Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘BDSM

Not’s Guide to Munches, part I

with one comment

I’ve been to a lot of munches.* York: a dingy function room in a dingy pub, a running joke that the announcements were interminable that didn’t make sitting through them any more amusing. The Fab Munch: as much fun as you might expect sitting in a cold basement with a dalek would be. The Under 35s munch: takes over 35s, bus has good beer and fruit in the Pimms. The Spanko Munch: Saturday’s adventure.

I liked the Spanko Munch. I liked it even though it was in a cold bar, with, I counted, five hen parties over the course of the afternoon. The members of the munch, distinguished by their lack of sashes and tiaras, were mostly male, mostly middle aged, and not one of them was screaming. They had manners. They introduced themselves at the beginnings of conversations, offered chairs, and used verbal signifiers to notify when they were going to talk to someone else. I feel like I ought to send them a thank-you-for-having me card.

Within first half hour, though, I was cornered by an excited middle aged man. I have manners, too, but as I nodded and smiled, and (rarely) uttered a sentence, I wondered why every munch has one of these men, and why they always talk to me.

This man was overjoyed to be at his first munch. He told me about his wife giving him permission to come, then he told me that he didn’t feel guilty about it. He told me how excited he was to be there, and then told me again that he feels no guilt, and how he’s told his wife that she might have to stay away overnight, sometimes, on spanking related business. Then he told all those things to the Lover, while I talked to someone else.

Not a big deal, individually. Put it alongside the man at York Munch who, within a few minutes of conversation, was telling me about oral sex with his previous girlfriend, and how much he likes black women. Put it alongside the man who gave me, it seemed, his life history at a Manchester munch. The man who told me all about his kinky weekend, pointing out the players in the room along the way. The sheer number of kinky epiphany stories I’ve heard from middle aged men.

I understand your excitement, boys. The man I met on Saturday said he felt like he’d be set free from a cage. All the same, this is a social interaction like any other, and the normal rules apply. Two rules intersect here: don’t tell strangers about your sexual fantasies, and don’t tell strangers about things they’ve expressed no interest in at great length. Your foot-flogging fetish, ranks, I’m afraid, with your matchbox collection in conversational terms, characterised by your infatuation and my indifference.

So ask questions. Save your great act of self-revelation for your lover, your cat, your blog, your masterpiece of literature. Ask questions, but not just any questions. We haven’t crossed the border into a Never-Never Land of your kink, so don’t dive in with, “Do you like anal fisting?” Start with something simple like, “Have you travelled far?” or, “Did you go to the caning workshop last week?” Yes, you’re going to be faced with the challenge of moving the conversation away from the state of the roads between here and Bolton, and onto topics of interest, but that’s a challenge you’re more than up to, armed with all clues about shared interests that come in the answers to your questions. If you fail to find the clues, though, you’re slowly reclassifying the answerer. After all, I don’t mind when my acquaintances ask me whether I’m into tawses.

*Munches are socials for kinky people. All talk, no play, and no kinky outfits. Usually.

Written by Not an Odalisque

June 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Things Out of Place, or, Burlesque and Violence II

On Sunday I walked out of the front row of a burlesque show during a song about intimate partner violence. If you think you’ve read this post before, you kind of have, except that I had less courage in the last one. This time I’d had chance to think. I’d already sat through a song about killing a lover who wants to leave, and displaying his dismembered body parts. As the audience applauded at the end I’d stared at the performer, hoping he’d catch my eye. I’d told the lover how upset I was during the interval. When the performer returned in the second half I was hopeful. He’d been fairly funny during the song before the abusive, murderous one, he’d sung about dogging. But, no, he sang, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, and if you leave me I’m going to kill you.” It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny twice. I couldn’t sit through it, I couldn’t sit still. Also, I kind of needed to pee. So I left. When I returned, the compere asked, “Were you somewhere important?” That’s when I told the all the people at the Lowry that I was offended by the act. I guess the singer heard, too.

So now I’ve been upset by people singing about violence towards their partners at two burlesque events. Is it just coincidence? Or is it a genre?

The odd thing about this particular performer is that I know people he knows. Hell, I like people he knows, and they like his performances. So I began wondering whether they had heard the song very differently, in a different context. We’ve all made jokes that have fallen flat because we told them in the wrong place, to the wrong people. Like when an assistant got me to try on a particularly zipped and pocketed pair of cycling trousers with Velcro cuffs, and I told him they would be ok if I was going camping with dykes. The joke would have been ok if he’d known I’ve fallen for butch women, that I’m a card-carrying SM Dyke.

About a week after I saw Joe Black, I came across this interview with the author of 50 Shades of Grey. Everything that I’ve read about this book encourages me to hate it. Everything that I’ve read of this book (the first page, while stood in Sainsbury’s) convinces me it is very, very badly written. It’s Twilight fan fic, Twilight being a series that glamourizes abusive relationships in books for impressionable teenagers. I hate this book because it represents BDSM as unsafe and non-consensual, and represents kinksters as traumatised and damaged. And most of all, I hate this book because I’ve nearly finished writing a novel about kinky relationships, and I don’t like the idea that it will be lumped in with, or worse, compared to, this trash. I’m writing about kink honestly and wholeheartedly, and I’m looking at a success that tells big fat lies about it. I’m primed to hate.

But…the woman’s kind of sweet. She says the book is her midlife crisis. She’s amusing about frantically tapping it into her phone on the train. And she happily admits that she can’t write. I begin to wonder, am I
hating something out of context?

 

If my flatmate was an avid Twilight reader, I would sigh, and get her a copy of Wuthering Heights packaged for Twilight readers for Christmas. I wouldn’t be angry with her. If for two years she spent all her spare time obsessively writing out her erotic fantasies, I’d try to get her out more. In fact, I’d take her to kinky events where she could meet similar obsessives, who write their own sexual fantasies on their blogs. I wouldn’t be angry with her, although I might hope that her life picks up soon.

When you’re writing a blog for your kinky acquaintances on Fetlife you don’t have a responsibility to represent kinky people or play in any particular way. When you’ve sold 2 million copies of a book, that’s 2 million people you’ve misinformed. I’m sure she didn’t write it with that many people in mind, but there you go. The audience matters.

Which leads me back to Mr. Joe Black, and his audience at the Lowry. The lover pointed out that he normally plays to audiences of Goths. Much as I’m sure there is intimate partner violence in the Goth community, it would have sounded much more like an amusing take on Gothic eroticisation of death. In the bar he’s playing soon in York, Stereo, the audience would be a bit less mainstream, and the song would sound less like it’s reinforcing mainstream values. The Lowry, unfortunately, has the most thuggish audience I’ve ever seen at a burlesque show. Slippery Belle there featured a man yelling, “Show us your tits!” at the compere, and being cheered by a significant proportion of the audience. At this show, the compere made a song and dance (literally) about being gay, but the prevailing assumptions were that the audience was straight. The female performers draped themselves over the men, never the women. A singer danced with a man two chairs away from me, he groped her, she pushed him off, and he groped her again. Sexual violence, albeit in a form all of us have experienced, wasn’t a distant possibility, it was going on right there. The reality of people killed by their partners as they try to leave was a bit too close.

From now on, I’m going to try hard to ensure my writing communicates its tone effectively enough that the contents can’t be misunderstood. If it’s a fantasy about schoolgirl canings, there should be no way that you can think that I believe schoolgirls ought to be caned, if it’s my personal take on what it’s like to be a splosher, you should be conscious throughout that I have never practiced, nor knowingly conversed with a practitioner of, sploshing. It will be good for my writing, and it would be good for us all to take a little more responsibility for what we say. Don’t let the bastards think you agree.

Written by Not an Odalisque

May 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Spankvent

with one comment

It’s January, and the Christmas decorations have come down,* but I have ten advent calendar chocolates left, so I don’t think it’s too late to talk about Decembery things. Most importantly, about Spankvent, organised by Abel, of the Spanking Writers, which led to a beating for me.

I haven’t done much in the way of kinky play recently, mostly because I’ve had two broken bones. I managed to climb out of bed in November, and since then I’ve been working very hard at convincing myself that I’m healed. I’ve turned up at job interviews, having taken my sling off in the lift, congratulating myself on soldiering through until realising I wasn’t able to write. I’ve begun making candied peel for Christmas presents, understanding too late that I was physically unable to lift the pan. And last week I dragged myself down to London with a wheelie bag of outfits and presents for my friend’s hen party. My friends watched me carry it up and down flights of stairs, making no comment, and when, late that night, on the way to the third cocktail bar, I told one of them that my arm was aching, she said, “oh, why?” If the pain had been slightly less, I think I’d have punched her.

I’m moaning. I know that silence and forbearance would have more dignity. However, the problem is that no one admires forbearance if they don’t know you’re doing it, which provides an impetus to do it badly and get a bit of recognition. Or to go on about it in your blog and hope that some stranger tell you they think you’re doing terribly well, weeks after the fact, I suppose. I’ve been putting my life back together. The lover’s been helping, by fighting sheets and hoovers and property agents. There hasn’t been much time for kink, though, because I’ve been busy, exhausted and in pain. It’s not just that those prevent desire for kink forming, they also provide a perfect breeding ground for grumps. There’s a lot to go wrong in play** and the last thing either of us want is to be up half the night talking about our feelings.

With all that background (moaning) you’ll be able to imagine my reaction to the Lover’s suggestion that we take part in Abel’s twenty-five days of spanking. I wanted kink back in my life. I didn’t want pain and pressure. I said we could do it, as long as we kept it light. Maybe. And as long as we found a time when I wasn’t rushing off to prepare for tutoring, or attempt the washing up. For months we’d been planning an anti-Christmas holiday, a few days in a cottage somewhere remote where I could be hunted across the moors. I’d been a little optimistic about healing times when we picked a date, not only would my broken arm mean the hunting wouldn’t be much fun, but it would have given the Lover an unfair advantage. The holiday got slimmed and squeezed until it was a night away in Haworth. On the tenth, at Number 10, the Coffee House,*** and it was this day that we chose for my advent spanking.

On the way there, we came up with a role play scene which would play into the Victorian atmosphere of our visit. We were nearly swayed when the lover found a shop selling ration cards and carbolic soap, but I convinced him to save that for another time (I also ended up with the soap—my overnight bag stinks!). Late in the evening, after a painful reminder of what it’s like looking for veggie food in the country, I demolished a packet of shortbread from beside the kettle as we finalised the details. We also discussed doing part of the scene—the part that involved speaking not spanking—downstairs in the coffee shop for a bit more authenticity. Reflecting on the CCTV cameras and the fact that we really did like the place and may want to return, we decided against. It would have made for a better story, though.

The coffee parlour, transported back in time, was owned by Mr. Taylor, who’d been on a trip to Manchester or Liverpool—my knowledge of historical coffee shops comes almost entirely from Habermas and French novels, so I’m a little hazy on the details—to source beans. Whenever he went on one of these trips, the housekeeper, Nelly, always made sure the parlour fire was warm and put out a meal before the servants went to bed, in case Mr. Taylor came home late. Since Emily, the newest maid, had started, he’d never got home in time to eat a single one of those meals, and she was often asked to throw them away in the morning, not long before Mr. Taylor would clatter into the yard, talking about late nights or bad weather detaining him overnight in the city.

When Emily woke in the night, cold and shivery, she knew there’d be a nice fire in the parlour. And when she stood there in her nightgown warming herself, and found that she felt slightly peckish, she didn’t think there’d be much harm in nibbling a biscuit, since she was the one who’d be throwing them away in the morning. And when she became curious about how her master’s special cheese and pickle sandwich tasted, she didn’t think there’d be any serious repercussions. It was nasty, anyway.

Emily heard a noise downstairs. She was mindful enough to make it to the kitchen with a tray, but then she was trapped in the basement, far from her room, hearing footsteps cross the parlour and then descend toward the kitchen. She stood in the dark, clutching the tray, until her master found her there, with the crumbs of his biscuits and dismembered sandwich. He was hungry, he was cold, and he’d ridden a long way through the frosty night. He told her she had five minutes to bring him another tray. Unfortunately, looking for the pickles and the biscuits in the dark pantry, it took her fifteen.

When Emily got to her master’s room, he told her to put down the tray. He told her that she had a choice between a punishment, one stroke for every minute she was late, or dismissal without a reference. Seeing her indecision, he threatened to increase her punishment for every minute she kept him waiting, and instructed her again to bend over his bed. He drew her nightdress up, and she tugged it down. He pulled it up again, more firmly, and she blushed at the thought of what he saw. Emily squirmed through five strokes of the strap, and bit her lip through five burning cane strokes, afraid of waking the housekeeper, who wouldn’t go as far as to give her options.

I imagine that Mr. Taylor then went on to eat his sandwich, but we stopped the scene there. I do know, however, that Emily was so humiliated by the experience that she left Mr. Taylor’s service, and indeed the village. I’ve some photographs of her walking through the heather and the misty rain on the moors, setting out to seek her fortune.

We left, too, the next day. I think we were quiet enough, based on the fact that the family sleeping upstairs were very friendly as they served breakfast. And my kink? I’m working on it. I’d like more of it in my life. Based on December’s experiences, all I need is a few people to take me on holidays to picturesque villages. Tops in rural locations, apply within.

*Christmas decorations in general, not mine. Decorating my flat would have been dismal and depressing, and most Christmassy colours would have clashed with my walls.

**Emotionally, not physically. And just in case anyone was wondering, “were you doing something kinky?” is not an appropriate response to, “I have a broken collar bone.” I’ve yet to meet a kinkster into broken bones. Presumably some vanillas are. Vanillas are weird.

***Ten, The Coffee House was a fabulous place to stay. The room was lovely, the bath was half-Jacuzzi, and when we sent down for coffee they discussed beans and put the most delicious biscotti I’ve ever had on the tray. Every time the Lover called about availability or booking the owner was baking. There were raspberries in the fruit salad at breakfast. That’s my kind of place.

Written by Not an Odalisque

January 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Discrimination in the Fetish Scene

with 4 comments

In my last post, I tried to stay away from the topic of whether some kinky events should have an age limit. Generally, I’ve found this to be a debate where many more people are speaking than listening, and everyone’s getting personally offended. It’s one I see often on message boards, and any discussion that will predictably reach the point where someone says, “you’re going to get sued!” within the first ten responses seems like one best avoided to me. However, Abel brought up the issue in his comment, and when my reply reached a certain length I decided the topic deserved its own post. So here I am, another voice in the din.

In my last post I tried to gesture towards an acceptable level of discrimination. In small scenes, that level is low. To make an analogy, when I lived in Coventry the gay community was small, so we all—gays, lesbians, bears, cross-dressers, leatherdykes, that man in the high heels and PVC—had to share a space, and the only acceptable discrimination was against the straight men who turned up looking for threesomes. That shouldn’t be overlooked: straight people seeking sex weren’t welcome. That’s acceptable, I think, because they were welcome in almost every other bar in the city, but it was discrimination nonetheless. In Manchester, where the gay scene is huge, different places cater to different groups, and there’s no reason for the lesbian femmes to encroach on the space of the gay men who like to party in their y-fronts, other than in the shared smoking area at Legends. People divide into their special interest groups when they get a chance. If there’s only one club in town, and they won’t let me in, it’s important. If there are three, and one of them suits my interest but I’m excluded from the other two, there’s no reason for me to be upset. I don’t go, for example, to the Gentlemen’s Munch, or rubber events, because I’m not a man and I don’t enjoy rubber. I don’t complain to the rubberists that I’m being left out, I just go to events that do interest me.

Of course, what may not be obvious on a club-by-club basis may be a wider cultural problem, leaving one group routinely excluded. So I have no problem, in a large scene, with the existence of clubs dedicated to black domme women and the male subs who like them (yes, they exist), even if I find the kink itself a little troublesome. However, if there weren’t places for white women or lesbians to go, if white women were a group generally thought to be unattractive, I’d have a problem. It’s the same logic that says it’s ok to have government initiatives to help women, gays, minority ethnic groups, etc, without a mainstream equivalent: they’re disadvantaged, and attacks on them are more troubling than attacks on the groups with more power and position. One of my many uncomfoprtable feelings about FemSub, is that it includes those who have a good position on the scene (female subs and male dominants) and excludes those who have a less privileged position (male subs) and anyone who maintains an ambiguous identity around their gender or kink (queers and switches, for example).

And so to the Under 35s. Manchester has a large scene, with so many munches that they actually clash with each other, the Under 35s with the Spanko munch, for example. And people over 35 aren’t a disadvantaged minority group. In the scene, they often have advantages of experience and the money to spend on toys and playspaces that younger people don’t. Yes, 35 is an arbitrary cut-off point, but all such boundaries are arbitrary. What definition of blackness are the clubs for black dommes using? How large do you have to be to attend events for Big Beautiful Women? How much do you have to like spanking to qualify as a spanko?

One of the reasons I came to Manchester was the fact that the scene was large enough to divide into groups by interest. When I was picking my city, it was SM Dykes that convinced me of the vibrancy of Manchester’s scene. Dykes excludes men, it’s a group of women who like to play with women. Yesterday, when everyone in my poly group was there except the lover, too male to attend, he probably did feel a bit sorry for himself. We had a Christmas party, during which I managed to be one of the last three bottoms still in musical spankings (yay!), and was tied up with tinsel for a Christmas bondage tableaux. It was fabulous, it was absurd, and it was peopled with woman from all over the North. I found myself chatting to a girl from my hometown about the club where I had my first lesbian kiss. Would she have come if we removed discrimination and let men in? I doubt it. People travel a long way to be part of the Manchester scene because they know that they can find an event that suits them. For the annual SM Dykes conference they come from all over Europe. Discrimination is in fact a strength, not a weakness, of the scene.

How would I feel if I was an older person with an under 35 partner who wanted to go? Probably not great. A bit like the lover feels when he’s told he has to learn how to make something to be allowed at the Crafty Munch, or I feel when everyone’s talking excitedly about the scene they did last weekend. It’s the same way I feel when I’m not invited to a party (although the last time it turned out that I had been invited but hadn’t realised, and didn’t get to go because I was too proud to ask). Well, you know what, have your own party. Show people how fabulous you are! If you’re anything like me, it won’t be a very big party, but you’ll actually like the people who are there. And if you have your very own, you’re in charge of who is excluded, so you can avoid getting stuck beside the nibbles with a girl who’s into spanking, having to listen politely as she goes on and on about culture and discrimination in the scene.

Written by Not an Odalisque

December 5, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Youth and Desirability in the Fetish Scene

with 6 comments

This week it was suggested that Manchester Under 35’s Munch allow over 35 year olds in, if they have youthful enough partners. I’ve never been particularly interested in debates about age-limited munches, except to note that I’d never invite the people decrying them to a party, because they’d probably be sending out for more beer when I’m rinsing glasses and yawning pointedly. However, responses to the suggestion have been fascinating. There’s a terrifying number of people who think it’s acceptable that younger people should never go to events without their partners. A significant proportion of members don’t think the age limit is about having something in common with other attendees, but about keeping, “predatory older doms” (PODs?) out. I began to ask some questions. Why are so many older people angry about not being able to come? Why can’t young women go to events unaccompanied by their partners? Why is there such a perceived threat of PODs? The answer is obvious: young women are valuable. Everyone wants us. Don’t you just want to tie us up and beat us? Well you can’t, we’re taking our hot, youthful flesh to that pub over there, and shutting you out. Feel free to peer at the goodies through the window.

I’m exaggerating a little. In any case, the rhetoric of the fetish scene is one of inclusivity and acceptance, where many tastes are represented. We’re brought together by our difference from the mainstream; you might not share my love of canings, but you share my sense of exclusion. Because there are so few of us, we have to share a space, so we respect one another. Where there are enough people, we divide into groups by preference to make places where we can go to get what we want, and we exclude those who don’t share our tastes. And that’s personal preference, right? You can’t criticise people for that, surely? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

At 19 I tended not to sleep with fat women, trans or genderqueer people (fat men were less of a problem for me – go figure). At 27, it’s naive to think of that as “just personal taste” and have started to challenge received wisdom about what qualities are sexually desirable. As a result, I’ve had some fantastic sex (and indeed relationships) with beautiful people I would otherwise not have considered as potential lovers.

Pandora Blake

It’s easy, after the initial “Oh God, what made me like this!?” stage for kinksters to think that because they don’t share obviously mainstream tastes, they exist in a social vacuum as far as their desires are concerned. I think it’s worth considering the factors that shape them. That’s why I remain vaguely insulted by FemSub, for example, even though I can understand why people would want a space where they know they can meet someone of their preference. There’s something distasteful in providing a space for what seems to be the most common and acceptable dynamic, the one that’s closest to the mainstream, and excluding everyone else. And don’t get me started on the advice that there may be play, “should the ladies choose.” Consent isn’t an issue for men, apparently!

But I digress. It’s naive to expect the kink scene to be free of the prejudices the rest of society has: sexism, herteronormativity, racism, the belief that high heels are a good thing. Perhaps I should count myself lucky since I fit my box well; a bisexual submissive woman is a better thing to be, given the prejudices of our little subculture, than, say, a submissive man with a urine fetish. There are women who do better out of conventional beauty standards than I do (I’m never going to be able to do anything about these hips) but I’m on the right side of acceptable, and hairy legs aside, it helps that I’m femme. That’s probably why it took me so long to feel uncomfortable with the scene’s values. I was doing fine out of them.

A while ago the lover and I were talking about the spanko community I know through blogs and Twitter, but for the most part don’t know in real life. He observed that, compared to us, they’re ‘so straight’. “Some of the women are bi” I said. The men aren’t though, or if they are they keep it quiet. The prevalent dynamic is M/f, with (and I say this from the outside, with extremely limited knowledge) a preference for youth among the fs. Presumably they’re brought together by a shared taste, but that doesn’t stop me feeling sad when I look through what’s being shared as hot (Abel’s collection of photos, say) or criticised as not (such as this tall spankee) that I’m not getting any younger, skinnier or shorter.*

I’ve loved the idea of being fresh meat for the predatory older man since before it would have been legal, but just as an idea. Well, I’ve loved it once or twice as a reality, too, but queasily, and before I discovered kink. Now that I’m here, in this world where fantasy becomes play so easily, I’d like to enjoy being preyed on, in my youth and innocence, by older men who covet it, without the real-life repercussions of feeling I lose value with every passing day, or that my partners like my lack of wrinkles or my naivety more than my experience or knowledge or any of the things that make me me. I’d like a world where spanking models don’t have to lie about their ages, and where we don’t think we have to keep predatory doms out of the Under 35’s Munch.

Is it possible, given that I spent half of last year battling a crush on a beautiful woman in her forties (no luck, she has a younger boyfriend), that I have a bit of a thing for a woman who was old enough to be releasing records in the 1980s (and I know I’m not the only one), and that the kink scene is built on such weird tastes as fancying a woman over thirty, that I could find a kinky space where youth isn’t—ahem—fetishized? Or am I being naive?

*Ok, I find it hard to want to be shorter, it must make it difficult to breathe in lifts. And reach high things. I sometimes feel too tall for my kink, though.

Written by Not an Odalisque

November 21, 2011 at 12:57 am

The Politics of the Collar

with 4 comments

This article appeared in the Guardian this morning, about a midwife who was dismissed from work for wearing a silver collar. The collar symbolises her status as a (willing) slave in a loving relationship. At an employment tribunal, she argued this was discriminatory because the collar, as a symbol of her beliefs, is equivalent to a religious symbol. I don’t know the details of her dismissal, which may really be about who makes the tea or whether she tends to tell bad jokes, so I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of it. The politics of the situation interests me, though. Should I, as a fellow fetishist (albeit not a collar-wearing type), see her as a kinky crusader, or another person determined to make us all seem a bit, well, odd?

The most ubiquitous relationship symbol is the ring. We all know what it means, and almost all married people wear them. And marriage is the dominant relationship form. Wearing a wedding ring is telling the world, “My sexuality isn’t strange or threatening, it’s kept within bounds. There’s no need to be frightened, I’m just like you.” It is literally legitimising. And although we all know that there are married people who have affairs, sometimes with people of their own sex, visit prostitutes, whip serving girls, etc, it is noticeable that heterosexuality and monogamy are almost universally expected of the married couple. Your friend who likes to take drugs and have unprotected sex with strangers in dark rooms is a riskier dinner party invitation than the married one. The married one might, nowadays, have a male partner, who spends time with him making gourmet food in their granite-surfaced kitchen (yes, you’re learning a bit about my background), and legitimisation explains a lot about why so many want gay marriage. That man, when he settles down, wouldn’t mind the symbol that shows he’s part of your club.

The problem, though, is that the more we contribute to the idea that marriage is the norm, the harder we make it for everyone else. In my day to day life I find it absolutely infuriating that everyone assumes I’m straight and monogamous. People around me make jokes about dykes and transsexuals, ask if I have a boyfriend, never a girlfriend, and take the answer as an indicator of my availability. And if the monogamous masses assuming I’m one of them is annoying, it’s nothing in comparison to the pressure when I do get involved with a man. Suddenly everyone assumes I’m on the road to monogamous wedded blissness. You can fight that among friends, but your commitment to your lesbian lover probably isn’t something to bring up with the boyfriend’s family over Easter lunch.

The prevailing assumption of heterosexual monogamy legitimised by marriage makes life that little bit more difficult for the rest of us. The teenager who thinks he’s broken believes it partially because he don’t know of anyone who likes boys, or non-consent, or polyamory, he only sees a monolithic wall of marriage obscuring the true variety of relationships. It creates an atmosphere in which any public figure’s non-monogamy or visits to a pro-domme are titillating news. People have to hide who they are, so it’s a self-perpetuating system of pain and fear. And not the good kind.*

Sharing our kinky identities would normalise alternative relationships. We’ve come a long way with homosexuality just by going on about it until people stopped being shocked. So should we wear our collars with pride?

Even though it is one of the most prevalent symbols in the BDSM community, the collar is only meaningful to a very small group of people, those participating in a Domination/submission dynamic to a peculiar degree. A brief search brought up a large number of symbols pertinent to my situation which I’ve never come across before. Since I’m a (kind of) bisexual seeing a polyamorous married bear, in a relationship with D/s elements, do I need a charm-collar to show all my proclivities to the world?

Heaping importance on the collar surely invites the proliferation of symbols. It may be terribly important to me to express that I’m a queer promiscuous pansexual bottom as oppose to a bisexual polyamorous submissive, but only people already in my community will know what I’m on about. And people get so terribly het up about symbols. Whenever I begin to think they’re harmless I remember that the Holy Cross school trouble, which involved adults shouting swear words and throwing stones at primary school children (and ended with a pipe bomb), started with a dispute over the location of a flag. Yes, it’s an extreme example there’s no tool to rouse emotion like a symbol.

I can’t help feeling that symbols are ultimately divisive. So we legitimise your relationship by recognising your collar, and the girl who wants her princess dynamic recognised through her tiara is left out in the cold. How many do we have to accept before we’ve given everyone’s identity the recognition it deserves? In my perfect world symbols would proliferate until they lost all meaning, or the dominant ones would lose their ascendency. It would be lovely if wedding rings, like gifts of lingerie, declarations of love or promises of beatings, made a personal, not a public, statement.

I don’t feel any political allegiance to the woman with the slave collar. I do hope, though, in the interests of increasing the amount of freedom and happiness in the world, that she wins her appeal. Surely she’s been through more than enough to be allowed to wear that collar.

*You might be reading this thinking “But I’m extremely happy in my heterosexual monogamous relationship and I don’t see what’s wrong with making a lifelong commitment to my man, throwing a big party and making our friends buy us a lot of expensive kitchenware.” Well, I suppose there isn’t, although I think you could give something back and buy a single friend a nice dinner service or some Le Creuset. Just be aware that you’re contributing to others’ difficulties by using the system that suits you so well. You can do more than wring your hands about it. Ian Goggin and Kristin Skarsholt refuse to participate in inequality from their position of privilege. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12046624

Written by Not an Odalisque

August 17, 2011 at 1:34 am

Doesn’t Play Well With Others

with 4 comments

I’ve never been sure whether I like public play. Plenty of people tie their lovers up at home; BDSMers seem to feel the need to do it in front of a crowd. They create a spectacle with imposing lumps of furniture, uncomfortable clothing made of tree sap and huge floggers.* I was introduced to the concept of public play by a round woman in a purple faux-suede suit (the matt texture of which was like the bloom on a blueberry) and her small, straggly-bearded boyfriend. I rejected the image of them stripped and spread-eagled in a tacky dungeon setting. I’m shallow. I like watching beautiful people play. Not being one of the beautiful people myself, I’ve kept to dark corners. For me, play is a personal experience, not a performance, but a reaction. I didn’t think I was the sort for letting more than one person at a time into my kink.

HH proposed inviting people around not long after he suggested birching me. I had an irrational fear of birching (now I have a rational fear of birching, but that’s not relevant here). On a scale of things to worry about, meeting friends didn’t score high against being thrashed with bits of a tree, and so I agreed without a lot of thought. As the time approached, though (and the threatened birching still hadn’t materialised) it took on different proportions. They were coming around for dinner. Wouldn’t it be nice if we played? If they met Marianne, in character? In this skimpy summer dress?

I channelled my anxiety into the meal. We solved the conundrum of what dish satisfies a carnivore and a vegetarian. We obtained ingredients. If you’ve read my last post you’ll know how I feel about supermarkets. You’ll understand that being taken by a top to an Asda on a Saturday afternoon is close to my limits. I’d rather take the dreaded birching any day. Happily panic-attack free we made it home and HH was kind enough to distract me from worry with more immediate humiliations. When he showed me the dress I was to wear and went off to set the table, though, I had to admit that a proportion of my nervousness wasn’t about food.

I don’t know how long I waited. I know that I spent a lot of time trying to arrange my neckline so that it didn’t reveal my bra. I undid my work within seconds by tugging at the skirt hem in an attempt at a more modest length. I applied make-up and then worried that Mr. Hartley may not suspend disbelief about Marianne’s unlikely use of cosmetics. I went out onto the landing to see if I could hear any conversation from downstairs and thought about creeping down to listen at the door, but it wasn’t worth risking given the creakiness of the stairs. I attempted to convince myself of my own nonchalance by picking up a book. Now and again I turned a page, but I couldn’t tell you what I read.

Mr. Hartley called me. I went downstairs and opened the door onto silence.

Two new people were on the sofa. Everyone was formally dressed and stiffly seated. I felt chilly and awkward in my little dress. I stood self-consciously during introductions and finally asked if I could sit in the only remaining chair, in the farthest corner of the room.

Had I been behaving myself, the guests wanted to know. I tried not to shuffle in my seat as they talked about me, and, in the elastic silences, I asked questions about their journey and the weather. My attempts at conversation fell like stones and I was reduced to staring at my lap. Mr. Hartley regularly reprimanded me for not sitting up straight, and charged me with fidgeting, which was nearly impossible to avoid, under the circumstances. From the start I did my best to be good. I don’t think I stood a chance.

The conversation turned, and inexorably returned, to my behaviour and previous punishments. I tried to give the right answers: Yes, I’d been punished. No, I’d rather not show you the marks. I’m sure you’re not interested in them. Now that Mr. Hartley’s looking at me like that I will show you the marks. Are you done yet? Say you’re done.

They asked me to explain the reason for my latest punishment. I was embarrassed to think that two strangers were imagining me with my knickers around my ankles, wriggling over Mr. Hartley’s lap. I simply couldn’t tell them what the spanking was for. Disobedience, yes, but what if they asked what order I’d disobeyed? I’m not telling you, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell them.

“It’s complicated,” I began, but apparently they thought it should be very simple. Looking pleadingly at Mr. Hartley didn’t have the effect of getting him to do the talking for me. I floundered and then, thinking that admitting something—anything—would probably appease them, I chose my most excusable crime, and confessed, in fragments, to borrowing some library books on an unofficial, long-term loan, and accidentally spilling some ink. They reinterpreted it as thieving and criminal damage.

I was sent to stand facing the wall with my hands on my head. I was horribly conscious of how my hemline rose as I lifted my arms. As they discussed me I couldn’t help peering around every now and again. Mr. Hartley kept telling me to stand up straight. I’d never noticed I wasn’t. When the adults had satisfied themselves with declaring that I was wilful and insolent I was sent to get a strap. On my return I was asked why I was to be punished. Apparently, “because you feel I haven’t shown proper respect,” wasn’t the right answer.

Bending over the sofa while Mr. And Mrs. Madison watched was excruciating. Mr. Hartley handed the strap to his friend. I didn’t want him to see my face, so I hid it against the sofa. Of course, when you’re crying out and wriggling away from the burning wield on your bottom, you stop caring quite so much about whether anyone can see your expression.

I was instructed that I was to count the strokes and promise to show respect after each one. As the early ones came down, I gritted my teeth through the pain and, as it subsided, recited my little mantra. Mrs. Madison said that she didn’t think my tone reflected any great regret. What could I do about my voice? I wasn’t being deliberately insolent. After the next stroke, as soon as I could, with the pain still blooming, I gasped it out. Apparently I sounded much more contrite. I continued forcing the words out as early as I could, so that the pain in my voice would cover whatever it was they interpreted as insolence.

It did end. I was allowed to escape to my room and choose a skirt that went all the way down to my ankles. I went back to a room of lovely people who gave me hugs and smiles. Then, very happily, I took a glass of wine and went to hide in the kitchen. It seems safer to stay out of the way when there are guests.

*On Saturday I saw a man use a sword almost the length of his leg to inflict a couple of light scratches on a girl. A butterknife would have done the job.

Written by Not an Odalisque

October 19, 2010 at 4:49 pm