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Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

Bug or feature?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the role of kink in relationships — specifically, this relationship between my lover and me. It feels to me like the relationship is more stable and solid when there’s more kinky sex, and vice versa. This bemuses me somewhat since I’ve never placed much weight on how much sex there is in a relationship, and my libido is pretty low most of the time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the effect is more about kink than about sex (and yes, I separate the two even though there are rather obvious connections between them).  While I tend to be strong-willed and assertive in ordinary life, exploring submissive roles and interactions seems to make me softer and more patient in general. When I talked about this with my lover, he said he feels more decisive and self-confident during periods when he gets to exercise his dominant tendencies. If the BDSM interactions are missing, I get cranky and impatient, and he gets dithery.

It is as if our relationship is centered and balanced when the kinky stuff is there, and goes out of whack when that is missing. I’m still a bit weirded out by that, since it seems to emphasize the importance of kink more than my sense of myself as a pretty vanilla girl would allow… but it makes sense to me. Actually, I think most relationships are a kind of balancing act between different modes of being, and a lot of them are unbalanced if things change in one area. Witness the amount of LDR relationships that get rocky when the participants move to the same area, or even relationships that need to find a new equilibrium after the couple moves together.

I suspect this kind of dynamic, where kinky interactions provide a counterweight to ordinary life, wouldn’t be all that uncommon among people who practice BDSM.

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Down time

If I had known then before I courted

that love would be such a killing crime

I’d locked my heart in a box of gold

and tied it up with a silver twine


I’ve been no good at writing as of late. I’ve got a number of things to blog about, but my attempts at getting anything on paper remain pale broken shadows of what I’d want to say. Looks like that will be the case for some time yet, since I need to pour my scant resources into working on (a piece of) the thesis.

Grief and sorrow have stopped by and I guess I’m ready now to offer them some crashing space. I’ve been focusing on trying to sleep regular hours and on keeping myself fed, and that seems to keep the crying down to tolerable amounts. I’ll endure.

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After that last post wondering about the underlying similarities in 24/7 and ‘just in the bedroom’, I stumbled onto something that might be a qualitative difference (or at least a dimension) after all.

I woke up one night, at oh-mumble-hundred AM, stressing out about work stuff… and after dealing with the stress, had a minor epiphany just as I was going back to sleep. To articulate it in any but the most banal terms I’ll probably need to explain where I was coming from.

It’s been hard for me to perceive how much I’ve expected of myself and how much self-control I’ve felt I’ve needed: after all, I’ve been so accustomed to the expectations that I’ve become blind to them. It is strange and disorienting to start questioning those self-conceptions. To quote Matrix, “You think that’s air you’re breathing?”

I think that my interest in BDSM is linked to both the expectations themselves and the need to question them, which is somewhat disorienting in itself… There seems to be a cliche in popular culture of a successful, over-achieving politician or businessman visiting a professional dominatrix for humiliation and pain, to release the tensions of his demanding job. The point seems to be the dichotomy of the two implied roles: successful and dominant in work, craving punishment in private. While this image is offputting in a number of ways, there is some truth in it for me.

One of the payoffs of BDSM for me is the potentially transformative nature of it. Giving over control of myself, even in limited degree, is liberating. I’ve been so used to the perfectionist demands of my super-ego that it’s difficult/rewarding to hand over the authority to make demands, to let someone else choose on which criteria I’ll be evaluated and how to apply them. But (and this is an important but) I think this works for me because it is limited in time and purpose. In giving over that authority I gain a better understanding of it and of myself, and I use the process to question the demands I’m so used to placing on myself. For me this seems to require deliberation in the power dynamics and the transitions into and out of them.

(From what I’ve read I suspect that at least for some people identifying as 24/7, such transitions would rather defeat the point of the power dynamic. They prefer to keep their power dynamic stable within the context of the relationship, and I suspect this is related to their payoffs (even when transformative in nature) being in some way different from the ones I seek. I might be full of hot air here, though.)

So what was the epiphany? In simplest terms, I think this: in aiming to relax the expectations I place on myself, I have no wish to give over the authority to place them, or to place them on others. Instead, I wish to learn how to let go of the need for expectations, by playing with them and by choosing them mindfully.

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Just in the Bedroom?

Something I’ve been wondering about lately are the boundaries and differences of different BDSM relationships. A rather usual conception seems to be that there’s a definite difference between d/s or 24/7 relationships on the one hand, and ”just in the bedroom” relationships where the participants usually do their play in pre-negotiated scenes, on the other.

Let me lay out my cards right away: this differentiation makes me cranky, and, in my admittedly limited experience, it is rather artificial. While it’s probably necessary to have some terms for categories of relationships, framing these two as opposites may lead to dismissing the experiences of people in both kinds of relationships – as well as those whose preferences lie somewhere in between.

(The rest of this post consists of a rather disjointed attempt to sort out my thoughts on this supposed difference. Reader beware!)

I’ve been told that d/s or lifestyle relationships rarely if ever really carry the d/s dynamic on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, within all aspects of participants’ lives. People need to work and people need to sleep, and most people want to have some recreational pursuits, friends outside the relationship etc. My understanding is that there are people who choose to have nearly total power exchange in their relationships, but that they are in the minority.

So… Why label these relationships “24/7”?

If I’ve understood correctly the discussions I’ve followed, it is an important element of these relationships that there is always the awareness of dominance and submission. The power exchange is present in interaction in a way that would not be possible in “just in the bedroom” relationships (where the limits for such dynamics are much narrower?).

I know that for many people these elements are what BDSM is about, and that this kind of dynamic is deeply meaningful. I do not want to denigrate their experiences at all, even though I can’t grasp the meaning myself. YKINMKBYKIOK and all that. I also imagine I can viscerally touch the desire for these elements and the intensity that they bring.

But… just because those elements are so powerful, they are staples of BDSM erotica. There are nuances of fetishization there, I think: the perceived totality of the dynamic is appealing and raw and powerful even when a closer look would reveal many exceptions. The concept of total d/s dynamic lends itself very well to this kind of eroticization, and hey, I’m all for that… My only gripe is that I would like there to be room for other conceptualizations of d/s and BDSM as well. (I would also argue that linking d/s, tpe, and 24/7 in these ways may often contribute to a perception of these kinds of relationships as being something very different, more “real” than the “just in the bedroom” relationships, while obscuring their differences and the different ways people engage in them.)

What does it mean for relationship to be 24/7?

I would argue that those of us who engage in kinky activities “just in the bedroom” can also have 24/7 relationships. Sure, the d/s dynamic is only actualized part of the time – but wasn’t the point that a lot of people who consider themselves to be in a 24/7 relationship actualize it only part of the time as well?

I might be missing the point here, but I keep wondering where the crucial difference is. Is it that in lifestyle relationships the power dynamic is fundamentally more integral a part of the relationship? Or that the power that is exchanged is somehow more real?

Those kinds of explanations sound pretty dodgy to me, I’m afraid. It’s a difficult call to say what is an ”integral” part of any relationship; it may well be that the possibility of separately negotiated power exchange is one of the fundamental agreements of even an ”ordinary” BDSM couple. Real is what people make real. If it gives people more pleasure, more happiness, more self-determination and power in their relationships to label their power exchanges as ”real” — well, more power to them! It just does not make other ways of doing it any less ”real” for the others.

It’s a bit like in dancing (feel free to substitute something else if dancing doesn’t rock your boat). I dance – passionately, at times obsessively. For me, dancing is usually strictly delineated in time and space: I transition into dance class or a ball, dancing takes place there, and then I come out of there. But this does not mean dancing would be limited to that time and space! When I’m not in class or a dance, I remember what it’s like to dance, I pay attention to my body and my alignment, I hear the music in my head and get snatches of the choreography. It’s something very important to me, a way of existing in this world. Even though I only do it a few nights a week at most, it’s the way I live, a state of awareness.

Likewise, the pain and control and the energy exchanges I share with my partner do not take all that much time in a week. Sure, we usually mark the transitions in and out of scenespace deliberately, and it’s important to us to live in an egalitarian relationship in most ways. But… d/s or S&M are not something we do occasionally as a way to spice up our sex life (what a strange concept), they are an important part of this relationship insofar as they are important parts of ourselves. The things we do color and inform our out-of-scene lives. I suspect there are couples for whom this is even more true, who are further out in the borderlands between scene-based and ”24/7”.

Those borderlands and meanings can be hard to discuss. I’d like there to be words for experiences and dynamics that are not “just in the bedroom” but that do not take on the identifications of lifestyle d/s. Not because I’d oppose either of those activities, but because I’d like to believe they do not need to stand in opposition to each other.

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Mmh. Shitty day, or actually morning. Not because it’s a monday, but because of the aforementioned poly trouble.

So what better time to start listing six things that bring me joy today? I’ll update in the evening.

1) fetlife.com, yay!

It’s very cool, easy on the eyes, easy to use, comfortably kinky, and has a wealth of content to browse even if you don’t feel facebook-y. Come have a look, if you haven’t yet.

2) the certainty of trust and commitment my lover and I have. The relationship feels solid through and through, even though I know nothing’s ever that stable. It has weathered trouble, and argument, and insecurities. We have worked through a lot of communication problems and baggage, and I feel confident that we will work through any trouble in the future. We want to build this to last — and we know that even if it doesn’t, it will be good.

I am so grateful for this wonderful part of my life that I can’t quite find the words.

3) Sisters of Mercy.

.

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Lust, caution

Lately there have been times when I’ve had trouble entering and staying in subspace when we play. It feels as if there’s a glitch somewhere, so that my lover and I are out of sync, separated more than connected by the scene.

I think the glitch is partly in my head, in how I experience submission. Submission is scary and intense and occasionally difficult. It feels as if I’m pulling the threads of power and control out of myself, spooling them in my hands like ropes made of light, and handing them to my lover. They are too precious to me to let drop, so I need a lot of trust that he’ll take care of them when I give them to him, and return them to me when we finish.

This probably heightens my desire for reciprocity in scening: if the power is delicious to him, then I can more easily trust that he appreciates it and takes care of it, and of me while I’m under. It’s difficult for me to play casually — or rather, do D/S casually or lazily. If the other does not show dominance and control, or only plays along with it, it’s very hard for me to allow myself to get headspacy. Which is probably a good thing, since I’m not very sensible when I’m submissive.

It turns out that the glitch is also partly in his head. He says he’s reluctant to let his evil sadistic self out (as opposed to the nurturing sadistic self) since he’s afraid it is going to get rejected and that I would not like it. So, he’s been playing with a lot of caution and hesitance… and that in turn feeds my insecurity about handing control over to someone who doesn’t want it… which makes him even more cautious since I end up safewording out of insecurity.

I think now that we managed to figure out where the miscommunication lies, we have quite a good chance of fixing things. I look forward to meeting the evil sadistic self.

Lust, Caution is also a movie by the ever-wonderful Ang Lee, which incidentally has a lot of sex scenes bordering on or right out non-consensual. Which is not the point of the movie, since the ways it ties caring and sexuality with violence and power and rebellion and abuse are more complex than that. I think.

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Restless

A lot of things I’d like to write about. Too little focus.

I think the reason I got to value self-discipline and willpower so much was that I’m pretty aggressive underneath all that.

I could say that I needed strong will to cage the tiger, so I got used to controlling myself and got used to being called cold. Now that I’m working on relaxing and letting go of the constant tension, it’s as if the aggression keeps getting closer to the surface. (The same tension is probably what’s recently made my muscles quiver every time we finish play, no matter whether I come or not. Not just a little sexy movement in the muscles under the skin, but an almost violent shaking as my body relaxes.)

My lover says he’s not scared of the aggression, even when I tell him that it seems like it’s creeping closer whenever I top him. I love him for that.

For some reason, it seems safer at parties. Because I’m already relaxed and flirty and loose, I don’t feel any need to let the tiger out, to let go of the control? perhaps. Then, the energy is more mellow and gentle and I get high on controlling the other instead of on hurting them.

I’m deathly tired of part of my poly life.

Since my long-time love started dating a monogamous girl (a friend of mine) over a year ago, our relationship has transitioned into a rather different form. The transition came about largely, I feel, because of her insecurities, but also because our relationship had subtly and slowly drifted into something not like us, and it’s been re-balancing after the new configuration came to be. I’m rather happy with the way our relationship looks now, in fact.

Or rather, I’d be rather happy if it stayed that way. My perception over the last half a year or more has been that this girl is not satisfied with the way things are now, even though she says she is, so she’s been more or less subtly pressuring us to act more to her liking. The things I perceive as pressure range from sulking to not obeying herself the rules she wants in place, to outright vetos like “don’t have sex”. This makes me feel uneasy and uncomfortable; not because I wouldn’t want to negotiate, but because it feels as if I’m expected to obey without negotiation. As if I’m constantly on probation, and if I fail to be nice enough, I won’t be allowed to be with her boyfriend anymore.

I do realize my perception is not the truth, but for me it looks a lot like it. Small incidents and drama have been piling up too long, and it feels as if I’m being made to carry the blame for the issues in their relationship. Fair or not, this feeling affects my relations to both of them, and I wish we could deal with it and look for solutions together.

Unfortunately, it appears that that is not an option. I guess I’m partly to blame for being such an ornery person, but I think it’s still not okay to blame me for her wanting to wield power over me, or say that her actions don’t count because I’m not the kind of person that is affected by things like that.

For these and various other reasons, I’ve been thinking about that thing called love lately.

I don’t know what it is — for real — in the body. I know trust, and lust, and like, and the combination of them that makes you warm and strong and open, but I don’t know what this love thing is. I wonder if I’m missing something?

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