Nerd that I am, I like games. I also like interactive things that people argue are/aren’t games (which is a discussion I’d like to avoid in the comments because it’s fucking boring). Here are some interesting things, some kink related, some not.

Consensual Torture Simulator by Merritt Kopas. This game costs $2, but it’s well worth it. To quote Merritt, it’s “a game about hurting someone who wants it.” You can read more about it in this article on Kotaku. Whether you see it as a comment on violence in video games or strictly as a simulated scene, it’s interesting to play and you don’t have to have spent the last 10 years playing games to understand it. The writing in this one is lovely and there’s a strong feeling of intimacy and affection between the characters.

encyclopedia fuckme and the case of the vanishing entree by Anna Anthropy. This is a pornographic lesbian dating sim sort of thing, and it’s super fun to play. Like Consesual Torture Simulator, it’s a text game that you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy. There is some non-graphic violence in this one that could be taken to imply that kinky people are damaged/evil, but as Anna’s kinky herself, I feel pretty comfortable saying it’s just in there to add to motivate the player to escape and add drama to the game.

Dys4ia, also by Anna Anthropy. This game is about Anna’s experience with hormone replacement therapy and gender transition. It’s the single most interesting thing I’ve ever seen done in a game.

Candy box! by aniwey. This one is hard to describe without spoiling it, so I’ll just say that if you’re patient and keep fiddling with it, you will be rewarded. This game has a sense of discovery and wonder that I think is missing from most big budget games.

A Dark Room by Doublespeak Games. To quote the developer, this one is a “minimalist text adventure.” There are some similarities to Candy box!, and this one will probably be most interesting to people who have been gaming for a while.

Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler. This game is meant to show depressed people that they aren’t alone, and to try to explain what depression is like to people who don’t have it. Those are pretty awesome things to try to do, and Depression Quest helps expand the range of what we can communicate with games.

Unfortunately, Depression Quest, or more precisely Zoe’s efforts to get the game onto Steam (for non-gamers, Steam is a game distribution platform with massive reach. Getting the game onto Steam would get it into far more people’s hands), are kind of a lightning rod for assholes. There’s a small but vocal minority of gamers who are terribly threatened both by the idea of games that don’t specifically cater to male power fantasies, and (I’m guessing) the idea that women have feelings that have nothing to do with men. If you have a Steam account, you can help greenlight Depression Quest.

don’t take it personally babe, it just ain’t your story by Christine Love. In Christine’s words, this is “A full length visual novel about the erosion of privacy, gay drama, young sexuality, and the perils of modern online life for a high school literature class.” As serious as that makes the game sound (and there are serious parts), most of the game is straightforward voyeuristic juicy gossip fun. There is some content I feel I should add a trigger warning for (select the text to reveal it, it spoils a major plot point) [ a minor character appears to commit suicide, but is later revealed to be perfectly fine. When she moved away, she and her classmates took the opportunity to play a trick on their teacher], but apart from that the game is pretty light-hearted.

Finally, Myst is now online and free to play. If you’ve never tried it, you need to check it out. Unlike the other games in this list, it’s not an indie game created on a tiny budget by just a few people, but it is free now, and it’s a classic for a reason. Myst is a puzzle/adventure game where you roam around an island, but you don’t have to be any good at solving the puzzles to enjoy wandering around a beautiful environment messing with stuff (I was certainly never any good at the sequel, Riven).

Nerd trivia: Because Myst was so graphics heavy (for it’s time it was absolutely gorgeous, and actually holds up pretty well today) it was just too big to be installed from 3 1/2″ floppies like other games of it’s time. People bought CD-ROM drives just to be able to play it, which helped drive adoption of the newfangled CD-ROM format. Okay, I’m probably the only one who thinks that’s interesting.

Readers, have you been playing anything interesting lately?

The other side of unfair

On my last post, about what a dick move it is to tell a partner how to feel about trying kink, Miss Pearl left such an interesting comment that I built a whole post around it.

To quote Miss Pearl:

It is a really bad habit that we tend to treat kinks as an ‘extra’ that gets put up with. It promotes the idea that kinks are something that are secondary to say vanilla. It’s the same attitude that treats gay partnerships as less valid than straight ones (for example that’s used to say it’s not worth changing laws to accommodate them because it’s a fringe thing) and it really doesn’t make allowances for the fact that for a kinked person, performing as vanilla may be just as much as a stretch.

Just as much as it’s unfair to tell your partner they have to love kink, it’s unfair to tell your kinky partner they have to love vanilla when it’s just not satisfying for them. Being kinky is not something a person can just turn off when it’s convenient for their partner. Considering what a pain in the ass it can be to find any kinky partner at all, let alone one whose kinks are compatible with yours, don’t you think most of us would turn off our kinks if we could?

Even if it were possible to turn off our kinks, what kind of person would do that to their partner? If you care about someone, you don’t ask them to cut off pieces of themselves. It’s never fun to find out you can’t give someone what they need, but the answer to that is never ever to tell them to stop having needs.

Expanding on that, Miss Pearl also said:

as much as some of the “please make my wife into my fantasy dominate” types make me want to bash heads, I’ve been on the other side of that- and have many friends who have been on the side of “you spanked me so now you owe me”..

If you’re only grudgingly trying kink so that you can hold it over your partner’s head, for fucks sake just dump them. It would be kinder. Kinky people, you do not have to put up with that kind of douchebaggery. You can do better than someone who uses your kink as a handle to jerk you around by. Again, if you care about someone, you don’t treat them like that. Making someone feel like they owe you for indulging their kinks relies on them feeling ashamed of those kinks. Being alone can definitely suck, but I’d rather be alone than in a relationship that relies on me feeling ashamed of who I am.

Where things get complicated is where, as Miss Pearl says:

Additionally, while you can’t make someone feel a particular way, it’s also largely useless to just go through the mechanical aspects of kinks for many people, myself included. If there’s no connection or chemistry through my kinks, it’s depressing and useless and I might as well just go masturbate.

This is exactly why I don’t do scenes with the ridiculously adorable boyfriend. He’s willing to try things he’s not interested in for their own sake to make me happy, and that’s awfully sweet of him, but sweetness is not enough to make a scene work for me. It doesn’t help that his absolutely unreasonable pain tolerance means I can’t get the reactions that do it for me, which makes any scene we might do kind of a waste of everyone’s time. If someone doesn’t react in a way that I can feed on, no amount of willingness to try will create the energy exchange that makes a scene satisfying for me.

While I believe it’s a dick move to tell a partner how to feel about kink I think it’s fair to say “Thank you for trying, but this just isn’t working for me. Can we find another way to get my needs met?” Some partners will be okay with playing with other people, others may need to end the relationship to find people they’re more compatible with. That’s painful for everyone involved, but I firmly believe it’s better than staying in an unfulfilling relationship while your resentment slowly burns away everything that was ever good about your relationship.

It does get complicated when the non-kinky partner is dependent on the kinky partner, though. Everyone has a right to get their needs met, but at the same time I can’t see it as fair to put a person in a position where they either have to convincingly fake enjoyment of your kinks or end up struggling to find a living space, or health insurance, or physical care, or emotional support. It would be great if everyone made sure they were compatible with their partner before allowing them to become dependent, but I can’t see that actually happening any time soon.

There is no shortage of sad stories on fetlife and other forums where submissive men, in particular, describe how they thought they could do without kink, or didn’t realize they were kinky until long after they were married, or thought they could talk their wives into it, only to find that their wives were unwilling to go through the motions of the odd scene, and unwilling to let them play with anyone else. Unilaterally deciding your partner can’t have any kink in his life is at least as much of a dick move as telling your partner how to feel about kink. I also believe it’s as close to open permission to discreetly play with others as you can get in a relationship with those kinds of communication issues. If you don’t want to play, that’s your right. If you’re not thrilled about your partner doing something so intimate with anyone else, that’s completely understandable. But if you want a relationship where your partner doesn’t do anything kinky with you or with anyone else, well, you need to find a vanilla partner or tacitly agree not to ask too many questions when he “spends a few hours with the guys” now and then.

Kinky people’s needs don’t stop mattering just because those needs are often seen as “weird.” If you really want to tell your partner that what they want is not okay, find someone who has never wanted anything the least bit unusual in any part of their life cast the first stone.

Not Fair

One of my big pet peeves is when people ask their partners not to just try a particular kink (domination, for example), but to feel a certain way about it. I understand that for a lot of people it’s not satisfying to be dominated by someone who’s just going through the motions, but telling your partner how they have to feel about what they’re doing is completely unfair. 

It’s absolutely fine to ask your partner to try something, it’s fine to tell them you really really hope they enjoy it, it’s fine to tell them it’s important to you, but it is not cool to tell someone how to feel about what you’ve asked them to do. Even if it were possible to feel a particular way on command, that would be a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on someone you supposedly love.

Trying something completely new sexually is difficult and scary enough without any added pressure to feel a certain way about it. Unless you’ve spent your entire life living under a rock, you have to have noticed that women spend their whole lives being taught that nice girls don’t, that men only want to marry ‘nice girls’, that doing anything ‘freaky’ in bed means you’re a slut and your partner won’t respect you anymore, that once you’re a ‘slut’ you can’t say no ever again, and so on and so on. There’s kind of a lot of cultural programming to get past just to try anything kinky, let alone to like it. For fucks sake, let your partner get comfortable with the idea of doing some kinky stuff before you push her to be enthusiastic about it.

Speaking of enthusiasm, it’s impossible to manufacture. All you can do is make your partner feel like she has to lie convincingly, and if you do that it shouldn’t be any kind of news that you’re being an asshole. Aside from being tremendously douchebaggy, making your partner lie to you is just counter productive. If she’s busy convincing you she likes whatever it is you want her to like, how is she going to find out what she actually likes? I’m certain that at least some of the women who ‘were never able to get into kink’ could have found something they liked if they had just been allowed to explore at their own pace instead of being pressured to love it all immediately.

Guys, you can ask your girlfriend/wife/partner to try things, you can help her work through her feelings about it, you can be patient and try things until you find something you both like, but you can’t ask her to magically like something just because you like it.

Things that make me happy

In the spirit of having a really nice lazy weekend, today I’m going to talk about things that make me happy instead of things that make me want to set other things on fire.

Thing the first: Sky Pirates of the Rio Grande by Amanda Gannon and Paul B. Batteiger. Amanda and Paul write erotica, but not just any erotica. Sky Pirates is a steam-punky, wild west adventure with airships and dinosaurs and it is just as awesome as it sounds. It’s basically a gloriously ridiculous (seriously, there’s a scene where one of the characters rides a dinosaur) pulp fiction adventure where they don’t fade to black every time there’s a sex scene.

Even if you took out the sex (which would be a pity, because it’s super hot), Sky Pirates would still be a good read. The characters are just so much fun, and while they’re often a little larger than life (which is exactly what you would expect in this sort of adventure story), they still feel like actual people, not cardboard cutouts being maneuvered through a series of joyless sex scenes (mainstream porn, I’m looking at you).

At the risk of straying into rant territory, another thing I absolutely love about Sky Pirates is that the protagonist is a woman, her main ally is a woman, the main villain is also a woman, and there are various and sundry supporting female characters. Holy crap, it’s possible to write an interesting story about women like we’re goddamn people or something!

While I haven’t yet read the sequel, Queen of the Sky Frontier, I’m sure it’s just as awesome.

Thing the second: the Her Jewel series by Isla Sinclair. If you’ve read much of any female dominant/male submissive erotica, this is going to blow your mind: the ‘jewel’ of the series title is a submissive man. There is actually erotica out there that treats submissive men as beautiful and valuable and desirable, and it is amazing. Aside from the awesomeness of a fictional submissive man actually being wanted, if you like m/m and voyeurism (specifically two men putting on a show for the dominant woman they both adore), you will fucking love this series. It’s both super hot and absolutely adorable how much the three of them just plain like each other.

Thing the third: the Space Queen series, also by Isla Sinclair. This series is less sweet and more dirty wrong hotness, which is exactly what you want sometimes. The space queen of the title captures two of the humans her species is at war with, and torments them in all kinds of fun ways. Well, fun for her, not so much for them. There’s kidnapping, pain, fear, shame at getting turned on in a messed up situation, and some forced bi that’s actually hot for once. Usually I find forced-bi incredibly off putting because so much of it assumes that servicing another man is fundamentally humiliating, or fundamentally feminine and therefore humiliating. In Space Queen, the problem is the terrifying sadist who captured them and having to make choices they don’t like to survive, not the fact that they’re the same gender. While this series is mostly porn, there are still some interesting hints of conflict between the Regent who captured the humans and the as yet unseen Empress. I’m terribly curious about what happens next.

Thing the fourth: the Marketplace series by Laura Antoniou. There’s a reason these are classics of BDSM fiction. Whether or not the scenes and sex in them do it for you, the world of the marketplace is absolutely fascinating and the characters ring so true you just have to know what happens to them. I started reading The Reunion (the fifth in the series) midweek, which in hindsight was a terrible idea. I ended up sleep deprived all that week because I couldn’t put it down.

One thing I really enjoy about the Marketplace series is the sheer variety of characters. There are dominant men, dominant women, submissive men, submissive women, slaves and owners of colour, trans men and women, butches and femmes, and they’re all just treated as people. Not to say that Laura Antoniou never tackles uncomfortable subjects, though. There is a part of one of the books where a trainer temporarily refuses to accept a trans male slave as a man and tries for force him to be a woman. She eventually sees how awful a thing she’s done, apologizes, and writes into his contract that he shall only be referred to and treated as a man. There is also a black male slave who struggles terribly with his slavery and his place in the world when his master and mistress’s relationship is on the rocks and he doesn’t know where he would end up if they divorce. That one doesn’t get quite as neatly resolved, but his fears and his struggles are taken absolutely seriously and he gets a lot of support from the people around him.

There’s one part of The Reunion in particular that just delights me. This is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s also quite a minor plot point and happens very early in the book. Stop reading now if you want to stay completely unspoiled.

If you’re still here, the part I’m talking about is a very straightforward, stereotypical femdom scene. You know, with the fetish wear and the small penis humiliation and the bottom being called pathetic and the woman not getting off. Only, it turns out the woman is the slave and the ‘submissive’ is her master. I just love the way Laura skewers the idea that a woman acting out a scene where everything revolves around the ‘subs’ cock is anything but her submitting to him.

What would the scene look like in a perfect world?

At this point, it shouldn’t be any sort of surprise that the kink scene has a serious problem with abuse. Sometimes I really understand why maymay is so enraged by the clusterfuck that is the organized scene that he wants to burn it down.

As fucked up as the scene is, though, I don’t think there’s much point in burning it down. People are always going to want to gather together with other people who share their interests, they’re always going to end up organizing those gatherings once they get big enough, and they’re always going to have to deal with a certain amount of politics and asshattery. I believe if every kink organization shut its doors today, all that would happen is tomorrow people would start building new organizations and run into much the same problems the old ones already have.

What I would like to see is new organizations started and existing ones infiltrated and taken over by people who have a vision of a scene that’s safe for everyone and a plan to work toward it. What I’m curious about is what that ideal kink scene would look like.

For starters, my ideal scene would not be solely white, middle-class, and able-bodied. As a white woman I have no business issuing pronouncements about how make people of colour feel welcome, but I can certainly say that it’s ridiculous to assume that only white people are kinky. The middle-class bias of the scene is at least theoretically easier to fix – we need events that are free or barterable, events at different times of day so that people who don’t work 9-5 Monday – Friday can come, and classes that are relevant to people who can’t drop $100 dollars on a flogger. Oh, and while we’re talking about an ideal world, free or very cheap childcare and help with transportation would be great too. My city has pretty decent public transportation, but if you live in the wrong place you’re going to have a hell of a time getting to any events. Finally, the ideal scene would not have every bloody event up a flight of stairs! I know it’s tough to find venues that will accept kinky people at all, but either we care about our events being accessible or we don’t.

Also, my ideal scene would welcome everyone equally, not greet young, attractive, submissive women with open claws and submissive men with utter disdain. Instead of this bullshit about how doms and subs are ‘supposed’ to act, everyone would treat each other strictly as equals outside of any power dynamics they’ve specifically negotiated. Anyone who so much as implied that doms are due any special deference or that submissive people should know their place would be laughed out of the room.

Along with that, any art used to decorate kinky events would not focus on submissive women! In a perfect world, we’d be able to handle the bizarre and apparently terrifying idea that there are straight women in the scene who might enjoy looking at pictures of men.

Speaking of kinky events, in my ideal scene women would feel just as comfortable coming to a party in basic black as men do. Fuck the idea that women owe the scene (and the world) a sexy display for daring to take up space. There wouldn’t be any pressure to play in public, either. People who’ve never played at a party would be taken just a seriously as people who play in public every chance they get.

And finally, the big one. The ideal scene would be free of systemic abuse. I know that a certain number of assholes are always going to find their way into the scene, but an ideal scene would root them out quickly and actually support their victims. This, I’m sad to say, is the hardest one for me to envision. Between the idea that the scene is the only place to meet other kinky people, our natural attachment to social status and fear of rocking the boat, and our whole society’s massively fucked up ideas about abuse, a scene that doesn’t tolerate abuse is tough to even imagine.

But to take a stab at it, I think a safe scene would take everyone’s stories seriously. Even if it’s uncomfortable, even if the accused is a friend, we would listen when someone says that they didn’t feel good about what happened. We would have official anti-harassment policies to take away the excuse that ‘I didn’t know’ and to show people that abuse is taken seriously. We would strictly enforce respect for social consent at absolutely all of our events, no matter how casual. By social consent I mean that it should not be necessary to tell a person “No” more than once, whether that no is “No, I don’t want to do a take-down scene with you” or “No, I don’t want to sit beside you.”

Once we hear about anyone’s boundaries being disrespected, we would fucking well act on it. No, I’m not saying we should go on a witch hunt every time we hear about a scene not going perfectly, but when we do hear about something, we react appropriately. If that’s just a jerk who had to be told no twice before he respected it, we have a talk with him about how he can push people’s boundaries or he can continue to be welcome in the scene, but not both. If that’s a case of rape or assault, we ban the abuser until they turn themselves in to the police, do their time, confess fully to everything they’ve done wrong, and show a thorough understanding of why it was wrong. Even then, we would only tolerate the presence of a thoroughly reformed abuser if their victim/s were completely comfortable with them being back in the scene.

While I do think it’s important for people who fuck up to be able to redeem themselves, that redemption can never be more important than the people who have been hurt. We should never let geek social fallacies be more important than the well being of people in the scene, either. Even if someone hasn’t actually touched anyone inappropriately or pressured them to play, we really do need to exclude people for being assholes. Like Naamah said in a comment:

Why the FUCK should I feel safe in a group that allows people like that to remain?!

Whether it’s sexism, racism, ableism, or just general douchebaggery, by letting assholes roam freely we’re telling people that they should not feel safe here. Fuck that noise.

What about you, readers? What would your ideal scene look like?