Oh noes, tops have to trust their bottoms

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of whining about how terribly dangerous topping is, how a malicious bottom could pretend everything was fine, then change their mind after the scene is over and run around telling everyone what an awful  nasty person you are.

So, you mean tops need to vet their bottoms and get to know them well enough to trust them?!?!?!111! That’s nothing like how bottoms need to vet their tops and get to know them before putting their physical safety in their hands. *facepalm*

Yes, topping can be dangerous. You might try something and end up really freaked out about how much you enjoyed it. You might make a mistake and hurt someone in a way they don’t enjoy. You might run across a trigger someone didn’t know they had and re-traumatize them through no fault of your own. You might ask someone to try something that you’ve fantasized about for years and get nothing but a weird look and “…you want to do what?!” and end up absolutely crushed. And sure, fine, there’s an infinitesimal but non-zero change that if the moon is in Capricorn and it’s the 4th Tuesday of the month and your “malicious” bottom has video footage of them using their safeword and you ignoring it, and they’re willing to explain in detail to the cops how they ended up at your place in bondage, you might possibly see the inside of a jail cell.

Or, in terms of things that might actually, you know, happen, a bottom  might have their limits casually disregarded while they’re tied up and unable to do anything about it. If they’re new to the scene, if they’re playing with someone who runs an event or who “everybody knows is a good guy” then there’s very little chance that the asshole who hurt them will suffer any consequences whatsoever.

The more I read of this ridiculous fear that a evil meanie-pants bottoms who just so happen to be gifted actors will endure a traumatic scene while appearing perfectly happy, then turn around and accuse the poor, innocent dom of violating their consent after tricking them into thinking everything was fine, the more it reminds me of the sad little misogynistic trolls who are convinced evil, evil women are running around having consensual, enthusiastic sex with poor, innocent men just so they can ruin those men’s lives by crying rape the next day.

My advice in both cases is exactly the same: if in doubt, don’t. If you want to have sex with a woman and she isn’t enthusiastically participating, stop and check in. If you want to play with a bottom and they aren’t enthusiastically participating, stop and check in. If either one of them stops reacting, goes quiet, starts reacting differently, can’t promptly and clearly reassure you they’re having a good time, just fucking stop! It’s not that goddamn complicated.

Just like no magical mind-reading powers are necessary to tell if a woman wants to have sex, there are no magical  mind-reading powers needed to figure out whether a bottom wants to play. Fucking ask them! If you trust them, problem solved! If you don’t trust them, either don’t play or get to know them better and ask again later.

If you can’t tell whether or not the person you’re playing with is having a good time and can’t be bothered to find a workaround then you are the goddamn problem, not some imaginary malicious bottom.

Punishment vs Funishment

First, a small housekeeping note – my post about kink and people with histories of abuse is coming, but I’ve been condescended to as much as I can stand just now and need a little break before I post anything else that’s likely to result in patronizing douchebags setting up shop in my comments.


When people talk about wanting to be punished, they tend to be talking about one of two very different things.

One, there’s what I think of as ‘serious’ punishment – that is, d/s dynamics that include agreements to give and accept punishment for certain infractions, also known as domestic discipline. The sub may enjoy having clear rules and consequences for breaking them, and be delighted to have that type of dynamic with their dom, but the intention is not for them to directly enjoy the punishment, although they may be very happy to feel like they’ve atoned for whatever they’ve done wrong.

Two, there’s ‘fun’ punishment – that is, sort of a punishment-themed scene that involves no actual wrongdoing on the bottom’s part or real unhappiness about the bottom’s actions. In this case, the intention is for everyone to enjoy the “punishment”, which is really just a fun little role-play to set the scene and give the top an excuse to do things to the bottom (I say ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ here rather than ‘dom’ and ‘sub’ because I don’t know that having a d/s dynamic is absolutely necessary to enjoy a punishment-themed scene). Some people enjoy very serious looking scenes which can lead to some confusion about which kind of punishment they actually want, but if they have any self-awareness it should be possible to figure out whether they want a scene or a serious punishment dynamic.

Because the ‘my kink is better than yours‘ thing seems to come up over and over in different ways, I want to be clear that fun punishment is not a somehow ‘lesser’ kink than serious d/s dynamic punishment. It’s annoying when people aren’t clear about which one they mean, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a game of bad student/angry teacher and then going about your day.

If people can explain which one they’re talking about there’s no problem, but frequently when newbie kinksters ask about punishment they have no idea there is more than one type of punishment. Because of that, just about every thread about punishment I’ve seen starts with everyone trying to figure out which definition of punishment the original poster is working from.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were different words for serious ‘this is the way we resolve conflicts’ punishment and sexytimes ‘you’ve been a bad boy, go to my room’ punishment? Then we could get to the meat of a question immediately instead of having yet another boring discussion about the differences between serious punishment and fun punishment. I know, I know, that’s a pipe-dream, but I’ve got to try 🙂

As it happens, there are different words: punishment and funishment. The thing I love about the word “funishment” is that even if you’ve never seen it before, you can probably tell it’s a combination of the words fun and punishment and guess what it means. Unlike other stupid made-up words that irritate the shit out of me, “funishment” is actually useful because it describes a completely different thing from “punishment.”

Help me out, people. If you mean funishment, use the word funishment. I’d much rather talk about your actual question than have to drag answers out of you to figure out what you’re really asking.

Worth it

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to be clear that in no way do I intend to shame anyone who doesn’t like going to kink events or can’t go to them for any reason (and whatever reason you have for being unable to go is goddamn well good enough). I just want to share an incredibly valuable thing I got from going to an event.

I was recently at Westcoast Bound 2014, and perhaps ironically, at a workshop about crossing lines I heard the single most life changing message of hope I’ve ever gotten. Every minute I spent on buses and ferries and skytrains to get to this conference was absolutely worth it to hear this one sentence. Hell, every minute I’ve spent travelling to conferences for the last five years would be worth it for nothing but what I got out of this one workshop. This one throwaway sentence in a larger workshop gave me hope that some day, I might finally find peace.

Despite how I portray myself on this blog, I actually desperately want inner peace. While there’s simply too much stupid in the world for me to stop getting angry at all, I would dearly love to stop being angry all the fucking time. It’s exhausting. Imagine how tired you feel after getting really, seriously, throwing chairs angry about something. Now imagine that on some level it NEVER FUCKING STOPS. You can force it down, you can get through the day with only a little vicious swearing at your computer, but it’s always fucking waiting for you. Like a banked fire, it might look cold but any goddamn time you take a poker to it, it will flare back up just as hot as it ever was.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty fucking hard to find peace when you have in fact been deeply and fundamentally wronged. People like to spout a lot of useless fucking bullshit about “letting go” and “forgiving for your own good“, which does absolutely nothing to help when you have completely legitimate wounds that cannot be papered over with a half-assed apology and conveniently forgotten. If I could let go, I would have fucking done it years ago. Do you stupid fucks think it’s fun to be this angry all the goddamn time? Do you think I enjoy having all the shit I’ve been through come rushing back every fucking time someone makes a stupid joke about a misbehaving child needing a beating? No really, on what goddamn level do you think any of this is a good time for me?

I know that the people giving me stupid fucking platitudes mean well, but the problem with “just let go” is that it tells me absolutely nothing whatsoever about how to get to the place where I am able to “just let go.” Again, if I knew how to do that, I would have fucking done it already. No one who has said “just let go” has been able to give me a road map, they just spout some useless bullshit about making the choice to let go as if that will magically make my anger go away. If “letting go” does anything for you that’s great, but you need to realize that nothing you have to say about forgiveness is remotely relevant to me or to anyone else who can’t turn their emotions off like a goddamn light switch.

The reason what I heard in this workshop meant so much to me was that the presenter was like me. He has struggled the way I have struggled, and was able to point to an actual concrete process I could follow to find my way out. So what did I hear that finally gave me hope?

One day, I ran out of anger.

Is that not the most beautiful sentence you’ve ever seen? Doesn’t it ring your heart like a bell? This is my most cherished wish, that one day I might run out of anger too. And finally, finally someone pointed the way.

For years I played from anger, then one day I ran out.

No one has ever shown me a path out of my anger that I had a hope in hell of following. All this forgiveness bullshit might mean something to people who are fundamentally nicer (or less wounded) than I am, but down here in the dirt it just doesn’t get shit done. But using my anger as fuel until it’s gone? That is actually a thing I might be able to do. I have serious issues around bringing anger into my scenes (specifically that if I hit someone I care about in anger then I’m no better than my mother, and if I can’t do better than her it’s time to find a building to throw myself off of), but even if I can’t do that, I can use formless anger as fuel for workouts.

For the first time in my life I have hope that one day I might be free of my anger, and it’s because I went to Vancouver for a conference. For the rest of my life, I will be profoundly grateful that I was in the right place at the right time.

Fuck “Forgiveness”

Some of the phrases most likely to make me instantly hulk out are “you need to forgive”, “let it go”, and “move on.” All of those piss me off, but “forgive” is the absolute worst. “Forgiveness” seems like such a nice, happy concept, so you’re probably wondering why I have such a deep and passionate loathing for that stupid fucking word. Let’s start with the dictionary.com definition so we can then throw it out the window:


— vb , -gives , -giving , -gave , -given
1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)
2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc)
3. ( tr ) to free or pardon (someone) from penalty
4. ( tr ) to free from the obligation of (a debt, payment, etc)

Ceasing to blame or hold resentment against someone sure sounds like a nice idea. So does granting a pardon, or forgiving a debt. The problem is that when people say “you need to forgive” they don’t mean “I want you to be happy and being super pissed off about ___ is not making you happy.” What they always seem to mean is “I’m uncomfortable with your anger. How about you shove it down until you choke on it?” Shockingly enough, I don’t respond terribly well to being told that I don’t even get to have my own goddamn feelings about all the terrible shit that’s happened to me, or that my completely justified rage is less important than some random fuckface’s comfort.

People also seem to have this idea that once you’ve “forgiven” someone, whatever happened magically becomes okay and everyone acts like it never happened. Fuck that noise. Nothing is ever going to make what happened to me “okay.” No empty fucking platitude is going to give me a happy childhood or a mother who loved me (why yes, there is a post coming about kink and childhood abuse), and I’m not going to pretend otherwise for anyone else’s convenience.

To make things right, much more than one-sided “forgiveness” (read, swallowing my emotions so that no one else has to think about what happened) is necessary. Real forgiveness is earned with honest acknowledgement of wrongdoing and sincere, ongoing, and above all successful efforts to make amends. If you promise something will never happen again and it does, guess what? You don’t fucking deserve to be forgiven. Not that people have to be perfect to make amends, but they have to fucking try. Without any efforts from the people who hurt me to make things right, it is literally impossible for me to “forgive.”

In all the time I’ve spent thinking about forgiveness or letting go or moving on, I’ve read precisely one article that has anything remotely useful to say about forgiveness. To paraphrase fairly heavily, that article says there are three steps to take before you can forgive:

1. Acknowledge the harm done.

2. Feel your feelings about it.

3. Talk about it.

The standard “forgiveness” bullshit allows me to do precisely zero of those things. Instead, it tells me that I should just stop being angry, as if I can flip my emotions on and off like a fucking light switch, that I don’t have the right to feel inconvenient feelings about it, and that I shouldn’t talk about it. Funny how all those things do much more good for my abuser than they do for me.

I’ve tried not acknowledging the harm that’s been done to me, and it’s fucking exhausting to pretend things are okay when they are most certainly not. I’ve tried not feeling my feelings too. Trying to swallow my anger just made it worse, to get anywhere I had to decide I had the right to be angry and that I was damned well going to keep being angry until I was good and done. I still hate talking about it, but keeping it a secret is just one more way to pretend it never happened.

Fuck forgiveness, fuck the idea that I don’t have the right to be angry, and especially fuck the idea that other people’s convenience is more important than my well being.

If you want to actually help someone who had been hurt to move on, strike the word “forgive” from your vocabulary. Instead, say “What happened to you was terrible”, “You have a right to be angry”, “Do you want to talk about it?”, and “Is there anything I can do to help?”

If you can’t manage that, then at the very least be honest about what you really mean if you feel the need to spout some bullshit about how they need to let go. Admit that you don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about their happiness and that all you want is for them to shut up about how they were hurt so you can go back to pretending nothing is wrong. And then admit that you’re a worthless sack of shit.

There is no BDSM diploma

Every so often on sites like Fetlife I’ll see people asking how much training/education/direct personal instruction they need before it’s ‘okay’ for them to have a sub of their own. I understand being concerned about being a responsible dom and taking reasonable precautions to avoid harming anyone you might play with or start a d/s relationship with, but I just don’t understand where people get the idea that there’s some sort of standardized dominant certification process.

If you’re going to get involved in something as potentially dangerous as BDSM, you’re going to need some critical thinking skills. Not only is there a lot of terrible advice out there, but there is also plenty of reasonable, well-intentioned advice that simply won’t work for your personality and situation. You’ll save yourself and any partner/s you might have a lot of time if you think things through.

So, let’s work this ‘standard amount of training/instruction before you can be a dom’ thing out. First of all, if there were some sort of rule that you need x years of experience before you’re allowed to have a sub of your own, who on earth would be the one to decide how much experience is necessary? Or  the one to administer the dom test and declare that you’re ready to start looking for a sub?

There is simply no answer to either of those questions that makes any sense. There is no national governing body for kinky people, and given that trying to get us all to agree on anything is like herding cats, there never will be. Your local kink group might have some guidelines that suit you and the way you play, but then again, you might have the sheer bad luck for your style not to mesh well with the general style of most people in your area. For example, my local community is generally very low protocol. Our standard (very broadly speaking) of being ready to play with someone is knowing not to flog the kidneys. If you were interested in high protocol master/slave relationships, that wouldn’t help you very much.

And that’s if your community is run by well-meaning people whose style simply differs from yours. There’s always the possibility that your community is run by assholes who don’t want any competition for the hot young submissives. If someone tells you that you need months of intensive study before you can even think of picking up a paddle while they gleefully pounce on every new person who wanders into the community, they just might have an ulterior motive.

Even  if there were a standard amount of training everyone needed before being set loose to find a sub (which will happen around the time soaring flocks of pigs become a menace to air traffic), there would still be the problem of who provides that training. What if you go to Mistress A and I go to Master B and they disagree about whether punishment is useful in a d/s relationship? What if you start your training in City Q, then move to Town K before you’re ‘finished’?

Aside from the numerous and glaring logistics problems with any sort of standardization, there’s one core problem. Namely, why the fuck should I care how much education some random thinks I ought to have? If you want to be someone’s top/dominant/master, there’s precisely one person whose opinion matters: your prospective bottom/sub/slave. If the two of you are happy and healthy*, everyone else can fuck right off.

*On the subject of healthy relationships, an agreement to have a certain type of relationship does not magically make it healthy for anyone involved. People technically ‘agree’ to work for terrible companies under abusive conditions because making some money is less awful than making none at all, that absolutely does not mean that said terrible job was actually freely chosen. People may also technically ‘agree’ to abusive relationship dynamics (for example: “You can say no to me whenever you like, but that will end our relationship.”) because they are afraid that relationship is the only chance they have to get their kinky needs met. If anyone in the relationship cannot freely say “No” or “Hey, can we talk about this?” at any time with no fear of consequences, something is horribly wrong.

No matter how experienced you are, it couldn’t hurt to read some of the enormous amount of advice available or to find someone in your community who you personally respect and ask them questions, but when it comes to relationships (high risk kinks are a separate issue and you really should get plenty of one-on-one instruction if you’re going to do something that might seriously harm someone) there’s a limited amount other people can tell you that you can’t figure out with good communication skills and a willingness to try things out and see if they work.

Above all, no amount of education is going to keep you safe if you’re unwilling or unable to think for five minutes and sort the maybe useful from the obvious bullshit. If you can’t put on your grownup pants and think things through for yourself, you should probably forget the whole kink thing until you’re ready to run your own life without Mommy and Daddy telling you what to do.