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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.

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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.

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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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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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A lover of mine stumbled across this song after loading a bunch of stuff onto his iPod and sticking it on shuffle. He then played it for me, and I was slain not just by the song itself (which is in fact hilarious), but by how many of the typical sub male fantasies I’ve encountered in my career he hits on the head.

Ladies, gentlemen, and other: Adam Sandler’s At A Medium Pace. Do not under any circumstances listen to this at work.

The lyrics:

Put your arms around me baby,
Can’t you see I need you so?
Hold me close against your skin,
’cause I’m about to begin
Lovin’ you.

Spit on your hand and stroke my cock at a medium pace.
Play with my balls and tell me how big they are.
Honey rub your beaver up and down my face.
Now sit on the corner of the bed and watch me whack off.

You see that shampoo bottle? now, stick it up my ass.
Push it in and out at a medium pace.
Talk about your old boyfriend’s dick and how big it was.
Now shave off my pubes and punch me in the face.

Darling, make me push my dick and balls back between my legs.
Call me an ugly woman and take my picture to show all the people
You work with.

Now pull up my scrotum and take that shampoo bottle out of my ass.
Pretend I’m the pizza delivery guy and watch me whack off.
Strap on a dildo and make me give you head.
Now tell me to slow down and do it at a medium pace.

I feel so humiliated – I’m about to blow my load!
You tell it’s time to make love but I can’t ”cause I spewed all over myself.
Then you look into my eyes, then you realize
How much I enjoy loving you. oh.
I’m so sorry I spunked on my stomach.
Maybe next time I’ll be better at loving you.

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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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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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