Not an Odalisque

‘What Are You Into?’—In which Not an Odalisque admits to coyness about kink.

with 9 comments

I’m not very good at talking about my kink. You might think that someone who blogs about the kinky things she’s done would happily rattle off lists of things she would like to do. Recording what has happened, though, is mere note-taking; speaking about desire is more akin to divination.

What I can do is document my systematic failure to tell anyone what I want. My first forays into formal kink (to be distinguished from casual kink, during which one must maintain deniability and use something fluffy from Ann Summers) were based on HH’s enticing scenarios. All I had to do was embellish on a story of his invention, and any embarrassing details could be blamed on the characters or dramatic imperative. It wasn’t that I wanted to be beaten, but that the narrative simply demanded it. Unfortunately, HH obviously deemed the story-based approach to kink insufficient and sent me a limits list. I’d seen one of these before, at the University Pride Society’s Annual Bondage Lecture. I’d taken it home, looked up several words and quickly put it down again.

HH’s scene questionnaire had ticky boxes and 0-5 scales, so you could note past participation and current eagerness. I tried, I really did. I started by putting a definite tick next to ‘hand spanking’ at the top of the list, then considered my degree of desire for hand spanking. After some time I decided that “it depends” was the only truthful answer. There are hand spankings and there are hand spankings, some are more tolerable than others. Some moments are better than others, too; a hand spanking which interrupts a gripping chapter is less welcome than one which enlivens a quiet afternoon. A general fondness for hand spankings doesn’t indicate that they’ll always be wanted. Especially, I reflected, as there’s one moment at which I can reliably predict that I’ll feel a strong dislike of hand spankings, and that is when they are happening. I could be bursting with desire for a spanking, I could have pushed cheekiness into downright rudeness in order to provoke one, but within minutes I’m squirming and begging for it to stop. I decided to leave hand spankings to one side and put a tick next to ‘tawsing’. Then I went through the same mental process before failing to indicate my degree of eagerness for the strap.

I managed almost a page of ticks and crosses before I got bored. My next attempt to complete the list coincided with a particularly playful mood. That’s the only explanation I have for the kamikaze spirit in which I annotated ‘Caning’ with, “Maybe I should save myself for someone who can manage parallel lines,”* and ‘Birching’ with, “One of the things I’m less eager to try. Maybe that’s a reason to do it.” Next to ‘Act as Object’ I wrote a little summary of Juliette’s adventures with Minski and, clearly on a literary roll, further down I quoted Frost—“One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” The questionnaire provided several pages of such amusement. After a while, though, it struck me that this perhaps wasn’t the approach HH wished me to take. I looked at my scrawling and decided not to mention it again.

My silence wasn’t effective. HH asked if I was finished. I put forward cogent arguments about the flaws inherent in the ticky-box approach to kink. HH demanded my completed form. I said I’d make a final attempt to shoehorn my sexuality into scales from 0-5 while I was on the train. On my arrival, I realised I’d forgotten to. Honest.

As a compromise, I proposed a conversational approach, with more nuance and less quantification. That fell through when HH printed himself a copy of the list and got out a pencil. I tried my best to answer his questions; I definitely communicated my aversion to feet, incomprehension of rubber and physical factors preventing me passing for a Japanese schoolgirl. Other areas were harder to address. By the end, HH was interpreting my silences; apparently my most eloquent communications take the form of blushing and looking away.

Silences blossom from embarrassment, ignorance, and even the tendency to mentally recite poems rather than consider the horrors of birching. My most insoluble silences, though, are rooted in the central paradox of a desire for pain. The things I like best, I don’t like at all. They hurt. That doesn’t diminish the high or the delicious feeling of being in someone’s power, but that power would be demonstrably false if it was only used to do things I like. I want to hate it. Then I want a hug. I’m pretty sure that’s a sound, if ill-expressed, position. When people ask what I’m into, though, “whatever you like that I really don’t, except feet and some other stuff I probably haven’t heard of yet,” doesn’t feel like a useful answer.

I do have fantasies, of course, and relating those would be an option. However, while long, organically growing narratives about kidnap, captivity and rape are very nice in one’s head, they aren’t exactly the sort of thing one brings up over tea and scones. Even if I did find the relevant moment to say “actually, I was thinking this morning about being half-drowned” I don’t think I’d be too pleased if a play partner went off to run a cold bath in response. Holding me underwater is something we might work up to after many months of non-lethal play. Or not. I do prefer the version of myself that keeps breathing.

Fortunately, my fantasies have been getting less extreme. Significantly sillier, but also less likely to result in death or vitamin D deficiency.** I’m haunted by images of a schoolgirl self: a girl in a green gymslip and a white blouse, with a sash around her waist and a boater over her curls. She’s a good girl, and she’s trying, but the lessons are so very boring, and her teacher doesn’t understand the difficulty involved in listening to him drone on. In a truly worrying turn of events I’ve even found myself fantasising about the academic content of her classes. English grammar is the most desirable, but I’d take European geography or the fun bits of history (the eras when they’re pillaging nunneries and chopping people’s heads off, not making import/export law).*** I suppose I could tell play partners that I’d like to wear an unflattering outfit and learn the bits of English so boring they’d given up teaching them by the time I went to school. Then I could try to explain that I’d like to be spanked because I’d just hate it. The drowning has a certain classiness about it, in comparison.

Does anyone know of a remedy for coyness? Or have a better expression of the pain paradox? More importantly, does anyone want to teach me a lesson? I think I need a few classes lined up before I blow my pocket money on a gymslip.

*I’d been particularly wriggly during my last caning.

**My exploration of scene was stalled, incidentally, by a boyfriend who claimed the opposite would happen. Kink escalates; apparently a couple of taps on the bum are a gateway which leads ultimately to a day when a pale, scarred version of you will shudder on the street outside a grubby basement dungeon where you hope to get your next fix of flesh hook suspension. Either I’m an anomaly or he was talking claptrap, I’ll leave you to decide.

***That was all absolutely true when I typed it. Later, in bed with ‘Third Year at Malory Towers’ I read this:
“’Where’s Mavis? I haven’t seen her all evening.’
‘She said she had a singing lesson,’ said Darrell. ‘But what a long one it must have been! Well, she’ll come along when Mr. Young’s finished with her, I suppose.’”
My mind wandered to activities not usually in the lesson-plan. I’m sure I’m not the first girl to have been corrupted by Enid Blyton.

Written by Not an Odalisque

January 11, 2011 at 1:23 am

9 Responses

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  1. Oh my dear. If you ever do figure out why it is so difficult to discuss, please do tell me! I cannot relate to you how many times I have wondered the same regarding myself. Furthermore, I think that limits listing would be awful to have to complete. I’d have done no better I’m afraid.


    January 11, 2011 at 1:37 am

  2. I have to admit that I have found it pretty hard to talk about my kinks too and the checklist thing was more of a prompt for me to discuss than something I could use as the only thing to go off. Mainly, I was listing my limits; things I knew I didn’t want and the odd thing I knew I really do like. More of it was about what I might like to try, where I’m not comfortable with and what kind of scene I like overall. The problem is, until you try things, sometimes you have no idea what you will or will not like.

    My advice, think about your hard and soft limits and play with someone you trust. Someone who can read you, someone you feel comfortable with. I find traffic light safe words helpful. Oh, and don’t feel embarassed to talk about it, even if it doesn’t go very well. If that has to be writing it down, that’s ok.


    January 11, 2011 at 8:44 am

  3. Can understand the difficulties in filling out the limits list, been there and struggled myself. But when you are playing with a new partner they need to have some boundaries to work within. Tops aren’t mind readers and deep players like HH are trying to take you to the places you both want to go, but how do you get there?

    For some girls a spanking is enough, for others you can beat them all you like and never get there. So the Top needs to adapt. There are certain things on my limits list that would have ruined those first scenes if HH had tried them, and yet other people might have thought it the norm.

    And the list should not be set in stone, as your kink evolves so does the list. I’ve since tried many of my soft limits, some I’d do again, others maybe not but it was done with HH knowing exactly where I was.

    So short answer, it’s not about being coy or shy, l think you have a responsibility to the top to take the issue of limits seriously.

    Emma Jane

    January 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

  4. I’m quite the opposite, I have to say. I have an extensive spreadsheet with many different categories (most useful being hard and soft limits, things that are soft limits but actually I’d love to be forced to do, things I’m dying to try and things I already know I love) and lots of comments on all of them. I’m not particularly anally retentive but I love this sort of thing.

    But I do understand, a little, what you mean about pain. I used to have a huge masochistic streak but it’s paled somewhat and now I like pain because I like having to take something that I don’t enjoy just because my Dom says so. I can’t think of a neat label for it, but I think it’s a well-enough understood concept.

    english thorn

    January 11, 2011 at 3:29 pm

  5. […] an Odalisque wrote a fun and thoughtful essay about her difficulties filling out one of the “check the boxes, scale of 1 to 5″ […]

  6. Thank you all for your comments.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to talk about limits. To some degree, I think it’s also about getting to know people; when someone invites me to dinner for the first time I’ll mention I’m vegetarian, but not go into my love of meringues or hatred of parmesan. Similarly, an in depth list of my likes and dislikes seems too much, too early, in play. You’re right, Alyss, there are so many things I don’t know if I’ll like until I try them. Traffic light safe words are an interesting idea.

    I feel that I’ve Been Told, Emma Jane! I do take limits seriously, I’ve been giving them a lot of thought, but I find the whole thing rather complex. Kink is about liminality in so many ways, I’m not sure that the language of limits always helps. In any case, I’m trying to puzzle it out, so as to have answers if anyone asks again.

    English Thorn, I’m amused by your spreadsheet. I’d be impressed by anyone who could pin me down with enough exactitude to create such a thing.

    Not an Odalisque

    January 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

  7. I’m glad to hear it. I guess the lightness of the blog post didn’t convey that. The CAPS help with the comment though!

    Emma Jane

    January 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    • I’ve known spankos who couldn’t even say the word “spank”, so you’re certainly not alone in your difficulties.

      But everything is contextual in the games we play. If you do say “I like hand-spanking”, noone is going to think that it means you always want to be spanked and will like every hand-spanking, no matter what the context. It means that you find the idea of a hand-spanking hot, _if the context is right_.

      So I do understand your hesitations, and your post wonderfully illustrates the dynamic that underlies so much of our play: “I-want-it-but-I-don’t want-it-now, I-want-it-but-I-hate-it”, “Of-course-I-don’t-want-it”. Or even “Why-did-you-threaten-me-but-not-deliver?”.

      But EmmaJane is right too. Tops need to know limits. There’s a big difference between “I’ll-hate-it-but-it’s-rather-hot” and “I-really-find-the-whole-idea-rather-sick”. That’s the distinction that limits lists are all about.



      January 12, 2011 at 11:14 pm

  8. One thing that I think is helpful to keep in mind for things like spanking play is that there are at least two spanking kinks.

    The one kink is the “ooh, yes, spank me, I love it! More please, more!” – the person actually enjoys being spanked. Maybe “not too hard” (or maybe “yes, too hard”) but the spanking is a reward, or a fun, sexy thing, something to look forward to.

    The other kind of kink is the person who doesn’t enjoy getting a spanking… but it’s hot, knowing s/he has been, or might be, or will be if s/he doesn’t do X. The spanking might even kill arousal for a time… it might only be the memory of the spanking(s), or the awareness of their power, or their anticipation, that is arousing.

    In my experience, a lot of people like the thought of getting a spanking, but hate the actual spanking. And, of course, someone can have a bit of both kinks, liking some playful bottom warmings, along with dreading a severe blistering.

    But it’s easier to negotiate if you’re aware of these different patterns of arousal. And scenes can be more successful if one knows that the proper aftermath of a spanking is (for some) time spent all alone and chastened, sitting with a sore bottom on a hard chair in the corner, with sex coming later.

    A guest

    September 29, 2011 at 12:10 am

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