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Posts Tagged ‘kink psychology’

Someone just friended me on Facebook whom I haven’t seen in a while: an adorable, pigtailed, somewhat gender-queer boy I’ll call Paul. Paul is younger than I am, very smart, but generally demure around me in a way that drives me crazy. In that good way.

Looking at his picture, I’m reminded of a certain party I attended – not even a play party, but attended by many a freak – where, under the influence of several lovely cocktails, I spent some time with him kneeling at my feet while I pulled his hair. The sounds he made were absolutely delicious.

Dominance is a bit like Spanish for me: I do it better when my inhibitions are down. This isn’t to say that I generally play when I’m drunk; I hardly ever do, in fact, and I know that the party line says it’s a Bad Idea. It is to say, however, that at actual play parties, where drink isn’t allowed, I’m likely to spend a lot more time subbing. You’d think that someone who was a professional for four years would be better at asserting sexual dominance when the opportunity presented itself, but it turns out not so much. It’s a lot easier to be and do that without self-doubt when there’s someone paying you – it’s a fairly clear indicator that they want what you’ve got on offer.

Now and then I wish I had a sweet boy like that to play with from time to time. His relationship status says “It’s complicated.” A promising sign?

I’m often amused by how predictable my desires are. On the one hand, I’m a polyamorous switchy bisexual: it could be said that I don’t even have a type. But it turns out I have several, and what’s entertaining and occasionally distressing to me is how subversively heteronormative they are.

Bet you haven’t seen those two words next to each other very often.

What I mean is this. I am fairly femmy in appearance – very femmy, in fact, aside from the fact that I’m six feet tall and have a large frame. I like to be dominated by men who are manly: handsome, square-jawed men who look terrible in drag. I like commanding voices, sharp words, and cock.

I like, also, to be dominated by women who are manly: butch, short-haired women and bois in suits and ties who grab and take and twist and initiate. I like commanding voices, sharp words, and cock.

I like to dominate women who are more femme than I am. Girls in frilly dresses, with long hair to tangle my hands in and full breasts for me to alternately suck on and slap around, women who let their heads loll back and close their eyes as they part their lips. Makeup to mess up. Little intakes of breath and noises of pleasure. They bring out my butch, and I like to wear leather and strap on my silicone with them.

And I like to dominate men who are a little femmy, too. Not the humiliated sissy slut; as I’ve mentioned before, the kink of self-loathing is not my thing. But boys who look androgynous and sweet in skirts. Boys who can pull off pigtails, but still look like boys. Boys who blush and cast their eyes down when I flirt with them, and who turn to butter when I pull their heads back by the hair. Boys who start out demure but scream and buck and beg when they’re being fucked in the ass.

Growl. Now I’ve distracted myself.

But seriously. It almost bothers me. I’m queer in so many ways, and yet in my sex I continually enact the traditional binary in non-traditional ways.

What do you notice about the ways your sexuality recapitulates, or doesn’t, the expected norms?
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Back from all of my travels and travails, and now it’s time again for Monday Advice! (Shut up, it’s still Monday.)

Dear Delilah,

After a longish period of hesitation (ok, hiding under the covers) I’ve gotten back into dating and have met a very sweet guy who is also a top. We’ve been playing together and hanging out and things seem to be progressing very nicely.

There’s this thing, though. I’ve found that when I get submissive with him, that headspace sort of bleeds into our just hanging out time. I find that I just sort of..wait around for him to make decisions about what it is we’re going to do, for example, or just responding and not initiating. It’s frustrating and irritating (for both of us, I’m sure).

I don’t want to be doing this! I’d like to build a relationship with this guy, and I can’t very well do that if I’m not being forthright with him. Can you offer advice on how to ‘change gears’ more effectively?

Thanks for your help,
N.

I know I’m going to bore you to death with this answer, N, but as always: communicate, communicate, communicate. Do you know, for example, that this is irritating for him? Maybe he’s enjoying having you subby a lot of the time when he’s around. However, it’s obviously frustrating and irritating you, so it’s important that you get this problem out in the open with him and find a way to resolve it.

If you’re not interested in developing a 24/7 D/s relationship, then it’s especially important that this be resolved. Here are some suggestions.

Come up with some sort of ritualized beginning and ending to your play. Collars are great for this, although some people find that their symbolism is too intense. You may come up with a set of words to say that signals the completion of a scene, or you may put a piece of jewelry or clothing on your body that grounds you into your self. Come up with something that works for you to differentiate scene time from non-scene time.

You might also have him deliberately make you make a decision of some sort – where you will go for dinner, or what kind of music to put on – shortly after you play, to get you into non-subby mode.

On the other side of this, however, I would play with what it’s like to be subby in non-scene space, if this interests you. Just make sure that you’re doing it deliberately rather than as a default. Consciousness is key to full enjoyment, and you might enjoy quiet times with your guy in that soft space of compliance if you’re both aware and doing it on purpose. Just make sure, again, that you have your “key” or mechanism for getting out of that space when you want to.

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I’m just about settled into my new place and I couldn’t be happier with its extreme peachyness. I’m sitting here at my quiet desk and finally ready to answer some questions again.

Fucking *phew*.

This week I watched the 2002 movie Secretary with my lover of 10 months, who is the first person with whom I’ve really explored any power exchange. He’d seen it before, but I hadn’t; I had heard that the kink community had some issues with the movie, and having now seen it, I can kind of understand why: I wasn’t thrilled myself with some of the connections it made, issues it glossed over, and so on. Still, since it does pick up themes of integrating one’s kink into one’s overall psyche in service of greater coherence and fulfillment — taking two people who are clearly pretty broken at the start of the movie, and moving them a fair distance along the path to wholeness — I’d be interested in your professional opinion and better-informed insights (personal or cultural). What was your take on it?

This isn’t so much an advice question, but I have such a love affair with this film that I had to take the opportunity to answer it anyway.

Secretary is by no means a perfect movie when it comes to portraying healthy kink, it’s true. The complaints I’ve heard include that the lead characters never talk about their desires, never negotiate, and that they’re both pretty severely damaged people.

When I hear these complaints, I have to think of Secretary the way I think of democracy: it’s the worst movie about kink, except for all the others. Yes, the film has problems of consent and agency and conflation with mental illness. But it also has something no other movie about kink I’ve ever seen has: compassion, love, acceptance, and a happy ending.

Besides: how boring a fucking movie would it be if it were full of happy healthy characters who talked about their feelings?

There’s always a difficulty when we attach political significance to a piece of art. How well, we ask, does the piece of art represent a particular culture? Does it break away from common stereotypes of marginalized people? Does it present a realistic view of their lives? Does it, in essence, make us look good?

The problem with this is that conflict is the essence of story. In my view, Secretary chooses a fantastic conflict for a couple of kinky characters: they’re both closeted and fearful about their kink, and unable to talk about it or exercise it healthily. For a while, they engage in the type of relationship I imagine many people engage in: one that is fraught, entirely without discussion, and filled with ambivalence. It has some healing effects, but is mostly Extremely Fucked Up. Only when one of the characters lays down the law in the form of an ultimate sacrifice does the other character see what responsibility he has taken – and picks up that mantle with pride and love.

At the end – which I think is what a lot of people miss – she tells him all of her stories, all of her scars, and he tells her about his. It’s touched on briefly, in voice-over, and it’s hard to hear because Maggie Gyllenhaal is lying there all naked and everything – but it’s there, and to me it’s the heart of the movie.

I also love that essentially, it’s a movie about a submissive who saves a dominant – by forcing him to stand up and be who he is.

I don’t think that Secretary is a great movie to show people whom you want to introduce to kink as a concept: it doesn’t portray the healthiest relationship (until the end), and it suggests that kink is, if not the result of a mental illness, at least a substitute for one. I think this is more of an advanced-class type thing: it portrays a particular couple with particular histories, and gives one example of how kink might work. But then, I don’t think the filmmakers made it to be a guidebook.

What it is to me, above all, is a beautiful love story, and an idealization of service. When he tells her that she will never cut herself again (one of the hottest scenes in film, in my opinion), she takes him seriously – and holds him to the responsibility he’s taken for her life. When he orders her to put her hands on the desk and not move, she enters a realm of sanctity in service that few submissives ever have the opportunity to experience – and at the same time, continues her challenge to him: can he stop being a furtive, noncommital, self-hating dominant and actually care for his submissive?

Of course we’d all rather they worked all of this out by talking. But would you watch that movie?

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Dear Delilah,

I had an ex girlfriend in a quad relationship that we parted ways with because while she identified as submissive, you could not get her to reveal any of her desires. She didn’t know what they were. Tied down, being rubbed with fur and pricked with a Wartenberg wheel, flushed with pleasure, and you’d still get no answer to the question, and very little response other than involuntary physical indicators.

I didn’t understand the behavior, and there’s so many bad places you can take a sub’s head when you don’t know what’s going on. And that behavior carried over into other parts of the relationship, too. We wound up splitting up over her self-avoidance and our unwillingness to screw up.

How do you get around this kind of lack of self-knowledge for sex/play purposes? What do you do to get important information from someone who avoids themselves?

I don’t want to be glib, but in this situation I have to say: you did the right thing in breaking up with her.

It seems like what you’re talking about is different from the simple (and very common) problem of a new submissive not knowing what they like yet.
Rather, it seems like this was someone who was completely out of touch with her own body’s responses, and was unable to communicate the most basic of feelings. The old adage that you can’t love someone else until you love yourself – well, I think it has exceptions. But it’s very difficult to know someone else until you know yourself.

Now naturally, none of us knows ourselves completely – maybe not ever. But the basic information of What I Like or What I’m Into or just What Feels Good is essential for any sexual relationship to be at all successful. If someone doesn’t have access to that information about herself, then it’s really tough to engage in any type of sexuality with her.

What do you do to get information from a person who avoids themselves? Well, you did manage to gather some data from her physiological responses – flushing and other involuntary indicators – but those aren’t any good if the person experiencing them is completely unplugged from the experience – and may even decide later that what you did was not okay.

It’s possible that this person has some neurological issues around sensory integration, and I certainly don’t want to deny such people the opportunity for sexual pleasure with a partner. But if this is the case, she needed to get help around it. Even if it’s not the case, and she experienced continual avoidance around all these aspects of her life as you say she did – psychological and/or physiological help should have been sought.

If you had decided to stay with her and help her on the road to self-discovery, I would have recommended something like this in addition to whatever therapy was appropriate: don’t do BDSM-type play until she gets in better touch with herself. Even gentle, loving sexuality of the vanilla variety seems like it could be risky with someone like this, but entering into roleplay, where self-expression is ritualized and restricted, would be much more of a minefield.

The thing to do is work up to it. Talk a lot. Ask how it feels when you’re touching a particular place. If you see her getting all up in her head, tell her to breathe into the place you’re touching, to bring her attention and awareness to it. Tell her she doesn’t have to use words if it’s too difficult. If you can elicit genuine sexual response that reaches her face (smiles, moans, joyful eye contact, etc.), then that’s progress.

On the other hand, if someone does have sensory integration issues, it’s possible that nothing will get through but rough touch. I know people who experience anything lighter than what most would consider painful as tickling, and BDSM has allowed them to experience their sexuality more fully. So going for harder contact might be the answer, especially if the person already identifies as submissive.

But in this case it sounds like she was more out of touch with what she was experiencing – not just in bed but in general – than like she was having trouble integrating feeling. In which case I again recommend therapy, and patience.

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As if by magic, this week I’ve had a question dropped in my lap that touches the root of all the discussion that’s been going on here triggered by that old post about not asking why. This one takes it away from the radfem discussions and the political questioning of desire that so often leads to self-loathing and into the more fertile realms of the self. That is: what if I’m not worried about whether my kink is influenced by the patriarchy, but I am worried that maybe it’s a bit sick?

I just hope I can answer it in fewer than a thousand words.

In thinking about kink and fetish and alternative sexuality, how important do you think it is to understand the root of a person’s kinks? If you derive mental and physical joy from, say, being flogged or filling your socks with pudding, how important is it to know why that is? How useful is kink as a tool for self understanding and how risky is it to expose the root? Does understanding remove mystery and passion?

Obviously this varies with the kink/fetish at hand. More historically problematic areas, rape fantasies for example, prolly merit a more exhaustive investigation. On a personal note, I have a recurring kink that is hugely arousing to me and socially taboo. In my case, it’s also not even possible but nonetheless, it troubled me until I figured out the root.

The root of it is that trust is really my kink. (veiled cleverly under several guises)This was a hugely instructive thing for me and has not, so far, rendered the fetish in question less effective. It’s just…less troubling now.

Whoa nelly. Where do I start? So, just to get this digression out of the way: if I were Dan Savage – and even if I weren’t – my first response would be, what’s the fetish?? Dude, I so want to know, don’t you?

But putting that aside: it seems, gentle reader, like you’ve come to terms and a kind of peace with your particular kink, and from your own experience, knowing what its root is didn’t kill its erotic charge for you.

Now, for you, this is a pretty nifty way to have it both ways: here you have this kink that was super hot for you but a bit disturbing, and now that you know better what it’s really about, it’s less disturbing but still super hot.

I can see situations where that might not be the case. I can imagine, for instance, a scenario where someone finds out that their kink really does originate (in that classic sense) from some past trauma that he has been repressing, and in digging up the trauma, he both re-traumatizes himself and loses the power that the kink had to gradually heal it in his own subconscious.

On the other hand, I’ve known cases where knowing the root of the kink made the kink more powerful and made the healing of the old trauma more profound.

I think the short answer is the one you already have given yourself: if your kink is troubling to you – not to your friends, not to your community or people on the Intarwebs, but to you – then it’s worth investigating its roots. Does your kink cause you to feel shame and guilt? Part of this might be alleviated by finding a community of people who share your kink and knowing you’re not alone. But if your shame and guilt goes beyond the typical “I’m a freak” worries that many closeted kinky people have and into “I think I might be sick,” then it’s probably time to sit down and think about where this is coming from. Automatic writing is a great tool. So is dream journaling. So is hypnosis. (Speaking of fun kinks.) If you have a kink-friendly therapist, you might want to explore it there. Or even better: with an understanding lover who knows you deeply.

There are dangers, of course, digging into that well. Opening old wounds can be counterproductive, even harmful. But if a kink is powerful for you and you can’t accept it for what it is, then that’s a choice you have to make.

Nobody knows for sure where kinks come from, but the one thing that does seem clear is that practicing those kinks does not make them go away: they are not demons that need to be exorcised. If anything, they’re demons that need to be exERcised. So long as you’re doing no real harm, the best thing for kinks is to let them out to play now and then and get all tuckered out so they can sleep for a bit. Just know that they’ll wake up refreshed and ready to play again. In general, this is probably the best thing we can do for ourselves: let our kinks out for some light and fresh air. It’s amazing how this simple act can burn away the shame, pain, and doubt so often associated with kink.

So that’s a pretty squirrely answer to a pretty squirrely question, I know. But here’s my recommendation, to those of you with kinks that cause you distress. Start by doing them more. Write stories about them. Perform them with a partner, if possible. If they’re impossible, do dirty talk about them when you’re in bed. Masturbate to them. See if exposure doesn’t take away some of the problematic parts.

If it doesn’t, and if in fact it makes it worse, then you have my permission to dig. Just make sure it’s in a safe space. It’s possible you’ll fall into something deep and difficult, but I bet it’s more likely that you’ll find it’s something simple, like the writer of our letter did.

Made it in under a thousand.

Send me your questions!

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I realize lately that I’ve been feeling an uncomfortable internal conflict over two major lines of thought I’ve been reading in the blogrolls.

One: the argument that those of us who are kinky and whole have been having with the radical feminists over whether submission is okay for women (In case you’ve been sleeping: the kinkyfeminists say yes, the radfems say you must be brainwashed by the patriarchy).

The other: why is the general image of male submission, and for that matter, female dominance, so fucked up that both truly dominant women and truly submissive males almost don’t want to identify as such and feel that their sexualities are being hijacked?

Now, it’s certainly true that one of the reasons I stopped doing professional domination is because I wanted to stop contributing to the mainstream image of what female dominance and male submission is. With a few lovely exceptions, it was hurting me to be involved in a business that consistently objectified both the client and me, without allowing for true sexual fulfillment for either of us.

I made a post recently about the wacky ignore lines that are available on Niteflirt. I came to the conclusion that ignore lines, along with financial domination, have the same ethical problems for me as heavy humiliation play, only with the added bonus that I would feel like a schmuck for taking their money for doing nothing. Ignoring seems like the end result of the kind of humiliation play I don’t like to engage in: the “you are a worthless disgusting pathetic small-penised worm beneath my queenly notice” variety. It hurts me that this type of request is so popular for certain submissive men, particularly those that seek professionals. Especially since many of the men who want financial domination include a very scary real-life aspect of wanting me to financially destroy them, which I could definitely never do. It’s not too large a distance between “i’m a worthless piece of shit beneath your heel” and “I want to be actually destroyed,” and so I was never comfortable going down that road with my clients.

Yet the thing that keeps itching at my brain is this: if we decide that (as Tom Allen puts it) “sissified sissy maids who insist on talking about their sissy clitty,” men who want to be treated like dirt, and even men who want to have their money taken from them and to be ignored by the object of their worship are all suffering from the delusion that their sexuality is not okay and so they are punishing themselves for it, then are we not invalidating what may be their true desires just as cavalierly as the radfems invalidate the desires and agency of submissive women?

It’s a stretch, I know. And I think the answer lies in how one separates a kink from a pathology. If you are, say, an insensitive prick at work and you treat women like shit, and you go to a dominatrix who treats you like shit for an hour, and then you go back to work and at least for a while you’re a little nicer…well, maybe that kind of domination is doing some good in the world, and maybe those desires are healing. If instead, however, you’re that same prick and you pay a dominatrix to expunge your prickitude so you can go back and be a prick some more, then that seems control-freaky and pathological to me. By the same token: if you enjoy buying a dominatrix gifts and sending her money because you have a lot of money and enjoy showing your admiration in that way without asking anything in return, then that’s cool (these, I must advise those who are considering pro domination, are definitely the unicorns of the paying male submissive world). If instead you send a dominatrix gifts without clearing it with her and then start demanding a bunch of her attention in obsessive ways, or if you send your entire paycheck to a dominatrix each week and are therefore living in a cardboard box, there might be something wrong with you.

But what about the place of the desire for being made to feel less-than in a non-monetary D/s relationship? I don’t want to play make-fun-of-the-small-willy, but I’m sure there are people who truly do. While I find the entire sissy-maid thing distasteful and sexist, I know that there are dominant women out there who do not find it so, and believe it is their prerogative to play with sissy maids. And while I got sick of wearing corsets and heels all the time, I used to get a lot of enjoyment out of decking myself out in traditional fetishwear (until I was obligated to, which is the issue, of course). After all, there are sexist dynamics reflected in male dom/female sub SM play as well, and while I think it’s important to beware of abuse, I also will fight tooth and nail to defend the right of healthy submissive women to do their thing.

I want to reclaim the masculinity and power of the submissive man as much as anyone. But might there also be room for the stereotypical submissive man in there, a way to reframe his desires without destroying them? That is: I’m sick and tired, too, of there being only one idea of what a female dominant is, of what a male submissive is, and that being representative of those entire sexualities. It’s a huge and monolithic image to do battle with, and I want to do my part to encourage greater diversity. But I also think it’s dangerous to decide that the people who really want those things can only be either pathological or participating in a monetized script.

Your comments wanted.

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Okay, so I’ve had an account on Niteflirt for some time, but I must admit that I’ve rarely used it. If live domming was frequently uncomfortable for me, phone domming was even worse: without the human element of physical connection, I felt even more objectified than before. And bargaining for more time and thus more money always felt rather sleazy.

Nonetheless, many women seem to do really well with it. And most of those who do fall into one of two camps:

1. Women who will act like bitches and treat you like shit, and

2. Women who pick up the phone and then ignore you.

When I first found this second one out, I was flabbergasted. I mean, I know about the whole bitch-goddess thing; I don’t do it and never did, because I think it’s ridiculous and kind of horrible to charge someone for your abuse.

But to charge someone to be ignored?? I mean, if I wanted that I’d call customer care at my credit card company.

What I wonder is: what do these women do while the men are on the other end ignoring them? Stay quiet? Do nothing? Go about their TV-watching or chatting on another phone with someone else? True, real ignoring can’t be the complete fantasy can it? I mean, maybe she’s masturbating or something and he can hear the sounds??

Talk to me, internets. What the fuck is going on with this ignoring fetish?

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