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Sorry, the BDSM subculture probably can’t solve vanilla consent problems…

As a consent crisis strikes at the heart of upper-middle-class America, I’m getting a lot of people from NPR to academics asking me hopefully if the BDSM subculture has the magic answers for all of their consent problems. They’re always disappointed when I tell them… No.

If I was going to be honest, I’d tell them FUCK, NO.

Now if you’re from the Scene, you probably think the next thing I’m going to say is because we have so many violations of our own, so that must mean that we haven’t “solved” consent. But actually, that’s not it at all. I think people in the Scene have totally lost perspective, and given how much fucking we do with so many people and so many people that we play with… Actually, we’re doing remarkably well, given the considerable cultural constraints we’re starting from. It’s like Dan Savage on monogamy: if you’re married for fifty years and only cheat twice, you’re actually pretty good at monogamy. Perfect we are not, but we’re doing way better than the culture at large, I think. I think.

No, the reason that our consent norms (which I think are bad, but nowhere near as bad as everyone else’s) won’t work in the vanilla world is for a long list of other reasons–in no particular order after the first two.

The top reason BY FAR that our norms won’t work elsewhere is because we drink so much less than everyone else.

I often like to joke that the only thing kinky about the Scene is that we do the shit we do while sober. Shit, sometimes people literally come to the Scene to help them stay sober. Kink consent norms assume that you’re basically sober when you’re negotiating with someone else, and on the whole, people usually are. Meanwhile, in vanilla culture, there’s pretty much an assumption that if you’re having sex with someone you don’t know well for the first time, you’re both probably at least a little (if not a lot) intoxicated. And people are SHIT at negotiating while drunk, partly because the culture has told them that being drunk is a legitimate excuse for being bad at negotiating and taking responsibility for what they do sexually… if they’re a girl, anyway. (You still have to take responsibility for anything else you do drunk, from hitting someone to driving. But for some reason sex is special). If you’re going to negotiate while drunk, I’m pretty sure you need a different set of rules and expectations. At a bare minimum, you have to alter the cultural meanings of drunk + sex.

The second biggest reason our norms won’t work well elsewhere is because mainstream culture doesn’t teach anyone to really value consent.

In the Scene, we’ve all been taught to value consent in general. We fuck it up by pretending like bottoms’ consent is the only thing that matters, and that tops’ consent is irrelevant, but we at least have the spirit of the thing. But in vanilla culture, no one really values consent to start with, and then they fuck it up along gendered lines, with people assuming that women’s consent matters and men’s doesn’t. Specifically, I hear a lot of people going on and on about how guys don’t value women’s consent. This is such a wild misunderstanding of the problem that it occasionally makes me want to go on a violent kicking spree. First of all, in terms of what they’re taught culturally, guys don’t value ANYONE’S consent. Have you ever seen the way lots of gay men interact with other? They’ll literally grab each other’s dicks without asking; even het guys recklessly sexual harasseach other without apparently even thinking about it that way. Second, women have been taught to think of themselves as completely unthreatening, so they don’t value anyone’s consent either. Women don’t bother to ask men if they want to have sex with them; they just assume the men want it. Watch how easily women touch other women and men with total freedom in vanilla spaces, and then watch how straight men touch other women and men. Men’s touches are assumed to be laden with the threat of sexual violence, and women’s touches are assumed to be sweet. Women get passes for making consent errors; men don’t. Men would take women’s consent so much more seriously if women took theirs more seriously, so nothing changes until we teach EVERYONE to value consent more.

The Scene is a highly monitored, tightly knit social world. Reputation is everything here.

In the Scene, the social cost of fucking up is relatively high, and you’re relatively likely to get found out. You can’t just go to a different bar next week to pick up a girl from somewhere else. (This is why the key violators in the Scene were/are people who travel a lot and/or deal with a lot of new people). But there are no dungeon monitors at a frat party. Meanwhile in the Scene, it’s common to negotiate in front of your friends and play and have sex with someone in front of other people. There’s a lot more potential for others to enforce consent.

The Scene is way more gender equal.

We still have all the problems of thinking that men’s touches are potentially threatening and women’s aren’t, but overall, my statistics say we take gender equality more seriously in every way than mainstream culture. When you think men and women both desire sexual pleasure, and both deserve sexual pleasure, consent negotiations are a lot easier and less awkward. On top of that, most of the vanilla world is structured around the assumption that men have to persuadewomen to have sex, because of course, “women don’t want to have sex”.

The Scene is way more sex-positive and way less slut shamey than vanilla culture.

In vanilla culture, part of the reason girls often don’t tell their friends about Bob the Rapist is because they’re ashamed they went home with Bob in the first place and are afraid of their friends judging them (and they probably are). In the Scene, people care waaaaay less about that, so the social cost of telling your friends that Bob is a dick is a lot lower. Being more sex positive also means people feel less like they have to get drunk in order to be allowed to fuck.

The Scene isn’t monogamous.

This view may be unpopular, but in my opinion, mononormativity discourages people from being honest. It encourages you to lie to your partner and pretend you weren’t checking out that girl over there; that you don’t watch porn; that you didn’t have lunch with your opposite-sex co-worker, alone, when there was nothing business-y to talk about; that you hadn’t had sex with 30 people before you met your current partner (I actually interviewed that woman); and that you aren’t still dating two other people because you haven’t actually agreed to be “in a relationship” yet. Mononormativity generally operates from a place of “some things are better left unsaid.” In that social world, bluntly asking, “Do you want to have sex with me?” doesn’t fit well because people just aren’t used to being truthful. They’re used to being cagey and coy and constantly skirting the boundaries between truth and lies. But in the Scene, polynormativity tends to encourage people to just constantly word-vomit their feelings at each other, and sometimes to feel guilty about hiding anything. It’s much easier in a culture of honesty to say things straight-up like, “can we rub bits?”

The Scene has a clearly established system about who’s supposed to start and lead the consent negotiation.

In KinkLand, for better or for worse, we’ve made it clear that it’s the top’s job to start and lead a negotiation. Things get fuzzier with switch scenes, but people still seem to be pretty good at adapting the format to their specific situation (and generally, the toppier person ends up leading the negotiation, and it becomes a way to try to establish dominance). In the vanilla world, it’s totally unclear who’s supposed to start the negotiation. Vanilla culture has sort-of decided that this is the guy’s job, but then they shame guys for making unwanted advances and so then the culture overall gets super-nervous about the way that initiating those negotiations ostensibly gives men so much more sexual freedom and power than women… so now it’s officially ?nobody’s? job. Without a clear definition of roles here, whoever makes the first move in a negotiation has the power of the initiator, but loses power based on the principle of least interest (as the person initiating, you look like you care more about the outcome).

The Scene’s norms don’t work spectacularly for negotiating sex in KinkLand.

Don’t get me wrong; I think we’re doing a lot better than vanilla people on this one. But I’ve got the numbers: if you met someone at a culturally BDSM place (munch, dungeon), you’re waaaaaay less likely to have sex with them than if you met them at a non-BDSM place. I’ve led workshops about negotiating sex for scenes, and people were like, “whoa, I never heard anyone talk about this before!” We’re so nervous about it that we constantly set up places to ease the negotiation process by functionally pre-negotiating it for everyone (gangbangs, orgies). Basically, as far as I can tell, our negotiation norms often actually prevent people from getting laid (in addition to preventing people from getting raped–can’t lose sight of that!), but I think there’s still a LOT of room for improvement.

Looking forward

I think there’s a bit of an order to the way these things have to change for things to improve in vanilla culture. I’m pretty sure that first, they need more gender equality, more sex positivity, and a more honest approach to relationships. I want to believe that fewer drunken hook-ups would follow naturally from that, but Icelandic culture (the most gender equal in the world) suggests that might be a vain hope; at a bare minimum, vanillas have to start acknowledging that reality of drunken hook-ups and try to develop realistic strategies for establishing solid negotiation systems in that context.

Even if they had those things, lacking a cultural norm about who’s supposed to start consent negotiations and a deeply entrenched system of social monitoring, vanillas are highly unlikely to be able to employ our system any time soon. I’d like to believe that the social monitoring is mostly only necessary because people aren’t especially great at monitoring themselves–basically, once you have a well-established norm, people generally start enforcing it for themselves. So perhaps the only real problem to solve there is who starts the negotiation. I suggest that the answer should be whoever asked for the date when you were chatting online/to go out/to go home, etc. But lacking blatantly defined power dynamics, vanillas need to recognize that starting those negotiations is always going to be trickier than it will be for kinky folks.

I don’t want be the bearer of despair and hopelessness. I think that vanillas can probably learn a little from the way we do things, if for no other reason than we’re showing that consent can be better. But I think that generalizing from the deeply eccentric cultural space of KinkLand to vanilla world probably won’t work too well: I think the fucked up consent culture that pervades the vanilla world is largely the product of a fucked up gender/sexual culture, and it’s basically impossible to fix the consent without ALSO fixing the gender and sex.

****
I recently did an interview with NPR where I talked about a lot of these things.

Advice: Should I Be Worried about the Violent Porn My Loved One Watches?

Question:

“I found your website while trying to find and answer to the following question, which has been surprisingly difficult to get ANY real information on:

Last month, I inadvertently found some VERY violent pornography among a loved one’s belongings — extreme stuff by any standard: mutilation, broken bones and torture, even hints of necrophilia and snuff, all sexualized in one way or another.

He’s long been quite vocal about being a kinkster, and I understand that much of this is “play” — “like a violent video game,” as it’s been described to me. But is material this extreme something to worry about, in your opinion?”

 

Answer:

The short answer is that it’s probably not a big deal. The slightly extended answer is that no one really knows, but it’s probably not a big deal.

Very long answer:

So I’m not really sure how you came to be exposed to this information about the person you love, nor what the nature of this pornography is, but I’ll make some guesses and move on to the important issues…

There are basically two angles I see to answering your question: 1. Should you be worried about this person actually going out and raping/torturing/murdering people? And 2. Do I personally believe him watching/owning this is immoral?

 

Should I be worried about him actually going out and raping and murdering people?

…Probably not. There’s a pretty big difference between watching fucked up shit and doing fucked up shit. There’s at least one study (which to the best of my knowledge has never been replicated) that found that in countries where (fake) child porn was legal, child molestation rates were much lower (see Perv). Thus there’s actually some reason to believe that people watching “bad” porn might make them *less* likely to do “bad” things (I know I get therapeutic experiences from playing violent video games, and I think there’s every reason that the same idea could be applied to violent porn).

I have a partner who jerks off to (free and publicly available) videos of people being (actually) tortured because he figures the videos have already been made so he might as well as enjoy them. He’s not even looking at “porn”–just eroticizing the torture that someone else experienced, which might objectively be way creepier than what your friend is doing. Yet I’m fairly certain that my partner’s not likely to go on a serial killing spree any time soon, but I guess you never know. All of which is to say that watching, reading, and jerking off to “extreme” stuff doesn’t necessarily make someone more likely to do those things. If he’s deep into the BDSM subculture, a big motivation for a lot of kinksters is to find ways to do super fucked up things in safe(ish) and consensual ways.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no reputable or meaningful academic studies that have looked at the actual violent tendencies of people who watch extreme porn. There’s good cause for them to look at it, too, because merely possessing such pornography became a crime in the UK in 2009. For a great look into all this, check out Clarissa Smith’s chapter on snuff (linkand Jonathan Clough’s article on extreme pornography (link).

Okay, now I know you’re thinking about the three million studies you read where a psychologist took 36 undergraduate men, showed them some violent porn, and then they said they thought the idea of raping women was more appealing. The problem is that those studies have nothing to do with real world behaviors. And lest you appeal to the “common sense” argument here, let me point out a “common sense” contradiction between experiments and real-world findings that is much better understood: condom use while intoxicated. Common sense says that people are less likely to use condoms when they’re drunk, experiments say that men who are drunk find condoms less appealing, but… real world data say that there’s just no connection (I wrote a paper on this in 2013). Really, the question that they should be researching is if a taste for violent pornography is linked to actual violent behavior, but I can’t find anything that does that.

And I know you’re thinking about all those news stories about the crazed serial killer rapist dude with his terrifyingly creepy porn collection, and forensic researchers who insist this is real evidence. The tricky thing there is that’s a one-way correlation: my understanding is that there are pretty decent odds that people who do fucked up things will watch really fucked up porn. But the correlation doesn’t necessarily go both ways: there’s decent reason to believe that lots of people watch really fucked up porn but don’t do the really fucked up things. I think Smith’s article (cited above) does a pretty decent job of explaining why that might be.

 

But what about the moral implications?

For me, it mostly depends on whether the people making the pornography in question are doing so in an ethical way. According to Smith, a lot of these websites promise that no one was actually harmed in the making of their pornography. To that, I say, cool. If the porn is not ethically produced, then I think it’s super creepy to financially support it (and kind of neutral to say, steal it off the internet). But people buy stuff that’s immorally produced all the time (from illegal drugs to the literal clothes on our backs), and I personally think that anyone who’s supporting the Mexican drug cartels has way more to answer for than people supporting an itsy-bitsy basement industry of criminally produced pornography. They’re both terrible, but… hey, that’s just me…

The British government, by the way, decided they didn’t care about the ethics of production. They decided it was just bad, end of story. So if your loved one lives in the UK, he’s in potential legal trouble, regardless of the ethics of the thing.

 

The thing that actually matters

True story: I once went on a date with a guy who did in fact commit first degree murder just a couple of years later. After that single date, I decided there was no way I would ever go out with him again because he was “clearly too violent.” This was blindingly obvious to me, but clearly not quite as clear to many of his friends…

My point here is that the majority of the time, people don’t randomly turn out to be serial killers and rapists; there are usually a thousand clues around them that have nothing to do with porn and everything to do with how often they’ve beaten people up, talk about beating people up, and how much they believe “women really want sex from you even when they say no”. There are a small number who aren’t so obvious, and they generally have NO friends; the ones who actually have friends and still manage to pass as normal people are absurdly rare.

So. In my opinion, the real question isn’t, “Should I be concerned that my friend has creepy taste in pornography?” but far the far more complex, “Does my friend seem like someone who gives a shit about the well-being of both men AND women in general and his partners specifically? Do his partners seem afraid of him? Does he seem to have violent tendencies in general? Does he often cover up things, lie, constantly make excuses, hypocritically slut shame, seem really into sex but weirdly and disproportionately uncomfortable talking about it in a personal way, or massively exaggerate?” Even in the BDSM scene, I’ve met a number of people who were really bad people, and every single one of them so far was easily identifiable to me by one of those traits. And in my experience, those are the things that separate the kinksters with disturbing tastes from the future convicts of the world.

And believe me when I say I know, have played with, banged and AM a kinkster with slightly disturbing tastes.

 

Kinky people: please take and share my survey

Calling all kinksters! I am currently doing a survey of people in the BDSM subculture, and I would love for you–yes YOU–to take it and share it with your kinky pals. Here’s the link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DN96W78

Yes, I am a real academic researcher. And this research has been approved by the Gallaudet University IRB.

Cracked.com: BDSM relationships

Along with several other folks, I gave an interview for Cracked.com on BDSM relationships.

 

You can also check out my book chapter on BDSM relationships here.

Part 2: You are the best toy

him

I wake up in the morning to the feeling of you sliding your pussy down onto my hard cock. This isn’t as pleasurable as it sounds. My dick is usually as hard as wood in the morning when I wake up, and about as sensitive. But I am happy to please you, and I love waking up to the sight of the blissful expression on your face. You usually only use me for five minutes, and cum six or seven times. Feeling your spasms of pleasure on me is so much better than any cup of coffee.

When you climb off of me, I go into the bathroom to clean your cum off my cock and balls and even parts of my thighs. I love the way they smell when they’re covered in your scent, but it’s too distracting to go to work like that.

Still naked, and still hard, I go downstairs to make you a cup of coffee while you do your hair. When I give it to you, you greet me with a hug and a kiss and tell me what a good boy I am. Hearing that from you makes me feel like I’ve been lit up a little from the inside. I sit with you at the table while you drink it and we both read the news, while you occasionally distractedly reach out to caress my cock in a possessive fashion.

Eventually, I beg you to stop touching it so it will go down and I can get dressed and concentrate on my work. I give you a kiss as I leave and you put your fingers in my hair, staring at me meaningfully.

“Mine,” you say.

“Yours,” I agree.

I head to work. Partway through the morning, as always, I start to get actually horny. When I get bored, my dick gets hard, and when I get a break for lunch, I go to the bathroom to text you. “Please may I touch myself, Mistress?”

Somewhat to my relief, you text back immediately, “Are you willing to suffer for it later?”

I look down at my insistent erection, sigh, and text back, “Yes.”

“Good. Then you can touch yourself while thinking about getting your large butt plug kicked into you, and then fucking me with it in until I cum ten times.”

“Yes, Mistress.”

I’m not actually allowed to cum unless I’m inside you. Standing in the bathroom at work stroking my cock with no hope of giving it what it really wants is in some ways worse than sitting at my desk and leaving it alone. Thinking about the pain that’s in store for me makes me question the wisdom of what I’m doing, but at the same time, it only makes me more aroused.

I’m careful not to cum. Once I accidentally did cum when jerking off, and you didn’t let me cum at all for three days. I thought my brain and my balls were going to explode.

I give my dick a few minutes to calm down before I go eat my lunch and get back to work. It’s still boring, and I’m still horny and impatient to get my dick back into you. Finally, the day ends and I have a few minutes in traffic to think about how many ways I want to fuck you when I get home.

You’re home before me, and you’re already in the kitchen making dinner. You’re so small that I greet you by easily picking you up and carefully slam you against the wall with a kiss as you wrap your legs around me. My dick is already hard as you slide down against me and it, your feet back down to the ground. I get down on my knees, slide your panties aside, and bury my face up under your skirt and in your pussy lips. I slide two fingers up inside you and feel you cum around them several times while I lick you. As always, it strikes me as truly perverse how easily I can make you cum, even though you say that you’ve never been able to make yourself cum, ever.

The rules say I never have to ask permission to finger you, or lick your pussy, but I always have to ask for things that are for the benefit of my dick. I look up at you from the floor imploringly. “Please can I fuck you, Mistress?”

“Oh yes,” you say, looking down at me. You seductively pull down your skirt and underwear, while I frantically undo my pants.

I leave them down around my feet and pick you up again, this time sliding your pussy down onto my dick. I groan as I feel you instantly cum around it once, twice, three times, your legs trembling around my hips as I hold you up, bracing you against the wall. “Don’t you dare cum,” you hiss into my ear, and I bite my lip to try to distract myself from the pleasure of your pussy.

“Please, Mistress?” I beg.

“Oh, no,” you grin wickedly, sliding off of my dick. “I’m saving that for later.”

I need to cum at least twice a day, and it’s easy for me to cum three times. But more than that, and my dick gets a little less responsive, so you’ve forbidden me from cumming more than twice a day except on special occasions. You don’t usually give me a choice about when those two times happen.

This whole encounter has only lasted a few moments, and, wearing just your shirt and bra, you go back to stirring the food that’s cooking on the stove while I lean against the wall. Panting, my hands touching the back of the wall behind me to help me resist the temptation to touch my hard dick which is soaked with your cum, I desperately wish you’d do anything to make me cum. Instead, you bring out my collar and put it around my neck, and I gasp as you rub your body against me seductively as you do, just to make me want more. I appreciate the comfort of your collar, but I’m too aroused to be able to concentrate on much except my cock.

Eventually, I step out of my pants, and, still slightly hard, start helping you make dinner. When the timer says we have to wait two minutes for the food to cool, you mercilessly get down on your knees, suck my cock (which is still covered in your cum) fully hard again, then lean over the counter and order me to fuck you. “Slowly,” you instruct. “All the way out, and all the way back in, again and again.” I can actually watch your pussy lips become more swollen as I do this, and in that two minutes, I feel you cum four times. I have to pause twice for longer than I know you want me to so that I won’t cum, and I’m worried that you’ll punish me for that.

“Good boy,” you say, when the timer goes off. “You are the best sex toy.” Even though I love hearing that, I still want to cum so much that I actually feel a little like I might cry. And that frustration itself is so arousing that it keeps me a little bit hard all through dinner, as we sit at our little dining room table, both still wearing our shirts and naked from the waist down.

Afterwards, you insist that we cuddle on the couch for a bit and watch a TV show. You casually reach over and touch my cock occasionally throughout, always keeping me at least half-hard. “Please, Mistress,” I finally say, not wanting to do this much longer.

***********************************************************************

Her

“Please what?” I ask, playfully.

“Please may I cum?” you beg.

I laugh. “Well, I warned you there would be a punishment for touching yourself earlier. This is the first part of the punishment. Are you going to ask for the second part?”

You hang your head in shame. “Please punish me,” you whisper.

“Look me in the eyes when you say that.”

You lift your head, and your pupils are so dilated that it’s hard to see your irises. Your cock gets harder with mortification as you say a little louder, “Please punish me.”

“I’d be delighted to,” I say, feeling myself getting wetter from the look of humiliation in your eyes. I pull you upstairs by your collar and throw you down onto the bed. I lube up your biggest butt plug, which is very big indeed, and without any preamble, I begin gently working it inside you. You gasp, and your eyes and dick both get bigger as it goes completely inside.

“Please touch my dick,” you plead.

“No,” I say, and I grin as I watch you deliberately place your hands under yourself to keep from touching yourself.

“Mine,” I say, nodding at your dick.

“Yours,” you half-gasp, half-scream as the butt plug goes in all the way.

I give you a moment to adjust, then stare into your terrified eyes as I pull my foot back. “Count for me from 5,” I say. You do, and on 0, I kick the plug into your ass. Your whole body flexes in pain from the impact, and you groan. I do this four more times until you’re crying.

“Now fuck me,” I say, laying on my back, with my legs spread. “No cumming until you’ve made me cum ten times.”

You look a little hopeless, and we both know that the odds of you succeeding at this are not high–and what the punishment will be if you fail: me forcing you to drink your cum from my pussy while I sit on your face. You’re very bad at not cumming once something is in your ass.

You almost gingerly insert your cock into me, barely moving it. “Even I can’t cum from this, little slut,” I laugh. “You’ll have to do better if you want to make me cum.”

You close your eyes. “Please count while you cum?” you plead.

“Alright,” I say. You surprise me by pulling all the way out and slamming completely inside me, instantly making me cum. “One.” You wriggle your cock around for a moment, and push again. “Two.” You pull out, and repeat the whole process. “Three, four.” You pull out completely, and I watch you pause so you don’t cum. You push in, pull out completely, then grit your teeth and push in again, moving inside me longer this time. “Five, six, seven.” This time you pull out completely and simply pant while a couple of tears slip down your cheeks and sweat flows down your chest. You pause for too long, and I say again, “Fuck me, toy. Your cock is mine.” Really crying this time, you thrust in (“eight”) pull out, thrust in again (“nine”) and pull out. “Now cum,” I order. Sliding back inside me, I’m awed by how long your entire body spasms. My own body responds from the intensity of your orgasm, and it seems like we cum for ages together, until you collapse on top of me.

“Mine,” I say again.

“Yours,” you agree.

I feel your prodigious cum start running out of me before your cock has even gone soft. “I’m impressed you lasted until ten,” I say, and I feel you beam with my compliment.

“Me too,” you laugh.

I reach around you and gently pull the butt plug out. Then I reach up to kiss you. “I love you, slut.”

“I love you, too, Mistress.”

We lay like that for a while, then go downstairs to take a shower together. We wash the dishes and cuddle on the couch until it’s time for bed. We brush our teeth, lay down together, and turn out the lights.

Without saying a word, I start stroking your cock until it’s hard in my hand, then straddle you to ride you. I cum a few times quickly before you beg me to cum. I make you ask three times, but I know how important it is for you to cum before you go to sleep, so as usual, I tell you yes.

There is no pleasure as great or as simple as being rocked to orgasm by the intensity of yours, then falling gently asleep in your arms with my pussy still dripping.

No actual dildo could ever make as much of a mess of me as you can, but no dildo could ever cuddle fuck me to sleep as well either.

“You are the best toy,” I murmur sleepily into your chest before drifting off.

Part 1: Better than my hand

Preface: For the last couple of months, I’ve been toiling away on a novel that is erotic metafiction (it’s why I haven’t been blogging as much). Expect a much abridged version of the following exercise to make it’s way into the novel, as written by my main character. Part 1 gives you the day of a male dom and a female sub. Part 2 gives a very similar day with a female dom and a male sub.

And yes, before you ask, some of this actually happened.
*************************************************************************

Her

In the morning, I wake up, go to the bathroom, and brush my teeth. I come back to bed, and arrange myself in a kind of yoga child’s pose, with my ass in the air and my pussy exposed. I keep my face hidden this way. This isn’t about my face. This is about my pussy, which is a substitute for your hand.

I hear your alarm go off moments later, and you immediately roll over and slide your dick all the way inside my waiting cunt. Your dick is always biggest and hardest right when you wake up, and it feels a little like I’m being fucked with wood. I can’t say this is pleasurable; I don’t really like being fucked before I’m really awake. I do this for you. You never say a word to me during all this, and this morning, as usual, you don’t even touch the rest of my body while you almost lazily fuck me. You don’t care if I enjoy this, and I don’t either. Every morning, I bite my lip because I’m forbidden from making any noise and reminding you that I’m a person as you hammer your cock into my pussy, cumming inside me after only a couple of minutes. I feel your cum dripping down my pussy and onto my clit as you pull out in an almost careless fashion.

The rules say I’m not allowed to clean up until after I’ve made you coffee downstairs and stood by you while you drink some. You always joke that you don’t like cream in your coffee, but you love the sight of cream dripping down my leg while you drink your coffee. That’s when the day starts as your girlfriend, and not just your hand. You come into the dining room in your boxers and kiss me when I hand you your coffee, and you tell me I’m a good girl. I smile, and stand near you, reading the news over your shoulder as you look on your phone. Occasionally, you reach out casually to gently caress my wet pussy, and then you clench your hand on it and say, “Mine.”

“Yours,” I agree, loving feeling so tangibly possessed by you.

When finish your coffee and stand up, I go to the bathroom again to get cleaned up, then get dressed for work. It’s only a five minute walk for me and a five minute drive for you to our workplaces. Mornings are always dull, and I always start counting down an hour before lunch when I get to see you again. “I’m leaving now,” I text as I walk out the door.

“Sofa, leave all your clothes on,” is all I get back in response.

“Yes, Sir,” I text back.

I get home and enthusiastically throw myself over the sofa arm in the living room, my crotch digging into it. The rules say I’m allowed to jerk off whenever I get permission, but I’m only allowed to cum with your cock inside me. Being told to bend over the sofa counts as permission, and I writhe against the soft hardness of the sofa arm while I wait for you. As I become more aroused, my underwear gets a little bit wet, and I suspect that some of your cum from the morning has slipped out in my excitement. I only stay like that for about five minutes before I hear you get home. I stop moving, although I’m already so close to cumming that it’s a little painful to stop.

I’m still not allowed to look at you, but I hear you come into the living room. I hear your footsteps as you walk up behind me and drop your pants, and my pussy clenches with anticipation as when I hear your belt clank against the floor. You move closer to me and move my underwear to the side, sliding your cock into me. I try not to gasp at the delicious combination of texture and friction that happens as I get pressure from my underwear pressing against me, your cock thrusting into me, and the sofa arm pushing up against my clit. I keep carefully writhing against the sofa a bit while this happens. The rules say that I’m allowed to cum as long as it doesn’t interfere with or distract from your pleasure. Once I writhed too much, and you didn’t let me cum for three days. Another time I made too much noise, and you stopped fucking me to throw me over your knee and spank me until I cried. It hurt to sit down at work for the rest of the afternoon, which hurt worse because my pussy was so swollen from the way you viciously fucked me afterwards.

But a minute or two later you surprise me when you order, “Cum for me, slut.” I don’t even have time to say anything as I finally can release myself, my hips bucking against you as I feel you cum inside me, with me. You collapse a little behind me, over me, kissing the place where my neck meets my shoulder.

“You’re better than my hand, slut. My hand can’t cum.”

I feel indescribably happy from this praise. You slowly pull out of me, then carefully arrange my panties back across my cunt. “Keep those on until we’re done with lunch, slut.”

I follow your orders, of course, even though they’re soaked in five minutes.

***********************************************************

Him

There are always too many meetings late in the afternoon, when they feel the most tedious. When I get bored, my dick gets hard because I always start thinking about sex. But I don’t actually like jerking off that much, and you begged me a long time ago not to cum unless I was inside you. You do so many things for me that I’m more than happy to give you that. I love jerking off inside you. And when I let you cum, you pull my own cum out so effortlessly. Your cunt is much better than my hand.

At 4:55, I get your text. “Leaving work in just a minute, Sir.”

I breathe a sigh of relief that the day is almost over. You relax me even as you arouse me. “Bent over the bed. Naked.” I text back.

“Yes, Sir.” That simple phrase puts a smile on my face, even as it makes my dick start to get harder in anticipation.

I make the short drive home, the whole time imagining the way you’ll look bent over the bed. I open the door, go upstairs to our bedroom, and feel my dick tighten inside my pants at the sight of your gorgeous naked ass up in the air, obediently waiting to please me. Your succulent pink pussy lips are still closed together, but I’ll fix that in a moment.

I quickly unbuckle my belt and drop my pants to the floor. My dick is already so hard and has been for so long that I don’t bother to take them off. I spread your pussy lips with the head of it and shove it inside you, observing the tiny gasp that slips out of you.

I love not having to worry about pleasing you. I love that you love for me to use you. I love the arch of your back when you’re bent over like this, and I love the tiny flutters of movement you can’t help but make whenever I pull too far away from you, as if your pussy just can’t stand to be separated from my cock. But most of all, I love the wet way your pussy grips my cock. It only takes a minute for you to make me cum, and then I love the way my cum drips out of you as I pull out.

I let you clean up while I get dressed again. Then I caress your gorgeous naked body downstairs in the kitchen when you come downstairs, rewarding you by putting your collar around your neck as I kiss the back of it. “Mine,” I murmur into the back of your neck.

“Yours,” you breathe in happy agreement.

It’s a pleasure to make dinner with you and eat with you and simply enjoy your company. But watching you eat naked with a collar on while I remain clothed just makes me want you all over again. “Come here,” I say at the end of dinner.

You obey, sitting on my knee while I grip your breasts. There is a daily ritual here, and it says that when I fuck you after dinner, you’re not my hand.

“You’re my beautiful slut,” I whisper into your ear, already feeling myself get hard inside my pants. I unbuckle my belt, and unzip my jeans, sliding them all the way off. My dick is already completely hard, but I want to feel your mouth on it. “Suck it, slut,” I say, pulling my shirt off and then putting my hand in your hair. You move from my knee to the floor, while you take me into your mouth. I groan with pleasure, but I don’t let you do it for long before pulling you back up by your hair. “Ride me,” I tell you. You straddle me across the chair and carefully slide your pussy down onto my cock. I savor the feeling of you sinking down onto me, and I love the way you close your eyes in pleasure. I let you keep going until I’m close to cumming myself and then I pull back your hair, ordering, “Cum for me, slut.” You immediately reach your hand down to your clit and start rubbing. I grasp your hips with both my hands to help you continue riding me, and not long after your whole body shakes as you cum all over me, your pussy spasming and your eyes glazed.

By force of will, I manage not to cum and hold you tightly, standing up with my cock still inside you as you wrap your legs around me. I carry you the short distance into the living room, and put you down onto the couch. I reluctantly pull out of you, but I spread your legs so that your hips are at the edge of the cushions, while I kneel on the floor in front of you.

“Sit on your hands,” I instruct you. “I want you to last as long as possible, but when you want to cum, beg for my cock.”

“Yes, Sir,” you say, your eyes still glazed.

I start gently licking your swollen clit, moving around your aroused pussy lips. I love the way you taste, and I love the way your hips arch towards my face. I don’t last long at all before you beg, “Please, Sir, please fuck me so I can cum.”

“No.” I deliberately slow down, blowing on your clit while you wriggle and writhe underneath my face. I laugh at your agony, then go back to licking again.

“Please!” you squeal.

“No,” I say, looking into your terrified open eyes. I back off again, only touching you with the barest tip of my tongue. Then I go back to sucking in earnest, my cock aching to be inside you again.

“Please!” you say. There are tears in your eyes now.

“Please what?” I ask, standing to position my cock just outside your pussy.

“Please fuck me so I can cum!” you practically scream. I slide inside you, and I feel your pussy spasm in desperate relief around me, which immediately causes me to cum as well. I readjust you so that I can lay with you on the couch, cuddling you and enjoying the feel of your body against me.

After showering with you, I spend the rest of the evening curled up on the couch with you, watching a movie. It’s as relaxing as cooking with you is, and I love the way you hold me.

“I love you, Sir,” you say, nuzzling your head into my chest.

“I love you too, slut,” I tell you, kissing the top of your head.

But eventually, it’s time for bed.

You go upstairs before me, and I hear you brush your teeth and get in bed. After brushing my own, I come into the dimly lit room and see you on the bed, your ass in the air, obediently waiting to service my cock one last time before we go to sleep.

My beautiful slut is so much better than my hand.

Submission is masculine too

Valentine’s Day draws nigh, and we’re about to be treated to another installment of the 50 Shades movie and Christian Grey’s twu domliness (ignoring the inconvenient part where in the book his character was once a sub, because he was apparently underaged so it doesn’t count…). And of course he’s a dom. He’s a guy. In American films, you’re not likely to see masculine high-power business executives or action heroes who get chained to beds when they get home any time soon, because we mostly treat masculine submission as humorous and often absurd (if you haven’t seen it, check out this hysterical segment of Conan). Gods, in a world where we think men being actually raped is funny (check out the Wedding Crashers or to a lesser degree Almost Famous), it’s no wonder that we think the idea of men consenting to submission is just downright absurd.

It’s the twenty-first century, and I’d personally love to see the idea of gender done away with entirely. I want to make very clear at the start that I prefer living in a world where no one gives a shit about gender, and most of what I’m about to say is irrelevant to assigned-male-at-birth people who identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, trans, or even (a la Eddie Izzard) as “executive transvestites.” But since we seem to be stuck with gender for the foreseeable future, I want to make sure that we get something clear as a subculture, because right now the mainstream culture seems to have made us a bit fuzzy on this point:

submission is masculine too

I’ve never heard anyone suggest that a submissive woman isn’t a “real woman,” but the idea that submissive men aren’t “real men” is one of the most pernicious concepts that pervades much of traditional femdom sub-sub-culture. I don’t pretend to know what a “real man” is, so I figured I’d check the internet for help. The difference between men and women on most personality characteristics is so small that it’s barely scientific to discuss it, but the words that show up as associated with masculinity are:

independent non-emotional aggressive tough-skinned competitive clumsy experienced strong active self-confident hard sexually aggressive rebellious

Now if, for some reason, you’re deeply committed to being a twu manly man and holding onto these values, I want to point out how you can hold onto these characteristics and still be a twu sub too (Goddess help us all). Here goes.

  • Independent: while crazy doms might like someone who is financially and emotionally dependent on them, most sane and healthy doms agree that they actually prefer subs who have their shit together and can take care of themselves. To go back to my car analogy of ages ago, most doms prefer a sub who can drive, but just likes it better if their dom does.
  • Non-emotional and tough skinned: don’t underestimate the appeal of a stoic bottom. It’s super hot when you beat the shit out of someone and they barely show any response, even as the welts appear (it’s also super hot when they scream. My tastes are many and varied).
  • Aggressive and clumsy: okay, I can’t make those work. But they’re also super unappealing qualities anyway, and wouldn’t be nice in a dom either…
  • Competitive: by all means, be competitive–just love to lose. And compete with yourself (just how big a dildo can you take up your ass without getting injured? hm?) Also, develop a perverse affection for rigged games (“let’s play rock paper scissors to see who’s going to be on bottom! You can only do paper.”)
  • Experienced: while cherry popping and innocence are easily compatible with bottoming and submission, you can go so much further with someone who knows what the fuck they’re doing.
  • Strong: yes, please. Give me a strong masculine sub, and I’ll do fucked up shit like kick him while he holds his arms plank position until he falls onto my torturous acupressure mat in exhaustion and I get to step on him. No fun to do with someone who’s weak.
  • Active: contrary to popular belief, submission and bottoming are not passive positions. It’s like getting fucked: to be good at it, you still have to actually be DOING something.
  • Self-confident: one of the unsexiest things is people who seem to be submissive because they’re too insecure to be anything else. And they’re way more satisfying to dom because it feels like you’ve achieved something.
  • Hard: I mean, I don’t want to make people who have erectile problems feel bad, but I must admit that I prefer guys who get and stay hard easily. This is equally true for subs and doms, because I’m going to want to fuck them either way.
  • Sexually aggressive: I would love it if we could stop equating “passion” and “dominance.” You can absolutely still be the sexual aggressor and be submissive. Slam me against a wall and kiss me to get me horny, and I’ll still force you down to your knees to worship my pussy. You can still be the one who initiates the sex… by pleading.
  • Rebellious: my sub rebels all the time; I keep a list of strike marks on my phone and beat him later accordingly. Everyone is still happy. Alternatively, you could argue that one of the most rebellious things a guy in our culture can do is stand up and say, “yeah, I fucking love it if my wife kicks my ass.”

Am I stretching things a bit to make this work? Yeah. But we’ve spent the last 70 years passionately re-working the concept of “feminine” to include the idea of “dominant,” and we’ve done an okay job at that (enough that a woman won the popular presidential vote by a substantial margin–something that would have been impossible 50 years ago). It’s high time we started working on the converse of that idea and started thinking about healthy ways to let men be submissive.

Inspiration

So you want to be a masculine submissive (please note that this is not necessarily the same thing as being a submissive man). And I would love for you to. You know, like the cover of a trashy romance novel, except you’re wearing a collar. How do you make that happen?

First, let’s go to a couple of awesome fantasy series for inspiration: Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books, and Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel books. In both cases, super badass manly men lovingly and happily take the backseat to even more badass chicks, and use the same phrase as they do: “protect and serve.” They take a traditionally masculine role (“the Protector”) and use their skills to serve and please the women in their lives. They’re physically and emotionally strong, clever, resourceful, and good in bed… And they seek out women who are even more badass than they are themselves so they can use their abundant personal resources to do what those women tell them to.

Sure, it’s fiction, but that sounds pretty fucking awesome to me.

But let’s talk about the real world. Here’s a few points of inspiration for you:

  • I think it’s wicked hot if a guy walks around a dungeon in a suit being led around by his necktie (what convenient leashes those are!).
  • And what fun if a guy is strong enough to pick me up and fuck me standing up while carrying me… but isn’t allowed to cum until he’s made me cum three times and has to ask my permission.
  • Tough guys can take a lot of pain, and it’s extra fun to watch them suffer. It’s an especially beautiful thing is to watch super strong guys tied up with almost no rope lines on them, basically stuck in a pull-up position… Their muscles inevitably start trembling, and then they finally collapse into the agony of their viciously unsupportive lines.
  • Our culture has become a little obsessed with the idea that part of being manly is being able to please one’s sexual partners. I think that obsession is pretty unhealthy, but if you’re going to cling to it, it’s super easy to make that compatible with submission. (Pleasing one’s partner is one of those ideas that’s easy to interpret in support of any identity, conveniently enough). But I certainly want a sub to be good at pleasing me and enjoy pleasing me, and I think it’s pretty easy to make that compatible with common masculine identity values.

The thing we seem to have the most trouble with is the idea that erections and being on the giving end of PIV/PIA sex are submissive. This idea is a big part of why fem dom stuff tends to put a big emphasis on chastity play and penis cages: the implication is that in order to control a man, you have to get control of the root of his power, i.e. his dick. We’re stuck in an archaic patriarchal conceptualization where penis = power. This is just silly. Men are amusingly weakened in so many ways when they’re hard. It’s hard for them to pee; a lot of times they walk funny; actually, it’s often difficult for them to do much of anything non-sexual when their dicks are hard–especially, say, math. Men are exposed (literally) and vulnerable when they’re hard, and most of them have been taught by society to feel extremely self-conscious about their erections (you want to quickly humiliate most guys: keep their belt on so their pants stay up, unzip their fly, keep their boxers on, and make them hard anyway so their dicks are sticking out of their clothes. Then make them, say, go to the bathroom across the room in a dungeon to get you a kleenex).

Screw this idea that penis = power. The root of anyone’s power–and the site of everything that controls submission, switching, and domination–is never the genitalia. It’s the brain. You get hard for me. You fuck me for my entertainment and my pleasure. You cum when I tell you you can. Done. That’s what submission is. There’s no need to emasculate yourself in order to be submissive, and I’d personally mostly rather that you didn’t.

Oh, and did I mention the most ironic part? The sooner we embrace the idea that submission is masculine, the easier it will be to find hetero-attracted women who want to be dominant. For many or even possibly most (potentially) dominant hetero-attracted women, submissive men are hot because they’re submissive men. And that’s not just about some sort of fetish for the taboo or defying gender expectations by getting a MAN to submit to them. It’s also just about finding conventionally masculinity hot in a context of submission.

In conclusion, I’m not just saying that it’s okay for guys to submit, or that it’s okay for guys to wear collars. I’m not even just saying that it’s hot for guys to do these things. I’m going several steps further and saying: if you are a masculine person who likes to submit and/or identifies as a sub, that can in fact boost your masculinity rather than reducing it. And I’m not just basing this on some subjective idea about “gender is in the eye of the beholder/keeper” (although it is), or some desperate attempt to re-work masculinity for my own mischievous fem-domly aims (although I am). You really just don’t have to work hard to make your identity as a guy compatible with your identity as a sub, for one simple and basic reason: with the right dom, being masculine is likely to please and arouse them, and isn’t that what submission is about?

Sex toy review: Crescendo

A while back, a sex toy company called Mystery Vibe emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to review a product for them for my blog. I said, “Sure!,” cheerfully ignoring the inconvenient fact that I detest vibrators. So they sent me this fancy schmancy device called a Crescendo.

Now your response right now might be, “What the fuck, you don’t like vibrators?!” followed by, “Why the hell should I read the rest of this review?” Well, to answer the first point, I find vibrators tolerable when they’re ridiculously slow and have irregular rhythms. But mostly I just think they’re incredibly uncomfortable. I enjoy making women happy, however, so I like to keep a handy arsenal of vibrators around. Which brings me to the second question about how I reviewed this toy: I did what any sensible slut would do; I took it to a Victorian-themed kink party, and treated a couple of lovely ladies for hysteria. You know… for science!

Okay, so first off, the selling points from the company. What does Crescendo have going for it? It’s a rechargeable flexible toy with six independent vibrators that you can (theoretically) control with an app on your phone, and it’s fully submersible. It can be many different shapes, as the website shows: It currently sells for $199 (with free shipping right now), so it’s not a small investment in pleasure.

But let’s just go ahead and get one thing out of the way at the start. A friend of mine at the party where I tried out Crescendo noted that with vibrators, it’s usually a case of Rechargeable, Waterproof, Powerful: Pick 2. Crescendo, alas, is no exception to this rule. It’s rechargeable and waterproof, but if you love Hitachi-style genital abuse, save your money. I tried Crescendo out on two different women, and Test Subject #2 just basically stared blankly at me and the poor toy with that tragic, “Is something happening to my genitals? I can’t tell” look. We knocked the Crescendo up to high, and she continued to just look vaguely uncomfortable; we gave up. Her opinion was basically 0 stars[1].

So, assuming that you’re not the sort of person who likes to feel like a car engine is revving up against your bits, what can Crescendo do for you?

For our experiment, our victim who I’ll call Meredith, found a random girl to stuff some fingers inside her, and a very well endowed gentleman whose dick she could suck, while another woman physically manipulated the Crescendo against Meredith’s bits and I controlled the app for the Crescendo on my phone. If this sounds like a lot of people were trying to make her happy, it’s true. During this phase, the Crescendo stayed completely on the outside around Meredith’s clit.

For most of the second phase of this experiment, Meredith just jerked herself off without all her assistants. For this, she kept the toy bent into a U-shape, so that half of it was inside her and half outside. She noted that while the flexibility of the toy was potentially awesome, in reality, her own pussy muscles kept trying to bend and straighten it back out of shape. This really limited its power as an insertable toy.

Hypothetically, the Crescendo with this shape should be able to provide a really subtle and magnificent experience, since you can have higher levels of vibration on the inside or the outside, depending on your preference. In practice, however, this turned out to be pretty difficult to manipulate. As long as you want a clear difference between them, it’s fine; but if you want the power to be more evenly distributed, you’re in trouble. None of us (and there were a lot of smart people around) could make the vibrator have evenly distributed intensity throughout. There was always more intensity at the base, which meant that you had to pick which side you wanted the stronger vibration on.

We ran into a whole host of other practical problems. The toy has buttons on both its sides, and it’s really hard not to end up bumping into them while you’re playing with it. On several occasions during our experiment, we accidentally turned it off. It’s also really hard to touch those buttons yourself if you’re jerking yourself off with it. Unless you’ve memorized where these tiny buttons are ahead of time, you’ll have to take the toy off of you in order to adjust its intensity–not so great in the heat of the moment. It wasn’t any easier to adjust if you were another person manipulating the toy.

Theoretically, the app should keep you from having to worry about those problems. But at its current stage of development, the app is mostly just bewildering. Most importantly, as far as me, an engineer, a computer scientist, and a graphic designer could tell, the app doesn’t really let you control intensity of vibration. Only the physical buttons on the Crescendo itself do that. On top of that, there’s no easy way to manipulate the six different vibrators in the Crescendo. You have to keep scrolling around between a lot of different options, most of which just don’t make sense. It would be way more reasonable to be able to directly control each of the six vibrators and their respective intensities.

Ultimately, Meredith rated the orgasm she had from the Crescendo as “outstanding and excellent,” but said that the complications and inadequacies of the toy would be unlikely to make it her go-to vibrator. Her opinion of it was basically 4 stars.

During our experiments, we did not attempt to use Crescendo for penis-in-vagina sex, nor did I find any people with penises who wanted to try it on themselves. Given the current limitations of the toy, I would be reluctant to try to use it for PIV sex, although I definitely think it has potential for that (like a WeVibe).

All of us who participated in the experiment felt that Crescendo has a lot of potential. We felt that the key problems that we hope the designers would fix in a later version would be:

  1. Actually having some sort of on/off switch. Preferably one that’s hard to hit during play. The current lack of one is extremely annoying.
  2. Other than the on/off switch, getting rid of the physical buttons entirely would be helpful. Substituting a remote control would be easier and reduce the chances of accidentally turning it off or up/down while using it.
  3. Improving the app to provide much more control. Nothing about the app is intuitive presently, and it also just isn’t very useful. It doesn’t let you do any of the things you would most want to do. You should just be able to tap any of the six vibrators and set the rhythm and intensity, and adjust the intensity by dragging up or down. It would also be fucking fabulous if the app had an option to make your phone vibrate in some approximation (at least the rhythm) of what you’re doing to the person. That way, if you’re manipulating your partner, you have some clue what you’re doing.
  4. Having a sturdier charging base. The base fell off a low table to the floor, and basically fell apart. My two very mechanically savvy partners managed to put it back together, but that shouldn’t be necessary.

 

 

[1] For the record, I have seen the same thing happen with Sybians, which many people claim are amazing. I was once at a sex party where someone brought a Sybian. I watched three folks with vaginas ride it. The first just looked bored. The second had approximately the appalled look on their face that a woman would have if a man with a soft dick had repeatedly tried to penetrate her belly button. The third had many noisy and happy orgasms. All of which is to say, sex toys are definitely not one-size-fits-all propositions. I myself would literally not ride a Sybian with a ten-foot-pole.

Solicited Poly Advice: Primary Problems and Hierarchy Troubles

Much of the time I’m sufficiently opinionated that I just write unsolicited sex and relationship advice. But this time, someone actually asked a solid question and said I could answer it publicly. This person, who I’ll call Jo, had been to my poly architecture class and heard me make the claim that it’s ridiculously difficult (nigh unto impossible, it seems) for people in very serious secondary relationships who want a primary to find one. She wasn’t questioning the claim. But she was concerned, because she already has a wife and a serious girlfriend, but she just met The Perfect sub For Her (™). The problem is that Perfect sub, who I’m going to call Amy for the sake of simplicity, doesn’t have a primary and definitely wants one, and lives a long way away anyway. Jo was worried about Amy finding a primary if Amy was always sitting at her feet whenever they went to events together, and asked for my advice.

My advice is… hoo, boy, that’s a tricky one.

On the one hand, in some ways distance can work in your favor in that situation, because it tends to place automatic constraints on how serious the relationship can get (there’s only so much time you can practically spend with someone who lives a long way away). On the other hand, poly long distance relationships have a habit of becoming vacation-ships–you know, the kind where you don’t get out of bed for two days, do all your laundry and clean your house before and after “the date,” and ignore most phone calls from other people when you’re together? Vacation-ships are a big problem when you’re trying to build other actualrelationships because they make the other relationships seem so much less fun by comparison. Vacation-ships are like dessert, but people need solid meals to be healthy and happy. And yet. You need to eat vegetables, but they don’t look very tasty next to cheesecake, do they? Of course, you’ll actually enjoy the cheesecake a lot more if you eat your veggies. Go figure.

The other way that long distance becomes a problem here is that it makes my first automatic advice a lot more difficult to implement, which is: assuming that Amy is the kind of person who meets people at events, don’t go to many events “together”. For most kinky folks, even if they don’t actually meet a Person at events, they socialize and network at events in ways that ultimately can help them meet a Person. So if you go to an event and spend all of your time with the Person you already have, limiting your opportunities to meet new people, you make it really difficult to acquire the missing Person you’re looking for. BUT if you’re long distance, events often become your chief opportunity to spend quality time together.

The temptation here is the Rotten Compromise, where you say, “We will go to this three-night event, and even though we will be sharing a hotel room together, Amy and I must spend one evening apart so she can look for a date.” It sounds eminently reasonable, but sadly, it’s really not, in my experience. At a bare minimum, even people who are quite capable at the Pick Up need one night to search and another night to cement their search, so you really have to promise to spend two evenings apart. But if you’re sharing a hotel room (or cabin or tent), it’s ridiculously easy to just chuck your good intentions entirely and decide that a “night” apart in that context is from 7 pm to 10 pm. Suddenly your resolution not to spend too much time together and to enforce socialization with other people gets flushed down the toilet. Do I sound like I’m speaking from experience? Yeahhhhh…

And I haven’t even gotten to the basic day-to-day stuff where Amy struggles not to text you all the time, because she knows she’s not supposed to depend on you too much emotionally, but she still values you and the support you give her so much. And even though she knows she shouldn’t let it happen, you kind of become her rock. And dammit, she never meant for that to happen, but how is she ever going to find anyone who’s even as remotely awesome as you?

That latter point raises an important point that a lot of hierarchy discussions leave out: there really are some people who are That Awesome. I know a number of folks with a zillion partners, and several of their partners say they’d ideally rather have a primary; but since Awesome Person already has a primary (or two or three), they’ll settle for mostly being Awesome Person’s secondary or tertiary because Awesome Person is That Awesome. So if you’re That Awesome, it’s possible that Amy might kind of give up the hunt for other partners. Be prepared for this possibility. It’s happened to a lot of the people I know.

But let’s say you’re trying to stay super committed to helping Amy find a primary, and let’s hope that you’re better at managing all of this than I have historically been. What do you do?

Dump her. No, I’m kidding. Well, I’m kind of not… Except, you’re not going to, and I sincerely hope you aren’t the sort of person who’d do that because I told you to anyway. It’s still good advice, but I hope you, like me, are unwilling to take this good advice.

So what else do you do? First, you have to be very clear about the relationship boundaries and possibilities. Say, “I have a wife and a girlfriend, and I love you, but I cannot be the Person that you need, and I want to actively support your quest to find that Person.” Try not to accidentally raise unrealistic expectations. At the same time, don’t try to force yourself to stick to unnecessarily harsh relationship boundaries as a matter of principle. There’s a balance there, and no one but you and your partners can find it. That’s a matter of trial and error. If Amy asks you to do or be something for her, and you have the time and energy and inclination to do it, do it. Don’t say “no” just because you’re afraid she’s getting too dependent on you or that it will raise her expectations too high. Constantly doing boundary maintenance for the sake of boundary maintenance is futile and exhausting, in my experience. To use a plant metaphor, don’t try to create relationship topiary: get an approximate sized box to grow your relationship in, and don’t freak out every time it looks a little too big or too small.

Next, you should try be very careful about how you spend time in public places where Amy has good opportunities to meet other people. Unless Amy is the sort of person who is constitutionally incapable of meeting people in large gatherings, or the sort of person who goes to events all the time without you, try not to be her Event Girlfriend. Try to make sure that she goes regularly to quality places where she can meet–and will basically be forced to interact with–quality people without you. You can’t force her to meet other people, but you can make sure that you aren’t the human security blanket that most of us kinky oddballs love to have when interacting in big groups.

Most importantly, if Amy does manage to get another relationship, or even something that looks like it might grow up into one, graciously accept your back seat role. Don’t make her feel guilty for spending less time with you; tell her she’s wanted, but that you accept that whatever she is building with takes priority. Recognize that initially she’ll probably come running to you every time something goes wrong in that other relationship because you probably will remain her security blanket for some time. And then eventually she’ll either stop running to you because that relationship grows up, or for a different reason because they broke up. The hardest thing about anticipating and managing these kinds of relationship changes is recognizing that your role in her life may change completely once she gets her Person. Most of the people who are attracted to hierarchical poly over anarchical poly usually prefer stability; but when you start trying to build relationships over top of previous relationships instead of under them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen.

I don’t know how helpful this has been, because there really just aren’t any easy answers to this very serious question. To me, it often looks like one of the unintended consequences of hierarchical poly life is that some people just seem stuck in a pink-collar relationship ghetto–much like the beloved and well-treated secretary in your office who is never going to get a promotion and never going to get paid what she deserves. Everyone wishes they had a way to fix the system, but no one really has a fucking clue how. If anyone else has a fucking clue, I’d certainly love to hear it.

I wish you both (all) the best of luck.

Halloween & Slut’s Pride

Every year I hear a lot of feminist rants about the sexual objectification of women from Halloween costumes. There’s no question that American women’s Halloween costumes are often just an excuse to wear lingerie in public in a (more-or-less) socially acceptable way.

(Just in case you’re reading this and you’re not from America, here’s some context from the movie Mean Girls to tell you basically everything you need to know on this one):

Most of the rants I see take for granted that the sexual objectification of women is obviously inherently bad. I’m going to bracket that assertion for a moment and start with a point that I have never heard raised before in this discussion:

What if the real problem isn’t sexual objectification? What if the real problem is that women are only allowed to pretend to be sluts once a year even if it’s what they want to do all the time?

Any good student of culture will tell you that most long-lasting conservative cultures have rituals of escape. Indeed, often the most constraining cultures have the most surprisingly escapist rituals of all (e.g. the Amish and Rumspringa). These rituals are often only tolerated within those cultures because participants are viewed as having stepped outside of their normal social selves. The simplest, and very common, way to do that is by wearing masks or costumes (although other versions involve the use of intoxicants, religious trance or possession, or simply defining the participants as temporary outsiders as many coming-of-age rituals like Rumspringa do). But the point is that those rituals often involve people doing things that they are assumed to secretly want to do much of the time, but which normal social rules don’t let them do as regular members of society.

Sound a little bit like women dressing up for Halloween in America?

Basically, our culture assumes that women all want to be sluts all the time, but we don’t let them do it because… reasons. For all that we generally encourage women to dress much more sexually than men all the time, we don’t really let women loose sexually 363 days of the year (the other day they get some leeway for is their birthdays). Throw a costume on them, though, and suddenly women get some freedom to play a slut for a night before they go back to being their regular chaste selves.

Maybe it’s because I’m a slut all the time, or maybe it’s just because I’m genuinely hypersexual (you know, sort-of the polar opposite of an asexual). But to me, this idea is a huge problem. NOT (just) because women get all the sexual objectification for their Halloween trick/treat and men don’t, but because there’s another message coded in there: the only way you’re allowed to be a slut is if you pretend it isn’t really you. If we gave women legitimate sexual freedom the other 363 days of the year, their motivation to dress slutty for Halloween would almost certainly diminish considerably.

Before I got into the BDSM scene took up the life of a sluttastic dilettante, I always used to dress up in the sluttiest costumes I could find for Halloween–prostitutes, slutty fairies, you name it. Several years later, I usually forget to actually assemble a Halloween costume because I get to dress like that all the time (or not) if I want to… in a context where it’s way more socally acceptable and fun (see below). There’s no real thrill associated for me with “dressing up” as a slut at this point. I just get to BE one, which is waaaaaaaaay more fun.

So here’s a crazy thought: rather than criticizing the social institutions of Halloween for encouraging revealing costumes for women, why don’t we criticize the social institutions that make that so appealing for women who get stuck in carefully maintained de-sexualized lives the rest of the time when they’re not dressed up? Maybe those costumes are a fucked-up form of liberation for women who don’t get to be sexually free the remaining 99.4% of the year.

And maybe the biggest problem is that we tell women they have to pretend to be someone else before they’re allowed to be sexually free.


Okay, so I’m sure some of you reading this are still pretty pissy with me for hand-waving over the whole objectification thing, and that’s understandable. I’m going to try to address some of the key points of this huuuuuge question here, but recognize there’s a book’s worth of relevant information and analysis for this, so I’m inevitably going to miss a lot of things.

But I’m going to suggest that, fundamentally, ### “sexual objectification” is mostly only a problem based on equal opportunity, relative power, and social context. It’s not actually inherently bad.

Ack, I can feel lots of you revoking my feminist card as I write this, but hear me out, please! …I’ve got a pretty nice ass. I’ve walked down the street in short skirts. I’ve walked into bars in short skirts. I’ve stripped in a variety of contexts. And I’ve walked around kink events in everything and nothing. I’ve been ruthlessly objectified in all of those contexts, and I assure you, IT FEELS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. It often feels a little bit gross to be objectified when you weren’t trying to do anything sexy, and it often feels downright scary in contexts where you feel like your physical safety might be in question.

But go to a kink event–where many people have gleefully pre-consented to objectification–and the experience changes dramatically. On top of that basic intentional difference of respectfully sexualized context, there’s also a much greater sense of equality: men get ruthlessly objectified as much (or perhaps even more) than women. The fact of being objectified in no way reduces someone’s social status or personal power. Finally, perhaps I’m naive, but I’ve never really worried much for my physical safety there, so objectification almost never feels like a threat.

The thing is that lots of us–both men and women–actually really enjoy being objectified. Sure, I assume that’s more common among kinky folk than the population at large, but I know lots of men and women who will guiltily confess that they enjoy being cat-called walking down the street. Many of us also enjoy being obviously checked out. It’s an ego-boost, it’s flattering, and it’s sometimes just downright funny. The problem, as I’ve said, is that even those of us who often enjoy it don’t enjoy it in all contexts: the elevator look from your waiter is not the same as the elevator look coming from your massage therapist which is not the same as the elevator look coming from your boss. Each of those scenarios changes the aforementioned dynamics of equal opportunity, relative power, and social context. (And of course, there’s always personal preference, since some people would find an elevator look uncomfortable in basically any situation).

All of this is to say that if women feel socially pressured to wear extremely revealing Halloween costumes when they don’t want to, that’s a big problem. It’s also a problem if women keep getting put on sexual display in contexts where a. Men aren’t b. Women feel disempowered in general and disempowered sexually in particular and c. Women feel unsafe. But change the fundamental composition of the social context, so that things look more like the world of the BDSM scene, and I really don’t think that sexual objectification is a big problem. I realize that the rest of the world doesn’t look like the BDSM scene, but I sure as hell want it to.

Notice that a huge part of why the sexual objetification of women is such a big problem most of the time is that women often feel like there may be serious consequences for refusing OR accepting blatant sexual advances. When those consequences are vastly reduced–and when a culture shifts from slut-shaming to slut-embracing as the BDSM culture has attempted to do–then a lot of the underlying fear that accompanies sexual objectification mostly kind of goes away or becomes irrelevant. And when women feel empowered to objectify men too, the sense of threat likewise diminishes.

… All of which is to say, I don’t think the problem is objectification itself. The problem is all the social baggage around it.


In sum: stop criticizing Halloween costumes for being sexually revealing. Criticize social pressure to don said costumes, by all means. But remember that the bigger problems are that society makes women put on a disguise to be slutty and really only lets them do it once a year, and that the problems associated with sexual objectification are more about the social context of that objectification than objectification itself.

Change the fucking social context, not (just) your clothes.

And if you want to start an odd sort of revolution, ladies, try wearing your sexy-ass Halloween costumes all the fucking time. That’s what I do. Trust me, it’ll seriously fuck with the social norms in ways you’d never expect.