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One of the questions Sarah asked me in my interview for Good Vibrations is why I don’t do forced fem anymore.

I gave a rather politic answer:

I find it deeply problematic that there is such a rash of men who want to be turned into women because being a woman is somehow humiliating, less-than, shameful. It’s one thing to want to experiment with gender; it’s another to do it in a way that implies that doing “girly” things makes you ridiculous, stupid, or unworthy. It bothers me, and always has. I don’t want to deny anyone their kinks, but I don’t have to participate in them.

I also note that you never hear about women being forced to be dressed up like men and then made fun of. Somehow being female or feminine has gotten linked up with being submissive, and so a lot of men think that the most submissive thing you can possibly do is put on a bra and panties and get fucked with a strap-on. I’m okay with that in some cases, but I want to do it in a loving way, not a shaming one. A man giving himself to me wholeheartedly is a beautiful thing, and I have no interest in making it ugly.

I know how powerful humiliation can be, and how many taboos there are in our culture that you can tap into if you want to make someone feel that way. Women in our culture get a lot less flack for dressing in men’s clothes than men get for dressing in women’s; thus the power of that taboo. But I personally don’t enjoy perpetuating or eroticizing that taboo. Besides, I’ve never been strongly into humiliation; I think it’s one of the more heavy-duty tools in the kink arsenal, and I reserve that kind of play for people I’m very close to.

Source: magazine.goodvibes.com (http://s.tt/131Fx)

I was looking around Bitchy’s site last night for some reason (I still refer to it a lot), and found the best explanation yet for why she thinks forced fem is completely fucked up. As usual, she has slightly stronger opinions than I have. /understatement.

But in this particular post, she really put her finger on it for me. Some commenters were apparently comparing forced fem to race play or other “edgy” play where, say, a black person enacts fantasies of being a slave, or a Jewish person enacts fantasies involving Nazis. And here’s where she nails it:

Who has the power outside the bedroom is relevant. Taking something that oppresses you in daily life and making it your sexual power source is a valid and often useful thing to do. And hot. Taking something you use to oppress other people and then making some parody of it to stroke off some ideas you have that wouldn’t it be dirty to be a slutty woman, ain’t the same thing.

I could just leave it at that and be happy, but I must add this:

And that’s not even getting started on forced fem’s prevalence in femdom enforcing shitty little ideas about femininity and submission being, like, what, fucking interchangeable, or something. Just stop. Really. If everything we do in femdom equates the ideas that femininity is what submission really is and dominance requires a cock and no emotional engagement, femdom will never stop being a joke, a sickness, a wrong, wrong thing. You can come and ask me why I don’t like gender bending if you like, but the reason I complain about this stuff is because femdom just can’t stay away from it. Like the dominant paradigm of cock wins over cunt is so seductive that we, who think we are so fucking subversive, can’t unthink that shit even as we enact the opposite.

My own opinions on gender-bending in general are quite different, of course; a post is brewing for me on what it’s like when I boy up and go to a party that way. But I definitely find Bitchy’s points on this very, very relevant.

Now go read the whole thing.

I got interviewed!

Sarah Whedon over at Good Vibes interviewed me for her shiny new column, “Screwing With Our Minds.”

Check it out – it’s pretty awesome.

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.

I had a conversation last night that wound up with me coining the title of this post. I was thinking about collars, and the many things they seem to represent for people. Naturally, a collar tends to be a symbol of ownership, or at least of control-over, whether it is for a circumscribed period or for life. But it is interesting to note the many different experiences that wearing a collar – or similar marker – evokes for people.

I know that for me and some others, a collar can often be a marker for the start and end of a scene. When used this way, a collar puts me into a certain headspace almost immediately: all of the sensations of submission, headspace, and associated arousal go along with the buckling or locking in place of the collar. I was reminded of this by reading back in Devastating Yet’s journal, about leashes and what they did for her boy. I have one lover who goes into a completely non-verbal, spaced out, almost childlike subspace when I collar him; with him I have to be especially careful, because in that state he will do anything I want, even if he would consider it a hard limit ordinarily. For him, and to a lesser extent for me, the removal of the collar denotes the end of the scene, and the ability to return to normal consciousness.

One circle out from that, as I was explaining last night, would seem to be the “weekend collaring,” where the dominant collars the sub for an overnight date, a weekend or several days. This is still under the rubric of “special occasion” collaring, where everything the couple will be doing during the period has to do with fun, if not sex. For instance, one might get collared for a weekend playparty, or kink convention, or vacation getaway. Generally this isn’t done during mundane time, when the two will have to be separated for any real length of time, like a workday. The effect it has, though, tends to be different from the scene-only collaring, in that the headspace cannot be so deep that the sub is unable to function in normal ways like eating or interacting with people outside of scene space. The person I was talking to last night said that for her the collar was a type of safety, a confinement within which she could feel more comfortable and free. I compared it to making art with budgetary or resource constraints; much of the best theatre I’ve seen is made in this way.

The outer circle – or perhaps the inner circle? – in this concentric collar design is, of course, the “permanent” or 24/7 collaring. While the meaning of the collar is strongest in this instance and indicates intense commitment, the mental effect, because it is ongoing and constant, is much less dramatic. Even a submissive who is collared all the time isn’t going to necessarily feel submissive when working the forklift or signing papers at his office. The collar becomes like a wedding ring – a constant reminder of his relationship, and the nature thereof.

This creates an interesting dichotomy, potentially: the more serious the significance of the collar, the less, by necessity, the mental and emotional change wrought by it? Naturally, the mental and emotional change one must undergo when becoming a 24/7 collared slave must be immense, but it cannot be a change that affects their day-to-day functioning in the way that a scene-collaring might.

Just some thoughts of late. What are your experiences with collars?

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.

In a case that seems to finally be putting BDSM to the test in the context of rape culture, an Arlington, VA man is being tried for rape after ignoring his partner’s safeword.

While I obviously don’t want to see anyone raped, and I certainly hope there’s a special place in hell for people who use BDSM as an excuse to rape someone, I find the setup for this case much more encouraging than other cases that have arisen like it. In most instances of S&M rape cases I’ve seen, it’s been about some psycho guy who draws young women into his weird, dungeony web and winds up imprisoning them in his basement. Generally, Very Bad Things happen, ranging from a woman being traumatized with PTSD to women getting killed. The subsequent trial then becomes a circus, with all three rings displaying the evils of those creepy BDSM people.

If I haven’t made it very obvious in this space before, I really, really hate it when things like this happen, not just because people are hurt, but because it gives the media another excuse to make us out to be psychotic supervillains.

What I like about this case so far is that it seems to be handling the BDSM question as just another kind of sex, and to define the breech of the agreements endemic to that type of sex as rape. This seems to me to be an entirely appropriate and reasonable approach to the problem, and doesn’t spend time demonizing the acts in question. From the article:

Senter and the unidentified woman met for about a dozen encounters that involved consensual bondage, discipline, dominance and submission.

But during an encounter on April 2, prosecutors told the court that the role-playing escalated out of control. They say the woman told authorities that despite telling him to stop, Senter disregarded a “safe word”, a word or phrase used to immediately stop the role-playing. The woman says Senter hit her with a cane, bit her and dragged her by the hair.

The defense acknowledged that the woman confronted Senter about the incident the following morning. But Spencer told the court in May that Senter sincerely thought the matter was resolved after he apologized to her in person and later through a text message.

Note the use of the word “consensual,” the explanation of a safe word, and the dry reporting of the acts performed. I have no idea whether this case will go anywhere, since it’s hard to say whether a rape case will be able to proceed without an explicit act of legally-defined sex having occurred. She might do better to claim she was assaulted, which she most certainly was.

But it’s an interesting turn in journalistic affairs to see this article amidst the usual sensationalizing crap.

Anyone know anything else about this case? You don’t want to know what comes up when you Google for “BDSM rape.”

I recently did something I should have done ages ago, which is turn on Google alerts and make it tell me whenever certain key words or phrases are mentioned in the news. Doing this for “BDSM” has garnered some interesting results, not the least of which is a continuation of the trend that Bitchy has noticed of a rift between professional dominatrices (as she likes to say) and more ordinary folks doing kink. Her main beef was that the professionals seem to be creating the world of female dominance as it is seen by most people, and it is a world that she reviles. But another question is arising from my own reading: a question of elitism, of experience versus education, and the potential de-fanging of kink.

The story starts with Lera Gavin, a young dominatrix in Miami who writes a column called “Ask a Domme.” In an August 11 article called How to Enjoy Extreme Smothering Without Fatally Suffocating Your Boyfriend, she advises a man who would like for his girlfriend to try smothering with him to “con her” if she doesn’t agree at first:

You also said you’re unsure how to approach your girlfriend. There are two ways you can handle this matter: You can ask her or con her. If she says no to your request, don’t frown, just trick her into it. But start easy. You want her to be relaxed. The best way to get a woman into smothering is by worshipping her body, especially her ass.

So next time you see your beloved chickadee naked, compliment her gorgeous bottom. Most women go gaga for praise. Call her a goddess and then ask if you can admire her hot ass. She won’t be able to say no.

No question, this is phenomenally bad advice. Not just because breathplay can be extremely dangerous and should only be done with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved, but because dude, consent! Trick her into it? “She won’t be able to say no”? Welcome to rape culture; here’s your complementary beer bong.

Theresa Ikard of Carnal Nation responded to this moron with some dismay. The angle she took, however, struck me as a bit oblique.

Her piece is titled Why It’s Important for Dommes to Go to Dominatrix School, and while it briefly addresses the consent and safety issues, in larger part I think it misses the point and comes off as condescending. In pertinent part:

BDSM is way more a mental game than a physical one. What I mean is that “hard skills” like flogging, caning, cock and ball torture, rope bondage, etc. are easier to learn than the “soft skills” like communication, awareness and responsibility for interpersonal dynamics, and respect for the power of their craft…

The only way to master these skills is to be educated properly and practice consistently. Just like a young therapist or doctor in training, a fresh Domme needs mentoring and feedback. The author of this article has a bio online in the form of a feature article and I gather from what she has written that her training to become a Domme centered primarily around financially driven motives. Now, don’t get me wrong: the business end of sex work training is essential, but is hardly sufficient knowledge or motivation in itself and it certainly does not foster development in either soft skills or hard skills.

Now granted. Lera Gavin is 21 years old, and in said feature article she says things like, “The mistress explained the client was a sad, older man still mourning his recently deceased wife. I knew it was a difficult time for him and that seeing a mistress was a way for him to cope with pain and loss. Of course, I put all of that out of my head. Sensitivity isn’t part of the job.” [emphasis mine] I would no sooner put myself in her hands than I would let my dog use the stove.

But suggesting that because this woman has for some reason been given an column in which to propogate bad kink advice that she should have gone to “dominatrix school” is a little off the mark. Suggesting, too, that experience as a pro domme does not foster the skills needed to be a good dominatrix is simple madness. When I was going into the business, I trained by reading books, throwing whips at willing stunt bottoms, playing with people I liked and watching others play. I barely knew anything when I had my first paying client except for how not to actually damage him. I was lucky to have some natural ability in the “soft skills” and a background in theatre and in healing, but I had to learn nearly everything on the job – how to use my voice and what words to choose, how to read a client’s reactions, how to establish rhythm and pace for maximum effect, and once, how to get a guy out of standing bondage when he’s fainted.

What’s wrong with this whip-wielding youngster is not that she didn’t go to dominatrix school – nor even that she didn’t receive mentoring. She seems to have had an older domme as a boss and guide; mentoring is no guarantee, especially in the less populated parts of the country. What’s wrong is that she never learned that the first rule of kink is consent, and without it, there can be no ethical BDSM play, or in fact sex play of any kind. What’s wrong is that she doesn’t seem to have learned that actually, sensitivity is 95% of the job; whipping and tying and torturing and having your feet worshipped is the rest.

She responded to Ms. Ikard’s article with a vicious and infantile rant full of ad hominem venom in which she calls Ikard “some humorless lipstick feminist,” refers to Carnal Nation as “an obscure online magazine about ‘sexuality,'” and derides the opinion of “a lowly bottom,” as if submissives were allowed no dignity or opinions even when they leave the dungeon. (She makes a further fool of herself by fluttering “Midori who?” when someone mentions Midori in the comments. At least do your homework.) Then she tries to back away from the criticism by suggesting that her column is meant to be humorous and the advice shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Yet later in the article she does raise an interesting point. “The true art of BDSM is all about power, fear, and suffering,” she writes, adding:

Scary? Well, it’s supposed to be. No professional dominatrix wants to seriously harm a client, but if you don’t see at least a hint of real fear in your submissive’s eyes, you’re not doing your job right. In a way, old school feminists were right, S&M does eroticize power and violence, and all the PC jargon such as “sex positive,” “personal empowerment,” and “energy exchange” are just a way of avoiding this inconvenient truth.

Don’t get me wrong; I still think she’s mostly talking out of the wrong end of her corset. Claiming that sex-positivity is simply PC jargon is wildly ignorant, and BDSM play isn’t always about fear. But what are we doing, exactly, when we seek to take the teeth out of kink by making it a subject of academic study? How are we bullshitting ourselves and our clients when we claim to be healers, priestesses or therapists rather than sex workers? I specifically took up training as a type of therapist and began seeing clients in a counseling capacity because I felt that the work I was doing was not healing work but bandaging work.

BDSM is dark – it has its ugly sides and its deranged desires. These things need to be acknowledged, not just because they are true but because our desire is so intimately linked to our freedom. Read Pat Califia’s introduction to Macho Sluts sometime, if you want an excellent breakdown of this topic, but the point is: we want what we want, and sometimes, it’s not pretty.

None of this, of course, removes from Ms. Gavin the responsibility to stop telling people to do nonconsensual BDSM with their partners. Like it or not, she is something of an authority, even at her age and level of experience, by virtue of having such a strong interest in this work and having a column in which to share her supposed expertise. Part of her ongoing education, hopefully, will be recognizing that she has a responsibility for the community she represents, and that passing off her column as humor after the fact is buck-passing of the cheapest sort.

Meanwhile, I look forward to the continuing marriage of intellect and heat that seems to be churning over at Carnal; pieces like this one on a potential parents-of-kinky-kids support group, and this thoughtful piece by Clarisse Thorn give me all kinds of hope.

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