June 10th, 2011
My academic pursuit this month, otherwise known as “I’m tired of packing project,” (unfortunately, yesterday, when I got tired, of packing I fell asleep instead of posting) is The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, which I posted about the first time I read it. This week, I read Part 1: Within Ourselves, and took down quotes I found pertinent or important to me. So, I thought I’d make this week’s post a discussion of those quotes. I divided them into five categories: Sex, Poly, Social Programming, Communication and Internal Struggles.
Let’s start with Social Programming. This group is about overcoming our social programming so we can live the life we want to live and be true to oneself. “Our programming is changeable.” “You are already whole.” “ Great sluts are made, not born.” “People… free of shame, would trust their own sense of right and wrong.” (pp. 6, 34, 59, 71) So, what do all these quotes mean to me?
I grew up in a religiously based household, taught ‘how things ought to be’ from a young age. One husband, one wife, kids, and pets. Sex inside marriage only. And no kinky stuff. So, the first quote, of programming being changeable. I don’t have to live with the programming my parents gave me. It worked for them, but it does not have to be mine as well. If it doesn’t work for me, then I can change it to fit myself. The third quote goes along with that. It takes work to overcome social programming, to make myself into what I want to be. I cannot just assume I have all the skills and understanding to live the way I want to live. I have to learn and grow and create my life.
The second quote. Being whole. Society likes to push marriage and kids onto us. You aren’t a grown up, until you’re married. You aren’t fulfilling your purpose until you have kids. And on and on. Not everyone wants to be married, not everyone wants to have kids. There is nothing wrong with either of these things. You are a whole person, in and of yourself, without the need for a relationship or offspring to validate your existence.
The final quote, came from Wilhelm Reich’s speeches to young Communists in Germany in 1936. He was speaking against free expression and sexuality, because this would prevent an authoritarian government. I think it is a good point, though. Without social programming telling us that what we feel is wrong and dirty, we would be free to trust our own judgment, our own selves, about what was good and right for us, and what was wrong. That would certainly reduce our unnecessary guilt and self-recriminations.
So, on that note, let’s move on to Internal Struggles, a lot of which come from Social Programming. “Each person owns her own feelings. No one ‘makes’ me feel jealous, or insecure – the person who makes me feel that way is me.” “Knowing, loving and respecting yourself is an absolute prerequisite to knowing, loving and respecting someone else.” “You must speak truth, first to yourself, then to those around you.” “Shame, and beliefs we were taught that our bodies, desires and sex are dirty and wrong, make it very hard to develop a healthy self-esteem.” “Do remember: your sexiness is about how you feel, not how you look.” (pp. 65, 67, 67, 93, 94)
To live this life, I have had to look inside me, to consider myself and my truth a lot more than I ever did before. I have to take responsibility for myself, my feelings, and my actions, something that in today’s society it seems to be more popular to blame others for. Yes, things people say or do upset me, but it is me choosing to react that way. Me choosing to let it bother me. Me choosing whether to talk to them about it, or brood silently. My choice to let negativity fester or toss it out into the light to die. To be in control of my emotions and my reactions, I have to know myself, love myself and respect myself enough to look for the truth in myself. I have to figure out what’s really going on inside me, so I can share it with those that matter.
A wonderful side effect of this lifestyle I have chosen, has been a much better body image and self-esteem. I grew up hiding my body, wearing baggy shirts and jeans year round. Boys hardly every looked at me before college, and I never gave them a reason to. One day in high school, my mother must have been having a bad day, because she told me I was fat. I took this to mean she thought I was ugly and unattractive. Just one stray comment and I held onto it for years. I didn’t believe that I weighed too much, but unattractive, absolutely.
Then I started dating, but I was still hiding in my clothes. Boys were interested in me, some told me I was attractive. But I didn’t believe them. I started having sex and doing kinky things. Boys didn’t run screaming from my body. That seemed like a good thing. My dad once told me I should get sexy underwear so I’d feel better about myself. That was strange. Dated some more, here and there and around the world. Still hiding. Got married, continued to hide, though I got cuter clothes from hubby and his mom. Other men were still attracted to me. That was strange to me. Why would they look at me? Talk to me sure, I’m bright and fun, but look at me?
We swung a bit and then became poly. We joined a few groups, and started going to events. I got more and more compliments, and people appreciating my body, my energy, my sexiness. I was encouraged to wear cuter (and shorter) outfits. I gained confidence in not just my body, but myself. The community is full of so many people of different body types, and people are attracted to them all. People are attracted to skin, to body parts, to men, to women, to everything and everyone. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect, or a certain size, shape, or height. You just have to comfortable and happy in your own skin. If you feel sexy(and sometimes even when you don’t), you are sexy.
Next, let’s explore Poly. “We tend to like our lives complicated, with lots of stuff going on to keep us interested and engaged.” “Is there some virtue in being difficult?” “The human capacity for sex and love and intimacy is far greater than most people think.” “What rewards can you foresee that will compensate you for doing the hard work of learning to be secure in a world of shifting relationships?” “I don’t have to fulfill every single thing my partner needs or wants.” “Faithfulness is about honoring your commitments and respecting your friends and lovers.” “You don’t have to force anyone into a mold that doesn’t fit: all you have to do is enjoy how you do fit together, and let go of the rest.” (pp. 7, 29, 36, 59, 59, 63, 73)
I’ll start at the top. Complicated lives. I’ve always kept busy. Band, theater, gaming, volunteering, writing, working, studying. My love life was often complicated, even before I came out as poly. I spent time with multiple guys, or with guys who had girlfriends elsewhere, or with different guys in different countries. I flirted online a lot, with men, women and couples. The first time hubby proposed to me, he was already engaged to someone else. I love order and organizing, but my life has always been fairly complicated. It’s not that I’m easy, I have standards, but I agree with Dossie and Catherine, why be intentionally difficult?
Our capacity for love and intimacy is huge. We love family, friends, lovers, pets, people we see on TV, even characters in books or shows. All in different ways, perhaps, but that’s a lot of love, and we always have more for new people coming into our lives. Why should romantic love be different? If everyone is honest and respectful, then, to me, everyone is being faithful. I always did like the song from Kiss Me, Kate with the chorus “Always true to you baby, in my fashion. I’m always true to you baby, in my way.”
Then we get to the rewards for all this learning and growing into the people we want to be. And the remaining two quotes answer that one. In poly, thanks to poly, I don’t have to try and be everything, and do everything, and fit into a mold of the “perfect partner.” I can be me, and they can be themselves, and we find out what needs we can fulfill for each other, and enjoy those things together.
This leads right into Communication, the most important thing, for me, in poly. “Consent – an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” “They may be shy in the seductive stages, and bolder once welcome has been secured. Women tend to want explicit permission, and for each specific act.” “Talk clearly and listen effectively.” “Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support is extremely important.” “It’s vital to be able to give reassurance and support.” “Lots of hugging, touching, verbal affection, sincere flattery.” “You need to know how and when to say no.” “The historical censorship of discussion about sex has left us with another disability: the act of talking about sex… has become difficult and embarrassing.” “What you can’t talk about, you can hardly think about.” “Most of us have been struck dumb by the scariest communication task of all – asking for what we want.” “If you are not free to say ‘no,’ you can’t really say ‘yes.’” “You have a right to your limits and it is totally okay to say no to [anything] you don’t like or are not comfortable with.” (pp. 21-2, 49, 61, 61, 62, 62, 63, 95, 95, 101, 103, 106)
Several different subcategories here. Staring with general communication – being able to speak clearly as well as listen. I have learned, over the last few years, that what one person says and the other person hears, are not always the same thing. I have learned the importance of restating what I think the other person is trying to communicate, so he can agree, or try another way of explaining.
Being able to communicate needs and wants (as well as knowing the difference), and being able to hear the same from my partners has been vital to our relationships. I still have trouble taking about sex out loud, and am sometimes embarrassed to write about it. But we work together, and talk together, and we open with each other and I am more and more able to talk about it. It’s still not perfect, nothing ever is. But I am learning and growing, and overcoming the embarrassment and shame of my social programming.
Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support, in any number of ways, can be hard. Why should I have doubts and need reassurance after all this time? Well, because I’m human, and imperfect and the little devil on my shoulder, or the little voice in my head gets too loud sometimes, and I need help shouting him down. And it has been very important to me, that my partners have been there to give me that. Even if all I need is a hug, or the words I love you, to calm me down, and even more so, when I’ve wanted a flogging or tight rope bondage.
Then there is consent. I like their definition: “an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” We want to have fun, be safe and healthy and work together for these things. Consent is for everyone, tops, bottoms, masters, slaves, doms, subs, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends. It is not just one person consenting to the other, it is both(or more) people consenting to each other. And being able to say no, is just as important as being able to say yes. You have to be able to say no, or yes doesn’t mean anything. There’s consensual non-consent, and there are no-limit slaves, but in the end, if you cannot ultimately turn and walk away, then you are not really consenting to be there.
On to happier topics – Sex. “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” “We have never met anyone who has low self-esteem at the moment of orgasm.” “The existence of her clitoris was proof positive that God loved her.” “Sex is whatever the people engaging in it think it is… if you… feel sexual… that’s sex, for you.” “Sex is a healthy force in our lives.” “We like to think that all sensual stimulation is sexual, from a shared emotion to a shared orgasm.” “When sex becomes goal-oriented, we may focus on what gets us to orgasm to the exclusion of enjoying all the nifty sensations that come before (and, for that matter, after).” “Sexually successful people masturbate.” (pp. 4, 19, 27, 39. 40, 92, 96, 98)
We live in a culture of double standards. Sex sells – well, everything. But we are taught to avoid it, that it’s dangerous, that it’s only for marriage, that touching ourselves is disgusting. We are taught to be embarrassed by sexuality. But sex is wonderful, and it’s not just about intercourse, or orgasms. Being a kinky person, there are so many different ways that I find sensual and sexual pleasure. Being poly, hubby and I have a very strict definition of what sex is, in regards to our rules about who we can “have” it with. But that is about intercourse and sexual//reproductive health. We give and receive sensual and sexual stimulation with a lot of different people, in a lot of different ways, including our own selves. Intercourse is great, orgasms are great, but they are not the end all and be all of our sexual lives. We like things complicated, remember? I really enjoy the sex-positive nature of this book and the confidence it reminds me to have about myself and my desires in a culture that tells me I am wrong and disgusting in so many ways. I love my life, and I am happy with who I am.
February 17th, 2011
My Four Mistakes
1. I did not wear a skirt when I went over to his house last Tuesday. In fact, I wore jeans. Excuses, excuses, excuses. I did not wear a skirt, as I had agreed to do, and failing a skirt, shorts, in his presence. This was a promise I made to him, quite a long time ago. And this was the second time I had broken that promise. Both times, I had excuses and distractions, but that does not change the facts. He asked me to wear skirts or shorts so that he could have easier access to things he might want. I agreed to wear skirts and shorts for him, to always be available for that access. It became a sign of my submission to him. Being ready and available to please him at any time. To forget, no matter what the reason, to not be aware enough of myself and my promise, is unacceptable. It is disrespectful of our bond and my gift of submission to him.
To correct this mistake and keep it from happening in future, I have chosen a skirt to keep in the car at all times. It is shorter than my usual skirts, but still appropriate for wear around other people and in vanilla settings. It is a skirt I don’t mind wearing, but it is not my preferred skirt, so it will allow me to keep my promise, and remind me to be fully conscious of my choice of clothing.
2. I did not text him when I got home last Thursday. More excuses that do not matter. I know it is the rule, and it has a very solid basis in history, both his own personal history, and in our personal history. He wants to know I have gotten home safely, and I have agreed to let him know that. There are even nights when I haven’t been with him that I text to let him know I’ve gotten home safely so he does not worry. I often ask others to do the same and have recently started teaching our Toy this habit as well. I often get on Hubby’s case to let me know where he is at and I understand the worry, though not with the keenness his past has sharpened it to. Driving anywhere is always taking a risk that something might happen along the way.
To correct this mistake and keep it from happening in future, I will let go of the various things that caused excuses in my brain. Daylight or early evening is not an exception. Not playing is not an exception. Whenever I leave his presence, I will let him know when I have arrived at my destination, regardless of situation, time or place.
3. I did not follow a direct order. He told me to take off her pants and I hesitated and hemmed and hawed and used her as an excuse. He even said I was getting in trouble the more I hesitated, and I did not act. He told her I was getting in trouble, and I was still negotiating the order with her. Eventually, when a solution seemed to be reached, I did take her away and get her changed out of her pants, but I still did not take them off myself. I was acting as a buffer to her comfort levels, instead of doing as I was told.
To correct this mistake and keep it from happening in future, I will remember that she is responsible for herself, and while it is our agreement to protect her, I am also to do as I am told. She has full capability to take care of herself and stand up for herself, I must allow her to do so and not do it for her.
4. I took the cuffs off her without permission. No excuses, no demurring, I did not have permission to remove the cuffs he instructed me to put on her only minutes before. He had, in effect, put them in place, and I removed them. Putting them back on correctly makes no never mind, I took them off without asking. He bound her and I undid that. She is our toy, but the bondage, in that instance, was to him.
To correct this mistake and keep it from happening in future, I will be more aware of what I am doing for myself, for us, and what I am doing on his behalf. I will be more aware of the bonds of bondage and respectful of undoing them. I will be mindful of asking to undo things he has done, or asking to stop doing something he has begun.
Punishment and Service
I speak above about how I am going to avoid making these mistakes in future. But that is for me, that is my process. For him, I must not only correct my behavior, but also make up for these mistakes. It sets my mind running, thinking of what to offer him for these infractions. I have warring feelings of guilt and a desire to please. I know he likes to receive service, but I feel a selfish want to be punished. There are also complications of health, situation and timing, and our new toy to consider. I also do enjoy the punishment fitting the crime.
It took me a while to break the cycle of feeling pain must be involved or offered. It took him being blunt and throwing it in my face for me to realize that I had to stop. Sometimes punishments include pain, but in this case, it was not on the table. My masochism was not to be fed, my guilt was not to be relieved through physical catharsis. To truly make up for my mistakes, I need to be selfless and offer service to him, not ask him to do something for me.
I also got spun around on writing as penance. I would write about my mistakes and read it aloud to remind myself not to repeat them again. But this is hardly punishment for a writer, this is what I do. And it doesn’t really work all that well, as may be evidenced by my repeated attempts last year to stop making the same mistakes over and over again. Writing, as he pointed out, is good for reflection, but does not punish or correct mistakes. It does help me to make plans though, and that is good, but not what I need to offer to him.
And so I began again, for a third time, to think of service to offer him. To think of things he would like, that I could do for him, that would match up to the mistakes I made. Things I could do with Toy’s assistance, as well, because two of them involved her, and perhaps it would help her, as well as entertain him. Things that would not interrupt our evenings, but enhance them.
We are still negotiating the final details, but I have found my path again, with his guidance.
September 16th, 2010
I am a geek. He looked at me and asked if I get upset when my D&D character does something wrong or bad. I said of course not. He asked what is the difference? I said that was a character, a game. He pointed out that being object is just a role I choose to play, and a lightning bolt hit me in the head.
Are you submissive? Yes. Are you an object? No.
The second should not have been a hard question, nor should it have had so many wide ranging implications, but it was and therefore it did. No, I did not think I was an object, but yes, I was trying to be one. Trying really damn hard to be one, and be a perfect one, without the error and failure that is inherent to being human. We knew I have a perfectionist streak. What we did not know, is that I had gotten lost in the intoxication of the fantasy, and had forgotten that object was a role, not a goal. I enjoy thinking for myself, making my own decisions, being a smart ass, loving, living, playing and serving. Object is one way to play and serve, but it is far too limited a role to wear all the time. I am so much more than that.
What problems was this causing?
Because I was not keeping the line drawn between fantasy and reality, I was not divorcing object’s actions from self. I was carrying baggage from our scenes back into my day to day life. I was carrying guilt and blame from play into reality. Instead of using our transition ritual in the way it was intended, to shed the trappings of object, I was gathering it all up to pile on self. Self gave way under the pressure a few weeks ago, and we had been scrambling to figure out what had caused it ever since.
Viewing object as a part of self instead of as a role to put on also led to problems with the transition into object space, as well. I had trouble identifying the boundaries between submissive and object. I had trouble communicating when I was going from one to the other. I thought of object as a deeper part of my submission, so one night, even though I felt objectified, I did not identify that as a need to begin object space.
Another problem was keeping my focus in object space. If we were in public, I would give him priority, but I was also still interacting with other people fairly normally. When I would turn to address him, I would not always have my object role firmly in mind, nor his as owner. I would drop Sir, or be thinking of him as boyfriend. This loss of focus and loss of role had the potential to cause hurt to us both.
What are solutions to these problems?
One solution to the problem of leaving object’s baggage with object, is in properly using the transitional ritual he had me create. Looking back at my post about the creation of the ritual, I was more focused on limiting drop from our scene. Limiting its effects on my other partners. He spoke of relieving girlfriend of any lingering guilt for object’s actions, but I don’t think I really understood that as well as I do now. The ritual I created worked for my needs then and it covers current needs as well. The gratitude not only serves to simply be grateful for what he gave to me in the scene, but can also serve to acknowledge it as just that, a scene. Service, which often was discussing the scene to help us both process, was intended to give me time to deal with the emotions and reactions to the scene in the immediate, so I did not carry them with me back out into the world. Connection, to reconnect with him as girlfriend and finish the transition out of the role of object, back to the reality of self.
The solution to the second problem is self awareness. Staying aware of my self even while transitioning. Being very aware of what it feels like and being able to communicate that clearly. I need to keep in mind that not only do I need to take on the role of object, but at the very same time, he needs to take on the role of owner. He can only do that if I clearly communicate with him. Owner/object does not work if both roles are not fully taken at the same time. We created verbal tools to do this, my saying Sir, and his confirming with me, or his asking the trigger question of Aren’t you under dressed? and my confirming with a Yes, Sir. If he is pushing me mentally or physically towards object space, it is up to me to let him know when I arrive. He cannot know my mind, and so I must. I must be aware and clear and able to communicate with him, before, during and after a scene.
Solving the third problem is something I have had a constant struggle with over the last seven months. I had it tackled for a while, having problems only with volume and clear speaking as opposed to staying in state. I think this is part of the same need for awareness, but in this case, not just awareness for myself, but for him as well. I have a responsibility to maintain my role as well as keeping his in mind. This is not a part I can equate to gaming, we rarely stay in character at the table, and I’ve had very little experience with LARP, but theater on the other hand works. I was in a lot of plays as a teenager, and while I never had a big part, it was always important to stay in character on stage, no matter what you were doing. You don’t address your fellow actors as your friends, but only as the character they are currently playing. Sir is the verbal tool here as well, a reminder of role in every sentence I speak. A requirement of the character I have chosen to play.
These are not the only problems, nor the only solutions, but they are a place to start.
April 1st, 2010
Ritual: Any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.
This week, I was asked to create a purging ritual that accepts the scene for what it was to myself as object and free myself as girlfriend from any feelings of guilt that might have been created in my object state. The purpose of creating this ritual is to create a space where I can be free to have drop and deal with my emotional reactions while I am still with him, so that when I go back to my other partners, I am whole and fully functional on the levels where I operate with them. It is vital that I am able to be wife and girlfriend to my partners and that I do not come back to them broken. That could damage those relationships and create animosity between my partners.
I looked at what other rituals I have, and came up specifically with my ritual around suspension scenes with him. Afterward, there is always a moment where I thank him, and we hug, making a mental and physical connection. Then, I always sit down with the rope and coil it up for him and put it away. I provide this service in exchange for the scene. This lead me to creating a ritual of Gratitude, Service and Connection.
Specifically, it plays out in my head thus: Thank you for taking care of me, how may I take care of you? He makes a request, from a simple glass of water, to a back rub, to helping him with another scene. This provides me a chance to give back to him for all that he has given me. As well as creates space for me to react to and process the scene we just had, and if there are emotions I need to deal with, if there is drop, then he is right there to help me through it. Ending with physical connection, a touch, a hug, a kiss. I often find that physical connection with my partner is the best way to recover from drop. A tangible expression of our love for each other. It is, after all, love that makes this possible. I would not and could not give up this much control to someone if there was not a loving and caring relationship as a foundation.
I have another ritual that I perform for him. Daily, I run through my Tai Chi forms, a short set of Yoga positions and then I kneel for half an hour. I use this time to relax, find peace and meditate. Sometimes there is something he has specifically asked me to think about, other times, I simply reflect on recent conversations or scenes. This is a ritual I do for him, to take care of my body to better serve him, and to practice a kneeling position for him. It gives me time during my day to think about him, a connection to him on days when I may not see him in person. This is a ritual that was created out of requests he made of me.
The purging ritual is different. He asked me to create it myself, after we discussed why it was necessary and what it needed to accomplish. He could not tell me what I needed to do to come fully out of object space, create opportunity to experience drop and then finish the transition to girlfriend space. I had to think about what my needs are, and how I react to things and what works for me. It is my responsibility to ask for what I need, to be healthy emotionally, mentally and physically. The ritual as created, meets the needs of acknowledgment, contribution and connection. It gives us time and space to deal with reactions to the scene and gives me a more smooth transition from one space to the other.