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Gender, orgasms, and control: a femme dom rant

Him: I feel like my life has turned into a femme dom porn.
Me: Except for the part where I’m actually sexually satisfied?
Him: Yeah, that and the bathroom rules.

Check the numbers. Guys in the divvy out to about 36% tops, 28% switch/kinkster, and 12% bottoms on fetlife. Chicks divvy out to about 11% tops, 23% switch/kinkster, and 46% bottoms. If I re-run those numbers to only include people with an easy identity in the denominator, you get 47% tops, 36% switches, and 16% bottoms for men; and 14% tops, 29% switches, and 57% bottoms for women. Although these numbers don’t necessarily represent the actual composition of real public scenes, that’s a pretty uneven distribution for hetero partnership.

Why such an uneven distribution between men and women for these identity labels? Some of it is undoubtedly weird scene gender norms. The vast majority of the serious female riggers I know self-identify as subs or slaves, and even though they like to torture people in rope, still don’t identify as switches. Which is certainly their right, but I think it says more about how women in the scene are taught to identify themselves than anything. Meanwhile, I’ve only ever personally met one sub-identified male rigger… but tons of male riggers who self-identify as “doms” even though they say they love tying for exactly the same reason that all those submissive female riggers do: because they like seeing people happy in their rope. My point here is that we teach women and men to identify themselves differently, and we don’t really encourage anyone to identify as a switch.

But when I look at that identity breakdown, I doubt that it’s as simple as traditional gender norms encouraging men to identify as dominant and women to identify as submissive, just because women identify as bottoms so much more than men identify as tops. And it’s possible that I’m asking the wrong question here, but… why so little purported enthusiasm from women for dominance?

Other than social identity pressures, I suggest that we could ignore most other aspects of gender socialization and narrow it down to this: most women–especially most kinky women–like to get fucked with something A LOT. I know that a significant proportion of kinky women like to get fucked really hard. With dicks, fingers, fists, silicone, glass–you know, whatever fits, and preferably not too comfortably–into their holes. And the problem here, as I’ve mentioned before, is that our cultural concept of submission is closely tied to the concept of penetration. So it almost feels like in order to identify as a dominant woman, you kind of have to also say, ‘I don’t really need a good fucking in order to be happy.’

At best, we let dominant hetero women ride men’s dicks (because if you’re going to be penetrated, at least stay physically on top, right?). I went to @Graydancer’s “tie ‘em up and fuck ‘em” class recently–a class which I think he’s taught for many years. While there, I was reminded how deeply ingrained some of these attitudes and perceptions are. The class, by the way, was excellent, and I highly recommend it. Gray taught a brilliantly simple technique that pretty much anyone can use to tie someone up and fuck them. And being a wonderfully open-minded sort of fellow, he showed it from both sides of the hetero equation (guy-tie-girl, girl-tie-guy). But he only showed the girl-tie-guy version initially with the girl on top until I asked him how I could tie up a guy to make him fuck me missionary (since this is usually how I cum best–and the hardest position to actually feel like I’m in control). He looked really confused for a minute, said no one had ever asked him that before, but being awesome, he promptly figured out how to do it. I’m not saying this to call him out–not at all. I’m just noting how much it apparently hadn’t occurred to anybody that a chick might want to tie a guy up and get him into a position where he could jackhammer her cervix (aka “missionary position”).

Consequently, I think a lot of women struggle with the concept of dominance. Then layer on top of those penetrated/“being fucked” = submissive problems the pernicious way that femme dom porn–which unfortunately has inspired a lot of what kinky people fantasize about and envision in terms of female domination and male submission–rarely shows dominant women orgasming at all. What. The. Fuck. It’s bad enough that kink world obsessively fetishizes the ten women in the world who can cum just from being whipped or hit; but to fetishize women who don’t even get sexual pleasure from doing the whipping is even worse. Newsflash to all the submissives out there: I’m not going to traipse around corseted so tightly I can barely breathe while tripping in absurdly high heels and NOT ORGASMING for your entertainment and call it domination. Fuck that shit.

I’ve had a lot of opportunity to ponder all this lately as I slowly acquired a “slightly less fake submissive” (guy). I can never take any d/s arrangement too seriously for myself, and it really always fundamentally is a game for me. But even in our very tongue-in-cheek “d/S contract,” I wrote, “the dominant likes to orgasm. A lot. The Submissive gets to orgasm if He is sufficiently entertaining.” Because what the hell is the point of being the one in control if I don’t get to cum a lot???

To make it even less appealing to (hetero attracted) women, a lot of popular hetero femme dom activities involve deliberately de-sexualizing men as a technique of humiliation or degradation. Why the hell do I want to put men in chastity devices that keep them from getting hard? This makes no sense at all to me. My good little submissive shopped around until he found a chastity device that basically forces him to STAY hard, which is waaaaay sexier, more fun, and more useful. Here’s another newsflash: for many (perhaps most) of us folks out there who are attracted to male submission, we are actually still attracted to masculine sexuality. Erections are still super hot; precum is still really hot; wet sticky orgasms are still super hot; nicely developed chests and biceps are still hot. I’m way more inclined to train a male sub to get hard on command than to train him not to get hard.

Here’s the thing: so much of our femme dom conceipts are derived from pro doms, who aren’t allowed to have sex with their clients. To get around that fact legally and socially, they devised a few creative ways to “not have sex” with their clients that were still getting their clients off because a happy ending makes for a happy customer. So these guys pay to get fucked with strap-ons, not to apply vibrators to the lady’s bits (which also would be legal). And the concept of dom girls as practically stone just trickled down from the pro houses to the femme dom porn world to the scene. It doesn’t help that men–not women–buy all that femme dom porn too, so there just isn’t much motivation on that side to emphasize dominant women’s sexual satisfaction either. (I’m not blaming the pros for anything, mind. They’re just trying to make a living. These problems happened because of social institutions, not because of individuals).

Which is all stupid, self-defeating, and incredibly ironic since it means that domination becomes way less appealing to women for fun and pleasure, so all those guys who want to get dominated keep having to go out and pay someone to do it instead.

So as a self-identified dom-leaning masochistic-leaning switchy slut, I’m going to lay down a few basic guidelines for SlutPhD’s New & Improved World of Feminine Dominance (note that these are guidelines, not rules or laws) to hopefully make the idea of dominance more appealing to women:

  • The dom gets to cum. A lot. In whatever sexual position is most pleasurable to her, in whatever hole pleases her most. Even if that’s her ass.
  • Being penetrated is not inherently submissive or anything else. It just is.
  • At least for the length of the scene, the sub’s entire body (unless negotiated otherwise) is there for the dom’s pleasure, entertainment, and amusement. No part of it gets locked up or incapacitated in any way unless this is pleasing, entertaining, or amusing to the dom.
  • When fantasizing about impractical things, submissives are hereby directed to focus more energy on impractical fantasies that are sexually pleasing for dominants. For people with penises, this includes things like getting hard on command and cumming on command. For everyone, this includes things like getting their whole fist inside their dom, because fisting is now officially declared to be neither dominant nor submissive, dammit, because it just feels good.
  • Passion and passionate desire are not inherently dominant or submissive. You can still be a dom and like being thrown against a wall and kissed or thrown down onto a bed with a raging erection pressed against your thigh.
  • Doms can still enjoy being cuddled and held tenderly by someone else. And are allowed to be vulnerable and cute and whimsical and all sorts of human emotions beyond “cold and bitchy.”
  • Letting a woman dominate you does not lessen you in any way, and I will personally have nothing to do with any fetishistic practices that imply otherwise.
  • Au contraire, you are hotter because this super sexy creature wanted to utterly and completely have you.

On a Constitutional Right to BDSM

by J.M. Green


 

From the Slut: J.M. Green is a friend who very recently completed law school and was gracious enough to write a detailed explication of an extremely complicated case. Much appreciation!


 

 

Dr. Slut has asked me to weigh in on a recent case decided in Virginia. I’m both delighted and flattered to be guest blogging here. My goal is to offer a solid understanding—legally and factually—of what the case actually decided, what it means that a court made this particular decision, and what actually happens now that the decision has been made.

 

What follows is a very detailed explanation of the case, and for people looking for the short takeaway, here it is: a Virginia District Court made several rulings in a complicated case of college date rape which purportedly involved BDSM. The alleged rapist, who had sued the school over how the school dealt with the case, won most of what he’d asked the court for. The only thing he didn’t win was a claim that the university was required to consider the BDSM context of his relationship, but his own admissions would damn him as a rapist in most BDSM communities. Legally speaking, he argued that he has a Constitutional right to engage in BDSM and the court used easily disputable logic to claim otherwise. The court’s ruling really doesn’t mean much, and it doesn’t apply in a very generalizable way. Moreover, it is suspect in terms of its legal reasoning, its simplistic treatment of BDSM, and its treatment of sex in general.

 

Now. For people who want to understand everything that happened in depth, here goes.

 

There has been has been a bit of rumbling and a bit of bumbling in the media recently about a Federal District Court’s decision in the case Doe v. Rector & Visitors of George Mason Univ., because the court spent a handful of pages (about 4 out of 45) analyzing whether the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right to engage in BDSM sex. A shorter version of that already short analysis? “Nope.” The decision is poorly reasoned on the question of the Constitution and BDSM. Critically, however, the “BDSM as Constitutional Right” issue (mostly) didn’t change the case’s outcome in the real world, and the hullabaloo around the decision is a bit silly.

However, the court’s analysis didn’t begin with the BDSM/Constitutional question—it took 40 pages to get there—nor did the court’s answer to that question dictate what actually happened to the people involved in the case. That was decided in the first 40 pages.

Yet, in every discussion I’ve read, the fact that the plaintiff (called “John Doe,” meaning he filed the case without disclosing his name) won nearly all the relief he asked for—the same person who claimed a right to BDSM sex under the Constitution—is glossed over. And yes, you read that right: he won. Without this context, much of the discussion that has followed is nonsensical. So, let’s start here with what happened in the first 40 pages of the decision.

Here’s how we’re going to proceed. First, I’m going to talk about what a “Constitutional Right to BDSM Sex” might look like. Second, I’m going to discuss the non-BDSM holdings in the case, so we have some perspective. Then, I’m going to discuss the BDSM related Constitutional holding (the holding that there is “no Constitutional right to BDSM Sex”) in Doe’s case, and break down how things work in the relevant area of Constitutional Law. Finally, I’m going to talk about why the legal impact of the BDSM related Constitutional holding is pretty much zero.

 

I. (Most of) what was actually decided in the case.

John Doe was expelled from GMU after being found “responsible” for “sexual misconduct.” At issue was whether, in the course of his relationship with a woman the court calls “Jane Roe” (for her privacy), Doe had engaged in sexual activity with her, without her consent. If so, he was in violation of school policies he’d agreed to in attending the school, and thus subject to expulsion. In terms of the school procedure and relevant facts (we’ll talk about the BDSM stuff in part II, but it’s not strictly relevant here), here’s what happened:

  • Roe and Doe dated.
  • Roe and Doe broke up.
  • Doe sent Roe a text message threatening to kill himself if she did not respond.
  • Roe made a formal complaint to GMU about things various Doe did, specifically including events on October 27, 2013 and the text message.
  • GMU emailed Doe informing him he was the subject of (1) an alleged violation of GMU’s sexual misconduct policy and (2) charged with four violations of the code of conduct. Specifically, (1) “infliction of physical harm on any person(s), including self;” (2) “Deliberate touching or penetration of another person without consent;” (3) “Conduct of a sexual nature” and (4) “communication that may cause injury, distress, or emotional or physical discomfort.”
  • Doe was given a hearing before a three-member panel of the school’s Sexual Misconduct Board, where he prevailed and was found “not responsible” as to any charge.
  • That decision was appealed by Roe.
  • Roe’s appeal went to an administrator named Ericson, who reversed the panel’s decision and found Doe “responsible.”
  • Doe then appealed the appeal—apparently a unique event in GMU’s history—to Dean of Students Blank-Godlove (what a name!).
  • Blank-Godlove affirmed Ericson’s decision and Doe was expelled.

After this series of events, Doe brought a lawsuit against the school, with a variety of claims, including the one that the school violated his Constitutional right to engage in BDSM sex.

The opinion that came down at the end of last month was a ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment. All “cross-motions” means is that both Doe and GMU are asking for summary judgment. Summary judgment is something granted by a judge where, if no relevant facts are in dispute, the law requires a particular result.

For example, let’s pretend Dr. Slut sued me for insulting her by saying “you’re stupid.” After we have each gathered some evidence, each of us looks at what we have and discover there’s no factual question of whether I said “you’re stupid:” it looks to both of us like I did say it. So, I go to the court and say “here are the facts we agree on, I think that there’s no legal reason I can’t say “you’re stupid” to Dr. Slut. Dr. Slut does the same, but in reverse, essentially saying “he admits he said ‘you’re stupid,’ and the law says I get money if he does that.” Then, the judge rules on what the law says. With me still? Cool. Let’s look at the opinion.

In this case, the court made three separate rulings. Two were about summary judgment, while the third gets a bit more complicated, so let’s start with the first two:[2]

  1. Ruling: GMU violated Doe’s right to have “due process” before he was expelled.

Explanation: The “Due Process” Clause of the Constitution requires a certain amount of notice to be given to people like Doe in disciplinary hearings. Doe was given fair notice that his actions on October 27, 2013 were at issue, but not that his actions on any other day were. Because the decisions in the appeal process were based on things Doe did on other days, his Due Process Right was violated.

  1. Ruling: GMU violated Doe’s right to “free speech.”

Explanation: The Free Speech protections in the First Amendment protect speech in the form of text messages, but “true threats” do not have any First Amendment protections. GMU’s policy banning text messages that are “likely to…cause[] injury, distress or emotional or physical discomfort” bans more than just “true threats,” without justification. The court thus ruled that because Doe’s text message does not satisfy the legal definition of a “true threat,” it may not be the basis for an expulsion. The court is careful to note, however, that the issue was with the expulsion and its relationship to the policy; GMU would have been perfectly okay to have a policy that when such text messages were sent, students were sequestered and evaluated by mental health counselors.

So, there’s a lot there. Let’s break it down even further: (1) Doe wins. (2) Doe wins.

The court then addresses what remedy Doe gets. The court rules that Doe should be reinstated in the school, but the school CAN hold a new hearing on the same issues. It also rules that it will decide some related issues—like whether Blank-Godlove and Ericson are too biased to fairly run the new hearings—after more briefing and arguments.

 

II. A Constitutional right to BDSM sex

I think the most important thing in any discussion of a Constitutional right, especially when it is a discussion that probably involves non-area experts, is to set a clear definition of the right you’re discussing, or at least note the potential different definitions in play (I’m looking at you, Mr. Volokh). So what form does a Constitutional right to engage in BDSM sex take? What conduct does it protect? What conduct doesn’t it protect?

Constitutional rights, generally, are rights against the government. Because of the nature of government funding of universities, universities are considered government actors for a lot of purposes. So I have a right to free speech against a university, but not against an individual. If I make posts arguing that sex is morally reprehensible on Dr. Slut’s blog, she’s absolutely free to ban me without violating any right of mine. Not quite so for the government/a university. For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot bar a protester from wearing a jacket with the slogan “Fuck the Draft” from entering a courthouse.

However, rights are never absolute. In classic terms, my right to freely swing my fist ends where your nose begins. So, let’s pause and assume there’s a Constitutional right to BDSM sex. Where would such a right end? The most sensible place, it seems to me, would be with consent. This squares with the case Doe cites as the source of his right. Doe cites Lawrence v. Texas, a Supreme Court decision about “homosexual sodomy” as establishing that “all adults have the same fundamental liberty interests [and therefore Constitutional rights] in their private consensual sexual choices.” BDSM only becomes more interesting if you assume it includes consensual non-consent-type play.

Thus, we might see two versions of the right. In the Lawrence case, Mr. Lawrence ended up in court claiming his right because the police broke down the door to his house and arrested him when they found him having a kind of sex Texas had made illegal. Applied to this case, we could imagine a set of facts where a roommate reported Doe and Roe for their sexual practices, and the school expelled him without Roe’s complaint. In that case, we’d have a question of whether a school could—consistent with the Constitution—ban BDSM practices altogether. The other form of the right—the one Doe’s case seems to present—is a question of where Doe’s rights end and Roe’s rights begin.

 

III. The other part of the case.

In the 4½ pages at the end of the opinion, the court rejects an argument that the university violated his “substantive due process” rights.[3] Before we talk about what this means, we should lay two pieces of ground work: the facts and the law. I should also note that while it’s probably important to know the facts here, the law of substantive due process is pretty technical. While writing this piece, I’ve been able to get laughs from other law people by simply stating that “I’m writing a piece that explains substantive due process to a non-law audience.” So, please feel free to skip ahead to part IV.

First, the facts (we’ll unpack them a bit more below):

  • To use the court’s stilted language, Roe and Doe were in a “romantic relationship” which “included certain sexual practices known collectively as ‘BDSM.’”
  • Roe and Doe agreed upon and used the safe word, “Red.” They also seem to[4] have agreed that their sex would include consensual non-consent play (“stop” doesn’t mean STOP; “no” doesn’t mean NO).
  • On October 27, 2013, Roe and Doe had a play session in Doe’s dorm room. Apparently during this session, Roe pushed Doe away, and when asked whether she wanted to continue sex, Roe said “I don’t know.” Doe then resumed activities, according to the court, “despite the equivocation, given that Roe did not use the agreed safe word ‘red.’”
  • After they broke up, Roe made reports to both GMU and the GMU university police about a variety of things Doe did, including various sexual encounters where she felt he violated her consent.
  • According to the facts considered at summary judgement (this only means that there was some argument about the facts—not that there was an ultimate factual determination) Roe did not use the safe word on October 27.
  • However Doe has admitted he has failed to stop sex and play when Roe safe worded, and even admitted this in his GMU hearing:
    • On a call that Roe and the GMU police recorded, Roe asked Doe “why [he] never stopped when [she] used the safe word,” to which he replied that he “felt like [she] could handle it.”
    • At the hearing before the Sexual Misconduct Board, Doe was asked if there were instance outside of October 27 when Roe used the safe word and he refused to stop. His response was it happened in “very rare” and “unusual circumstances” because he was “set in the routine of things.” He qualified this by saying when Roe said “red” again, he would then “stop immediately.” He apparently also assured the Board that he would “not just blatantly ignore and then continue.”
  • The 3-person GMU Sexual Assault Panel found Doe “not responsible” as to the October 27 incident.
  • Roe appealed and (ignoring the procedural issues in part I) Ericson investigated.
  • Ericson found that Doe was responsible for sexual assault, specifically violations of GMU’s ban on touching or penetration “without consent.” However, his formal announcement did not explain the facts supporting or the reasoning of the decision.
  • Doe appealed the appeal, and Dean of Students Blank-Godlove investigated.
  • Blank-Godlove reviewed “only those portions of the record identified by Ericson as supporting his decision.” She upheld Ericson’s determination.
  • Apparently those portions were not just about October 27: later, during the lawsuit, it was revealed that Doe was “expelled for conduct other than what occurred on October 27.”[5].

With the facts covered, let’s dig into the law of substantive due process, and look at what it means in this case:

First, for those unacquainted with Fourteenth Amendment law, let’s start with what the words mean. Drawing some very rough lines, a “substantive” right is a right to some actual thing in the world, as opposed to a right to some kind of process. If I have a substantive right to free speech, for example, I have a right that involves actual speaking. This stands in opposition to a “procedural” right, which is a right to some kind of process. For example, if I had a procedural right to free speech, I’d have a right to have a certain amount of process take place before my speech rights were taken away.

Substantive due process is about a set of rights that are so fundamental that they are implied in the Constitution, rather than explicitly stated. The doctrine has a storied history. For example, in 1905, the Supreme Court used substantive due process to strike down minimum wage and other labor laws because the Court saw those laws as infringing the fundamental right of individuals to freely contract (Lochner v. New York). More recently, decisions have taken a liberal turn, and notable “fundamental rights” include a woman’s right to control her own body and have an abortion (Roe v. Wade); in an individual’s right to engage in consensual “sodomy” (Lawrence v. Texas); and the freedom to marry a person of one’s choice, regardless of gender (Obergefell v. Hodges).

Doctrinally, here’s how you win a substantive due process claim.[6] There are two kinds of review that a substantive due process claim can be given: strict scrutiny review and rational basis review. Winning cases essentially requires getting strict scrutiny review. When conducting strict scrutiny, courts use a lot of phrases like “substantially further a compelling government interest” and “least burdensome means,” which boil down to “government, if you want to restrict this right, you better have a damn good goal and no other way accomplish it.” Thus, it is exceedingly rare that a regulation can survive that test. On the other hand, courts doing rational basis review will ask if the government has a “legitimate interest” (and there doesn’t need to be a single piece of evidence that the interest identified in court was what the people passing the restriction had in mind) and whether the restriction is “rationally related” to that interest. Just as exceedingly few laws survive strict scrutiny, exceedingly few laws fail a rational basis test.

So, how do you get strict scrutiny? You must establish that the right you’ve identified is “fundamental.”[7] The easiest way to do this is to find a case where the Supreme Court has already identified a fundamental right, and argue your right falls under that larger heading. If the right has not already been identified, or a court disagrees with you that your right should fall under a pre-existing right, there are two ways to show a right is fundamental. You can show either that your right is (1) “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” or that it is (2) “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 (1937); Moore v. City of East Cleveland 431 U.S. 494 (1977). Most arguments will cover both bases.

As you might guess, the most important fight in determining whether a right is fundamental is the fight over how—and at what level of generality—the right at issue is defined. To show you what I mean, let’s talk about the decision in the Lawrence v. Texas: the case that is the source of the fundamental liberty interest Doe claims. Lawrence was about a Texas law that banned “deviate sexual intercourse,” which was defined to mean “anal intercourse with a member of the same sex (man).”[8] Police, responding to what was apparently a false report of a “weapons disturbance,” entered the home of John Lawrence and his partner. The police found them making the beast with two backs, and arrested them for violation of the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law (the one I mentioned above). They were convicted, and appealed that conviction to the Supreme Court, saying the law violated their substantive due process rights.[9]

Ultimately, the Court decided that “all adults have the same fundamental liberty interests in their private consensual sexual choices,” and that this right extended to Lawrence and his partner. However, Texas didn’t argue that all adults did not have a fundamental interest in “private consensual sexual choices.” Instead, Texas argued that there was no fundamental “right to engage in homosexual anal intercourse,” and argued vehemently that even if there was a right to engage in private consensual sexual choices,” that right didn’t help them because they could not “establish a historical tradition of exalting and protecting the conduct” (read: anal sex) “for which they were prosecuted at any level of specificity.”

In Doe’s case, the most sensible approach would have been to start from what is clear in the law; Lawrence unequivocally stated that there is a fundamental interest in “private consensual sexual choices.” The proper question left for Judge Ellis to decide was not whether there was a fundamental liberty interest in “freedom from state regulation of consensual BDSM activity,” but whether the regulation of consensual BDSM activity violates broader right to “private consensual sexual choices.” I am not suggesting that would be an easy constitutional question; but I am saying it’s the right one to ask. Instead, Judge Ellis takes a nonsensical perspective and argues that “Obergefell [(the gay marriage case)] explicitly establishes that the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses are interlocking and each leads to a stronger understanding of the other” (quotation marks removed). While it is true that this is the case in Obergefell, the claim that Obergefell somehow ruled that all Substantive Due Process claims must have an Equal Protection element is an absurd one, and one I can’t find being made anywhere else.

I should also mention that at least some BDSM communities would recoil in horror at Doe’s attitude towards safewords, and thus it’s far from clear that the BDSM context wasn’t (or couldn’t have been) taken into account. Recall that Doe admitted at the hearing he did not always immediately respond to safewords, sometimes because he was “set in the routine of things.” Clarisse Thorn wrote a fantastic piece on safe words several years ago, and has cited approvingly to Thomas MacAulay Millar’s annotated version of it. In the annotations, Millar writes that it “can’t be emphasized enough” that “Tops Can Never Be On Cruise Control!” (emphasis and capitalization from the original). Along a similar line, one major online resource for submissive partners in BDSM relationships (the “Submissive Guide by lunaKM) instructs that “[i]f used, the ‘stop’ safeword should be respected unconditionally. After the bottom uses the safeword, the activity or entire scene is over, inflicting pain or any physical forcing should be stopped and all restraints should be removed immediately. Ignoring safewords is considered dishonorable and a deeply immoral practice in the BDSM community” (emphasis added). While this by no means speaks for everyone in the community, Doe’s admissions about his behavior regarding safe words would be plenty in at least some BDSM communities to—with the BDSM context he asks for!—determine he had violated consent; he failed to stop “immediately” because, as he describes it, he was “set in the routine of things” (in other words, he was “on cruise control”).

 

IV. What is the impact of this decision?

Of course, none of the above may really matter; the impact of the BDSM portion of decision is (next to) zero. To explain this, I want to start with what will happen to John Doe now.

John Doe has a right to a new hearing because the appeal process for the original hearing was found to be Constitutionally inadequate. Let’s talk about what that means in light of what we know Doe did. Doe claims that Ericson and Blank-Godlove did not take account of the BDSM context of his relationship in his appeal. However, if that was strictly true, it’s hard to see why they would have needed to rely on events OTHER THAN the October 27 incident. On October 27, we know that Roe physically pushed Doe away and expressed disinterest in continuing sex, which Doe responded to by continuing sex. Without a BDSM context, that is a pretty clear violation of consent.

Even with a BDSM context, we know that Doe admitted he did not stop activity when Roe used her safe word, and we know that he did this more than once. This is legally relevant because it means that the court’s decision on the Due Process right is a decision on a question that was not appropriately before it; on the undisputed facts, Doe’s right to private consensual sexual choices was not violated when the school enforced a consent policy against him. Moreover, as far as I can tell, his argument that BDSM community norms would compel a different result on a consent determination is simply wrong about community norms.

I should also explain a little bit about what it means that this case was decided in a Virginia District Court. The court is in the federal system, which is structured as follows:

  1. United States Supreme Court (top)
  2. Federal Appellate Courts
  3. Federal District Courts (bottom)

In this system, decisions by a higher (closer to the top) court must be followed by that court, and  any courts below them. Additionally, a judge at the same level as another may explicitly overrule the decision of that judge, though such decisions are less common. So, the Virginia district court’s (the bottom rung on that ladder) decision only requires another court in that same district to follow its results, and even then, it is not exactly required so much as strongly suggested. Furthermore, because as I mentioned above, it was not necessary to decide the Constitutional question to reach the result in this case, another district court might call the decision “dicta.” What that means is that the court was expressing an opinion on an issue it didn’t need to decide, and therefore that opinion is just that: an opinion, and not a binding judicial decision.

Finally, I want to express one last opinion. Because this case is a district court case, its influence is only as great as its reasoning is convincing. Judge Ellis’s reasoning is not convincing, and here’s why: it is entirely consistent with both Lawrence and the result in this case to say that (1) Doe should lose on the Constitutional issue, and (2) there is a Constitutional right that protects BDSM sex. Recall that Lawrence was about a legislative ban on a victimless crime. By contrast, Doe had a victim. The facts of a case that would actually require a court to decide whether Lawrence’s right to consensual sex includes BDSM would look more like this:

  • Doe and Roe are in a BDSM relationship.
  • They are having a consensual non-consent type scene in Doe’s dorm room.
  • Doe’s roommate walks in, and immediately calls the GMU police.
  • Doe is brought before a Sexual Misconduct Board, where Doe’s roommate testifies to what he saw Doe doing to Roe.
  • Roe either testifies that she had negotiated with Doe, or is for some reason unavailable to testify.

Whether that case would come out differently is perhaps underscored by the fact that Doe was found “not responsible” by the Misconduct Board, even when he explicitly admitted he didn’t always follow safe word practices appropriately.

 

V. Conclusion

So what does all this mean? Doe is now a student at GMU again. He’s going to have another hearing. However, there is no reason that he needs to be found “not responsible” in that hearing. Based on what appear to be uncontested facts, in that hearing, a panel could take into account BDSM context and still find him “responsible” for sexual assault. Doe clearly won the battle here, but it may be something of a pyrrhic victory. But none of that should make us worry deeply about the Constitutional status of BDSM. This case has no binding effect decisions by future courts in cases where an actual ban on BDSM practices is enacted, nor does it have any binding effect on cases where there is no victim. It is unfortunate that even in the legal field, sometimes very important complexity is lost in translation, and that has certainly happened in reporting on Doe’s case.

I also want to take one last moment to focus on the impact of this decision on Roe. Tragically, the University’s handling of this case probably forces her to make the horrible choice of going through a hellish proceeding again or knowing that Doe will go unpunished. It seems clear to me that a little less squeamishness around the BDSM element of the case would have gone a long way: if the administrators had looked up BDSM community standards on safewords, Doe’s testimony would have damned him, and they could explicitly say “we took into account the BDSM context, and in that context, you were responsible for sexual assault.” Perhaps we can hope this case teaches universities that lesson.

[1] A big thank you to my dear friend Maya (mayashakti) for help in trying to make this understandable to non-lawyers.

[2] For those familiar with some parts of Constitutional law playing along at home, you may notice that it’s kind of weird that a University can violate Constitutional rights. That’s a complicated story, but it can be reduced to “Universities are basically government/state actors in some cases.” It’s also worth noting that the court mentions that its second holding may be moot—that is, not relevant anymore—because it rules in Doe’s favor on the first, and the relief Doe requested is the same for each violation.

[3] For those keeping score at home, this actually isn’t the first time this was addressed in this case. Doe’s substantive due process right to BDSM sex claim was actually dismissed back in September. See 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125230. Doe raised the issue again with a motion to reconsider. The analysis is substantially different, so I’m going to talk exclusively about the February decision.

[4] The court is not particularly clear on whether Roe explicitly agreed to consensual non-consent, though it notes that “according to [Doe,] the ground rules for his BDSM relationship with Roe included that [Doe] should not stop sexual activity unless or until Roe used the safeword.”

[5] The court treats this like it was a surprise to Doe, but at least one charge—the charge related to his text message—was clearly about a non-October 27 event. That said, it does seem reasonable to say that, with regard to the allegations of consent violations, this may have come as a surprise to Doe.

[6] I am only treating the kind of substantive due process claim made by Doe. There are some other modes of analysis out there that I’m not mentioning because this is already way too complicated. See, for example, Justice Souter’s dissent, proposing sliding scale-type analysis in Washington v. Glucksberg (a case about assisted suicide case), suggesting that the test should be comparing the importance of the right asserted with the importance of the state interest.

[7] There is a variance in terminology, and the opinion in Doe’s case uses both. Just know that “implied fundamental right,” a “fundamental right,” and an “implied fundamental liberty interest” mean exactly the same thing.

[8] Yes, they made super-duper clear they were only going after homosexual dudes. Heterosexuals and lesbians could apparently have all the anal sex they wanted.

[9] There is also an equal protection story here, but let’s put that aside.

 

Why Do People Do BDSM + Bonus Bondage

Back in the fall of 2015, I gave an academic-ish talk for a group called We Are Takoma. I threw in some bonus bondage performances as it was also an arts venue. The talk explains why people engage in BDSM. The bondage performances are a sexy bonus.

The talk is by me

The first performance is by Sardonic and WigglyBunny

The second performance is by me and Greneydathlete

Video here

 

Wrecking Ball Parody

I managed to pull together some friends to create this parody of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. Enjoy the absurdity.

(NSFW) http://www.xtube.com/watch.php?v=SzLcu-S401-#.VUfZH_lViko

Book Preview: KINK: Sometimes Truth Is So Much Stranger Than Fiction

If you read this stuff in a novel, you probably wouldn’t believe it… Meet the real people who engage in BDSM (Bondage & Discipline/Dominance & submission/Sadism & Masochism). Kinky will introduce you to a woman who can orgasm from being whipped, a man who likes to take a woman’s entire fist and forearm up his anus, and a Queer woman who likes to groom and train people who identify as “ponies.” As a professional sociologist and long-time member of “the Scene”—the social world of people who call themselves “kinky,” Dr. Fennell describes the lives of the many kinky people she has encountered with an insider’s unique brand of empathy and playful wit. Drawing from her extensive experiences interviewing, observing, and frolicking with kinksters throughout the mid-Atlantic, Fennell explains what it is that kinky people say they do, what they actually do, and why they do it. A tourguide who knows the scenery intimately, Fennell takes you to a world that is simultaneously exotic and unexpectedly mundane, but where the rules are just… different. It’s a world where the ties that bind are tighter than those of the outside “vanilla” world, and not just because there are usually ropes or chains involved. And it’s a world where love (and sex) can get very, very big, and very, very, very loud.

Sometimes truth is so much stranger than fiction.

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Want to read more? Click on the 2 sample chapters linked below! If you want to see this book in print, please vote in the poll here, so I can encourage publishers to make it happen! 

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Sample chapters:

Chapter 2: Shades of Gray

Chapter 4: The Love Language of Kink

 

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Editors and publishers: I’m still looking for a publisher for my book! If you’re interested, please send me an email at theslut@slutphd.com, and I’ll put you in touch with my agent.

Great Advice for Concerned Parents

Freaked out about your kid’s porn preferences? Chances are, they’re just kinky, not a future abuser. Dan Savage offers some great advice for parents who are worried about their kids.

http://www.avclub.com/article/ethical-sadist-214995

The 8 Most Misunderstood Things About BDSM

It’s easy to mock and misunderstand kinky people. We’re weird. I know. Trust me, only kinky people know how really weird we are. But seriously, most of us aren’t that weird, especially compared to say, soccer moms. Everyone deserves to be laughed at for something, and it’s easy to poke fun at kinksters. But if you’re going to laugh, please laugh about the right things. The stereotypes and misunderstandings that “vanillas” (what kinky people call everyone else) have about us undoubtedly exceed the 8 things on this list. Lo, these misinformed stereotypes even recently appeared in a cracked.com article.  We already have to deal with the fictional travesty that is 50 Shades of Grey, with its dubious conceptions of BDSM and its lexically challenged heroine. So please take a minute to learn how most of what you’ve learned about BDSM is wrong.

 

8. “What the hell is that acronym for anyway? Can I just call it ‘kink?’”

The acronym cheats: “BDSM” actually stands for 6 things—Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & submission (and yes, kink orthography traditionally capitalizes the “D” and doesn’t capitalize the “s”), and Sadism & Masochism.  The acronym evolved over time from S&M to SM to BDS&M to just plain BDSM.  Expect it to change again in 10 years.

And yes, you can just call it “kink.” Kinky people do. Just don’t be a judgmental prick about it.
For a good summary of the history, see CARAS research 

 

7. “All kinky people wear leather. And are gay.”

Long, long ago, there was a “leather scene” primarily for gay men that involved many activities that we now tend to label BDSM. Then some straight-ish people saw what was going on and thought that that kinky shit looked fun and started building their own BDSM subcultures. To this day, gay men and… everyone else… functionally have two separate, albeit related BDSM worlds. Occasionally, we all get together at big events, but for the most part, the “pansexual” BDSM scene and the “gay men’s leather scene” are basically distinct.

Gratuitous hot boys in leather.

 

Well, kinky girls wear weird shit too… it just isn’t always leather: gratuitous hot chick in latex.

Nowadays, all kinksters have the same flag, but the not-gay male kinky people are a lot less likely to wear leather.

“No flag, no subculture–that’s the rule that I just made up!” ~with apologies to Eddie Izzard

References: Fennell 2014  Lenius 2001  Richters et al. 2008 (for Australia)

 

6. “All people who do BDSM participate in ‘The Lifestyle’”
The public face of BDSM tends to be folks who are out, loud, and proud.

Awww, so cute! This was the #2 picture when I searched google image for “BDSM.”

Cute pic, right? But in reality, you won’t find most kinksters at a pride parade or at their local BDSM “munch” or happy hour (those are kinky social networking events, FYI), or even at the local BDSM club.  Despite the visibility of public kink, social scientists actually assume that the vast majority of people engaging in kink are not part of the public BDSM subculture (usually referred to as “The Scene” or “The Lifestyle”).

It’s like facebook, except there are lots of naked pictures.

It’s like facebook, except there are lots of naked pictures.

The BDSM subculture (which is most visible on the internet on the website FetLife) only represents a tiny fraction of kinky folks. Only a few kinky folks are lucky enough to live in a big city with a public BDSM scene. But even a lot of those people don’t like getting dressed up, going to parties, and doing kink surrounded by lots of other people. The public BDSM scene calls to exhibitionists and people who like doing weird things in the company of other weird people. These people also tend to be white and middle+-class.

I created this diagram to illustrate my point.

I created this diagram to illustrate my point.

People who participate in the public BDSM scene tend to participate in a lot of overlapping and adjacent subcultures as well, most notably the geek subculture, the pagan subculture, and the polyamorous subculture. Polyamory???  You know, that crazy thing where people get to sleep with people who aren’t their spouses, but don’t lie about it… or have meaningful relationships with lots of people… or some combination of the above.

Polyamorous life is definitely more complicated, but it’s also a helluva lot more fun.

Most people who participate in the public BDSM scene in the main urban areas around the U.S. are non-monogamous, while we’re pretty sure the people who like to play at home have more traditional monogamish relationships.

I can’t be wittier than Oscar Wilde.

In the public BDSM scene where I live, monogamous kinksters were so rare that they tried to set up their own dating group. But there were so few of them that it rapidly vanished.

References:  Newmahr 2010  Sheff & Hammers 2011

 

5. “Kinksters and swingers are all part of the same subculture”
Au contraire, there is actually a longstanding subcultural war between kinksters and swingers, even though—nay, perhaps because—they often have their events in the same venues on alternating nights. The hostility is so common that the primary group for swingers on the kinky social networking website FetLife is defensively named, “’Swingers‘ is not a dirty word!”

#3 google image pic for “Swinger Party.” Real swingers tend to be a lot older than this, but just as white, and just as naked.

The only google image I could quickly find for “BDSM Party” that wasn’t from porn. As you see, sexy, but a lot less sex. Real kinksters tend to look pretty much exactly like this—just as white and just as semi-clothed, most of the time.

To be clear, kinksters like to play with power and pain; swingers like to have sex with lots of people. These desires occasionally overlap, but mostly don’t.

Many kink gatherings forbid sex; sex is what happens at swinger parties. Most kink events enforce strict rules about consensual touching; most swinger events operate with a “touch unless swatted” attitude.  Many kink events are extremely Queer-friendly (despite a decidedly heterosexual male/bisexual female bias); most swinger events strongly discourage two men from staring at each other’s asses, let alone fucking.

Reference: Morton 2010

 

4. “All kinksters live in 24/7 Dominant/submissive relationships and do crazy shit like play with enemas and let people pee on them.”
Whoa, there, friend!  Um, some of us do… but actually, the vast majority of us don’t.

Don’t gay guys dress like this all the time?

Just like the gay guys who make the news are often wearing rainbow tutus with sparkly underwear, the people who are conspicuous among kinky folk tend to live at the extremes—but neither is really representative of “most gay guys” or “most kinksters.”  Most kinky folks aren’t in 24/7 relationships, have never signed a contract that lets someone else “own” them, and wouldn’t let someone else pee on them.

Lots of kinky people get collared or collar someone else. Most of us don’t.

Sure, lots of kinky people have done all of these things, but your average kinky person likes being tied up and beaten with a flogger on weekends, not wandering around on a leash and eating from a dog bowl in their spare time (not that I’m judging those people—those people totally hot and cool, and I sleep with plenty of them, but they’re still not the average). On Fetlife, discounting oral sex (#2) and anal sex (#5), the 10 most popular “kinks” are: bondage, spanking, hair pulling, blindfolds, biting, talking dirty, handcuffs, discipline, collar lead/leash, and lingerie.

Handcuffs: so kinky you can buy them at the mall at Spencer’s, along with a Superman wallet.

Reference: for Sweden: Carlstrom 2012

 

3. “All kinky people were abused as children, or have been raped or molested.”
This one just won’t go away: the great kinky romantic comedy Secretary actually opens with the main character being released from a mental hospital; meanwhile Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey has some sort of tortured past of non-consent. Just like psychologists used to try to expend a lot of energy and imagination trying to figure out the experiences in someone’s past that “makes them gay,” the culture still tends to assume that some experience “makes them kinky.”

Dude, Mama Monster (Lady Gaga) said she was Born This Way. Why would she lie?

Despite the persistent idea of kinksters with haunted pasts of abuse and molestation, in fact, psychological research has found over and over again that kinksters are pretty damned normal and as likely to have been raped or abused as anyone else.  A lot of kinky people say they were just born this way, with some suggesting that “kinky” is a basic sexual orientation the same way “straight” or “gay” is.

References: Meeker  Connolly 2008 Wismeijer & van Assen 2013 (the Netherlands)  Richters et al. 2008 (Australia)
2. “All Doms are men” OR “All Doms are women”
Both of these misconceptions manage to float around simultaneously.  The idea that all Doms are women is fueled by the fact that most professional dominatrixes are women.

It’s a living.

The idea that all Doms are men is driven by sexist assumptions about women all being submissive and having a deep-seated biological urge to spread their legs whenever anyone with a penis tells them to.

You can regularly meet people in the BDSM subculture who will assure you that all women are “really” submissive, and all men are “really” dominant… although they have an awkward habit of spelling the adjective “dominate.”

Nevertheless, the idea that men are Doms and women are subs turns out to have a little validity: inside the BDSM subculture, women are much more likely to be submissive than dominant.  However, in defiance of popular imagination and BDSM imagination both, about a third of men identify as submissive, and switches (people who like to be dominant and submissive) of both genders are quite common.

It’s called “switching.” It’s not surprising that mainstream imagination tends to forget its existence, since the BDSM subculture tends to forget about it too.

References: Lindemann 2010  Wismeijer & van Assen 2008 (the Netherlands)  Bienvenu, McGeorge, Jacques 2002

 

1. “It’s all about sex” 
This pseudo-myth actually gets debated a lot among people in the BDSM subculture themselves. Witness the following:

I admit I find this attitude pretty funny myself, but it’s kinda popular.

In wild contrast to the porntastic popular portrayal, many kinksters say that BDSM isn’t about sex at all, and it’s common for public kink parties and gatherings to forbid any sexual activity. When I interviewed American east coast kinksters, about 25% of them said that kink wasn’t sexual for them personally, and that they didn’t think it was sexual in general.

It may seem really counterintuitive, but lots of people do BDSM the way that other people climb mountains—like an extreme sport. Many people report the same kind of endorphin high from getting whipped, beaten, tied up, etc. that other people report from running, rock climbing, etc.

This looks pretty fucking kinky to me. That’s some serious bondage.

 

In case you were wondering, people don’t usually fuck when they’re tied up like this.

Other people really do engage in BDSM as a religious/spiritual activity, and psychologists have shown that participants’ bodies actually respond in ways that echo those of a person having any other type of religious experience to these rituals.

 

BDSM can turn your body into a religious work of art. I wouldn’t recommend having sex like this, but you theoretically could…

 

Kink, religion, or both? If the people weren’t white, would your answer change?

References:  Newmahr 2010  Livescience Fennell 2014

 

 

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Please note: none of these photos except the diagram in the middle are original to me. All are live-linked back to their original sources. Enjoy!

“Does This Look Sexual to You?”

In one of the final scenes of the classic kinky rom com Secretary, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character tries to prove herself to the man she wants to become her Dom by remaining seated and unmoving for… a really long time. She’s haunted by various hallucinations while she sits there, one of whom asks, “Lee, are you doing something sexual right now?” Fiercely, she responds, “Does this look sexual to you?!” The question is left rhetorical in the film, and I’ve never been satisfied with my own answer to it. She’s sitting, fully dressed in her wedding dress, swaying with exhaustion, and the film even shows her peeing herself at one point. But my gut response to her question has always been an uncomfortable and unsatisfying, “Well, maybe-sort-of-kind-of-a-little-yeah.” I found the question so thought-provoking that I made it one of my research questions for my project on BDSM.  I also meandered around the question a bit recently when I was interviewed by The People of Kink

But this post isn’t about other people, or what BDSM means to other people, or how different BDSM microcultures construct sex and sexuality. I just spent the last month frantically assembling that shit. This post is about me, dammit. Because the whole time I was putting that darned presentation together, I kept asking myself how would I answer the question–is BDSM/kink sexual/about sex–if I interviewed myself. And this post is what I would say.

When I first entered the Scene several years ago, it never in a million years crossed my mind that kink could be anything other than sexual. At that point, kink was all about sex for me: what could make me cum harder, what could make my partners cum harder, what could make them aroused and wanting to fuck me? Whether playing with violet wands, getting poked with needles, getting my clothes cut off with knives, or scratching people with my claws: it was really all about sex for me. The first time I got suspended in rope, I got fucked with a glass dildo; the third time I got suspended, it was so I could fuck a girl in the air. I really had no idea there were kink events that forbade sex, and I couldn’t really wrap my brain around the idea that there were BDSM activities that people engaged in for reasons other than sex. Once I started talking to people who claimed that they engaged in BDSM for non-sexual reasons, my brain tended to give them patronizing looks even as the rest of me sometimes tried to hang on to a poker face. Why the fuck were they doing this shit if not for sex?

Then one night I flogged a guy I wasn’t attracted to just because my fingers were itching to beat the crap out of someone. It was sexy to hurt someone like that, but I don’t know that I could really call it sexual. It made me excited, but I couldn’t really say that it made my clit hard. Pretty much the same thing happened a few weeks later when I got tied up in a really uncomfortable position for the first time: it was sexy and fun and exciting, but I couldn’t really say it got me hard. In both cases, the exhiliration I experienced wasn’t that different from doing other things that I find really sexy that are physically challenging, like poledancing or dancing with fire. The analogy is extremely apt for me: I’ve done competitive poledancing, which didn’t get my clit hard at all–it’s art and an athletic competition; it’s sensual and fun, but that’s it. But I’ve poledanced at kink events, and it’s an entirely different experience that leaves my pussy smelling like I’ve just been fucked. Ditto with firedancing. For both poledancing and firedancing, I will readily admit that I’ve jerked off fantasizing about doing those things in specific contexts, but they certainly aren’t inherently sexual. And I’ve learned to think of a lot of kink activities the same way.

Conversely, I’ve done scenes that I didn’t expect to get my clit hard that did. One of the first fetish photography shoots I did was mostly just me, naked, doing sensual and sexy things that I enjoy for three enthusiastic photographers. Totally unattracted to anyone there, I was startled when I got dressed later and realized that I smelled like I had been having sex. I didn’t just smell like I was aroused; I smelled like I had actually been having sex. The same thing happened when I just observed at a kinky wrestling party (I reeeeeally like to watch sexy people wrestle sexily…). Then another time, a couple of years ago, I bought a single-tail, and my friend InspiredIniquity gamely volunteered to let me hit him with it, even though I’d never wielded one before. I was really a downright lousy whip top, and he was being very good about letting me know what I was doing wrong and what I needed to modify, and he and I were just friends… but somehow, whip practice devolved into something that felt supiciously like a scene that definitely left both of us panting. There was absolutely nothing overtly sexual about what we were doing–we were standing a good 3 feet apart–and yet both of us left with hard-ons. We both like single-tails a lot, but much more was happening than a shared kink: there was chemistry in that interaction that had nothing to do with the whip. (He quipped that he could have been teaching me to sautee vegetables, and it still would have been arousing, because that’s what the best chemistry does).

The weirdest point of convergence for me happened just a couple of weeks ago at Winterfire. I arrived there wicked horny because my pre-birthday orgy got genitalia-blocked by a snowstorm. I started asking around for “Trouble” (it’s my generic term for kink and/or sex), and B offered me rope. Now, a sensible person would have said, “Could there be sex first, please?,” but I’m not always a sensible person. I’m a spoiled slut, and I’ve learned that sometimes, sexy, weird, and delightful things come my way when I don’t ask for what I want (it’s not a strategy I’d recommend to other people. I live a strange life). The thing was, I’d never done a rope scene with him when I was that horny since he and I started sleeping together, and I wanted to see what it would feel like. And…alkalgohotgih… that’s not a typo. That’s my brain on rope. It’s just a scramble of unwords…

He was fully clothed and I was still in my underwear, but whatever it was we were doing felt far more intimate than sex. I’m not normally a twue rope slut (people who space out just from the pleasures of rope on their skin), but the moment his ropes touched my flesh, I felt like I was being completely encased in his body. I started spacing out from a simple TK, which is a tie I don’t even like very much. In no time, I found myself wishing that he would choke me, and without me ever saying a word, he did. I don’t really have a clue what that tie consisted of. It started out with me hanging low, then hanging higher, then higher still, with my back got arched at some fairly outrageous angle. But while I usually let myself have an energy orgasm in rope like that, this time, I kept holding back, torturing myself with energy and desire and letting myself be relatively gently tortured with rope and manipulated desires that I couldn’t control. By the time he let me down onto the ground, still very tied, I found myself desperately grinding my crotch into the top of his boot. I never did quite orgasm from all of that, but when all was said and done, I felt like rope had been a dizzying and intense substitution for sex. “Substitution” is a major disservice there. Maybe I should say that it was a dizzying and intense “upgrade.”

…And so that is the gamut of my experience with the relationships between sex and kink: from obviously kinky sex to not particularly sexy kink to kink that just plain felt like sex. To this day, 99% of my non-rope bottoming is sexual, and the idea of taking most forms of pain without getting to cum is just awful, and I can take a lot more pain when I get to cum. However, about 80% of my rope bottoming is not-very-sexual (although I usually have energy orgasms from it, which certainly calls the “non-sexual” part into question). Pretty much 100% of my switching is sexual. I actually mostly refuse to wrestle people I’m not at least minimally sexually involved with because it feels too much like sex to me (although I feel the same way about most forms of partner dancing as well). At the same time, about 75% of my (unswitchy) topping is not-very-sexual. I’ve even made people cum by hurting them without getting a particularly sexual thrill out of the experience (although it was certainly enjoyable for other reasons).

Does it look sexual to me? Much of the time, yes. But so does wrestling, massage, most forms of dance, many sung duets, and lots of other creative and sensual things that people do together. I still mostly do kink because of sex and because of the intimate and sexual connections I feel with people when I do it. Even ostensibly “non-sexual” scenes almost always lead me to just go off and fuck somebody else. When I kink with people I have sexual chemistry with, the scenes pretty much always make me obviously aroused; when I kink with people I’m not sure if I have sexual chemistry with, the scenes often leave me feeling vaguely aroused; and when I kink with people I’m definitely not attracted to, the scenes often leave me feeling excited, but not particularly aroused. So I guess my final answer my own question is: kink isn’t inherently sexual, but it’s mostly sexual for me most of the time.