Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘kink

Not’s Guide to Munches, part I

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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.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

June 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm

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Lies and Fictions

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Readers of this blog might wonder how much of what I write is true. I have a lovely unpublished comment from a time when I criticised someone with a serious following, accusing me of lying to pursue my own ends (unfortunately not elucidating what those ends are, which is a pity, as this blog could do with some ends). More of you will wonder whether I do the things I say I do. I admit that I tweak the truth. Sometimes I rearrange the order of events, more often I omit things to make a post clearer. I guess at the exact wording of conversations, and I play up emotions to give stories tension. Come to think of it, I do that last one in real life.

Telling the truth is easy when I’m the only one involved. With other people, it’s a bit trickier. Different people have different expectations of what is private and what’s public. Many years ago a girlfriend’s father had a spot of trouble after his secretary stole a lot of money and ran away. He had to give up his job, his daughter began to wonder whether he could afford her education. I told my best friend about it; my girlfriend was livid. Family troubles were private. She thought it so obvious that there was no need to tell me that.

In general, I take people’s preferences into account when writing or talking about them. I don’t publicise the address of the play partner who likes to keep his identities separate. I don’t tell you about the Lover’s deep emotional trauma from his stint in the Spanish Inquisition* I will tell you that he has a habit of putting dirty crockery on the draining board, which makes me want to hide forks in his shoes.** People’s preferences can’t, and shouldn’t be the only influence on how they are represented, though. Others seeing who you are and what you do is one of those unfortunate risks you take when leaving the house and interacting with people. If you spend the afternoon telling sexist jokes, I’m afraid it isn’t my job to check that you won’t be hurt when other people hear about it.

And that’s tough, because it applies to me, too. I wrote some time ago about a scene in which I failed to recite a poem I’d boasted about knowing weeks before, and was inordinately upset about my failure. Afterwards I asked the only witness not to tell anyone; I was ashamed, I didn’t want to be judged. He refused to keep my secret. Was I hurt? Yes. Did I dispute his right to tell the world about the incident which showed my arrogance and ignorance? No. I did go over the poem another couple of times, though.

In the blog, I tell the story, usually without the names, and given how few people I know in person read the blog, people’s privacy is relatively safe. It’s much more difficult in fiction, because fiction’s meant to be truthful and fictional.

I don’t know anything except from experience (and Hume). Perhaps you, as Descartes or Plato or Chomsky believe, know the nature of God or geometry or grammar from before birth, but I, sadly, don’t, especially the geometry, as my Maths teachers would testify. So if I’m going to tell you any sort of truth about the world in my writing, it’s going to have to be from experience. That isn’t to say that I’m going to write autobiographically. It’s called fiction for a reason, and I’m looking at you, Martin Amis, because I had to sit through your boring descriptions of Hollywood both in Money and during your long reminiscence at an author talk. Joining the dots between Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude and his autobiography, though, was more interesting, because everything had been shifted around and given a new meaning. Books don’t need to spring, fully formed out of your imagination. Down that road lies drafts of poems stuffed in hedges and fabricated persons from Porlock.

In fact, it’s probably best if you don’t write straight from your imagination. The two most boring types of narrative are purely imaginative: dreams and sexual fantasies. Don’t believe me? Go and look at the fantasy-sharing groups on Fetlife. Tell me if you manage to stay awake through three posts. Imagination isn’t bad. If you want to write (or dream, or even fantasise) about interplanetary war between 200 foot cat people and miniaturised mechanical penguins, feel free, but it won’t be interesting until you’ve used your experience to tell us what it feels like to be the 180 foot cat person, or what the penguins are really fighting for. And that’s because it won’t, otherwise, be truthful. Excuse me while I go and pitch that idea.

When you’re writing, though, what are the people around you meant to think? I use your boyfriend’s interesting career choice for a character who turns out to be a lying, cheating bastard. Am I accusing your boyfriend of that? No, it’s not him! So why not take out all the things that are like anyone I’ve ever known? Because the things I know are the only truths I have to share. And because in the case of a few lying, cheating bastards, I don’t mind if they recognise themselves. They aren’t going to sue, I’ve also put in that they have small willies.***

Writing, for me, in blog posts or fiction, is about trying to say something more than, ‘this happened.’ At the very least, I’m aiming at, ‘this happened and it was amusing,’ or even better, ‘this happened and it was a bit like something in your life, seen in a different way.’ That’s why I stand by my right to tell lies about myself, and truths about everyone else.

 

*Some details have been changed to protect relationships.

**In the interests of balance, I should probably share the fact that I, apparently, have no patience, don’t listen to reason, get crumbs in the bed and then complain about them, and let the plug hole get blocked up with rice.

***This is a lie for the purposes of humour. I haven’t done this at all, but I have admitted that I sometimes tweak the truth in blog posts. If you can believe me.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

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Consent in the Fetish Scene, or, What Am I To Do?

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There’s a campaign at the moment to reveal the extent of rape and abuse in the fetish scene. It’s based in the idea that violations of consent are widespread, and that the scene’s culture conspires to silence victims and protect perpetrators. I’ve never experienced what they’re talking about. I thought that perhaps it was just a problem in America, but it seems that London has its fair share of abusive gits, too. For several months I’ve been aware of the campaign, but was unable to relate it to anything I know of the scene.

 Then, a few days ago one of my posts about dancing was mentioned here. In it, I talked about negative experiences at jive clubs, mostly due to the sexualised atmosphere, including being groped many, many times by men on the dancefloor. I didn’t go into the fact that the two men from jive who have my contact details have both indulged in a bit of sexual abuse: one wanking down the phone at me, the other arousing himself while holding me down. The post explores the idea that jive is, to some degree, a heterosexual marketplace. The people at Southern Jive didn’t agree. 

Well I can very happily say, I have never, ever experienced the feelings that lady/woman not girl does at a jive night (well, every dancer – man or woman will have had one of those dances; but nothing like the all encompassing lechery the author seems to percieve).

 This was, I think, the only female commenter, but there was general agreement that my claims were untrue. I refrained from joining the discussion, but my reaction was, “because you haven’t noticed it, it must be untrue? Really?” I can think of many reasons why my experience of a heterosexual marketplace differs from other people’s: I’m young, I’m female, I dress in a feminine way, I don’t take a husband (ultimate protection) or friend (lesser protection) with me. I know I’m an easy target. It was brought home to me in a big way when I lost my keys at an out-of-the-way jive club one night, and found myself tearful, being circled by a man who always pulled me too close while dancing. Even after his help was politely refused, he sat in his car outside the front door, idling the engine and offering to put me up at his place. Of course, if you’re a middle aged man attending with your wife, you don’t have the same experience of modern jive that I have. 

I don’t want to be like the jivers who don’t believe there’s nastiness because they haven’t seen it. When it comes to violations of consent in the fetish scene, I believe that others are telling the truth. Therefore, I’m either very lucky, or I’m not the prey.

 I’ve glad I didn’t come to BDSM when I was eighteen. I’m glad even as I meet the next recruits to the under-35s munch at the beginning of the academic year. There they are, fresh-faced and desirable, about to discover a new world. It has to be a fabulous feeling, leaving home and exploring your deepest desires. All the same, I don’t envy it.

 I was a stupid eighteen year old. Fortunately, I went to a campus university where there wasn’t much trouble on offer. I did the usual student things—drinking too much, clubbing for no apparent reason, snogging random men and women on dancefloors, wearing slutty schoolgirl outfits to themed nights, spilling coffee during lectures, shopping trips with no expendable cash, believing my friends when they said all you can eat Chinese buffets are good (until we got there), attending parties thrown by physics students (we were the only girls), hiding behind books in the library when the girl I fancied walked by. Stupid stuff. Not dangerous stupid stuff (although there was a very memorable drive to Glasgow just after I passed my test) but stupid stuff. I didn’t have a lot of casual sex, but then I didn’t have a lot of offers from people I would have liked to have casual sex with. Maybe travelling alone round China, a country not known for its low crime rate, would have been safer if I’d told someone which city I was heading to next. Maybe I shouldn’t have got into so many taxis with so many random men, or driven so fast on the motorway, or tried to be emotionally involved with so many men I didn’t feel that strongly about. 

If I had joined the fetish scene, I would have dived enthusiastically in. I wouldn’t have had the subtley and experience to make a clear distinction between the parts of the scene I could see most clearly and the parts that would be most satisfying to be involved in. I would have played with many people. There are plenty of men in the scene who would have wanted a sexual relationship with me. I would have ended up, therefore, in a relationship with an older, sadistic, more experienced man, and while this would have played to my kinks, it would also have happened before I learned enough to hold back a little, which is necessary when you’re playing with things that encourage rushing forward. The relationship wouldn’t have worked out and I’d have been heartbroken, much more heartbroken than was at all appropriate. I’d have learned to say no to chancers and harassers much quicker and better than I did in reality, but only after some horrible experiences with men who pestered me into things I didn’t want. I’d have spent years waxing and shaving even more obsessively than I did. I’d have hurt some nice people who actually would have been lovely partners because there’s a bigger, nastier man over there to get to. And that’s not taking into account how little thought I’d have given to safety, safe calls, safe words, sexual health or where this man is actually taking me. The safety things we talk about are only the visible bit of the iceburg.

 Most eighteen year olds are probably more sensible than I was. Nevertheless, without victim-blaming at all, I think we can recognise the strength of my position: older, with a male lover and a poly family who have strong links in the community, and, frankly, are scarier than me. If you’re looking round the room for a victim, you’re less likely to pick me than someone young, inexperienced and alone, and in any case I’m more likely to say no. The people who came to pester me when I went to events alone don’t bother any more, and the last time I was verbally harassed at a fetish club, a friend had reported it to the management before that had even crossed my mind. I’m in a position of relative privilege. Not as much as, say, a middle-aged male dominant, but a good position nonetheless. What’s my responsibility towards those who aren’t? To believe them and not their abusers? Check. But what can I do

The BDSM community is a self-selecting group, anyone can turn up, and therefore I don’t expect an awful lot more of them than of wider society. We can agree basic minimums: no physical assault, respecting of safewords, that gentlemen should refrain from masturbating while watching others play. That’s great, but unless you’re in a public space yelling, “safeword! SAFEWORD!” as someone flogs you, I’m unlikely to intervene. Once we get beyond basic minimums, no intervention is on solid ground.

I don’t think one acquaintance should punch his partner’s head. Should I say something? He’s bigger in the scene than I am, and belligerent with it. I don’t think two of my acquaintances should play when drunk or stoned, so what should I do when they head to the playspace? I listened to a young woman debate whether she should spend the extra money on a return ticket to the city she was going to meet a strange man from the internet for the first time, or bank on spending the night at his, with horror. I don’t think she listened to my advice. The relationship between the man who always joked he was on the look out for fresh meat and the very young woman who has just joined the scene makes me feel slightly queasy, but they both seem very happy for now, I doubt either are interested in my opinion.

 If you come to me with a story of violated consent, I will make you a cup of tea and listen to you with reasonable credulity. If you yell for help against an abuser in a public space, I have a good track record of punching them in the face.* I suspect that a real cultural change needs something more subtle, though. I understand that there’s a problem. Do any of you know what I should do?

 

 

*Yes, I recognise that this might not, strictly, be helpful, but it is active.

Written by Not an Odalisque

February 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm

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Spankvent

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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

Taming the Beast

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Only two novels have ever made me sob in a café. I don’t mean that I blinked a couple of tears from my eyes and looked around soulfully. My face was smeared with the tears I’d unsuccessfully tried to wipe away, my nose was running and, as I came up on the worst bits, I made little mewling sounds. I put the book down and breathed slowly to regain control, but couldn’t stop reading for more than a few seconds. One of the books those books was Anna Karenina. The other was ‘Taming the Beast’.

The first time I read it I was in a spin for a week. Near the end I was in a café in Derry, ignoring my lunch, unable to stop reading, but pausing sometimes to search for a dry patch of handkerchief. My boyfriend came back from his errand to find me with a red, puffy face and a bowl of cold broth. I tried to explain: he was dangerous, she was going to let him have her, and I wanted her to, and I wanted him to, and it was so, so, awful. A week later he bought me a copy of ‘The Courage To Heal’, he clearly thought that the only explanation for such twisted thinking was the trauma of abuse. Lacking any such history, though, I’m still looking for other reasons.

I’ve reread the book twice this year. It’s about a girl who loves poems and her English teacher, the affair they have when she’s fourteen and the affair they have when she’s twenty-two. It’s got white panties, asphyxiation, a precocious girl and a stern older man, but my reaction goes beyond my list of kinks. It isn’t porn, there’s an emotional truth it in that I can’t quite decipher.

The first time I read it, I’d just finished ‘Daddy’s Girl’, a story about a woman who plays the little girl to her sadistic ‘Daddy’. It’s a story that starts as porn, for those of us who like that sort of thing: naughty girls being spanked, special clothing to be torn off during rapes in the garden, a rich, sophisticated man who knows his girl is special.* It becomes a story about how reality reasserts itself: Daddy’s doesn’t always know best and sometimes he isn’t there when you need him, you might just have to stand on your own. That upset me, because I want the fantasy of an older man who’ll always love me and always make things right. I want it the same way I think some people want God, as a self-validation and a safety net rolled into one. All the same, ‘Taming the Beast’ leaves me with a greater sense of loss.

In ‘Daddy’s Girl’ the narrator loses her Daddy when she realises that the man can’t live up to the fantasy. Sarah, the narrator of ‘Taming the Beast’, sees her lover’s self-justifications, his blaming her for his loss of control, the fact that his need to beat her is at odds with his position as the sensible, caring adult who should be in charge. Sarah is under no illusions, she knows he’s a sadistic criminal, and she wants it, she’ll give up everything for it. She doesn’t care if she dies.

Then he lifted his head, looked into her eyes and slapped her hard across the face. ‘Dear God, Sarah! Why won’t you let me do this right? Why won’t you let me treat you with respect?’

Sarah knew that he could not see how ridiculous his question was. He didn’t see that biting her legs and slapping her face was less satisfying than a mutually satisfying screw. She didn’t know why this intrigued her when any sane person would be disturbed. She could see the twisted logic, the distorted morality, the dangerous self-justification; it’s just that she didn’t mind.

I think that’s what upsets me. Not only seeing the limitations of the fantasy, as in ‘Daddy’s Girl’, but knowing that the impulse doesn’t dissipate, even when it is demonstrated that it’s flawed. There’s something akin to Sarah’s decision at the centre of most of my kinks, the choosing something without reference to the self. Submission involves a suppression of the self, pain reduces the self by narrowing focus to sensation and shutting everything else out, and pain that seems unbearable is not only engrossing, but pushes you to a limit at which you’ll happily give up anything, if only that will make it stop. Pain trumps integrity. In a sense, my kinks involve chasing dissolution of myself, and I’m sad that I can’t take it as far as the impulse goes, because I have other priorities: staying alive, achieving something, independence from fallible lovers and crutches.

On the other hand, interesting and Bataillian as this analysis is, I do wonder if my feelings are baser. I envy Sarah her story. I want to be the girl whose teacher loves her enough to risk seducing her, beat her, teach her poetry and come back for her eight years later when she’s all grown up. I’m disappointed that I can’t have that in real life, which seems mundane and filled with ordinariness and washing up in comparison. Then it struck me that I did have what Sarah had when I was fourteen, and it felt very different.

I was one of those teenagers who suddenly discovered the power of her sexuality and couldn’t restrain myself to trying to form a relationship with one of the boys of the best local independent. I wanted to be thought irresistible by everyone: the bus driver, the teachers, friend’s brothers, friend’s fathers, and probably any workmen visiting friends’ houses. I remember getting cold in the doorway turning the charm on the pizza delivery guy (and I got cold pizza, too). My school made us wear blue check summer dresses, primary-school style, until we were sixteen (my mother memorably told the head they were ‘a paedophile’s delight’). I used to loll in the grounds under the cherry trees, wearing daisy chain circlets and reddening my lips with sticky cherry lollipops, parodying what I was. Now, I associate the memory of my doing that with one man.

He was a friend’s father. He worked in publishing, in a low-level job that sounded much more impressive at the time. Like Sarah’s Mr. Carr, he told me I was brilliant, intelligent, and understood him like no one else. He showed me his poetry, which he’d shown no one before, not even his wife. He taught me the word ‘pertinent’. He played me the Sisters of Mercy and he told me about Ruskin’s love life. I felt special, beautiful, chosen. Then one weekend, at my friend’s sleepover, in the kitchen, next to the living room where his wife and daughter were having breakfast, he put his hand up my nightdress and onto my breast. I left the kitchen. He sat next to me on the sofa and drew my duvet across his lap. He held my hand. I thought that perhaps he was sorry. He pulled my hand across to his hot, hard penis. I looked down at his daughter sitting by our feet. I didn’t know what to say, so I just pulled my hand away, and put it, which the other, on top of the duvet.

Writing this I feel disgusted, angry, ashamed, let down by all the people who should have educated me about what to do in such circumstances (I had nails!), guilty and sad. I don’t feel turned on. For months I avoided accepting lifts and visits with varying amounts of success, for years I blamed myself, I still feel terrible that I didn’t say something to someone who could have curbed his activities. I realise that none of this was particularly hard-core, but there’s one notable thing about it: it isn’t seductive like ‘Taming the Beast’. I could argue that Sarah’s lover was more handsome, erudite, etc. He undoubtedly was from her perspective, but like me she saw through his conflicting and simultaneously held visions of who he was (and who she was, for that matter). I saw through my molester, too, but it mattered less when our shared activity was preferring poems to chemistry homework. A hand on the penis is a great clarifier: I enjoyed admiration, but wasn’t foolish enough to desire him. I knew, even then, that I was better than that.

I think my tears throughout ‘Taming the Beast’ are for a fantasy shattered. I fall into it again every time, I want to be the girl who knows her Keats so well that her teacher can’t help himself. And then, as the plot progresses, and Sarah gives up more and more (including, eventually, her studies of poetry) I want to follow her, so very badly, but I can see clearly, and I’m sad that what ought to be raging passion turns out to be nothing but gropes beside the toaster and furtive grabbing under a duvet while watching daytime television.* I’m crying for the limited nature of every role play scene, and the fact that I have to be a grown up and look after myself.

I’ve read it twice this year, and I know it backwards. I want more books like this in my life. So, dearest readers, since you’ve made it through 1,500 words of post, will you do one more thing for me? Tell me which books leave you off-balance and make you ask questions about who you are. I do so very much want to know.

*It’s unfortunately got all the hallmarks of paperback pornography, too: long passages during which the author describes her bottom, and a world in which inappropriate behaviour is always an accepted sexual advance. I can’t think what would be said if I decided to take a bath with the door open half way through one of my friend’s parties. I imagine it wouldn’t be, “that Not, she just can’t help doing sexy things!” Feel free to invite me to better parties.

**This point could be made just as well with ‘Lolita’, but everyone’s already read that, and they should be spending more time talking about Nabokov’s amazing language, narratorial perspective and tension, anyway.

Written by Not an Odalisque

January 2, 2012 at 3:37 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