Within Ourselves

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.

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Contracts and Expectations

April 29th, 2011

I’ve never written a contract with a partner before. Never had things spelled out explicitly in writing. Maybe I should have done before now. Maybe that would have helped certain things go differently. Either way, we’re trying it now. He, Toy and I. To organize our Monday nights and reduce stress and have time for play. It is very interesting and exciting, but maybe that’s because I’m an OCD writer.

The beginning of the contract is our expectations. As a group, and as individuals. Things that need to happen prior to Monday evening. Things that need to happen before he gets home. Limits and boundaries that need to be respected. Time and food considerations. Toy’s been teasing me about my section being blank. The thing is, I did write things in my section, but either she or they both liked and agreed with them, so they became group expectations, or the girls’ expectations instead of just mine.

Do I have singular expectations? I don’t have many limits when it comes to playing with him, and those I have, she has, too. They’ve both asked, don’t I have limits with her? Well, certainly, if I was just playing with her, but the point of this is that I’m not. I’m playing with them both. And where he is the top of the structure, my limits follow.

What about other expectations, outside of limits? They seem to be things implicit in the agreement. I expect toy and I will share the chores. I expect to have fun and share new things with them both. I expect that sometimes I will have to help toy destress after work before he gets home. I expect this all will take work and balance and commitment from all of us. I expect to learn and grow. None of these things are requirements that need to be delineated in the contract, however.

We have work left to do and a busy weekend ahead. More thoughts next week. For now, check out my new Corset Care and Bootblacking pages over at Care Of Kinky Clothing.

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Letting Go

February 12th, 2011

An interesting week. Sorry for the late post, hopefully Monday’s tided you over until today. Last weekend was great, and I was happy to share my joy. This week has been about letting go, for me. As in relaxing, as in accepting uncertainty, as in moving forward instead of holding onto the past.

We have a toy. I have never had a toy before, someone I am responsible for and to, and who wants to please me, and us, from a bottom type role. I have also never had a trio relationship. Three of us in one relationship. She is Our Toy. Pleasing us, playing with us, trusting and trusted by us. It is a new situation to all.

So, full honesty here, because what good is a blog without occasional soul baring, I freaked out this week. I was going on all good and solid and just asking questions and trying to get clear answers, and feeling good about it all, if concerned. Then, I missed a bus… and in chasing after it, I got run over. At least I realized it, and asked for help, this time.

I started getting worried about the future. I started becoming afraid of the risk. I imagined all sorts of bad. I became terrified of emotional pain and hurt and loss. I wanted to try having a toy. I knew it was risky. But I got stuck on the question of accepting that risk.

He helped me. He let me talk and cry while he poked and asked pointed questions. He let me calm down while he said out loud what I was not listening to in my own head. Everyone gets hurt, we all hurt each other, life is risky, but it is worth it. It is fun. It is the way we grow. He even offered to stop it if I could not accept the risk. This is for Us, and if I’m not happy, then it won’t work.

So, I grabbed his hand and pulled myself up off the road. Invited her over, explained my fear and accepted the uncertainty and the risk. We still have a lot to figure out, as we move forward, but we all know it and accept it, so we Can move forward.

I had a couple other bits of letting go and moving forward this week, as well. They say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, but there is a difference between remembering the past and clinging to it. Remembering mistakes of the past to learn from them is good. Remembering past pain and trying to avoid it again at all costs is bad. Trying to recover something purposefully lost or destroyed is bad. Building with the rubble to a better future is good, but I think that might be the topic of another blog.

So, let me end with the paragraphs echoing in my mind. I will not over think. I will not cast doubt in myself. I will not allow fear to consume me.

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New Toy, Rushing River and a Solid Bridge

February 3rd, 2011

My mind is full and swirling this week. I thought I had about five different topics to write about, but in just a few seconds of brainstorming on the page, I came up with ten. Discussions this week have ranged from masturbation and orgasm, to STDs, to interrogation, to labels, to song and dance, to cathartic release and pleasure from pain. A new relationship is being established and others are struggling to survive. There’s a big event this weekend, but I won’t be there, I regret missing the classes, but the play parties never really were my thing. So, let’s take some of those topics and look a little deeper.

What do you want to do with our toy? He’s been asking me that for a couple weeks now, since we established she wanted to be our toy. I talk about teaching her, or helping her, or getting her to buy cute clothes. But what do I want to Do with her? I don’t know, I’ve never had a toy before. Fair to say she’s never been a toy before either. But we’re all very curious and excited about the possibilities.

I see myself in her, just starting her journey into kink. I remember when, to me, kinky was a pair of handcuffs, a set of nipple clamps and a spanking during sex. I remember coming into this community and meeting him and lover and having the doors thrust wide open before me. I remember barreling through, glad they were the ones holding my hands. There was so much to learn and do and experience, and now we have a new toy, just starting her journey and I’m excited to be the one holding her hand.

One of our conversations this week was on labels, if she wanted to take a public label, and she decided not yet. She decided that it was something she wanted to keep personal for now. Those who needed to know, would know, but it didn’t need to be declared to the world at large. This got me thinking for myself, too.

He and I are rebuilding things, and have left off kink labels, as well. I have had varying degrees of comfort and discomfort with this. I felt like I had lost something, lost something very important to us. I tried on a label for a couple weeks, but it didn’t fit well and I couldn’t explain why I wanted to wear it. I realized at the end of that attempt, that trying to label something that was still being created was just going to add to the confusion, and I stopped.

Yesterday, I was visualizing myself standing in the middle of a rushing river, I had a hand stretched out to the cliffs on either side. One cliff labeled Girlfriend, the other labeled Submissive. But back in August, the Submissive cliff broke off in my hand, and I was left floundering, with only Girlfriend to cling to. I eventually got back to my feet, with the solid help of the Girlfriend cliff, but then I started trying to shove the broken piece back into the cliff, trying to find a place where it would fit.

I realized, that I really just needed to get out of the river, stop fighting the current, there was no need. I could easily and happily sit on the Girlfriend bank, on the solid ground of our relationship. I’d like the submissive bank to be part of our life, but building a bridge to it with him is a much more secure way to get there, than standing in the rushing water, fighting to stay upright.

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Service

August 12th, 2010

He asked for an evening of service.

I began to plan. What types of things could I do for him? What would he enjoy? What would be most useful? He cautioned me to not get too specific, to have a general idea, and remember that things do not always go as planned. (Sometimes it feels like they do not Ever go as planned.)

This was easier, making general plans of service. I would be visiting at his, so I took each area of the house and came up with an offer of service, depending on where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do. Lawn work and gardening for outside. Organizing and cleaning for the basement. Dishes and cooking for the kitchen. Cup holder, foot stool, foot rubber and/or story teller for the living room. Oral pleasure for the bedroom.

Not having a structured plan, but simply offers made the evening go more smoothly than it might have otherwise. Work ran long, we got together late, and he spent some time reminding me that I cannot jump over the steps right in front of me to get to ones I think he wants instead. I did, however, get to serve him. I helped him a bit in the kitchen and I rubbed his feet in the living room. Most importantly, I got to spend time with him, but it got me thinking about service and what that means to me.

In the second post I ever made, Serving Him, I talked about him labeling me a service sub, my struggle with that label, and my acceptance of it through the joy of serving him. Last November, I wrote about Service Space – the warm fuzzy happy space I am in when I am serving and giving to others. In April, I wrote about including service in my Ritual to come out of object space.

What does service mean to me now? Why do I do it? How does it make me feel? Who do I serve? When do I serve? (Yes, I wanted to see if I could get all the question words in.)

One side of my service is serving in exchange for what I have been given. I was once thanked for taking care of him, and I simply responded, he takes care of me. I serve him because I am grateful for all that he does for me, and sometimes in gratitude for a specific thing/scene he has done for me. At work, I serve our customers in exchange for being paid. At the club, I am a Service Top in exchange for the chance to learn, teach, share and be part of the crew.

On the other side, serving makes me feel useful, gives me a purpose, a goal to achieve. I enjoy doing for others, and generally put a higher priority on that than on doing for myself. I was brought up to help others, to be a caretaker. The people in my life are very important to me, and if I can make things a little easier for them, or make them a little happier, by serving, then I feel fulfilled.

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Lessons of a Schoolgirl

May 1st, 2010

On the way into the club, Iron Man played on the radio. This set me in a great head space for the night, not because of the words of the song, I really don’t know any besides I am Iron Man, but because it was a song I played a lot in High School Pep and Marching Band. I love music, but I am not a good musician, I played clarinet, but was almost always third part. And I loved it. I loved being a part of it, of sharing music with my friends and with other people. It was a place where I knew perfection was not attainable, and I was happy. I worked hard, and it was enough, even when I made mistakes, it was enough that I was doing the best I could.

A friend is an English teacher, and today he posted on that he would have given a student 100% if that were possible, but was giving her 99.9% instead. I commented, asking why 100% was not possible. He replied that perfection is impossible, and while her essay was so very good, especially in comparison to the rest of the class, there were still imperfections in it, and that there is always room for improvement.

My goal, is, when I’m feeling judgmental of myself or others, to remind myself that they are doing the best they can, and perfection is impossible.

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Do It

April 29th, 2010

Lift up your chin. Look in his eyes.
Speak clearly what’s on your mind.
To him.

Shut off the chatter. Keep your mind focused.
Doubt and fear have no place here.
With him.

Happiness is everywhere. Open your eyes.
Imperfections only make it sweeter.
See him.

Serve him. Honor him.
Learn and grow. Do your best.
For him.

Poetry has never been my strong suit, but sometimes, things spill out of my head, and sometimes, I have to just let them. My lesson this week is Doing. I think too much. I over analyze. I let fear and doubt not just creep in, but overwhelm me. So, I am working on doing for him, with no more thought than required. Doing without hesitating, without waiting. Doing is always better than not doing, acting is better than inaction. Trying is better than standing still and silent. So, I’m going to post this, and then there are things I have to Do.

Until next week, readers, I leave you with the fortune cookie I had taped to my computer monitor at college: Don’t be afraid to take that big step. And a Nike commercial: Just Do It.

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Why Practice Isn’t Enough

November 18th, 2009

I go to Practice every week, for the crew I’m on. We practice our craft for the weekend shows. We go to reconnect with each other, to talk and play and share together. We go to teach the newer members, as well as the guests. We go because we are always learning, always finding something new, always have room to improve.

We practice flogging against the wall, against the cross and on each other. We do electric scenes, checking the wands and trying out the toys. We practice our brand of fire play, training on all three stations. We don’t have the space for much suspension practice currently, but once in a while we get that, too.

But, for crew, practice isn’t enough. The skills are there, we learn what to do. But our weekends are full of strangers, with different reactions, different bodies, different needs, wants and desires. For us to “perfect” our craft, we need more than just our Practice night. We need to work with all sorts of different people, under the low lights and loud music. We need to deal with drunk, sober, shy and loud. What we do is very different, and very unique. It takes more than swinging a flogger or firing up a violet wand.

For me, it also takes a desire to serve and to share. I could just attend practices, and have time with them and do what I want to do. I could just be another attendee and sign up on the lists. I volunteer for crew to share the experience. To provide others the opportunity to learn and do what they might not have a chance to do otherwise. It fills a need in me to give back, to contribute to the community. Just going to Practice is no longer enough for me. I want more.

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