Thursday, August 24, 2017

Agency, Consent, and Integrity

It seems that over the last year or two, we can’t make it through an event weekend without a big to-do over consent. These complaints have ranged from typical “creeper” groping to such extremes as nonconsenual biting or willful breaches of consent (both of which truly are inexcusable). I bite my tongue every time someone complains about a rando groping as though it’s a colossal failure of the community, and I finally wanted to spell some things out after someone (wrongly) told me I literally cannot elect to waive my right to revoke consent within the context of a negotiated scene. Any idiot can understand the basic concept of asking for consent, but unfortunately most individuals do not function in that capacity and sexual-social community dynamics are substantially more complicated, involving far more than immediate verbal consent. People seem to stop at “any idiot can understand,” and then demand all consent be based purely on immediacy and vocalization which is a grotesque oversimplification of what consent really is and how it functions.

One of the biggest things that is overlooked when people talk about this model of consent is that agency is necessary to give consent. If you’re not familiar with what agency is, it’s the ability to independently make your own decisions and it can be limited by anything from inebriation to complex social systems. For instance, someone only engaging in an activity due to pressure from an authority figure does not have full control of their agency, nor does a person who is completely inebriated in that they cannot fully be conscious of their decisions. The same can be said of someone suffering from addiction, someone in a deep headspace, or even someone who’s just so horny they aren’t thinking straight: when something prevents us from being fully present, whole, and aware true consent is not possible.

When people talk about breaches of consent, they tend to only look at situations in which a person does not want something in the moment and is forced to endure it - molestation or rape, for instance. The model of consent that is presently being pushed heavily (immediate and verbal being the only acceptable measure of consent) is largely built in response to this thought process, and it neglects that one of the primary functions of many power exchange dynamics is to diminish control over one’s agency. This can of course have varying degrees of severity but just as someone may engage in behavior they normally wouldn’t due to pressure from an official authority figure, a Dom’s presence can shape a sub’s decision-making process. Because of the way this informs these decisions, in some instances a sub cannot truly consent, much in the same way a drunk person cannot.

Looking at consent only through the lens of immediacy is easy, but it does not consider the potential for someone operating at a diminished capacity. A prime example of how this can fall apart is looking at something like barrier protection or participation in safer sex. While this specific example is becoming less relevant due to PrEP allowing for better risk management, it’s still something that happens frequently. Let’s say a sub negotiates a scene with a requirement that anal sex may only occur with condoms. After a good bit of edging, he’s feeling rather driven to get fucked to the point he wants to beg for it and all he can think about is his Sir’s dick claiming his hole. Of his own volition (maybe there was no condom around, maybe he wanted to feel skin or a load - the ‘why’ is immaterial) he begs the Dom to fuck him without protection. The over-emphasis that immediate consent is all that matters could easily lead to someone honestly believing this to be consent, and encouraging that thought process is dangerous.

Let’s look at another situation, one that is a common sub experience I’ve been through myself a number of times. For a lot of subs, headspace can run incredibly deep; it can do things like make you instinctively reluctant to speak, cause you to become very emotionally invested in service, and significantly alter other behavior to the point where your normal self might be barely recognizable. In these instances questions might be answered with a quick nod or shake of the head or possibly even a lack of response connoting disagreement, and control is a constant pressure the sub feels exerted upon them: it informs every action they take. For subs who lean towards this sort of headspace, the intense aversion to vocalizing means a lot of what they are feeling is heavily internalized and they are left with a very strong desire to please. One of the things that can get internalized in this context is disappointment in oneself or the fear of disappointing the Dom; feeling failure to instantly grow and be a better sub, not being able to please someone enough or in the right way, thinking that disagreement will undermine submission, etc. When this is internalized too strongly, a sub in headspace may end up expressly consenting to activities they do not want to engage in as a means of abating this perceived potential for disappointment. In a way, this example can be even more dangerous because of its greater potential to be used as a means of manipulation and, again, an over-emphasis on the immediacy-based consent model can blind someone to this potential.

One of the other failings of this model is that it quite literally creates something akin to a caste system in which allowing exceptions to the rules is based on attractiveness. I have watched as some of the most vocal proponents of immediacy-based consent respond differently to people touching them without consent depending on how attracted to the individual they are, and I personally feel that makes their motives clear. When you don’t have the integrity to turn someone desirable down for violating a principle you purport to value, your goal is not to nobly protect others from assailants by asserting a standard but rather to legitimize your aversion to undesirables touching you. It’s dishonest, it’s selfish, and it actually hurts people whether by directly damaging their confidence or through one of the many side-effects of this double-standard.

What we should be doing instead is respecting that consent is not simple or purely rooted in immediacy and that insisting it is undermines that having control of one’s agency is necessary to grant consent. We should respect that there is a staunch difference between sex-prohibitive and sex-positive culture, and no matter what we do some new people will always misunderstand things until they are taught. We should respect that the people making these mistakes are often times not at fault and their actions stem from being educated by a culture that deliberately and systematically misinformed them about how sex works. We should respect that malice and ignorance are not equivocal, and that we should see teaching opportunities instead of pariahs in the case of the latter. We should respect that there are some in our own community who would elevate their own minor inconvenience over the growth and development of others and that that sort of thinking is far more damaging than a wayward grope.

I don’t mean to call into question anyone’s right to bodily autonomy, I simply believe that there are far too many people whose aim is to reinforce a double-standard which allows them to have their cake and eat it too. You don’t get to claim there is a strong moral argument for something while quietly allowing exceptions that suit your whims, and I think it’s time people stop enabling this kind of rabble-rousing. If your solution is to draw a line that denies not only the complicated transition from normal culture to kink culture but also perpetuates a narrative that undermines the importance of agency in how we grant consent, I’m not going to praise you and give you a pedestal. It’s not that simple and it never will be, so all we can do is try and help steer individuals towards better behavior instead of creating standards; claiming there’s a nefarious underlying issue in kink is chasing a remedy to something that can’t yet be fixed, and I’d rather use my energy on potentially productive conversations.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fight, for Fuck's Sake

When I learned of Si’s passing, my first thought - after again compulsively yelling “HOLY FUCK” - was “Please, for the love of god don’t let this have been suicide.” This thought was likely colored by the fact that someone in Chicago recently killed themself, but the primary motivator was how amazing and welcoming both of these individuals were. I expected to feel almost a sigh of relief when someone said it wasn’t, but instead I was left with the thoughts I’d had about what a positive person he was any time I saw him.

I remember not being as impacted by death when I was younger, and I don’t think this had anything to do with it being a less frequent occurrence at the time or that it's people who meant more to me. In fact, I feel like there are people who could logistically be called acquaintances (though I wholeheartedly refer to friends) whose torch being extinguished honestly affected me more than losing my great grandmother and my grandfather. I spent a good amount of time being raised by my grandfather, and my great grandmother was the family member I talked to most when I was first on my own … and yet, I find myself more impacted by the loss of people I’ve only interacted with a number of times that could easily be counted.

What’s happened as I’ve gotten older, I think, is I’ve realized how small I am. Within the context of my family, yes, these people made a tremendous difference to me and who I am. They protected me, they loved me, they taught me to love, and they let me be myself - things I try with every fiber of my being to carry into the world. But no matter how much I appreciate what they gave me, the world where I came from always felt so incredibly small. We had our neighbors as friends and that was essentially the extent of our social gatherings outside the family. I understand that some people want to live small, quiet lives, but the more people I meet the more I see how much work there is to be done.

It’s no secret that community is important to me, and I can’t imagine myself ever wanting a quiet life; nature is pretty and tranquility is nice, but people are fucking beautiful. If anything, this is a sentiment that has strengthened with age instead of souring into cynicism like it does for most. I think a lot of this is rooted in being involved in queer culture, but I’m honestly so immersed in gay/kink stuff that I literally can’t tell what normal culture looks like any more. A friend was joking the other day about some director saying “It’s not believable to have two gay characters in a friend group,” to which they responded “Hunny, I haven’t seen a straight person in a week.” Aside from work (and even parts of work), my entire life is LGBTQQI.

One of the main reasons I think people are so beautiful is their potential for growth when they’re given a supportive environment. The world has a way of beating down the things that make people special, and queer culture is the strongest existing force against this erosion of true self. Whether it’s the simple acknowledgement that love is okay - even when it’s complicated - or that it’s okay to not adhere to a specific gender norm, or that sex is not evil and immoral it empowers people, it's a culture that says “Hun .. you do you: you're amazing,” and I can't think of a better way to enable mental health and growth. When you cut off the fear of rejection that is drilled into us by oppressive standards, suddenly people are more willing to pay it forward instead of trying to shoot someone down before they can be shot down.

As I reflected on the initial thought I had - “Please don't let it have been suicide,” really more prayer than thought - it actually became a little unsettling that I couldn't feel grateful he was around rather than sad he's gone from the world. I really did not know him that well through interaction, only through seeing what he was to others. Wondering why what he represented was so important to me kind of lead into thinking about community, which made me wonder why I can't just let myself just be a “rocking chair on the porch” kinda guy despite being such a huge ball of anxiety. And there it was again: that knee-jerk fear that another beautiful, amazing person had taken their own life. The fact that he hadn't was no longer relevant; the fact that some of my friends and my family are so exhausted by the world telling them that their existence is wrong they have life-long intimacy issues, or substance abuse problems, or take their own lives … that's what mattered in that moment, and why being grateful doesn't feel like enough.

I recognize the imagery of love and war may seem antithetical, but we need soldiers. We need people willing to put themselves out there fearlessly to show others it can be done. We need people wearing the emotional equivalent of teflon armor so that the aggression of rejection (or by extension the potential for it) doesn't phase them and they can move from person to person and help them. We need people whose smile and joyfulness is a weapon that can pierce through cynicism and mistrust, and we lost someone fucking armed to the teeth.

Things have been feeling a lot better lately. I’ve almost been feeling complacent, and comfortable, and far enough removed from grief to not feel sad all the time. When I heard about someone who was basically the embodiment of a warm hug killing themself, it set me back a bit as a reminder of the struggles of our community. While my initial response to Si’s passing may have been incorrect and tantamount to a coincidence, I won’t soon forget that it is indicative of how we exist: they’re not killing us as often any more, now they’re just applying pressure until we snap one way or the other. It’s still happening, even in cities we basically own, and it needs to stop.

Don’t just be unapologetically you, fight like hell against anyone who tries to tell you you can’t: you don’t have to maintain space for people who want to bring you down. Take a stance against shaming whether it’s a fem boy, a bottom, a slut, a pup, a diaper boy, an artist, a socially awkward weirdo, a disabled person, someone living their heritage, someone who can’t afford nice clothes … be there to smile when they are being supportive, but don’t ever let someone trick you into thinking you need to tolerate their bullshit. Everyone does better off when we support each other, but support is a mutual endeavor and we need to not let people build themselves up on the backs of others. We’re a small piece of the pie, but people from outside our community have been using us as punching bags to work out their own feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and it’s still fucking a lot of people up.

It’s easy to feel complacent when you feel progress, but if you take a look at the mental health issues that are still prevalent as a result of heteronormative pressure you’ll see there’s still a lot to be angry about. For those of us in big cities it’s especially easy; we forge our own communities where we feel loved and accepted, and we’re very far removed from signs of the damage that is still going on. We may not even realize some of our own community members are carrying scars, and that for them small signs of rejection may feel to them like it did where they came from; feeling accepted after a life of rejection only to have it pulled out from under them. We need to smile and have joy and even mourn, but don’t forget for a second the anger you should feel from their treatment of us. When the most common first thought upon hearing of an untimely death in your community isn’t to wonder if it was an accident but rather to wonder if it was either suicide or drugs, there is a problem … and it just so happens that this problem isn’t of our own making.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Expressive vs. Regressive Pups

While being regarded as a pup is fairly new for me (it actually still catches me off-guard when people refer to me as one), I’ve still hovered around the pup scene for quite some time. I think the reason it originally didn’t resonate with me had less to do with pup play specifically and more to do with a disinterest in power exchange at the time I was introduced to it. As my desire to explore power exchange dynamics began to delve into dehumanization, suddenly it made a lot of sense both conceptually and in practice.

One of the things I like most about the pup community is that there is such a healthy attitude about how people handle things differently. There are plenty of approaches regarding how to train pups, fairly different headspaces, and even a wide array handler/pup dynamics. While I truly do believe the community is very open to these differences, visibility is still an important part of teaching diversity and some ways of pupping are innately bound to overshadow others. I feel like social moshes are the part of the scene that will naturally have more presence, and they’ve left things feeling somewhat one-sided for newcomers. Events like On Leash are a great step towards remedying this, but to make greater strides education is important as well.

Despite how varied many of the nuances of these relationships are, they primarily seem (to me) to fall under two distinct categories. The first, and most common, version is actually somewhat closer to how pups from the furry fandom approach pup play: the headspace is tantamount to a persona, usually one the individual strongly identifies with. The second, which is firmly rooted in the traditional pet play found in BDSM, is based on stripping away certain aspects and behaviors that make someone human. Both “core” approaches are equally valid, but they tend to resonate with different individuals. I’ve been calling them “expressive pups” and “regressive pups” for some time, and I wanted to talk about some of the key differences a bit.

Expressive pups: these are what has become the bread-and-butter of the pup community, and their dynamics that emphasize fluidity can confuse or even frustrate those accustomed to structures that favor rigidity - hence the pushback from some leatherfolk. They see being a pup as a part of their identity as a whole, and are often not shy about sharing this part of themselves with others. Expressive pups tend to enter headspaces of varying depths depending on circumstance, ranging from casually barking at people/pups to reflexively curling their hands into paws or similar physicality to a full-on, tunnel-visioned romping headspace. Their ability to express themselves as pups so flexibly and openly is largely what is responsible for the community’s explosion, and their ability to have a varied depth of headspace lets them engage more actively in human socialization. Many expressive pups have little to no interest in sexual activities while in headspace and they may be prone to romp and play purely as a social endeavor.

Regressive pups: much less visible, regressive pups tend to rely on reinforced dynamics to access their headspace. While expressive pups may use power exchange for training or within the context of a pack dynamic, regressive pups tend to be purely based on power exchange as a means of enforcing behavior. Rather than having a pervasive, puplike personality that bleeds into many aspects of their character, being a pup to them is more apt to represent a deliberate denial of personhood. Essentially, a regressive pup may be closer to a gimp-like headspace than a boy-like one, which may entail a further diminishing of agency. With their behavior being sculpted by rules and expectations instead of expressing themselves in varying degrees, regressive pups are less likely to be able to (or desire to) access hybridized headspaces. One of the challenges for these pups gaining visibility is that a substantial motivating factor for this sort of play may in fact be the somewhat stricter denial of human-to-human social interaction within the context of these scenes.

It’s worth noting that both sorts of pups need somewhat different sorts of handlers. Expressive pups are likely to need a primarily nurturing handler that is prone to encouragement and positive reinforcement. Depending on the pup, this may be a side of themselves they have been repressing for a substantial portion of their life; unearthing a part of themselves that deeply buried usually takes making someone feel good about it. Regressive pups may need a stern approach, potentially rooted in corporal punishment or timely correction. Since a regressive pup’s motivation is having their identity stripped away, their immediate desires may often be in conflict with the demands of the dynamic, making the need for discipline more prevalent.

I guess what I really wanted to get at is I’ve heard from a lot of pups having trouble finding the sort of play they’re looking for because all they see are expressive pups/handlers - I know a few who have actually left the community over it. While I definitely don’t think the community is engaging in kink-shaming or anything similar for regressive pups, it’s hard to tell people their version of pupping is okay when they don’t see anyone engaging in play the same way that they want to. If you’re a pup who wants this sort of enforced headspace, hang in there: keep having open discussions with handlers and you’ll find one that enjoys the extra rigidity you’re aching for. If you encounter a pup who seems to be interested in this, try to be just as actively supportive as you would for an expressive pup even though you may not see their pup side as often. Most of all - for the love of god - if you see an event that tries to cater to pups who feel this way, keep your mouth shut if it’s not for you: there are more than enough moshes and similar social events. Let the pups who need this structure have it just like they let you have the freedom you enjoy at your mosh.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dedication and Elitism

There are some for whom kink is merely an interest, and others for whom it is a passion. While there is nothing wrong with kink being a low priority, progress is seldom won without people willing to sacrifice their time, energy, and even their enjoyment. A community does not simply happen on its own and without proper nurturing it can - and will - wither.

I cannot adequately state how important community is to kink practices. At its most basic value, it allows vetting of potential play partners by means of reputation; even this most rudimentary of functions is invaluable. More substantially, many kinksters have faced ostracization for their interests and being a part of a community helps dial back those feelings of rejection. This comfort results in an environment conducive to experimenting, which is obviously paramount in kink. Having community also allows people to share experiences, not only to aid growth but to protect others from repeating avoidable mistakes. And while it’s not directly related to kink practices, having community still offers a support network for when things go wrong with real life. Even if having a community only served one of these purposes it would be worth sacrifice; with all of these benefits it’s worth dedication.

Growing and sustaining a community truly does take a lot of work, and demands a wide array of people with varied capabilities. This can be as simple as being willing to help with grunt work for an event, as complicated as having the networking skills necessary to bring new people into the fold, or as easy as just showing up places frequently to show support. Every contribution matters, and every person can contribute in a meaningful way, regardless of their skills: what matters is simply the willingness to do so. One of the things I strive for in my daily life (both professional and personal) is ensuring those around me never feel deliberately excluded. I can have a bit of a hot temper sometimes, but the potential of someone feeling unwelcome just for being themself is something I try to avoid at all costs. When a community welcomes everyone, not only does it grant access to useful resources for individuals, it also ensures the community attracts the talent necessary to sustain. If you turn away people for their flaws, you don’t get to see what they can grow into or what they can bring to the table once they decide to give back. It’s not just that this inclusivity is useful, It’s that it’s the right thing to do.

There has recently been a lot of talk about elitism, specifically within the pup community. These arguments have been around for ages in other communities like leather, but CPP’s membership restructure somehow still seems to be stirring up arguments about what inclusivity looks like. So far as I can tell, there seems to be a misunderstanding where people believe inclusivity means “equal treatment” instead of “equal access.” As I said before, community does not build or sustain itself by magic: it is done through hard work and sacrifice. There is always be work to be done and the community will always need to be nourished, meaning active contributions will always be valued; just as a community can wither from neglect, so can recognition. Any individuals seeking such recognition are welcome to seek out the work, bearing in mind simply showing up to support something is an incredibly valuable contribution. It is both unfair and unreasonable to expect the same treatment as those making active contributions should you be unwilling to contribute, yourself.

As I look at the kink community, I see new people coming in all the time. I see cocky assholes come in and become humbled and respectful. I see awkward kids come in and find friends they mesh with, finally getting comfortable. I see people with anxiety slowly learn to manage it through exposure to controlled situations. A good portion of these people even come into the community lacking a single connection to begin with, and they are still taken in despite their flaws. I could not be prouder to be a part of a community that is inclusive enough to accept those with flaws without hesitation, only to make a concerted effort to help with these flaws. Though “elitism” has some strongly negative connotations, it is not an intrinsically negative thing. When, for instance, “elitism” refers to the caliber of person willing to continually give back to the community as I've described, I cannot bring myself to see that elevated status in a negative light. While there are some circles who seek recognition as its own reward, the kink community is overwhelmingly populated by people for whom kink is a passion and who find value in community. Those who see it as a lifestyle understand how difficult the journey can be, and naturally seek to make that journey easier for others in any way they can. Moreover, they are still happy to use their experience and knowledge to benefit those who may be less passionate.

There are two things that come to mind (other than defensiveness) as I hear these accusations of elitism. First, it is perfectly natural - and ideal - for a group to distinguish between those merely interested in something and those who are passionate about it. It is perfectly fine to not be passionate, just as it is to recognize that a shared interest runs deeper; everyone can’t be passionate about everything, and those who <i>are</i> passionate about something deserve to be able to bond over that deeper level of interest. Second, if you feel as though you are being treated as “lesser” due to a perceived lack of passion, find ways to express that passion. Recognition is not deserved without effort, and a community is not there simply to serve you or stroke your ego. We’re all in this together, and we need everyone to do their fair share; if you’re not passionate enough to help, you’re not passionate enough to need recognition or lament a lack of it.

If you are passionate about kink, be patient and be open: there is a place for you, but we all have to carve a little space for ourselves. Find people who share your particular passion and make something of it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Moving On

This blog is, and always will be, primarily a kink blog. That being said, community is an important part of kink and this year has been inundated with loss for many. I thought hard about whether or not to post this, not wanting to change the tone of the blog again, but I’m hoping that doing so will either bring fond memories of someone who passed or a hopeful thought for a way forward. Feel free to keep scrolling if you’re not in search of either.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Follies of Binary Identities

I’ll be perfectly honest: gender identity confuses the fuck out of me. I’m a cisgendered, homosexual male, so virtually everything about my sexuality is centered around male energy and, of course, male genitalia. While understanding the nuances and struggles that come from being transgendered are well beyond my grasp, there are certain aspects I feel I can relate to. As a homosexual, I can relate to negative responses when an individual becomes aware of my sexual orientation. These reactions, in my personal experience, have ranged from immediately expressing disapproval to explosive anger which can potentially escalate to violence. If you take one thing away from this post remember that, specifically for transwomen, this reveal can not only jeopardize their safety but directly endanger their lives. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Try an ignorant, heterosexual male feeling like someone just deliberately "tricked him into bein a fuckin faggot." However wrong the sentiment may be, the resulting rage can literally be deadly.

So far as I can tell, it seems like where most confusion about gender starts is that sexual attraction tends to be more resultant of physical gender expression as opposed to a person’s sex, despite the composition of the term. For most people attraction can start with someone’s face, their physique, or even their style. Additionally, in most situations where we experience attraction to new people, genitals tend to be an assumption rather than a direct part of the attraction. For a staggeringly large percentage of the population this can be confusing, as the physical manifestation of their attraction (i.e.: sex) necessitates having the appropriate genitals. If all you want is to get fucked, it’s somewhat natural to have trouble being attracted to someone who does not have the biological means to do so.

What’s misunderstood about attraction is that, when it’s allowed to be, it’s absolutely raw; it doesn’t have caveats or qualifiers, it just is. We try to affix reason or draw logical conclusions about it, but if attraction wasn’t raw and unadulterated a heterosexual male could never unknowingly find himself attracted to a convincing drag queen, nor would we have any Kinsey 1’s or 5’s. For most people sexuality is a fairly large part of their identity, and when you feel something directly contrary to how you perceive yourself it can be incredibly unsettling. Homosexuals who didn’t have the good fortune to recognize their orientation very early in life are likely all too familiar with this: that feeling when a guy got your gears turning for the first time. It didn’t fit what we were supposed to do or feel, but it felt good and we wanted to go on the adventure that attraction promised.

The interesting thing that happens with homosexuals is that we find a way to essentially mimic a biological impulse despite our physicality. I don’t particularly lust for penetrative sex but as a whole our brains are still largely programmed for it (give it a few more centuries); in gay dynamics we end up having anal sex to create a receptive partner or lesbians often use implements to allow for a similar means of penetration. What's important to understand here is that, where homosexuality is concerned, we find ways to express attraction despite our bodies sometimes lacking the means to do so in the most conventional way. We have acknowledged that our attraction is not only real and legitimate but acceptable, and we will find ways to express and explore it.

Understanding gender as anything but a binary can be difficult, given that for many people a fluid model does not fit their experience. People are very quick to be impatient with those who can’t grasp the concept but the fact is that, statistically, sex is largely binary and this will instinctively shape one's perception of gender. It is unfair to expect someone to change their view of gender when they may not have met anyone who is intersex or might not even know that such a thing exists. Bear in mind this is by no means condoning mistreatment of trans persons or an unwillingness to learn, simply a call to understand how incredibly counterintuitive nonbinary gender identity is to a large swath of the population. A perceived binary system can only be broken by calling attention to outliers: when you’re talking about a small percentage of the general population, it can take quite some time for someone to experience enough outliers to see a spectrum instead of a dichotomy.

If you find yourself having trouble comprehending how someone can be an outlier to a certain (supposed) binary, substitute one you’re more familiar with. The logistics of how outliers will interact within the system will always be different, but if you can find commonalities it will help unearth some of those nuances. For me, looking at gender through the lens of the ever-so-prevalent Dom vs. sub binary was hugely helpful. By and large there is considerable pressure to align oneself with either identity, to the extent that someone who identifies as primarily Dom may be chastised for submitting to someone who brings out that side in them - this bears similarities to males being taunted for expressing feminine qualities. Within D/s dynamics, I have seen and felt these attractions myself and have witnessed both “100%” Doms and subs switch roles as a result. As a Kinsey 6, it is virtually impossible for me to imagine wanting to have sex with a woman, the same way someone who is exclusively Dom may not be able to imagine what subbing would entail for them. The logistics of how that interaction could play out is simply not something I can even process due to my limited sexual experience with women, which makes it difficult to consider. Despite this, as I think about those 100% Doms/subs I’ve seen switch, I see that they had the strength to pursue their desires despite the confines of others defining their identity. They also likely didn’t understand the logistics involved with the situations they were putting themselves in, and still elected to allow attraction to steer. Finding a connection with someone is beautiful, and when we concern ourselves with what these chance occurrences mean about us we reduce the chances of even being able to feel them in the first place.

Gender is easily the most prevalent, steadfast binary that is present in our culture. Homosexuality vs. heterosexuality is still significant one, but we’ve at least made some progress in carving out space for bisexuals to exist and drive it towards becoming a proper spectrum. Additionally, the stigmatized link between sexuality and behavior has been greatly weakened in recent years; most people are now substantially less shocked when they find someone who presents as masculine while identifying as a homosexual. Unlike sexuality, gender-based assumptions are present in nearly every action we take: from how we walk, to how we sit, to how we eat, to how we express ideas, people have implicit expectations that stem from a person’s perceived gender. It’s reasonable that some might have a difficult time changing how they think about something so immersive, and it begs a modicum of patience as someone unlearns stereotypes that have been imposed upon them as well since before they were born.

As we continue to move forward with gender transitioning from a binary system to something more fluid, there are going to be logistical complications. Some of them will be frustrating, and some will require a great deal of conscious effort but there is no way around this with any form of social change. Currently many people are having issues properly using pronouns because they don’t understand their importance; it’s hard to understand what it’s like to have your identity called into question around every corner when your identity fits within a binary. A tweet recently showed up in my feed that said “Reminder that cis people will apologize for misgendering a dog but not a trans person.” This is indicative of an overwhelming attitude that says “Ugh .. why should I have to work on changing this when it’s your problem?” Essentially, cisgendered persons are less likely to be or be impacted by misgendering, making it incredibly selfish to tell someone that they aren’t worth the energy it takes to be more considerate simply because direct benefit is not seen.

It’s worth noting that gender isn’t the only binary that can be harmful to an individual’s mental health. We, as humans, want to see patterns and make sense of things; there’s a reason some of us see Jesus in slices of toast. When we instinctively create binaries to suit this need they tend to be imbalanced which can lead to a number of faulty assumptions. Even without one half being elevated, a binary system tells people that picking a side and towing that line is more important than doing what they feel is right for themselves. This doesn't just apply to sex, it can apply to politics, economics, platonic relationships, etc: binaries directly oppose autonomy, and this limits our ability to have unique ideas or expressions. If you are cisgendered and want to look at this a completely selfish way, breaking the gender binary can have long-term benefits for you. Our culture is presently weighted to see things in binaries, and as any individual continues to see more and more how flawed these systems of classification are, it becomes more natural and intuitive to avoid them in the future. To put it more succinctly: this isn’t just about gender, it’s about empowering individuals to be themselves which benefits everyone.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, and these narrow-minded systems are causing harm. Even with sexuality shifting towards more of a spectrum than a binary, homosexuals are still between 2-4 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. For transpersons this rate is closer to 15 times, which amounts to a 41% attempted suicide rate. It’s easy to simplify this and look at the worst-case scenario, but for every person attempting suicide there are several others just struggling with something as simple as trying to be happy. Whether it’s bottom-shaming, using the wrong pronoun, or judging a friend for switching roles, these actions cause very real harm. With a little bit of conscious effort, you can stop yourself before trying to box someone into a binary. This isn’t some pie in the sky perfect world ideology, it’s something you can do in your daily life that will make a significant difference to those you surround yourself with. When it comes to respecting others’ willingness to be outliers in a binary system, a little respect can go a very long way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pup Play Photos

So naturally pup play's been on the mind a lot lately. I figured if I'm going to yammer on incessantly, the best I could do is share some pictures instead. After this, headed to hypno. O;-)





Monday, October 17, 2016

Kink and Anxiety

In a call for people to be more conscious of what they can do to help their communities I recently said that it takes nothing but your time to show support for something or someone. While I stand by this as a general rule it is certainly not absolute: specifically for those with anxiety issues it can take a great deal more than just your time. When you have anxiety, showing support can become a constant battle between the stress certain situations cause you and the desire you have to help those you care about. Being spread too thin can be stressful for anyone, but the difference is that anxiety can be triggered in regard to specific, isolated events and cannot always be mitigated by carving out more time for yourself.

My own personal anxiety is something I’ve alluded to here a number of times (and struggled with for years), but I want to put a face on the severity of its impact for those who can't relate. I’ve been involved in the kink community over a decade now; it’s not just a pastime for me, it really is a lifestyle I embrace fully. I honestly can't remember the last time I went more than a week or two without attending a group’s bar night or a play party or attended a contest/event. Even with that amount of experience and exposure, anxiety can still immobilize me to the point where I literally can't participate. A few months ago a local group was hosting a game night at a member's house, someplace I’d never been. There were a lot of variables which were triggering my anxiety badly, but I managed to force myself to get in the car and drive over. Once I parked, I sat in the car for at least 10 minutes trying to will myself to get out and walk up to their house, fighting the urge to start my car, drive home, and make up something to apologize later. The desire to show support eventually won out, but sometimes it doesn't and I flake on things or people I care about. If anxiety can cripple someone with my level of experience, it can keep someone with less experience from even taking that first step. For some people, they may not only never make it to the car, they may not even be able to convince themselves they're allowed or welcome to attend a social gathering.

The kink community has always been very dear to me, from the very first time I set foot at an event. The friendships and relationships are so strong and open that I often find non-kinky people who are unable to believe that it is even possible for people to be that close and loving. The most prevailing theory as to why kinksters have such healthy relationships seems to be that kink requires a greater degree of self-awareness, helping build more solid and trustful dynamics. While this is certainly true, I don't think it is what makes the kink community so special; there are plenty of communities with a similar mindfulness. What I think makes the kink community so special is that it celebrates that there are parts of yourself that you cannot develop or even access without others. Whether it’s a headspace, an act, or a lifestyle dynamic, the activities overwhelmingly necessitate sharing experiences with others and developing the communication skills necessary to make those endeavors possible. Without this, most people will never understand those early twinges and pangs that so many of us look back on knowingly.

When I look at the community and those coming in to it, I see anxiety far too often. Sometimes it may stem from something as serious as a pathological chemical imbalance, other times it may just be an implicit distrustfulness from years of bullying or other such distress. Whatever the cause, these things tend make a person feel the need to suppress themselves for fear of rejection or ridicule, which can serve as a tremendous source of anxiety. When there are parts of yourself that you are deeply programmed to be ashamed of, other people accepting those parts can almost feel like you’re being gaslighted; you feel crazy for believing the ridicule is gone, like it’s just lurking around another corner. Sometimes you’re afraid to turn that corner, to have that new experience, so anxiety gets the best of you and you stay put where it’s quiet and safe. On bad days, it can feel like the very notion you could be accepted for who you are is downright insane.

As I stated before, most of kink simply cannot be learned alone despite how deeply ingrained kinky tendencies may be in some. You don’t have to try very hard to find someone who can, in retrospect, see that their interests impacted their behavior years (or decades) before understanding these impulses. We aren’t talking about a hobby or a trade, we’re talking about someone being unable to explore parts of themselves if they cannot gain access to the proper resources. This creates a unique obligation for our community to look out for those who are starting to learn; if we aren’t able to recognize when people are having a hard time finding circumstances in which they feel comfortable with these parts of themselves, they’re apt to disappear from the community.

One of my favorite annual events is CLAW, largely because of how focused on community-building it is. Every year that I’ve had the privilege of attending their amazing brunch, there’s been at least a 2-3 minute spiel on the difference it can make just to introduce yourself to a newbie during your weekend. It’s an amazing, simple, and impactful concept that makes a huge difference when adapted by a community. The next time you’re at a social gathering and see someone not really mingling, keep in mind how hard it may have been just for them to show up: do everything you can to make them feel welcome. Of course be respectful if they want to be left alone, but an introduction rarely hurts and lets you gauge their level of desired involvement. If individual conversation with strangers is difficult for you (or you simply can't find common ground), try introducing them to your circle of friends while you get a drink or use the restroom. There’s always a small risk that it may lead to some awkward moments, but there’s also a very good chance you’re helping someone get a foot in the door to make connections that will help them understand themself better. You don’t have to like every person you meet, but giving every willing and well-intentioned person you meet access to your community means they can eventually always have someone to help them grow, even if you can't at the time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day

It’s National Coming Out Day, the only holiday I can think of that celebrates sex without actually sexualizing individuals.

Unlike most people, I never had a proper coming out story. I knew I was gay by the time kids were talking about sex, so there wasn’t really much a period where I felt the need to hide my orientation. I was bullied for a short while before realizing it myself, but due to moving frequently I never had to redefine myself by coming out. With family there was never a cathartic “Guys, I’m gay,” just a quiet understanding born from repeated, careless failures to clear browser history. The closest experience I’ve had to coming out is recently acknowledging my pup side, and that is definitely not a fair parallel to draw.

I’m a gay, poly-minded man who’s a bondage freak, gear enthusiast, sadist, and pup. The greatest source of privilege I have does not stem from my race or my gender, but the overwhelming warmth and acceptance I have chanced into, continually, in finding people who do not judge me for those aspects of my identity. I cannot fathom what it would be like to live without that warmth - lacking the support to do something as simple as being yourself - so I surely lack understanding of the struggles encountered by those not yet out.

It takes strength to be yourself in a culture that celebrates conformity, a strength I try to instill in every person I meet by showing them their aberrance is not only acceptable but should be celebrated. Coming out isn’t just about sexual orientation: it’s about unapologetically being your whole self, whatever that might be. The more of yourself you allow to be seen, the more you find people in dire need of validation that will allow them to stop suppressing parts of themselves. The more you open up, the more you find out there are people who feel just like you. For every person willing to be a new data point in the examples that lead to bias, the more difficult it becomes to believe a stereotype and the less likely people are to see stigma in labels. The less afraid of labels people are, the more intuitively they understand that attributing stigma to a label is inherently flawed and wrong.

I would never judge or demean someone who is unable to come out or isn’t yet ready to, but it is important to remember that there is more to this equation than controlling one’s own image. The more reluctant you are to share something about yourself, the greater the need is for you to do just that. If we can’t show people we’re comfortable with ourselves, how can we expect them to be comfortable with us?

That being said, if there’s something that you have trouble admitting, today is the best possible opportunity to make it public. Come on in: the water’s fine and you’re fucking amazing! And no, I won't apologize for the mixed metaphor.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sci-Fur Artwork

I don't fancy myself a fur, but it's definitely a community I enjoy being around. They have an absurd amount of amazing artists within their community, and I love some of the ideas they express through their art. Some of the art they put out is just pervy antrho pieces of fursonas fucking, but every once in a while I'll stumble across some work that get me harder than a photo of a human restrained ever will. Unfortunately my collection is rather small since I'm incredibly unorganized, and I'd definitely welcome any additions similar to these to my collection.