I had the good fortune to be able to attend KinkyCon X in New Hampshire this past weekend. By my count, this was my 9th major kink convention, with 8 of those occurring in the past two years. I’m getting pretty adept at kinky conventions. I know what to pack. I know what food and beverages to bring. I know that I need the day after a weekend-long con off work to recover and ease my re-entry into vanilla-land. KinkyCon, being on the smaller side (~600 attendees), meant I knew somewhere between 40-50% of the people there and a good number of the presenters. I was a little worried I wouldn’t find a lot of classes to attend that were both new to me and in my wheelhouse. Thankfully, I need not have worried!
At this convention, I was accompanied by my newest partner, Hobbes. As I’ve written before, he’s new to D/s and new to a lot of kink. This was his first kink convention he’d participated in (despite being an assistant photographer for a runway show at a Fetish Flea several years ago). I remember how overwhelming the world of kink and a weekend long kink convention can be when you’re new to such things. So I was careful to prep him on the drive up and check in with him frequently throughout the weekend. We attend six different classes and he attended the BDSM sampler on Friday night as well. He enjoyed every single class and everything he saw and experienced. He has a lot to process, still, but literally everything resonated with him. He got to learn how to tie a few ties, and be tied up more (which he loves). He got to be “whipped” by a bandana and twine whip (that one was completely new to me!). He learned how to bootblack and later got his own shoes bootblacked. He learned more about different dynamics and approaches to touch – from head to toe (literally). He got to experience the feeling of melted soy wax on his skin. He got to observe a wide variety of people pursuing their own paths of kink and power-exchange. He even got to see a scene that resulted in the bottom getting injured, due to an error made by the top. Thankfully, the bottom was OK, but it was an opportunity to talk about the risks and mitigating such risks in what we do.
Before he met me there was a lot he didn’t know about himself – including the fact that he enjoys pain (at least, pain inflicted by me). A lot. I’ve never been able to really let my sadistic side have free reign – partners’ limits and tolerances always fell short of any potential limits of my sadism. But with Hobbes…I’ve gone further in inflicting pain than ever before and I don’t think I’ve come CLOSE to finding his limit. This is going to be a fun ride!
KinkyCon was a fantastic opportunity to try out different impact implements (we won’t mention how much was spent in the vending area…ahem…). As I’m a reaction junkie at my core, his responses to my sadism (the boy giggles when in pain!), his utter trust in me and willingness to suffer for me, brought out something of a primal side in me Saturday night. It was a very private (in our hotel room), scene – one of the most intense I’ve ever had. I won’t go into details, but I think that scene ramped up our relationship significantly. The bonding that it allowed was sublime – we’re more in sync than we’d been in previously. The conversations we are continuing to have since that scene tell me we are both very much on the same page.
I’ve tried to take it slow with Hobbes. I really have. I’m insistent on frequent communication and making explicit to him what I’m doing and why as the relationship progresses. It’s an absolute joy to watch him blossom and grow into his kinks and his submission. He is really finding his place and I’m absolutely loving the path he and I are on. In the past, I’ve connected on a few fronts with D/s partners, but for a variety of reasons, I’ve never been able to pursue the full-on type of D/s relationship I crave. Don’t get me wrong – my D/s relationships have been (and are) satisfying and good, but with Hobbes, the stars seem to be aligning in ways I didn’t dare hope for before.
So all in all, a great Con. A perfect little bubble of kink and D/s that I refused to let talk of politics penetrate. A much needed respite from the frightening and depressing political landscape and a wonderful chance to further my D/s journey with a fantastic partner.
Today was a stressful day at work. Nothing bad, but it’s a crazy, hectic week for my entire department and I had to deliver a professional development webinar in the middle of it all today. I also had a ton of grading to complete which was adding to my stress level, as having unfinished things piling up makes me incredibly stressed and tense. I attempted to alleviate this by heading to a local coffee shop with my laptop after work. I texted Hobbes (my newest boy, who continues to surprise and delight) whose bus was just arriving about a mile away from where I was. I offered to pick him and drop him off at his house on my way home.
Mostly I just wanted to kiss him and see his goofy grin again.
We were about three blocks from his house when we saw the best taco truck in all of Providence. Just beyond it we noticed what looked like a little art festival. A quick trip around the block for a parking spot and we were off and exploring. We discovered some cute little stalls offering everything from Tarot readings to funky jewelry to kitchy art made from license plates. Beyond the handful of artist stalls we entered the funkiest, most random, meandering flea market/artist village. The rooms just kept unfolding, leading us deeper and deeper into the building. Each room was more eclectic than the last – we got lost in all of the goofy, amazing oddities, the original art, the reclaimed treasures of the past, and the vintage clothing.
We eventually made our way back outside, past the toddlers running in circles around the folk-singer, and up toward the violinist near the taco truck. After making our purchase, we noticed a beat up van with its side door open and a sign that said, “photo booth”.
Photo booth van? Photo booth van.
Five minutes and five dollars later, we were each clutching identical strips of four photos of us being in turns sweet, pleasant, and goofy.
Our laughter came easily and we were just comfortable with each other in the moment.
It’s been a long time since I did something spontaneous, and I’ve never been with anyone who thought a photo booth was fun and worth the $.
I didn’t notice quite when my stress melted away. But by the time I was home, it was utterly gone.
One thing I explain to potential submissive partners is that what I need is someone who makes my life easier and that paradoxically, I’m horrible about asking for help. I need someone who recognizes what I need and offers it naturally.
It was a mutual decision to explore the little pop-up art festival tonight. But his willingness to go along and genuine enjoyment was exactly what I needed. We were in sync and happy.
It was utterly spontaneous.
And just what I needed.
He’s a keeper.
A week ago, Sinclair Sexmith, a blogger, writer, educator, and all-round awesome person asked me to co-moderate a live, one-hour webinar called “Ask a Dominant Anything”. It was a lot of fun, with around 50 folks logged in for the session. Sinclair had to leave early, so I tried to answer as many as I could before the end of the hour. I didn’t get to quite all of the questions submitted, and folks asked if I’d address some of those here. I think I actually answered MOST of the ones I’m qualified to answer (there was one specifically about identifying as genderqueer and butch, which applies to Sinclair, but not me). However, I think a few of them deserved a bit more thought. Some of these I actually did answer during the webinar, but I wanted to elaborate more and try to be more coherent in my answers.
I’m actually going to the first three questions together, because the core of my answer is the same.
Disclaimer – I am NOT a trained counselor. The advice here is my own and may or may not be appropriate for your situation. If you are truly struggling in your relationship, please seek a qualified counselor or therapist in your area. The best resource I know for finding a kink-aware professional is the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.
The first three questions asked:
1. I know as a submissive what I do to encourage/provoke dominance in my partner. What do you do specifically as a Dominant to encourage submission in your partner?
2. Tips for asking for more play without your longtime top taking it personally that there hasn’t been enough.
3. Suggestions for introducing protocol into a play dynamic that has mostly been laid back versus structured?
What struck me about all three of these questions, is that the folks asking them are not happy with some aspect of their current relationship. And as common as that is, I think it’s a bit sad. The ultimate truth is that D/s relationships benefit from the same advice couples counselors dish out to more traditional relationships:
- Communicate your needs
- Be open to your partner’s needs
- Trust each other
- Be honest
- Make time for the relationship
I’m the first to admit those are not always easy to maintain in the face of life – kids, work, bills, chores, aging parents, illnesses and injuries, financial setbacks, etc… However, they’re essential for a long-lasting, healthy relationship. A consensual, power-imbalanced relationship adds an additional level of challenge to communicating one’s needs for the submissive, however. (Note – I am using submissive as an umbrella term that also includes slave/pet/property/etc…) It can be really difficult to tell your dominant (again – umbrella term) that what they’re doing isn’t quite enough, or right. I’ve heard submissives say they were afraid of the reaction of their dominant. I’ve heard submissives say they don’t know how to bring something up without feeling like they are “topping from the bottom” or “challenging” the dominant’s instructions or protocols.
It can also, believe it or not, be really difficult to tell your submissive partner that what they’re doing isn’t enough or right (see question 1). Seriously. Some dominants feel that submission is a gift – and how do you politely tell someone you care about you aren’t that keen on what they gave you? Other folks don’t see submission as a gift, but they do try to accept their partner as they are – and it can be a challenge to say, “how you’re expressing who you are isn’t quite cutting it for me”.
Here’s the secret: It doesn’t have to be confrontational in nature. Really.
One way of thinking about it is to phrase your concern or request in a way that is deferential. This means respecting your partner and understanding that when any of us hear criticism, our first instinct is often to become defensive. So you can soften the blow, in a way. You can use “I statements”: “I get frustrated when there is no play for more than a week.” vs. “You never want to play anymore!”
Another fantastic tip I learned from an awesome (and adorable) Boston-area D/s couple is to focus on the THING that is the problem and not the PERSON. Ask each other – is this THING (kink, protocol, etc…) serving the relationship? By doing this, you shift the focus from one of blame (there’s usually plenty of that to go around anyway) to one of problem solving. It also immediately puts both (or all) partners on the same team with the same focus – the continued success of the relationship.
One way I try to address questions such as the ones above in my own relationships, is to create space in the relationship for them. By this I mean, I deliberately create a space, a time, a safe place to discuss the “State of the Relationship”. I call these conversations “Relationship Check-ins” and they allow each partner to verbalize what’s working and what needs adjusting. They tend to happen more frequently in the beginning of a relationship (say once a month) and taper off as issues get ironed out. I set up the rules for this early on – and make it clear that either partner is equally able to request a Relationship Check-in. Once one is requested, a mutually agreed upon time and place is determined. I try to have these in a neutral location (the living room, not the bedroom, for example) and at a neutral time (Sunday afternoon at 2:00, not 11:00 pm in bed). It’s important that both partners be calm and distraction-free so that you both can focus on the conversation. I find it helpful to hold hands and make eye contact – I really want to make sure we stay connected, even while discussing things that might be difficult. I never skip the “What’s working for you?” portion of the conversation, either – it’s important to acknowledge the good stuff. I also make sure (especially early on) to schedule Relationship Check-ins when everything is going swimmingly. This sets up the expectation that these are not threatening conversations, they are just good conversations that make the relationship stronger. That way (hopefully) no one dreads them when things may be more tense.
Does this always work perfectly? Heck no. But it works pretty well most of the time. So what do you do if you don’t currently have a space in your relationship for such a conversation? Find a neutral time and place and ASK for one. Feel free to point your partner to this post if you think it might help.
Two more questions that were asked:
4. How do you transfer mindset from kids and work to play kink etc… with your partner?
5. I’m a submissive with disability (chronic pain and fatigue) and PTSD – my Dominant, indeed most of my chosen family, also deal with varied disability and MH issues. As a Dominant and part of a community that includes many people like us, do you or have you explored keeping D/s healthy when disability and MH are involved?
I think that my answer here could also apply to questions 1 and 3 above and both of these questions here can be answered in part by my answers above.
The simple answer is, PROTOCOLS and RITUALS. Of course, it’s not really that simple, is it?
As a single parent of an adolescent, I maintained a 3.5 year relationship with a lovely submissive. He didn’t live with us, and both our families saw us very normal “boyfriend and girlfriend”. (I’m still great friends with him today, nearly five years later.) Being a parent and maintaining a household while also trying to maintain a power-imbalanced relationship can be a real challenge. One thing I had to do was adjust my expectations. There was no way that relationship, for example, was going to be a fantasy, 24/7, naked-sub-attending-to-my-every-need sort of relationship. Play that occurred if my kid was asleep in the next room had to be on the quieter side – no screaming flogger scenes. Play didn’t happen as often as it would have if I didn’t have a child at home. For most parents, this is a temporary situation (even if temporary means more than 10 years). Eventually, your circumstances will change and you’ll be able to do more.
However, making the transition from “parent mode” or “employee mode” or even “boss mode” (especially if you’re a submissive) to “D/s mode” can be a challenge for anyone at any time.
If you’re dealing with a chronic condition (be it mental health or physical constraints), your situation may NOT change. The answer here is still “modify your expectations to be more in line with your present reality”. If the chronic condition is intermittent in nature, you can agree to “ride out” the worst periods and fully re-engage in D/s when things are a bit better.
This is where having protocols and rituals that signal that transition become essential for me. I’ll often allow a submissive to vent about his day at work for a bit and then tell him to go strip and bring me his collar. Him being naked, and me placing a collar around his neck signal to both of us that it’s now time for the dynamic to take a more central role. Each couple (or polycule) needs to find the protocols and rituals that work for them (what a great topic for a Relationship Check-in!). Rituals and protocols help me be “more dominant” as question number 1 asks. It’s all too easy for me to allow my chronic pain and work stress to take over my mindset. Seeing a submissive naked, on his knees, presenting his collar to me is almost always enough to bring me back into the right mindset – to sharpen my focus on him and on “us” again.
One couple I know (he’s an author of Master/slave books and they are both educators in the kink community), have a ritual that is far more elaborate and in-depth than any I’ve heard of. When she arrives home from work, they talk about their day while sorting through the mail, paying bills, catching up, etc… When it’s time for dinner, they both DRESS for dinner. In the way people did a century ago – formal dinner attire. This changing of clothes is a signifier to both of them that their relationship is a serious thing. He then serves her dinner and they follow their own protocols. At a certain time (if memory serves, it’s 7:00 p.m.), the television is turned off, and no other “outside” conversation is allowed. No cell phones. No computer. No talking about their day anymore. Their entire focus is on each other and their dynamic.
Now, as I mentioned – that’s a bit too much for me, but for them it works beautifully. They’ve been together for decades and are a wonderful couple to observe with each other.
The lesson I took from their approach is to set aside relationship time. It’s similar to what many “vanilla” couples do – schedule “date night” once a week. Your relationship time might only be one night a week, when the kids are at the grandparents. Or it may be dictated by the rhythms of MS or CFS. What’s important is to honor that time and by so doing, honor your dynamic.
The other thing I’ve seen work for some dynamics, is to keep some form of written communication going. Whether it’s little texts during the day that include titles and pet names, or an online blog that only the two of you see, or even a little notebook by the side of the bed that you both write to each other in, it can serve as a more frequent reminder of your dynamic, even when you aren’t able to fully act on it.
It all comes back to the “advice” I listed at the beginning of this post:
- Communicate your needs
- Be open to your partner’s needs
- Trust each other
- Be honest
- Make time for the relationship
I’m curious how others would answer these questions. Please add your perspectives in the comments!
Do you have more questions you want to “ask a dominant”? Please ask!
Hey Susannah – where the heck have you been the last two months? Your blog has been all but abandoned!
Funny you should ask…life has been busy! In brief:
- The commute to Boston had quite literally been harming me. Back in March, my long-existing minor arthritis pain in my hips suddenly flared up into excruciating pain (especially my right hip). Clearly exacerbated by my ever-expanding commute (approaching four hours/day many days) and my utterly sedentary job. Specialists were seen – nothing conclusive determined. I found an amazing craniosacral therapist who is also a chiropractor and that combination helped get my pain to mostly-manageable levels. But this also spurred my quest for a job closer to home (as there was no way I was going to pay the exorbitant rents closer to work in Boston proper).
- I got a new job that started July 5 – same job, different institution in a different state (it’s New England – that’s not as big of a deal as it sounds). I’m SO much happier with my new colleagues and team. It’s just a really good fit for me on multiple levels. Yay!
- I decided I’d had enough of my overly-intrusive and inappropriate, misogynistic landlord and used the opportunity of a new job and his sudden rent increase to find a new place to live even closer to my new job. I moved in late July and I’m now 1.8 miles from work and loving the commute. I gained 14 hours of free time per week on average. It felt like I had my life back!
- The new house is 200 years old, with a historical marker and everything, which is awesome. The neighborhood is very diverse, which I love. The neighborhood is also overrun with large rats, due in part to cultural differences in acceptance levels of rodents. The majority of my neighbors simply do nothing to curtail them. Couple this with my new landlord being clinically depressed, flat broke, and the laziest man I’ve ever met and…well…it’s been a bit of a nightmare. I swing between regretting the move and loving the place every few days. I’m currently documenting the shit out of everything and informing him of how much I’m deducting from my rent each month for the repairs I’ve made to the house. And there’s so much more to do. The good news is, K waged a rather successful war on the rats in my house (shudder – the living nightmare which shall not be discussed), and I have a friend who is a handyman who has been a huge help (at a cost to my landlord, of course). However, this means that nearly two months in, I’m still not unpacked and it still doesn’t really feel completely like home. Hopefully soon.
- I got two cats! I’ve missed the cats we had in Ohio (we had to find good homes for them when I moved to New England). One perk of the new house is that I’m allowed to have cats. The shelter informed me they were 11 month old sisters and MUST be adopted together. They gave me a two-for-one deal and I brought them home. Only to find out they do NOT get along. At all. It’s been a struggle. With behavior modification and a holistic serum, they’re coming around in recent days. Fingers crossed. They are very sweet and snuggly but horribly jealous of each other.
- I met a new boy! For the sake of this blog, I’ll call him Hobbes (as in the stuffed tiger from the comic). He’s incredibly sweet and new to D/s. He’s had enough experiences to know some of what he likes in terms of kink, and enough self-awareness to know he’s submissive at heart. We’re taking things slowly and he’s been incredibly receptive and open to everything I throw at him. He’s a natural in many ways and seems utterly willing to embark on a journey of submission. He’s even started his own blog (which is set to private for now). Yes, both he and K are well aware of each other and 100% on board with not being the only boy in my life. I’m continually amazed at the natural compersion both have. It’s an awesome thing.
- The hip pain came back. With a vengeance. I found a chiropractor in my new city who also did a form of therapy similar in approach to craniosacral. I left his sessions in more pain than I arrived in every time. And it never really got better. So he referred me to his colleague (who’s office is in the same building) who is an Occupational Therapist AND certified in craniosacral therapy as well. I’ve gotten some relief from her but it’s not stellar. I finally saw my GP last week who has referred me to another specialist. I’m guessing an MRI will be in my near future. I suspect it’s a combination of arthritis, bursitis (maybe), and some sort of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. My job is still sedentary so I’ve put in a request for a desk that can switch between a standing desk and a sitting one. I can stand for about 20 min without pain and can sit for about 3o min without pain. Fingers crossed. The pain has seriously curtailed my daily activities and saps my energy. Leaving not a lot for K or Hobbes. But both have been very understanding.
- K had some challenges to deal with in his personal life that have resulted in us being apart for the longest we’ve been apart since the day we met. It’s approaching three weeks and may need to go longer. It feels right now like the D/s is largely on hold (not helped by the rat/house issues and my health challenges). I’m looking forward to reconnecting with him as soon as circumstances allow. We still chat every day, but our dynamic has always been hugely reinforced and strengthened by physical touch and proximity. It’s not been easy.
So, there you have it. My life in a nutshell. Some very good things going on as well as some serious challenges. Overall, a lot of change, which has consumed much of my energy.
The really, REALLY good news (at least in my head), is that with the new job and shorter commute, with all those hours back in my life, I’m finally starting to feel creative again. I’ve been reading every night again (I’m not even sure when that lifelong habit stopped, but it was definitely tied to the job in Boston). I’ve started knitting again. I feel like writing again – not just this blog, but that old urge to create something from nothing and put it down on paper (OK, on a screen). I actually baked a PIE (I cannot remember the last time I did that but it must have been in Ohio).
This is huge to me and what I hang on to when I start regretting the move to the new house. It feels like I’m finding myself again.
Not making any promises about this blog, but I’m hopeful I can use it as another creative outlet again soon.
Yes, yes, it’s been far too long since I’ve blogged. Mea Culpa, dear readers (all six of you). So here’s a somewhat rambling, disjointed blog because shit’s been rolling around in my head for far too long.
K keeps me delightfully busy and I’ve also started a new job in a new city (as of three days ago) and will be moving to said new city in 10 days. So instead of packing, I’m blogging. Because no one procrastinates quite like me!
We also attended TESFest in New Jersey last weekend. It was K’s first major kink con (I don’t really count the Fetish Flea where we met – that’s more kink-light). He was nervous at first. Really conflicted. Because he was attending in his role as the head of the first aid charity he runs. I tagged along to help as a sort of liaison between his staff and the kink community. The reality was, every one of the five staff members he brought were either already kinky as fuck or embraced it wholeheartedly at the con. He told me later that it was one of the best cons he’s attended (and he’s attended over 200). He also said my being there as both a volunteer first-aider and as his dominant was a really good thing. *happy dance*
TESFest draws some of the biggest names in kink – not just from the East Coast, but from all over. K met one such person (a well-known author, author, and holder of multiple leather titles) when he walked by the First Aid table near the lobby. K chatted with him briefly and explained his conflicted emotions. In 30 seconds, the man summed up his philosophy of D/s and changed K’s entire outlook on it. Things just clicked and fell into place in his brain. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure exactly what was said, but from what K was able to relate to me, it was very similar to my approach and what I’ve said to him in the past. Somehow, hearing it from someone outside our relationship made all the difference. It was as if it was suddenly validated for him. I don’t much care why, but I’m grateful it did, because it allowed us to make some serious progress in our journey of D/s during the remainder of the weekend.
K also remarked that what helped him feel more comfortable in his submissive skin was meeting and seeing such a variety of D/s couples who were so obviously happy together and fulfilled each other. I realized that he hadn’t really met many other submissives (of any gender or orientation) and TESFest allowed him to talk more in depth and observe at length a delightful cross-section of the kink community.
The weekend has allowed him to more fully accept himself as he is which just makes me all kinds of stupid-happy for him.
Kink events like TESFest are more than just play parties. They’re more than just opportunities to see friends you don’t see any other time of the year. They’re more than naked pool shenanigans and amazing rope scenes. They’re more than amazing classes about everything imaginable (and some I never thought I’d see….waterboarding, anyone?). Kink events, especially the ones that take over an entire hotel, are one big puddle of acceptance. People relax, walls come down, masks come off. People meet others who are like their innermost, secret selves. How cool is that? When people don’t have to try to conform to society’s or family’s or workplace expectations of sexual identity, gender orientation/fluidity, etc… what emerges is some really awesome, PRESENT people. And that matters. There’s a reason people have “con drop” after such an event – they run on a euphoric high all weekend long – because they’re accepted for who they really are, even when that changes during the course of the event. To return to a world where you know you won’t be fully accepted and have to put a mask back on and retreat behind a wall is depressing.
And that brings me back to the topic of bathrooms as promised in the title of this post.
As I watch with incredulity the utter insanity that is unfolding in the US surrounding transgender folks using a bathroom of their choice, I can’t help but think about every major kink event I’ve been to. Because you see, they all do the same thing – they print out a sign that says “Gender Neutral Bathroom” or better yet, simply “Bathroom” and tape one over every gendered bathroom sign in the hotel/con space. The result is that there is never a line for a toilet. I’ve had conversations with male-bodied folks who were using a urinal while I (a female bodied and identified person) washed my hands at the sink. Hell, I’ve given a male dominant a giant bear hug in front of the sinks while two other men were using the urinals and another woman was in a stall. I’ve watched male hotel employees not even blink when I walk out of a stall in what they know as the men’s bathroom the other 51 weeks of the year. It simply doesn’t matter. Literally hundreds of people using whatever fucking bathroom they want to use – choosing to use a stall or a urinal (regardless of external genitalia) and not one incident of assault or harassment.
It makes me think that the world would be a better place if everyone simply accepted everyone else’s gender and sexual orientation and outward appearance. Because none of that crap matters one bit in the end. What matters is how we treat each other.
I want to be careful to not paint kink events as some magical utopia. While they certainly can be for many folks, not everyone is on the same page with what’s OK and not everyone communicates things well. And sometimes, people are just jerks or irresponsible, sadly.
Was TESFest perfect? Heck no. Were some people unhappy with other people? Undoubtedly. But the differences resulted largely from miscommunications and differences in what is considered polite/respectable behavior. Now, I heard some serious allegations of “issues” that arose during last year’s TESFest. And I sadly think that they resulted in some groups of folks not feeling as welcome and accepted, but I could be misinterpreting what I gleaned from the snippets I heard about. What I do know is that TESFest put in place new policies and a team of folks to help people work through differences in a healthy way. Which is a good thing. Learning from our mis-steps and omissions is how we grow and evolve.
We humans are imperfect beings, for perfection is an illusion. Our species does not always act with honor and integrity – these are values that must be taught, modeled, and consciously strived for. But we do have an amazing capacity to grow and change – we are not static beings. We have great capacity to evolve during our own lifetimes. But to do so requires removing the masks and walls we build and be open and accepting – of others, of otherness, of ourselves. And when I attend a kink event like TESFest, I am re-energized and such philosophical musings seem far less abstract.
Be kind to yourselves.
Be kind to each other.
I’ve written about the word virginity before – in the context of not liking the term “taking someone’s virginity”. In that post, I was talking about the first definition of the word below:
1. the state of never having had sexual intercourse.
2. the state of being naive, innocent, or inexperienced in a particular context.
This post is about the second definition of virginity up there. I have a fetish for being the person to provide a “virgin experience” for a partner. I didn’t really identify it as a fetish until fairly recently, but looking back, I think it began very early in my sexual explorations. Perhaps as early as making my first boyfriend (me: age 13, him: age 16) cum in his jeans, much to his shock and embarrassment. It definitely had manifested itself by college when I was approached by several friends/casual partners to provide their first penis-in-vagina sexual experience.
For a long while, it lay dormant. Through my first painfully vanilla marriage. Even through my second wildly-kinky marriage. In that marriage, I was the one having “virgin” experiences. We explored so many kinks, and nearly all were a first for me at the time.
As I explored more of the kink world and community, attending classes and demos on a wide variety of kinks, I was able to explore more of what I liked and all of a sudden, I found I was no longer the newbie in the room. That I actually had more experience with some things than people I was meeting. Especially men new to kink and/or D/s. And suddenly, my “virgin fetish” returned with a vengeance.
I enjoy the rush of power in being the FIRST to show someone something new. I take the responsibility seriously – part of me takes inordinate pride in providing a newbie with safety knowledge and a rational, sane approach to whatever activity we’re engaging in, be it rope bondage, D/s protocols, prostate stimulation, or a myriad of other fun and kinky activities. I like knowing that every time my partner engages in said activity, they will remember their FIRST time and remember me. I like leaving that imprint on someone’s mind and psyche.
Now, Susannah, you’re thinking, that sounds awfully arrogant. You’re right – it is. Which is why I think I’ve been a bit reluctant to embrace this fetish, to name it, to embrace it. It’s also why I continue to seek out education for myself even in areas I feel pretty solid in. I’m no rope guru, for example – I have tons still to learn. I hope that attitude helps to balance the arrogance in some measure. I’m also acutely aware of the danger in always seeking out new and different experiences and not being content with current ones. It’s why I go back and practice and perfect techniques and skills with the same person. I want to bring an equal focus and enjoyment of deepening a connection after the first time.
But…that rush of being someone’s first? That look of wonder and joy and sheer meltiness when I introduce them to something new? Unf. Yes, please.
My new partner, K, while coming to me with some kink experiences, has been an absolute joy to introduce to so many more. The best part is he is finding he LOVES things he never thought he would. His openness to trying and embracing new things is frankly, awesome.
I guess you could say that my Virgin Fetish has provided him with several virgin fetishes of his own – first-time experiences with things he is instantly hooked on. And in some cases, is incredibly skilled at.
Say what, now?
According to Kinkly, knismolagnia is defined as: a fetish where sexual arousal is produced through tickling. This term stems from the word knismesis which describes a light, tickling sensation. People may experience knismolagnia when they are being tickled or by watching someone else get tickled. Knismolagnia is also known as titillagnia.
So why am I writing about it?
No, it’s not a particular fetish of mine. In fact, I can’t stand to be tickled – I actually hate it and have been known to react rather violently if tickled without my consent. But…
This past weekend I attended my first ever tickle party! And guess what? It was FUN!
The rules were sound and designed to keep everyone safe. Nudity was NOT an option despite it being held in two hotel rooms.
I knew a few of the people there already, including one of the organizers. There were about 15 of us all together – all ages (21 to 50’s), races, genders and orientations. A really great group of people I’m happy to know. Nearly everyone except me (and I think one other person) self-identified as a “lee” (short for ticklee). I identified as a “ler” (i.e. tickler) and also a “yeur” (i.e. voyeur).
Here’s the thing about a tickling party – EVERYONE is HAPPY! Seriously – I defy you to not grin while people are laughing their heads off while being willingly tickled. Laughter is contagious. In between bouts of tickling there were several cuddle piles on top of the beds. Just happy, relaxed people enjoying each others’ company with the only mood-altering substance being an endorphin rush from tickling and/or being tickled.
I did tie one “lee” to a bed (of course I had two lengths of hemp in my purse…doesn’t everyone?) and tickled the heck out of him. I had only met him at the (mandatory) munch a couple of hours earlier, but he responded amazingly to my touch – it seemed every part of him was ticklish under my fingers. So much fun! I had a bit of a wrestle and tickle bout with a young, lithe and wriggly friend of mine later in the evening. But mostly I chatted and watched…and grinned a lot.
It’s still not a fetish of mine, although it’s long been something I like to incorporate into my play when I have a consenting partner. I think I enjoyed it so much at this party because, as I’ve stated before, at my core, I’m a reaction junkie. And there’s nothing like tickling someone to elicit a reaction!
Later I reveled in the attention and cuddles (and a foot rub) from several folks at once – it was pretty awesome to be the object of so much affection with zero pressure (implied or otherwise) for sex or kinky play or even topping. They just enjoyed being with me because I was me, because of the energy I brought.
So if there’s a tickling group in your area – check them out! The Boston area folks are second to none, though.
And don’t be afraid to try new things even if they’re not your kink.
In recent years, I’ve worked on being mindful – on being truly present with others. I’ve dabbled with meditation, although nothing as regular as I’d like. I’ve read some good writing on such things, most notably this little volume which I tend to eventually recommend to most folks I care about:
The idea being that mundane tasks we take for granted – walking, sitting, eating….breathing…can become moments of clarity and peace when we are mindful of them. When we focus our attention on them and are conscious of them in the moment, when we are present, we become centered and calm in the midst of the chaos and stress of everyday life. At the same time we think more deeply about these seemingly simple acts and begin to be aware of the interconnections between all things. It’s simple. It’s profound. And it’s a concept that has been on my mind in the last month whenever I consider the new and deepening relationship I have with K.
I wrote before of the instant connection we both felt the moment I laid my hand on his head. From that moment it was as if we were opposite poles of the strongest magnet known to humankind. Drawn to be with each other, near each other, in near-constant contact with each other even through virtual means. We both just went with it – we saw no reason to resist something so compelling. We spent as much time as physically and practically possible with each other for the next few days. For the next few weeks, in fact.
I realized after things started to settle into a more familiar routine and closeness that it was as if – in the moment that we connected via that touch – we had begun to take a very deep breath together. The initial intake of breath of this new relationship was a long and delicious inhale. Bringing oxygen to parts of ourselves we’d thought long dead or dying, bringing the new life of this partnership into being. When we began to gently exhale nearly three weeks later, no less focused on each other and the relationship, it felt like the most natural of rhythms. It occurred to me that all relationships breathe in a similar fashion – we normally speak of ups and downs, of ebbs and flows, but there are always natural patterns of intensity and quiet comfortableness.
Add to all of this the foundation upon which I now build all of my relationships – a deliberate and consensual power imbalance – one of dominance (mine) and submission (his). I firmly believe that to be ultimately successful, a D/s relationship must be built on a solid foundation. And that building a solid foundation takes deliberate work of communication and commitment and openness. But K had never had a D/s relationship and had only a passing familiarity with the concept. But he was willing to learn.
The longer I spend with him and the more we discuss the nature of D/s and the more protocols and layers we add to the foundation, the harder it is for me to believe he has never had a relationship like this one. Service and submission to me seem to come as naturally to him as breathing. He is at his most calm, centered, and complete when he is at my feet and submitting to me.
This was brought home to me this past weekend when we participated in the first online session of a week long online course on adding protocols to a D/s relationship. I worried at first that it was too soon for such a thing – that he wasn’t ready for such intense and deliberate work. During the two hour webinar/class session, he repeatedly remarked to me, “this is really not that hard to understand”, and “people really don’t know these things? People have to be taught them?” He was genuinely perplexed that what were almost absurdly obvious truths to him about the nature of service and submission were things others struggled to understand at times. He chalks it up to a lifetime of service-oriented jobs and a six year stint in military service. But even the personal motto he espouses reflects his deep-seated need to serve others.
He has continued to reflect on the weekend’s class and I think focusing his attention on what had been to him something he simply did but didn’t think about is bringing greater clarity, peace, and awareness of interconnections. We continue to talk about these seemingly simple yet profoundly important concepts and what they mean to us and how they manifest in our relationship. We are consciously and joyously working on building a solid foundation.
Just as breath is critical for survival for our bodies, yet something we don’t often think about, so too is the concept of power exchange and service critical to the survival of this relationship. By being deliberately mindful of the breaths of our relationship, we bring an amazing sense of calm, and “rightness” to each other and what we are building together.
I’m really looking forward to where this path takes us both.
But right now, I’m just focusing on being mindful.
Feels like seven months.
I keep waiting for the misstep. The shoe to drop. The rug to be pulled out. The “gotcha” and laughter at my expense.
I’m trying to trust it. By trying to NOT think about needing to try to trust it. By trying to just stay in the moment, stay open to what is before me.
Because that’s what got me here in the first place.
Seven days ago…
Seven days ago, I drove straight from work in Boston to the Fetish Flea (#46!) just south of Providence. Checked into my hotel. Unpacked. Ate a snack. Then headed down to check in to the volunteer lounge and get my wristband. From there it was down to the basement conference room for my CPR and First Aid training. I’d received a “scholarship” from NELA (the organization that runs the Flea) so it was only costing me $20. A fantastic deal for something that will allow me to be a DM for events and parties more often. It had been quite a few years since I’d been fully certified, and people were insisting I have it to DM (and rightly so). So there I was – tired, not particularly looking forward to the same tired Red Cross videos and to pumping away on a plastic dummy’s chest. The instructor was funny, cute, and knew his stuff – he’s an EMT and the founder and head of the First Aid service that was supporting the Flea. His charity provides First Aid and emergency help to geek (and more recently kink) events up and down the East Coast of the US and Canada. A top notch organization I’d seen in action before.
We went over our allotted time for the space and since there were only three of us in the course, we moved it up to the First Aid organization’s hotel room for the final bit and the testing out. When we were all done, the instructor (let’s call him “K”) slumped back in his chair, looking as tired as I felt. We chatted a bit – I asked him how he identified – dominant, switch, or submissive? He met my gaze and stammered that he was “mostly submissive”.
Now I’d made a promise to myself that since I was attending this Flea completely solo (one peripheral partner would be there but nobody was staying in my hotel room with me and I had no firm plans), I was going to be 100% completely open to what was in front of me. That I’d throw caution (mostly) to the wind and allow myself to indulge in the hedonistic debauchery others were always raving about happening at the Flea. That maybe, just maybe, I’d recklessly take some virtual stranger back to my room and have my way with him. To just have some no-strings-attached fun. That I’d take a jump to the left of my normal approach take a few risks.
So there was this cute guy looking rather vulnerable (my Kryptonite, vulnerability in a strong man) meeting my gaze and admitting he was submissive. We’d established during the class we were OK with touching each other socially as we’d needed to demo the Heimlich maneuver, etc… so I walked over to him and said “oh really?” never letting my gaze drop from his eyes. He looked up at me with puppy dog eyes and nodded quite seriously. I ran a hand over his hair – a quick stroke….and in that touch, that moment….
Because he melted. Utterly. He was clearly surprised by his own reaction and we exchanged quite a few hot-and-heavy D/s flirtations – fast and furious. Nothing existed in that 90 seconds or so but him and his reactions. I looked up and realized there was still another of my classmates in the room. I looked at her and apologized. She was grinning ear to ear and laughing happily saying that what she’d just seen was “fantastic” and “awesome”, etc… I grinned and looked back at K. “Room 541, by the way” I said and turned to leave. He said “really?”. And I nodded. I gave him my phone number. He repeated the room number and said “I might just do that”. And I was gone.
I only half expected him to show up. Poured myself a glass of wine. He showed up. We talked until quite late. About everything under the sun. And so it had begun.
He attended a class with me on Saturday (his first at a kink event), texted me in-between his duties with his organization. We had dinner late in the hotel restaurant and by then I knew for certain – he was hooked. He took the night off and spent the night with me. I think it’s a fair statement to say I blew his mind in a few different ways. Sunday we kept in touch via text all day, ended with a late lunch together in the hotel. Before I left he asked if he could come to my home that night instead of heading up to Canada to visit a good friend and business partner. I agreed without hesitation and gave him my address. He came over and spent that night with me too.
The next two days he was in Canada, but continued to message me throughout the day. He picked me up at a train station when my train was delayed over two hours on Tuesday and we came back to my place and he spent the night again – leaving when I left for work in the morning. And so it’s continued…
….and deepened in ways that seem almost surreal.
I’ve omitted a lot in the accounting above. I’m still processing it while simultaneously trying to NOT overthink things – to just accept what’s in front of me and trust it.
The intensity of this is something I haven’t felt in a long long time. In considering just how long, I realized this week reminded me of relationships in SecondLife (a statement only a few of my readers can fully appreciate). In SecondLife (if you’re not familiar with my experiences there, please go read THIS POST), relationships can seem impossibly intense and seem to happen exponentially faster and deeper than they do in the real world. This is due largely to the amount of time people can spend talking to each other without the trappings of “Real Life” conventions and rules. In the Real World, people date maybe once or twice a week for a few weeks. They talk for an hour or two each time – starting with pleasantries and small talk. It can take weeks to get into deeper subjects and explore feelings for each other. In SecondLife (and in this past week with J) people dispense with all of that and just ARE with each other – talking all night long – losing track of time, sharing intimate parts of themselves with each other. People often remark that their relationships in SecondLife are more intense than anything they’ve ever felt. I get that.
While K has explored some of his kinks and proclivities on his own and online, he hasn’t explored them with another person to any real extent. For all of that, he’s surprisingly grounded in his expectations, delightfully used to introspection and self-awareness. It’s almost indescribably fun to introduce him to things like service and rope and to see his genuine delight in them.
But it’s his reactions.
Dear lord his reactions.
I’ve said it before – I’m a reaction junkie. And J’s resonate with me on a level I’ve not experienced outside my fantasies.
It’s almost as if I’ve conjured him up out of my subconscious – which is why I’m trying hard to trust this.
I know he’s genuine. And I just enjoy watching him discover himself and open like a flower.
It truly feels like we’ve known each other for a very long time.
And I hope we do.
Because right now, this is very good for both of us and I’m looking forward to where it takes us.
(I’m hoping to be able to write more coherently and deeply about more specifics in time, but right now, I just needed to get these initial impressions down in writing.)
Day 10: What are your hard limits?
Completely covered this in my 30 Days of Kink: Day 2 Post.
Apparently I should have read ahead.
Day 11: What are your views on the ethics of kink?
The following is near the top of my profile on FetLife:
I live by my personal code of ethics, which boils down to:
- Do no harm
- Meet people where they are
- Accept people as they choose to present to you
- People first, roles second
And that pretty much sums up my answer to this question.
But to expand a bit…
It’s all about consent.
What’s that? You want a lengthier explanation? You expect more out of a blog post? OK then…
There are two common acronyms people use to describe ethical activities involving kinks.
The first is SSC, which stands for Safe, Sane, and Consensual. This is what I USED to say I followed. However, the reality is, a lot of the things I like to do are not inherently safe activities. Do I do my absolute best to make them safe? Absolutely. I never tie someone with rope unless my safety shears are at hand, I get tested regularly for STDs and insist sexual partners (and their partners) do as well, etc…
And then there’s the thorny issue of “sanity”. Are the things I like to do considered “sane”? Which definition of sanity would you like to use? Legal? Psychiatric? Your own? Mine? Personally, I think the way I live my life is completely sane and rational, but I know that if I was completely open with my mother or my former coworkers at the Catholic school where I once taught, they would say otherwise. Consensual? You bet. See above.
The second is RACK, which stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. I like this one better, although that’s a more recent (last couple of years) development for me. Risk-Aware? Yes! What we do is RISKY (probably a better distinction from UNSAFE). Consensual? Always. Kink? Duh. So that fits, but…
Personally, I don’t think either acronym should need to be used. If you have to point out that you practice RACK (or SSC if that floats your linguistic boat), are you implying that others don’t? It comes across as condescending most of the time in my opinion. It’s like announcing, “Well I pay my taxes!” or “I have never been arrested!”.
My opinion is that people new to things (kink/BDSM/D/s in general OR a specific activity) need to get educated about the inherent risks and how to mitigate them. The responsibility for that ultimately falls on the new person, but I do think that more experienced folks have a responsibility as well here: to educate, to explain, to make newer folks aware of the risks.
Only when you know the risks (and benefits) of a specific activity can you fully consent to engaging in it. Only when you’ve gotten to know a person, met their friends, asked around about their style of play/ethics, ideally watched them engage in kinky activities, can you begin to trust them enough to engage in said kinky activity. Knowledge really is power!
Because many things we do in the name of kink or BDSM or D/s are inherently risky, getting to know and trust your partner(s) is critical – on both sides of the slash. This is why I don’t do pick up play (hardly ever) and why I’m not into casual “play” in general. It takes time to know someone well enough to trust them.
Consent is mandatory in my book. And if you’re drunk, or high, or a child, you are not capable of consenting. It also means that if you are so far gone into subspace you are not capable of consenting. Which is why negotiations of what will happen during a scene happen BEFORE the scene begins – NEVER after it’s begun. Renegotiating mid-scene is just never OK in my book.
Consent sounds clear cut, but it can become a thorny issue. Just because someone consented to something once, or twice, or a hundred times, does not mean they consent to it THIS time. Conversely, asking “are you OK with this?” “how about this?” “how about now?” “Can I do X?” “Can I do Y now?” can really be a buzzkill. I had a conversation last week with a friend of mine about just this issue. When do you ask for consent and when do you rely on reading body language/signals? We concluded that for “normal, date type activities” reading body language made sense: Moving in for a hug, pulling him in for a kiss, etc… We both felt a grownup (even a self-professed submissive one) should be capable of saying “no” or pulling away if something like that made them uncomfortable. Consent for specific activities, we decided, makes sense for riskier things.
Where it gets somewhat murkier for me, is when you add the power-imbalance I crave in my relationships. I’ve heard numerous submissives say they “were afraid to say no” to a dominant. That both saddens and scares me a bit. I try to instill in those that are submissive to me, that they can ALWAYS say no. Will there be repercussions? Well, yeah – if someone says no to everything all the time, or to something they used to say yes to, I will sit them down and have a serious discussion about what’s going on. Will I get mad and take it out on them? Oh hell no. I’ve praised those that actually invoked a safeword during a session – I want people to ALWAYS feel comfortable letting me know when they’re not OK with something I’m doing (or want to do). And yet, I get that the fear of disappointing one’s dominant can be a powerful deterrent to saying “no”.
I apologize if this post is a bit rambly – ethics and consent are big topics and could easily turn into an entire book.
But for me, I live by my personal code of ethics listed at the top of this post. And I always seek consent.
(Oh and yes, there’s a huge difference between causing hurt or pain and causing HARM to someone. Just thought I should throw that out there.)