Friday, March 25, 2011

The Space Between "No" and "Yes"

On my earlier post, Roadmaps of Consent, aj, asked this:

One big thing your article brought for me was a heightened awareness that "Consent" is not a one-way street -- asking requires that someone provide response. Sometimes when there is no response, or when the response is unclear, I assume consent is not present. This is the safest way to approach that. Would you mind providing more of your own insights about this??
This has actually been on my mind for some time. Good consent does go both ways. I've done things with people who wouldn't or couldn't be clear about consent, and I generally regret it.

A small clarification before I go further: in a BDSM context, "consent" is not always identical to "wanting." Some of my girl's fantasies are driven by me doing things to her that she doesn't want. She can enjoy something after the fact, and want it to happen again, but not want it in the moment. It's a masochist's dilemma. Pain is aversive, and if you get into heavy pain play, there will be a part of you that says, "ow, that hurts, make it stop!" It's just that the part that says "Yes! More! Good!" is bigger. I would never set out to do something to my girl that she hadn't consented to, but both of us enjoy it when I occasionally do things that she doesn't want.

The other side of this: people who want something but won't say "yes" when you ask about it. These are people who don't trust their own desires, who want sex or BDSM or whatever without the negotiation. At the very least, I'm nervous doing things with these people. If a person can't say "Yes, I consent," to something, how can I trust them to tell me if something goes wrong? Maybe I unexpectedly hit an emotional trigger, or maybe I'm poking her clit too hard, or maybe a rope slipped and is pressing on a nerve. I'd feel bad if something like this happened and I didn't notice and fix it. Yes, I'm a sadist, but I also like to be in control. If you're going to be in pain, I want it to be precisely the kind of pain I choose. How else can I make sure that it's a safe and rewarding experience for everyone?

Some of these people as unskilled communicators. I'm sympathetic to them. Or society shames people who communicate openly about their sexual needs and desires. If I'm going to play (even lightly) with someone who has a hard time saying yes, I spend a lot of time emphasizing, "You can say no whenever you want, and I'll stop, and we can watch a movie instead! No hard feeling at all." I also try to praise and reward them when they bring up things they'd like to do, or if they explicitly say yes when I suggest something.

People who won't own their desires are more complicated.

Again, I'm sympathetic here. Most people are taught that they shouldn't have desires, or at least desires outside of the norm. A deliberate refusal to engage in consent-based negotiation is often a form of self-protection. It gives people a way to get their sexual needs met without having to admit to their desires. I see the appeal.

That said, if you can't admit that you want it, I'm not going to give it to you. I have to protect myself, too, and consent, open, explicit, you-can-take-it-away-at-any-time-but-you-can't-deny-that-you-gave-it consent, it protects me. "I didn't like it" and "I didn't consent to it" are really different things, and situations in which the two can be confused are extraordinarily problematic for everyone involved.

So I don't do it. Unless we have a really good working, consensual sexual relationship, where I can trust you to say no, you have to say yes.

"Yes" is sexy, too. For the sadist in me the most delicious consent comes when I have a whip held over some sensitive part of her, and I ask her to tell me that she wants it. I like being able to watch fear and desire fight behind her eyes before she gasps out, "Yes."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

237 Reasons

Charlie Glickman has excellent post about a recent NY Times opinion piece, Why Monogamy Matters. It's thoughtful, well-reasoned, and just happens to link to one of my favorite comic strips ever. What caught my eye, however, was a little aside that David Buss, from the University of Texas, had surveyed college students and come up with 237 reasons why they might want to have sex. Charlie Glickman links to the paper, which lists more than 140 of those reasons, as well as research on which reasons are more and less common. They have everything from "I wanted to experience the physical pleasure" to "I was curious about my sexual abilities" to "I wanted to end the relationship."

Aren't humans wonderful?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sexual Health, Planned Parenthood, and other stories

I've been sick, lately. I'm blessed with good health insurance, and a lifestyle that will allow me to take a week off to let the fever go down and my lungs clear up. I'm fortunate. I try to remember this.

I've made a few trips up to Planned Parenthood lately to get STD testing done and reproductive health things dealt with. This is what I saw. And if you haven't been paying attention, this is what the government might defund.
  • In between "Male" and "Female" on the "gender" form on their admissions questionnaires, they had "Female-to-male" and "Male-to-female." There may have been an "other" box as well. I love this - not so much because it respects gender-variant identities, but because people whose genitals might not look the way you'd expect don't have to choose between checking a patently wrong box to get their reproductive health needs met and potentially facing trans prejudice because their genitals don't look the way the nurses think they should. Also, trans people have different needs for reproductive health and sexual health care than cisgendered people. Being able to start the conversation by checking a preexisting box significantly cuts down on the awkwardness and possible danger. The organization is saying on its forms, not some out of the way corner of a website that you have to search to find, that they are trans-friendly. The staff need a certain amount of training in trans issues simply to interpret that information.
  • The only other Planned Parenthood I've been to was a full-service clinic in Manhattan, complete with bulletproof glass and metal detectors. The particular branch I went to last week doesn't do abortions (they'll refer you to the PP 20 minutes away) and so doesn't have the high security. Apparently people occasionally protest outside--because birth control and affordable pap smears are wrong!--but this place could have been a dentist's office. 
  • The requisite doctor's office question: "Check here if you are being hurt, hit, or made to feel afraid." My friend was so amused by this that he had to point it out to me. Kitten did the same thing. Neither of them checked the box. 
  • It's on paper, folks. My method of birth control is officially "lesbianism," but only because "I don't let men put their penises inside of me" didn't fit in the blank space.
  • I had Kitten come with me into the nurse's office, fearing that they would need to take a cervical swab. I'm 24, have never had a pap smear, and have serious issues with people doing things in my vagina, so I needed a hand to hold. My friend was informed that if Kitten and I were checked out at the same time, he would have to do it. I could tell that he didn't want to, but he's a good friend who loves me enough to put up with it. As it turned out, they just needed urine and blood, but Kitten came in with me for the first part anyways.
  • I am apparently incapable of answering the question, "Have you ever had sex with a man?" without help. After I flailed for a minute or two, Kitten told the nurse that I'd never had vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a man. I almost contradicted her on the anal part, but what I do to boys with fingers and dildos really wasn't relevant to that part of the exam. 
  • The nurse took a minute to check in with me after Kitten had left the room, to make sure there wasn't anything I needed to talk about that I couldn't say with my partner in the room. She was so delicate that I almost didn't realize she was doing it. It's good practice, though.
 I'm late to the table, here, but there's still time to make your voice heard. This is something worth protecting.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    e[Lust] #23

    I'm thrilled that my post, Roadmaps of Consent, was chosen as one of this edition's top three posts. I've been happily reading through the posts, and there's some wonderful stuff in here. --Cat

    Welcome to e[lust] - Your source for sexual intelligence and inspirations of lust from the smartest & sexiest bloggers! Whether you’re looking for hot steamy smut, thought-provoking opinions or expert information, you’re going to find it here. Want to be included in e[lust] #24? Start with the rules, check out the schedule and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

    ~ This Week’s Top Three Posts ~

    Roadmaps of Consent - I fucking love consent. I love safewords. I can be much more cruel, and push much harder, if I trust my partner to tell me when I go too far.

    Staying Safe - One cock, from one man, missing one condom, ultimately led to my brother’s death. And that sucks.

    Flying the Friendly Skies - One button on her sweater was undone, there was a rip in her hose, scratches on her boots, and her hair was carelessly pinned back with stray wisps of hair escaping. There was a curious flavor of soiling about her, something a bit dirty and unkempt.

    ~ Featured Post (Lilly’s Pick) ~

    Labels and my thoughts... - In the past year and a half I have gone from being someone that was lost, without identity that fit, rattling around inside myself to someone that has names for what they are.

    ~ e[lust] Editress: Dangerous Lilly

    See also: Pleasurists #116 and #117 for all your sex toy review needs

    All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

    Kink & Fetish

    5 Kinky Toys from the Dollar Store

    Alive in my Skin


    Digitalized for Posterity


    He ripped a string of orgasms from me, and then ramped it up

    Manual Dexterity

    Nadia's Surprise

    Orgasms, Spoons Rests, and Fishnets! (The Play Party)

    Punishment, humiliation and bondage

    Schoolgirl in Saturday Detention

    Steeling The Show

    Water torture

    Erotic Writing

    A Little Night Music

    Afternoon darkness

    Crisp White Linens

    dancing with (& then kinkily fucking) the dj

    In the Mirror


    Morning Sex

    My First Anal Sex

    September 1935


    Schoolgirl Part 1

    Teenage Bukkake


    You're Gonna Keep My Soul

    Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

    A Doggie Kind of Love

    Ashamed?! Are You Kidding Me?

    Giggles, Groans and Panting

    I Can Imagine How You Feel

    Sex As Love

    6 Moves Men Need to Be Sex Gods in the Bedroom

    Terminology Fundamentalism

    The COME HITHER QUIVER -or- How To Squirt

    This Love

    What I Want

    Sex News, Interviews, Politics & Humor

    Kink Network Announces the Opening of Their Adult Blog Host

    Porn, degradation, and Khan Tusion

    Women With Two Vaginas

    Kink, virginity and big-tittied whores

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Seven Sins: Envy

    Day 1 - Pride: seven great things about yourself
    Day 2 - Envy: seven things you lack and covet
    Day 3 - Wrath: seven things that piss you off
    Day 4 - Sloth: seven things you neglect to do
    Day 5 - Greed: seven worldly material desires
    Day 6 - Gluttony: seven guilty pleasures
    Day 7 - Lust: seven sex secrets

    I came back from the Fetish Flea in Providence this weekend, so this is an easy list. I still remember how most of this stuff felt in my hands....

    Hame Handle Flogger from Toolworks Chicago. This picture off their website really doesn't do it justice. The handle is a style that I see a lot in non-traditional floggers these days - it's originally a piece of horse tack. The floggers from Toolworks Chicago has decadently thick, spongy leather and great balance.

    Matching wrist and ankle cuffs from Leather By Danny. I have an eye for good leather, and Danny had some of the nicest looking gear at the Flea. Also, he's a serious contributor to the local community, and did a very nice demo of one of his newer creations for us. Kitten bought a small slapper from him, and I will talk more about him and his work when I write a proper review of it.

    Aluminum Paddle, also from Toolworks Chicago. I don't have my heart set on any one in particular. They're so pretty, and I bet they'd be agonizing. They look like knives that you can hit people with, and I'm enough of a weapons fetishist to really go for that.

    Egyptian flogger, possibly from DeTails Toys. I saw a number of things in this style at the Flea, and I want one. It seems much easier to control than a full-sized flogger, with no loss of intensity. Also, it's different, and I like different.

    A butt plug. I'm especially fond of Severin - I gave one to the Doctor back in the day and he rather appreciated. I have a few anal toys, but nothing that stays in as well as I'd like.

    I love anal play, and I rather like the idea of taking Kitten out in public with something in her butt.
    A Liberator Axis Hitachi. I masturbate with a Hitachi while lying on my stomach, often with pillows propped up under my hips. This thing was designed for people like me.

    A Gates of Hell toy. I like playing with people who have cocks. Specifically, I like to hurt, tease, trap, and frustrate people with cocks. I have a few rings and such, but this would be fun. And Kitten - who loves cock in a way I never will - likes the idea of cock cages.

    I have to to take care of my girl, don't I?

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Review: 5 Inch Round Lexan Paddle, 1/4"

    I bought this paddle from Hanson Paddle Werks a couple years ago, on the advice of an acquaintance. They serve a fairly niche market, but from what I've heard before and since, they are very reliable, and the quality of their products is uniformly top-notch.
    Clear paddles are tough to photograph.
    From what I recall, ordering this paddle was a fairly painless process. They ship orders in plain packaging from Hilldale Sales LLC. Nothing fancy, from what I recall, just a brown box, some packing material, and my paddle. Also, although I believe that they cut their lexan paddles to order, it came quickly.

    Material: Lexan, or polycarbonate, is clear, lightweight, and durable. Unlike cheaper acrylic, which may look similar, Lexan is nearly shatterproof. (They make bulletproof glass and motorcycle helmets with this stuff. This makes me happier than perhaps it ought to.) At this thickness, it has about the same degree of flex that you'd expect from a piece of plywood, although it won't snap the way plywood can.

    This paddle is well-made, with a professional, even shape. The edges of the paddle don't look beveled or sanded, but they aren't sharp. The handle is reasonably comfortable to grasp, and doesn't dig into the hand.

    This toy is loud, louder than I would expect. I've heard that this is true of Lexan as a material. It's not gunshot-loud, but it's noticeable louder than wood. I don't know that this is necessarily a downside, though, because paddles are loud regardless. (You want quiet and painful? Try a cane.) In certain circumstances, the extra intimidation factor could be quite powerful.

    Lexan is interesting because it stings more than a similar wooden toy would, but has a bit less thud and tends to bruise less. I rarely use it without a warmup, but even with one, it can usually make someone squirm in pretty short order. Unlike heavier toys, however, it will gradually numb the skin. This takes quite a while, but I've had it happen a few times.

    This is the first dedicated S&M toy I ever bought, and I still use it regularly. That said, I don't actually recommend it as a first toy unless you're well beyond the hand spanking phase. It can be a fairly intense toy.  If you're ready for something serious, however, one of these paddles is a great addition to and spanking/impact toy collection.

    (I didn't receive any sort of compensation for this review.)

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Seven Sins - Pride

    I saw this posted in a few places and thought that it might be interesting. I've replaced "seven love secrets" with "seven sex secrets." This isn't Cosmo, and I don't have the patience to be coy.

    Day 1 - Pride: seven great things about yourself
    Day 2 - Envy: seven things you lack and covet
    Day 3 - Wrath: seven things that piss you off
    Day 4 - Sloth: seven things you neglect to do
    Day 5 - Greed: seven worldly material desires
    Day 6 - Gluttony: seven guilty pleasures
    Day 7 - Lust: seven sex secrets

    1) I'm smart. I'm very good at engaging with complicated, abstract issues, and I can be verbally adept when the mood strikes me.

    2) I'm good at touch. I don't even mean sexual touch, necessarily. I'm good at cuddling, hugging, communicating and sharing intimacy through physical contact.

    3) I'm charmingly awkward. This is big for me because I've always been awkward, and probably always will be, but translating it into something that makes me approachable and likable has been tough.

    4) I see others as people. Kitten actually claims that this is why I have so much luck with conventionally pretty 18-21 year old girls - everyone else is looking at them like objects or pieces of meat. I guess it's a question of priorities. I love boobs as much as many people who are attracted to women, but her interest in Cthulhu and crossword puzzles is much more interesting.

    5) People trust me. Maybe this is related to #4? Surprisingly often, the time when I move from "acquaintance" to "friend" with people is when they tell me the secret that only their best friends and long-term significant others know. Whatever it is, I'm honored to have been confided in by so many people.

    6) I get things done. I don't let important things slide, particularly not when other people are counting on me.

    7) I don't need approval from others. Do I need to explain this? I'm me. Take me as I am or move on.