Great Expectations

August 30th, 2012

While sitting in the theater, waiting for Avenue Q to start, hubby turned and asked me about expectations. Hubby felt that my boyfriend and I had a good handle on setting expectations and asked how we did it. Or more specifically, how He had done it with me. I jokingly said that when you tell a girl for a year and a half that you are a sexually satisfied man, and then start dating her, expectations start out pretty low. In all seriousness, though, he and I usually played three times a week during most of the year prior to dating, and had already started conversations on expectations and happiness.

One of those conversations began with him asking me if I could be happy without him suspending me for a whole year. I had passed through most of my newbie sub-frenzy by that point, so I could actually consider the question. It took a little back and forth before I understood the intent of the question. It wasn’t about him denying me what I wanted, it was about expectation crashing with reality. What if he got hurt (which happened)? What if we lost our suspension point (which has happened repeatedly)? What if I got hurt? The real question was did my happiness depend on suspension, or could I be happy without it? This started the thought process in my brain that expectations have to mesh with the reality of the situation.

Another set of conversations we had was him asking me if I Deserved to be suspended. At the time it felt like a trick question, given the dynamics we were involved in. But it was really about suspension not being a think I could deserve or earn. It was a gift, given because he wanted to. Not because I deserve it or expect it. Giving affection only because it is expected or only when someone has “earned” it can lead to abusive situations. For me, affection must be given because both parties want to give it. But beware putting expectations on what defines affection.

Back to the question that I started with. When he asked if I could be happy without suspension, he wasn’t asking if I would be happy not seeing him for a year, simply without one form of play. In our relationship, I expect to see him fairly regularly and I expect affection. Sometimes that means a hug, sometimes a text message, sometimes a flogging and sometimes it means dinner and a movie. When it’s been a long day, it can simply means his arm around me while he falls asleep. He shows me affection in whatever way he is able, mentally, physically and emotionally. As I do him.

Another way we have set expectations in our relationship was to write them down. In our contract with toy, we wrote out what all the expectations were. What we all did before play, what types of play there would be, and what could preempt or prevent play. It was very clear what we could all expect, and even then there were surprises.

So, what do we do then? What happens when expectations are not met? No matter how clear you think you have been, or how mutual you think your expectations are, you will still face disappointment occasionally. The important thing to do, of course, is to talk about it. What were my expectations? Were they the same as his expectations? What happened that caused them not to be met? Was it reasonable? Were the expectations reasonable to begin with? Was it just a special case that won’t happen again? How can we prevent this situation from repeating itself? Do the expectations need revised, or does one party need to be more conscious of meeting the expectation?

For me, another good conversation to stay on top of is wants and needs. My needs tend to be where I set my expectations, so I have to communicate that those things are needs. And I have to set reasonable expectations of where I’m going to get those needs filled. Being poly, they don’t all have to be filled by one person. Wants are things I would like to have, and I have to communicate them, too, else they won’t have a chance to be fulfilled. But the important thing to remember is that I cannot expect all my wants to be fulfilled all the time. Life isn’t that simple. But I can work on getting them filled through expressing them and making plans. And sometimes my needs aren’t met either, at which point we return to the previous paragraph of questions to have another look.

As always, the most important part of setting expectations has been clear communication. Second to that is acceptance that we are human and life isn’t perfect. Talk about your expectations. Unspoken expectations Cannot be met. Understand that life gets in the way, even of needs sometimes. Be flexible, accepting, and keep talking. And while you are talking, offer solutions. Once the problem has been stated, clarified and understood, move forward and find ways to avoid future disappointment from that source. During your conversations, if the other person has expectations that you cannot meet, have a conversation about why and about what can be done instead, or how to change that expectation. Expectations are a two-way street, both parties must be actively involved in setting, meeting and revising them. Everything changes, keep talking.

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BDSM Is Not Abuse

January 27th, 2011

One of the things on my mind when I was doing the Thirty Days of Kink meme was openness. There were two questions I linked to the same post about being open with my friends, but not with my family. Then the post about misconceptions – BDSM is not abuse. And my brain wandered off – wondering, is this why I don’t tell my family? Is this what I’m afraid to explain to them, afraid they just won’t understand? Afraid they’ll think I’m broken or, worse yet, that they did something wrong in raising me?

I make excuses – it’s my sex life, why would I talk to my family about the kind of sex I have? We don’t talk about such things. It’s where all my ideas about what’s “proper” or “appropriate” come from. Those words that The Ethical Slut talks about as social programming that limits us and makes us ashamed of ourselves. But what about poly? That’s my love life, that’s people who mean a lot to me. And it still falls into “inappropriate” and “improper” behavior. But people I care about is a topic of family discussion.

I think I’m wandering here. Reel it back in.

BDSM is not abuse. I posted that simply and without comment on the misconceptions day. There are so many ways that discussion can go. From how BDSM is about love and respect, to how to recognize abuse, to how to prevent abuse, to how some people just don’t understand other people’s needs and desires. To how some people’s kink is just not other people’s kink, to how some people’s kink is too extreme for other people. And on and on.

But the point in my head, when I started this post, was, is that what I’m afraid of? Is that what I don’t think I can explain to my god-fearing, bible-carrying family? You betcha. My dad once commented that a girl in college wanted him to spank her and he thought it was very odd of her and he sent her packing. I don’t know why he told me (and Hubby) that story, other than for something to say while we were traveling cross country on a family vacation, but I worried even then that I could never tell him the truth about myself.

I’ve seen a friend’s parents react very badly to the idea of their daughter being kinky. The dad did read a book on rope bondage and come to accept it as a sexual expression. But what about pain, how do you get vanilla folk to understand, or at least accept, that pain is a healthy expression of sexuality? There are kinky people who don’t fully understand the levels of pain I enjoy, but at least they’re accepting. Usually along the lines of, well, if it makes you happy.

Isn’t that what our parents want for us? That we be happy? Yes. But generally the want us to be happy within social norms, or whatever Their social norms are. Would my parents really deny me because my expressions of pleasure are different from theirs? Would they stop speaking to me because controlled pain in a life when uncontrolled pain in typical makes me feel better? Would they try and have me committed because I like a bit of electricity running through my body even when I’m not at a chiropractor? Probably not. But I still shrink from those conversations, afraid of disappointing them, or confusing them. Or that I am wrong about their capacity for acceptance.

Honestly, it’s my brother who I think would try to understand the least. And it’s poly that I think that my parents would be most upset with. I promised to my father and before my mother to be monogamous until death. I think extramarital relations would be the harder sell. I love my Hubby, and he loves me, but to forsake all others would not be true to ourselves. Love grows when it is shared.

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It’s a Crying Shame

December 2nd, 2009

Some months ago, I wanted to cry and I was ashamed of that desire. Not just cry, I wanted to be Made to cry. I wanted to be pushed so hard that tears came bursting forth in and uncontrollable fury. But I was afraid. I was afraid that this was a ridiculous desire. That it was childish to want to cry for no particular reason. That wanting the release and cleansing of flowing tears was simply weakness. I was afraid that it would change things, too, with whoever made me cry. I had never gone there before and it looked terribly dark. I did not want that unknowable change in my marriage, and that was a difficult decision and a difficult discussion. My lover, more experienced than either myself or my husband, became the giver of those tears. It was the release I needed at the time, and nothing was changed or broken in the giving.

Since then, my edges and the darkness have been moved and pushed and shoved. Tears are no longer shameful to me, but they still have a specific place in my play. There is still darkness when I think of bringing them into my home. The tenderness and love between my husband and myself seems incompatible to a tearful scene.

My lover, more often than not, gets the tears through fear these days. Threats of freshly remembered intense pain or of heightening the current level of pain can drive me over the edge. (Nipple clamps of various varieties are usually present in these threats.) Tearfully begging for mercy or for the pain to stop. Sometimes he grants it, and sometimes not, driving me further into tears or into complete surrender where the tears stop and soft stillness comes.

My other partner has only brought out tears twice. Both were corporal scenes, but they had a heavy mental elements that had more to do with the tearful response. In both situations, expectations were set, and tears came when I failed to meet those expectations. The pain levels were high, but it was the mental game that was more costly.

In the first, I was given a task, an object that was not to be dropped. It fell twice and tears fell swiftly behind it, but were gone again when he gave me another chance after a few choice strikes for the drop. It was an incredibly intense scene, the tears just one more spice in the delicious flavor.

The second, was a flogging scene set to music, and the final song came on, and he said he would flog the whole song at the same tempo and strength. I soon began to falter under the heavy strikes, and tears welled up as I thought I would not make the entire song. As I fell down and stood back up several times, his strikes never missed. Tears were flowing freely as I fell the final time, turning slightly towards him, but my back still raised to accept his strikes. He stopped then, accepting my surrender and my tears. His acceptance washed away my tearful disappointment in myself, and I smiled when he said I would do better next time.

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