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Flipflop…

… is the sound of a switchy girl trying to decide which way to swing. While there’s a lot to say about that, about the exhilaration of discovering my dominant side and the sweetness of helping another discover his submissive one, today I’d like to talk about something different.

You see…¬† it seems that flipflop is also the sound of a bewildered mind trying to find a balance after a weekend’s hot and kinky activities. For this inexperienced switchy girl at least, playing on both sides seems to lead to twice the post-low. Seems kind of unfair at first glance: shouldn’t it be so that top drop and sub drop cancel each other out, like weights on one of those old-fashioned scales…? Apparently not.

In an earlier post, I talked a little about why the dichotomy of scene-based and 24/7 is out of place for me. In other words, I play also to influence the way I interact and experience things outside scenes while conceiving the submissive self and the out-of-scene self as clearly separate. I want things done within the circle of the scene to have effects outside the circle, to seep through into the ordinary consciousness; I want the experience of being that self to bleed into “real life”. The most obvious thing for me is the softness and fragility of the submissive side: it’s important for me to be accepted for those qualities and not just in spite of them.

However, the way I play does mean that the dominant side will also bleed — that is, those experiences will not stay tidily inside the circle, out of mind until I choose to return there. Playing with a d/s dynamic as the dominant partner may be easier emotionally in the scene, in that it’s more congruent with my out-of-scene self, so that I do not need to take the terrifying/delicious leap into subspace. At the same time, the dominant role may be more difficult to deal with outside the scene, since the ways the play affects other experiences and is in turn affected by them is different. Perhaps it’s just that experiencing that dominant self can’t be separated as tidily from what passes for ordinary reality…?

Tulips: an interlude

Associating sexuality with flowers of various kinds seems to be an enduring cultural meme. For some elusive reason women’s sexuality especially has been represented via floral symbolism, from the chastity of the white lily to the entrancing rose and the seductive orchid. (I’ll refrain from harping on the annoying overtones of these representations and just note that the passivity implied is no better in the case of the orchid than it is with regard to the lily.)

Bybloemen, then, is also the name of a flower. Specifically, bybloemen are a variety of old English tulips that are “mauve to dark purple/black on a white base and generally appear elegant and restrained”. Whereas the color is often “broken” into feathered patterns (as in the mass market cover of Meyer’s New Moon), the base cultivar is a solid, sensuously dark and rich violet. This color, while not exclusive to the English tulips, is meaningful for me; and it is what makes dark or “black” tulips probably my favourite flower.

I like safewords. I use them … not necessarily a lot, but frequently, within the context of our mostly-bedroom kinky scenes. Sometimes I get defensive about this, perhaps because safewords easily become a focus or a symbol of the limitations of the SSC mantra, or emblematic of a “just in the bedroom” sensibility. The topic seems to come up somewhat regularly in the local scene, where the discussion keeps going to and fro between safewords as an important part of doing kink safely, and safewords as unnecessary for more experienced (or often by implication, more real) kinksters. There’s also the thought that safewords won’t help when the shit hits the fan and may even provide a false sense of security to the dom, but otherwise there isn’t all that much discussion about what it means to safeword or how their use affects play.

My lover and I are both long time roleplayers, of the geeky gamer type, and we have the obvious safeword: “offgame”. (I think I might have used “hold!” a time or two when I haven’t had time to stop and think about it.) And I’ve been known on occasion to tap twice, martial arts style, in that borderzone between ingame and offgame where the body has had enough but the mind isn’t clear enough or fast enough to react. These meta-level communications, maybe safewords maybe not, serve different purposes for me, and I don’t think I’ve grasped all the possibilities or implications of them yet.

Lately I’ve been wondering if this kind of safewording I do is different from that usually meant by the term, and whether safewords in general or even in this personal usage are useful for me. One of the reasons I do BDSM, one of my goals that is, is to get into an altered headspace where safewording gets difficult. A headspace maybe related to that Dw3t-Hthr describes (?), though I’m not very far along the road yet. For me, the path winds through physical pain and the acceptance of its inexorability, through hurt, maybe comfort, and possibly humiliation. I don’t know yet, really.

Thing is, the way I use safewords is easy for me even well into the scene. Not easy emotionally, necessarily, since I get into this space of not wanting to disappoint or speak out of turn, but easy cognitively. I can say, “offgame, I’ll probably get panicky soon” even when I’ve collaborated my way into a headspace where the panic is triggered by the sense of helplessness, of not having the right to protest. I’ll say that and usually only then get panicky and hyperventilating. Why do I do that, what’s the use of it?

(Let me digress here a bit. “Offgame”, as I’ve heard it used in role-playing game communities, refers to a level of reality outside or away from that which is collaboratively created or accepted by the players as real within the game. Knowledge and shared understanding of the boundary between ingame and offgame gives the players the security to immerse themselves as fully as possible in their characters and in the experience of the game: it becomes possible to experience and act out very intense and/or very complicated emotional states and identities and relationships and states of being without endangering the ordinary reality. Whether you play with dear friends or relative strangers, it’s important to be able to ask “hey, offgame, is it okay for you if my character gets really angry with yours” if the immersive experience seems to get more intense than previously agreed. The offgame level of communication can also be used to enhance the experience, when the players use it to negotiate narrative events or nuances of interaction.)

I think at least partly, retaining that slim hold on the ordinary level of reality gives me the safety to immerse myself in altered headspaces more easily. The skill of drawing and redrawing the boundaries of ingame and offgame does transfer to kink, perhaps because I’ve practiced immersive experiences in the context of tabletop games since I was a teen, and I’ve gotten slowly used to carrying the meta-level along. It gets easier with time to switch between them, without losing the hold on the immersive state. Knowing the offgame reality is out there does make it safer to explore inner worlds, and thus safewording to say, for instance, that I’ll probably get panicky soon may be a way of comforting myself, reminding myself of the boundary, even as it provides possibly-useful information to the dom. It does not yank me out of the submissive headspace at all, which is something of a mixed blessing at best.

What I wonder is, is this way of using the safewords useful, in light of my goal of altered experience, or does it get in the way? If and when I can safeword reasonably easily even when I’m in headspacey, is it just a residual effect from all that deliberate playing with shared realities, or does it mean that some part of my head is resisting the path even as I’m engaged with walking it? Would I be able to go further if I didn’t stay aware of the offgame level? And is that even a meaningful question in the context of mostly-bedroom kink, where the whole point is that it’s not the sole reality?

Shadows and darkness

I came upon this fascinating and thoughtful post a few days back. It’s lovely to read someone writing so eloquently about what seems to me so familiar though hard to explain: a desire for a different way of articulating the experiences commonly considered kinky.

There’s a lot of things included there that I’d like to talk about at some point. For now, though, I’d like to go off on a tangent and answer a (probably rhetorical) question in the original post.

The writer asks what is the “dark side” people keep talking about and possibly glorifying in connection to kink. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and my answer would be that, well, I wouldn’t call it a dark side as much as a shadow. I call the aspects I’m exploring my shadow or my shadow self in the same way that Easton & Hardy and (I think, but am not sure) Jung use the term. I don’t feel it’s evil or wrong or corrupt or sinful, or at least not any more than I am in the first place. The shadow consists of those qualities and parts of myself that for some reason or another I’ve separated from my conscious self. Shyness, softness, vulnerability, need for nurturance, the experience of pain and helplessness… the list goes on.

For me, reclaiming these things, this shadow of mine, is an important part of kink. I want to explore it, and maybe even need to explore it to enjoy kink in the way that I do. For me this means that the way I like to do kink is connected to the way I experience myself, and provides a way of altering that experience. I suspect that as I learn how to integrate the shadow aspects, the way I do kink may well change. Since the way I experience my shadow is dependent on what I’m willing to see about myself and experience about myself, it is most probably never comprehensive or complete. I can’t really integrate all of my shadow (or if I could, that would probably be very close to what some spiritual traditions consider enlightenment.) If I use kink as one path in self-understanding or transformation, the ways I do and experience it will most likely look somewhat different as I travel further on that path.


So… there’s still the question of why do we keep coming back to this dichotomy of dark and light or, for me, the light of reason and the shadows of the unconscious. Don’t have an answer to that one yet, ‘cept I suspect for me it’s pretty much connected to the paradigm of modern humanity, the division of reason and desire, body and mind.

I guess the reason I keep thinking and talking and writing about kink is to try to connect the body-knowledge/desire and the cognitive aspects of self, precisely because the strict division of body and mind feels subtly wrong even as I use it to conceptualize the integration. Really, the sense of self I’m talking about is not only a cognitive experience but also a way of being present in my body, a way of experiencing myself in the world. It’s something that cannot really be verbalized, and still I feel the attempt of doing so is worthwhile for me. The struggle of getting mere words to express something inexpressible helps me expand the limits of merely verbal thought.


Disclaimer: Though I’m writing here again about what kink as a personal identity and experience means to me, I do think kink is also a very hot, exciting sexual activity that is (for me) very much about connection with my partner. Come to think of it, I should probably write at some point about kink-as-fun too, instead of only kink-as-spiritual-exploration all the time…

I was just wondering… is it just me, or is there a rather remarkable correlation between the flamboyance of punishment and the exacting precision of discipline (as described in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish) on the one hand, and the practices of SM and D/s, respectively, on the other? So that it is not only the outward appearances that are different, but the very quality and dynamics of the power that is expressed/enacted?

Quiet

“[…] because nothing works except what we give our souls to, nothing’s safe except what we put at risk.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Shobies’ Story

Life’s been quiet again, quiet but not uneventful. I’ve been thinking about a bunch of stuff (though nothing has coalesced out of it to write about, yet). For the time being I guess that Le Guin quote about sums it up.

I really enjoy this calmer, softer version of myself that I ascribed to kinky activities back there. It seems that this self is coming out more and more easily with time. I’d like to attribute¬† at least some of that to the transformative effects of submission, but might be that a more influential factor is the work I’ve been doing this spring with the aid of my therapist.

I like to think that in doing BDSM, we reach out for our shadow side in Jungian terms. My shadow seems to be shy and soft — attributes that are not very much en vogue in this culture and which I’ve more or less seen as flaws in myself. I rather like her; I think I want to try integrating those traits into this me that I call myself.


Something I realized last month was that there is probably a reason I’ve long had a fondness for certain varieties of hurt/comfort slash. Hurt/comfort, for those who may not know, is a subgenre of slash where the plot in its purest form involves one of the main characters being in pain (emotional, physical, spiritual, whatnot) and the other one comforting zir — though usage probably differs. It’s a useful narrative, since it provides a situation of intimacy and caring without going against the nature or the sexual/romantic inclinations of the characters portrayed: you get the emotional impact of slash while staying true to the canon, and thus unlike a lot of slash, it is not necessarily sexual or romantic in tone.

Hurt/comfort is probably my favourite kind of slash, since the explicitly sexual varieties don’t do much for me (though for a rather nice blend of the two, see Jessica Harris’s Catechism). What I’m starting to realize is that a) that liking for hurt/comfort definitely has something to do with my kinky tastes and b) both slash and kink offer a way to experience something I have trouble accepting in my ordinary life.


[Edited to add: now that I got around to checking fanfic terminology, I see that I conflated fanfic and slash there rather badly. I’ll give the excuse that it’s not totally off base to use the term slash for all emotional-bonding-between-same-gender-characters fanfic, regardless of whether it includes sexual themes. Anyway, I’m mostly interested in the overlap area between h/c and slashy stuff, and in that context you could probably call h/c a subgenre of slash. Or slash a subgenre of h/c. Or both.]