Submissive != Robot

Over and over I see submissive men say things like “a sub’s only purpose is to obey his dom”, and “my feelings don’t matter as long as my dom is happy”, “if I had a dom I’d do exactly as she said, no matter what”, “she’s the dom, it’s her right to do whatever she wants”.

No! Stop that! If I wanted a robot, I’d fucking build one. I want submission that’s about me, not about your own self-loathing. Nobody with any sense of self-worth truly believes their feelings don’t matter as long as someone else if happy. I understand making sacrifices for people you care about, but choosing to put someone else’s happiness first sometimes is very different from going through life believing your feelings don’t matter at all.

Not only is that unhealthy, it’s also useless. There’s a reason the safety announcements they do on airplanes always say to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else put theirs on – you can’t help anyone else if you don’t have anything to give. I’d much prefer a man who takes care of himself so he can give me his best to someone who ignores his own needs until he collapses. Or more likely, until his simmering resentment finally boils over. You can only kid yourself that you don’t have needs for so long. I’d really rather have a sub who will tell me when problems come up and give me a chance to fix them than one who will stuff it down and stuff it down until one day he explodes, we have a screaming fight, and he never speaks to me again.

I want the opportunity to do something nice for my sub. Romantic relationship or not, either way I still want it to be an exchange, not a one-sided drain on the sub. I want to feel needed, not spend my time wondering why this guy puts up with me and when he’s going to wise up and ditch me. Until I finally develop psychic powers, I can only do that if my sub opens up to me and lets me know what would make him happy.

Even if I found someone deluded enough to believe that I have the right to take from him without giving anything back, actually doing that would still make me a complete and utter douchebag. If I did that I wouldn’t be able to respect myself, and why on earth would you want to submit to someone who knows she’s doing the wrong thing and does it anyway?

For that matter, why on earth would I want to dominate a complete doormat? Giving orders to someone who will obey them as mindlessly as a robot isn’t any more exciting than ordering a pizza. Well, maybe it’s a little bit more exciting if your local pizza place is terrible and they always screw up your order.

Finally, acting like there’s a submission olympics you can win by being the subbliest of them all is just sad and stupid. There’s no magical kink council that’s going to award you a dom of your very own for getting into enough internet pissing matches about who’s more submissive. People who say they have no needs are either lying or deluded, and neither one of those things is attractive. Not to mention, you’re helping scare off nice, thoughtful submissive guys by making it look like this ridiculous performance of self-loathing is just the way you do male submission. For fuck’s sake, cut that shit out.

Guys, anyone who tells you that your only purpose is to please her, that your feelings don’t matter, and that she has the right to behave however she likes no matter how much that hurts you, is a complete asshole. Run! There will be other doms.

Kink and Ethics

This post was inspired by Cliff Pervocracy’s post titled “How can you be a feminist and do BDSM?”, and some particularly interesting comments on it (purely as an aside, Pervocracy is one of the few places on the internet where you can read the comments and not immediately smack yourself in the face and say “Goddammit. I knew I shouldn’t have read the comments”), which you should go read. Some interesting issues come up in the comments, and one of them is:

Given that there are kinks that resemble real-world oppression, how can we pursue those kinks ethically? I think we can do that by acknowledging the resemblance to real-world oppression, explicitly stating what we’re doing to make sure our playacted “oppression” doesn’t become real oppression, and doing as much as we can to reduce real-world oppression.

Let’s take forced feminization as example. This is an inherently misogynistic kink. Without the belief that women are lesser and therefore it’s wrong for men to dress in women’s clothing, forced feminization loses much of its erotic charge. It’s still possible to be turned on by your partner controlling the way you present yourself, or to feel off-balance and therefore vulnerable when wearing a strange costume you wouldn’t normally wear, but most of the comments I’ve read by men who are turned on by forced feminization talk about how humiliated and slutty they feel while wearing women’s clothing.

However, feeling humiliated and turned on by wearing panties doesn’t mean the man wearing them is a bad person or a hopeless misogynist. It just means (assuming I understand how fetishes work) that it’s not unlikely that when he was a child he tried on a woman’s clothes, was shamed for it, and eroticized that shame. Or maybe he was never actually caught but was aware enough of social norms to fear getting caught. In a society that didn’t devalue women he probably wouldn’t have developed a humiliation-focused fetish for being forced to wear women’s clothing (he might still have a fetish for wearing particular styles and fabrics, but he wouldn’t feel humiliated by wearing those things), but that doesn’t mean that growing up in this one makes him a bad person.

All I think our hypothetical forced feminization fetishist needs to do is a few simple things. First of all, just fucking admit that forced feminization is misogynistic. You’re not fooling anyone when you try to tell me that using the same clothes I wear every day to humiliate you is somehow magically empowering to women, so knock it the fuck off. Next, make really fucking sure any woman who consents to dress you up and call you a sissy little bitch knows that you don’t believe she deserves to be mistreated because she had the poor taste to be female instead of male. Don’t assume that when the two of you disagree, you get your way because you have the almighty penis. Don’t act like your orgasm is the one that really matters, don’t act like your kinks are the ones that really matter, don’t insist on having your kink indulged every single time you see each other, don’t, in general, be a dick. Finally, stand up for women whenever you can. Don’t vote for woman-hating shitbags, call people out when they spout misogynistic bullshit, don’t support companies that use sexist advertisements, and for fuck’s sake listen when women tell you you’re acting like a misogynist.

While there’s a simple and obvious difference between playacted oppression (consent, it’s good for you), it’s worth talking about how we can be ethically kinky. As Boldly Go states in their blog post Kink and Power:

To use an example, if I have an acquaintance who I trust to top me in scenes, who has never disrespected a safe word or gone against my wishes, who has demonstrated a good balance as a top who will push boundaries when requested, but never overstep their bounds, that overall may be a good thing. But if the second the paddle’s put down and the rope is away, he gaslights and dismisses me when I bring up the sexual harassment I’ve faced in work situations or walking down the street or he attempts to condescendingly explain to me how wrong I am that racism is primarily a system that benefits white people at the expense of people of colour because ALL races experience racism well… does it really matter if he respects my safe words if he doesn’t respect anything else I say?

As firmly as I believe that what we like in the bedroom does not define the whole of who we are (subs can be CEOs, doms can be shy, and can we please stop acting like that’s news?), we can’t leave our whole selves outside the bedroom door, either. If you can’t be bothered to at least try to understand how power works outside of consensual, negotiated scenes, I won’t trust you with it in a scene anymore than I would trust someone with a welder if they’ve never so much as read the wikipedia article on welding.

Sadists: not actually the devil

I’ve been seeing some posts on Fetlife lately that make me wonder what people think the word “sadist” means.

Here’s the common definition in the kink community: a sadist is someone who enjoys inflicting pain. That’s it. Note that there is nothing in that definition about inflicting lots and lots of really intense pain, drawing blood, causing damage/leaving marks, making someone cry or scream, hurting someone in ways that don’t turn them on, ignoring limits, or being dominant.

What the word sadist does not mean is “scary evil person who is literally out for blood and wants to hurt you in nonconsensual ways”. There’s a handy word for that, it’s “abuser”.  Some abusers are sadists, and some may try to hide the fact that they’re abusive by saying “I’m a sadist, this is just how we are”, but that absolutely does not mean that all sadists are abusers.

Sadists aren’t all about inflicting as much pain as they can get away with. Some of us have very intense tastes, and others are much more mild. I think I’m on the more mild end of the sadist spectrum, but the people who’ve bottomed to me are better judges of that than I am. Anyway, the point is that there are lots of different types of sadists. Some of us just want to  scratch you with our nails a little and maybe do some gentle biting. Some of us think that waterboarding people with plain old water doesn’t suck enough and use ginger-ale (credit where it’s due, that’s Scott Smith’s idea,  not mine). There’s a huge range of tastes and intensities that all fall under the umbrella term of sadism.

For many people, sadism isn’t about the the amount of pain being inflicted at all. It’s quite common for people to be more interested in getting a reaction than in the particular action it takes to get that reaction. For me, if someone has a low pain tolerance, that just means it’s easier for me to get the reaction I want. That’s not to say that I never just want to bite someone really hard, but I don’t have to do that all the time or with everyone I play with.

Not all sadists have any interest in blood. For fuck’s sake, people. Where are you finding the word “blood” in the definition of  “sadist”? Breaking the skin is fun for some people, but there are plenty of painful things you can do that don’t break the skin. There are also largely painless ways to draw blood if that’s what you’re interested in – it’s called venipuncture. There is simply no correlation at all between being interested in blood and being a sadist.

Some minor physical damage is often a side effect of using particular tools to inflict pain, but there are plenty of ways to inflict pain without doing physical damage. Not all sadists are out to whip you until your back is raw and bloody, or to leave bruises that will last for a week.

Same with making people cry or scream – it’s not unusual for sadists to enjoy that, but not all of them do. Not everyone enjoys the sound of screaming (seriously, have you ever been at a play party with a particularly… ‘vocal’ bottom? it’s not a good time), and even people who do may not have anywhere they can make someone scream without anyone calling the cops. Some sadists prefer the sound of their bottom struggling to stay quiet, some like whimpering or begging, some think it’s funny when their bottom swears at them, and yes, some like screaming.

Sadists’ opinions on hurting people who enjoy or hate pain differ. Some sadists can only enjoy hurting people who are very clear about enjoying the sensation of pain. Other sadists prefer the devotion shown by someone enduring pain solely to please them. Still others enjoy helping people push their own limits or using pain to get the bottom into a particular headspace. What none of them are interested in is hurting people who don’t want it on any level. That’s not kink, that’s abuse. So is ignoring people’s limits. Everyone makes mistakes, and if you play for long enough eventually something will go wrong, but responsible perverts make every effort to respect each other’s limits.

Finally, not all dominants are sadists, and not all sadists are dominant. It’s not unusual for those things to go together, but that does not mean there is no such thing as a submissive sadist, a sadistic switch, or a sadist who has no interest in power exchange. It doesn’t even mean that you can assume a dom is a sadist. There are plenty of doms who aren’t interested in pain at all, or who will only use it occasionally as a punishment that neither they nor their sub will enjoy. Not only is pain just one of the ways you can heighten a power dynamic, but it’s not even a particularly creative way to do that. Rules about clothing, eye-contact, or use of furniture (just to give a few examples of the many many things you can play with) work just as well to remind everyone who’s in charge.

If you’re bright enough to use a computer, you’re bright enough to stop making stupid fucking assumptions about sadists and dominants.

How do I tell someone I’m kinky?

One question I see pretty frequently on kink sites is “how do I tell my partner I’m kinky?”

Here’s what I did:

I knew I was kinky well before I met the ridiculously adorable boyfriend. I’ve also read entirely too many discussions started by kinky people who ended up feeling trapped in relationships with non-kinky people, and didn’t want to end up like them. So clearly I needed to figure out if the boyfriend was kinky or at least kink-friendly sooner rather than later. Conveniently enough, there happened to be a munch a few days after I started seeing him, so I invited him to come with me. By texting him “Do you want to come hang out at the gay bar with me and my kinky friends tonight?”. Subtle I am not 🙂

While I don’t necessarily recommend doing things exactly the way I did, I firmly believe that sooner is better when it comes to telling a potential partner you’re kinky. Not only is it more honest and more respectful, it’s a better use of everyone’s time.

Now, this advice isn’t for everyone. If you didn’t figure out you were kinky until after you got married, you get a pass. If kink is something you enjoy when it’s on the menu but can take or leave, then you’re probably not spending a lot of time worrying about how to tell your partner anyway. If you’re not sure yet how important kink is to you, well, it would be great if you could figure that out before getting into a committed relationship, but it’s likely to take a relationship or two to figure out just how important having kink in your life is.

When I say telling a potential partner that you’re kinky right away is a better use of everyone’s time, what I mean is that I have a limited number of hours I can spend around people before I need time alone to recharge. I want to spend those hours on people who accept me for who I am, not people who might turn out to be narrow-minded jerks. To sort out the people I want to spend time with from the people I don’t, I try to scare people off as quickly as possible. That way I don’t have to waste my time on someone who I’m not compatible with, they don’t waste their time on someone who seemed nice at first but turned out to be a total freak, and everyone wins.

That may sound cold and overly goal oriented, but with the number of really great people in the world, do you really want to waste your time hanging around with people you only like okay, and who only like you as long as they don’t know too much about the real you?

It should be pretty clear how lying by omission about something a potential partner really needs to know is dishonest, so I’m not going to beat that point to death. There is something to be said for letting a person get to know you a little before you tell them you’re a member of a subculture plagued by terrible stereotypes, but if someone is so narrow-minded that they actually believe all kinky people are serial killers or were abused as children, they’re too stupid to date. Run away from them.

Finally, I think it’s disrespectful not to let your potential partner make an informed choice about whether they want to date a perv. We are all about informed consent, right? People are allowed not to want to date a kinky person. Maybe they have good reasons for that, or maybe they just believe stupid stereotypes, but either way it’s their choice to make.

To be fair, as a straight woman I have an easier time telling people I’m kinky than straight men do, particularly submissive men. However, thanks to societal misogyny I really do not have an easier time finding a man who is more interested in making me happy than in having me perform a little dominance role-play that’s ultimately all about his penis.

There are actually plenty of people out there who are open-minded enough to at least give kink a try. Stop trying to force non-kinky people into the mold you have for them and date someone who might actually accept you of their own free will.