saying that I will need to address my feelings at an appropriate time. Do you have any suggestions for how to approach this topic with my partners? When should I go about bringing it up?

First of all, I’m sorry this happened to you, and very sorry that this happened to your partners. Miscarriages can be devastating, and above all it is important that you not make this too much about you: I have no doubt that they’re already going through a lot of pain.

With that said, it sounds like the three of you do have a deeply intertwined relationship – the fact that you reference “four relationships” shows that you know how many dynamics are at play here – and if it really is as you say it is, it’s probable that you had a right to know, and a right to be upset about it.

There are a few possibilities at play here in terms of what has already occurred. One is that she became pregnant by accident; it happens. Once that happened, she might have felt it best to keep it under wraps until the traditional first-trimester mark; as she miscarried, this was probably a good plan in terms of causing the least amount of pain for others.

The other possibility is more sad, but needs to be taken seriously. You say they were together before you, but that you are all considered equals in the relationship. It is entirely possible that this isn’t really as true as you think it is. Even in triads where the third person is brought into the home, involved in a commitment ceremony, etc. – it takes some time and effort for that person to reach the same level of intimacy and equal-partner status as the married couple already had together. If you aren’t living with them, and the relationship is, as you say, up and down, it’s not likely that you really are an equal partner, not in the way they are to each other. They’ve been together for longer, have chosen to live together, chosen to get married, and finally, chose to get pregnant – without consulting you.

What this may be is a sign that you are not in the relationship(s) you think you are in.

I want to tell you to address your concerns with them directly, but I also want to be extremely sensitive to what they’ve just been through. They have a right to that, regardless of how they handled the information.

Just as they probably would have allowed three months before revealing the information to others, I recommend giving them three months before you bring it up. If one of them brings it up before then, great. But I think it’s going to be really rough to address this question while they’re still in the midst of early grieving.

When you do bring it up, gently is the best way. Have dinner with them both one night. Remind them how much you love them, and how you’ve long wanted to make a family with them. And finally, just ask, in a spirit of curiosity and concern. “Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”

I warn you that the answer you get is going to be pivotal for how your relationship looks going forward. But as you’ve already surmised, it’s something you have to do.

Sorry to give such a downer answer. Let me know how it goes.

I’m out of questions again. Email me your questions, or comment!

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