A couple of the fetishes on my list are things like consent, yes means yes and only yes means yes. These are big deals to me. In fact, they’re probably my only dealbreaker fetishes. I suppose that makes consent the only true fetish I’ve got. It is the one thing I absolutely must have in order to play with someone.
Because of this consent fetish, there may be a long time between expressing interest in someone and actually playing with them. Before I can do anything, I have to feel comfortable that the consent that’s given is fully informed and enthusiastic. That means talking about what consent means to us, talking about what exactly we do and do not want to do, talking about values, desires, expectations, demands. It means making sure that consent is not just an absence of “no,” but the enthusiastic presence of “yes.”
This can make things complicated. It means I won’t play with anyone who can’t or won’t have an open, direct conversation about what they want and need. It means that if someone prefers to communicate in hints and flirtations to the exclusion of directness, we’re not going to be able to do anything together.
Consent, to me, is so much more than negotiating and honoring safewords. It’s about getting to a point where I trust the negotiations are free from coercion. It’s about trusting that if consent changes or is revoked in the midst of a scene, that such will be communicated.
I see a world around me in which consent is not valued. Some people are socialized to accept that things are taken from them and others are socialized to take. Some are told to never say “No” and others are told to never take “no” for an answer. Women are often expected to, among other things, rebuff sexual advances even if they welcome them, and to welcome them even if they do not want them. We’re surrounded by a million cultural forces telling us what we should do, bending our will. Because of this, consent is a goal to reach under quite strained circumstances. If I’m going to tie you up, spank you, set you on fire, fuck you or engage in any other such delights, I need to know that the “Yes” I get from you is a yes that you mean, not one that you have given under duress, or because you’re expected to, or because you just figure you oughta. That’s what I mean by “Only yes means yes.”
It often feels to me that, despite all the focus kinksters put on consent and negotiation, there’s very little addressing how to do those things without coercion. Kinky settings can often lead to an expectation of availability. Just look at how many submissive women have to say things like “I’m a submissive, not your submissive.” There’s an expectation amongst enough folks that if you’re at a party, at a munch, on FetLife, open about being kinky, that you’re fair game because, hey, you can always say “No,” right? None of that takes into account social pressures, the conditioning that some people have to say “Yes,” the subtle ways that people can be coerced, or the effects of an expectation of availability. That’s why I like “only yes means yes” as a starting point. It’s not enough that someone can say no, that they can reject advances, that they can use their safeword if they need to. A panic button isn’t enough for me to call a situation consensual.
So I may go slow. I’ll likely ask very specific questions. I’ll assume that if we come to a consensual arrangement, that the consent is specific to that time, that place and those specified activities. Instead of saying “If you’re not comfortable tell me, and we’ll stop,” I’ll say something like “Are you comfortable with insert specific thing?” and I’ll stop unless I get a clearly affirmative answer.
Some folks think that asking for permission isn’t sexy. I think that it’s what makes what comes next sexy. You know how many times I’ve asked “Can I kiss you?” I’ve not yet had anyone who didn’t appreciate being asked. You think it’s not sexy to get a bottom’s permission before each new thing? You whisper in someone’s ear “I want to do X to you. Do you want that?” and have them repeat back to you what they want you to do and then tell me that’s not hot.
I spent most of my formative young adult years in an emotionally abusive relationship. I had to learn a lot of this shit the hard way, and I know I hurt some folks along the way in doing so. This is what it takes for me to be happy. This is what it takes for me to trust that someone’s yes is undoubtedly a yes. This is the best understanding I can get of what it means to negotiate the things we do when we live in a world infused at every turn by patriarchy, by kyriarchy. I love playing with power, but when power is so unbalanced in the world, and so abused, it takes a very serious, deep approach to consent for me to play with power in a safe, useful, respectful and feminist way.
We are mid-move. A lot of my worldly stuff, and Gabe’s, is here in this house where my bed currently is. But a considerable portion of it has moved to its new home, the house that my metamour Kristi owns. The house that will soon be our home, all of us.
And there’s processes to figure out, and things to decide. Where do we put the furniture? What do we move next? What kind of move is it – do we just want to get it done, or do we have time to sort and get those elusive piles of junk winnowed down? What new items do we need? And where, in the blossoming shopping lists, is the room for our varying commitments to simple living, or DIY, or whatever each of us calls these things? What decisions do we make together? What decisions can be made unilaterally? How many what-ifs are a productive part of planning, and how many what-ifs really, REALLY need to go die in a fire? How do we bring our varying coping mechanisms together, so we live authentically and nourishingly through good days and bad days?
Part of the silence of this blog over the last year has been a lack of words, and a lack of answers, through a lot of change. I certainly don’t have any more of the latter now. But maybe it’s time to take a gamble on a few more of the former. Our family is getting much more complex. And naming things, even if the words are hasty and/or inaccurate, will become more and more important. I hear echoes of the challenges that friends have when they have kids. We are now an intimate family of more than two, and that’s a whole different world than coupled intimacy. I will not say that polyamory is the “grad school” of relationships, because that’s a load of horseshit. But I will call polyamory the “director’s cut” of the film. You get MORE of it all… a lot more. More need for scheduling. More support. More sound. More need for conversations. More intentionality. More spontaneity. More changes in plans. And that’s just what I know of so far.
My brain’s already feeling the short-circuiting of a learning curve shooting up like a rocket. As an old mentor would say, “Time for another fucking learning experience!” It’s time for more Big Scary Wonderful. And I won’t always have the time for the thrice-reflected on, nearly sermon-type writing that I’ve done before in this venue. Perhaps this place will resemble more of an unfinished journal than it already did. But it is my hope that we will all have more energy, and more camerapersons, available for this space. It’s important to me.
Today is National Coming Out Day.
The act of coming out is necessary only when something about us – about our lives, selves, or reality – is assumed inaccurately by the people around us. For me, the act of coming out depends partly on who I am communicating with in any given moment, what their assumptions are about me, and what I know about those assumptions.
In various circumstances, I have come out as bisexual, feminist, kinky, queer, monoromantic with a poly partner, anarchist, Christian, clergy, previously being Pagan, having mental illness in my family, asthmatic, childfree, and various other characteristics.
What assumptions do you make about the people around you? What do you assume to be true about their reality? While living daily life may encourage us to make assumptions about others, it’s a huge tradeoff. The more assumptions we make, the more our own vision is obscured, and the less time we spend truly in the presence of the people that surround us.
For the last day and a half I’ve been trying to figure out how to address this adequately, and coming up short, so I’ll just say it like this..
A recent Stranger column by Mistress Matisse attempted to tackle the phenomenon of mono folks dating poly folks in order to change them, to rescue them from their wayward ways and live the romantic story of loving someone so hard that they became who they “should” be. I’ve seen of this kind of thing happen. It’s disrespectful at best and damaging to a person’s psyche at worst. It’s something that needs to be addressed.
Unfortunately Matisse did so terribly, and in the process insulted a lot of people.
She starts off describing monogamous “cowboys” who date poly folks to “persuade them to sever existing relationships and embrace monogamy,” but then paints every mono person who dates a poly person as one of those people.
Instead of speaking of cowboys and cowgirls, her language drifts into “monogamist” and “someone who is clearly monogamous” while still attributing the cowboy behavior to them.
Viewed through a monogamist’s gaze, dropping your lasso on a wandering heart is the stuff of songs, literature, and drama.
Not “through a cowboy/girl’s gaze,” which would make sense. She’s now expanded the manipulative behavior to all mono folks. So us poly folks are the fodder for the romantic fantasies of those monos, eh? The reason one of them would be attracted to one of us is because they can save us and teach us the truth about love.
She just defined monogamous ideals across the board as the fairy tale manipulative machinations of a Harlequin romance novel. If you only want to have one relationship at a time, this must be your drive.
She goes on to say:
Why the hell would a poly person get romantically involved with someone who is clearly monogamous in the first place? The honest answer is something like: hormones, misguided optimism and willful self-delusion, more hormones, and a little emotional masochism
And the only reason one of us would want to date one of them is that we’re horny and deluding ourselves. Right. It couldn’t possibly be valuing that person, up to and including the way that they love.
Where Matisse goes wrong in painting mono/poly pairings as cowperson/cow is in the expectation that a person of one relational orientation requires the same of their partner. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes that’s not. In my case, obviously, it’s not. Some folks, in order to be fulfilled, need their partner’s to have the same sort of numerical setup that they have. But how I work and what I need from my partner are two different issues.
Think of it like this. I’m starting a band, and I LOVE Black Sabbath. I bring Sabbath’s influence to my writing and playing. My bandmates find their inspiration in other places, like Black Flag, Bop and Jesus Freaks like Larry Norman. But we’re willing to work together, we’re compatible as writers and musicians, and we find unique, beautiful ways to blend our influences.
My buddy, another Sabbath freak, is trying to start up a band too. He found a couple of guys to play with who really believe that Led Zeppelin started heavy metal. My buddy decides to go ahead and start a band with them, even though he can’t stand Zeppelin. He figures if he just plays them enough Sabbath, and explains why its so wonderful, he can change their minds.
Which one of these is going to make it past 3 practices?
Now, is it the love of Black Sabbath that dooms bands? No. It’s requiring of others what they’re not willing to give, and not being up front about that.
In the same way, monogamy isn’t the problem in the mono-poly relationships. Those can be done really well. The problem is approaching ANY relationship as a means of changing someone to fit one person’s ideals.
It’s obvious Matisse doesn’t think so. After moving away from the cowperson language, as quoted above, she then goes on to say:
I can promise you, if you’re poly and you’re involved with someone who’s not, once the hot sex cools off and reality sets in, every single problem that occurs in the relationship will somehow devolve to: You’re fucking other people.
Suddenly Matisse knows everything there is to know about the workings of every mixed-orientation relationship. She’s just guaranteed us all that every mono person in a relationship with a poly person requires that their partner love and fuck only them. There’s no room for differentiating between two related but different needs. Matisse knows better than Elizabeth does that Elizabeth HATES me fucking other people.
And that is complete and utter bullshit.
I’ve respected Matisse’s advice in the past. I enjoy the podcast she does with Monk. I read her blog. That’s why I’m so waylaid by her sudden lack of nuance. The abruptness of her shift from talking about disrespectful behavior to asserting that behavior exists where it does not makes me angry.
Had she stayed talking about cowfolk, she could have had some useful insights, maybe even helped a few people. That without even seeing it she equated all mono-poly relationships with manipulation and abuse is impossible to overlook and difficult to forgive.
The problem with terrible behavior is the terrible behavior, not the other attributes that the person exhibiting it has.
It turns out, Elizabeth doesn’t need to love Black Sabbath the way I do. She’s just got to love that I love them. She does, and we make beautiful music together.
I was in bed, after a very long and difficult week, and some members of my internal committee began a conversation.
Jealous one: Gabe’s in the other room, and you’re here.
Rest of Self: Yup.
Jo: Did you see what he was doing at his computer when we left? He’s
talking to a girl.
Ros: *smiles* Yeah, I like her, she’s really cool.
Jo: He’s getting to know her, and getting all giddy about it.
Ros: I know, he’s so cute like that!
Jo: But! But, he might stay up late talking to her! When was the last time he stayed up late passionate about YOU?
Ros: *thinks* Well, actually we stay up late having sex pretty frequently.
Jo: BUT!… BUT!!…………….
Ros: *listens attentively*
Jo: …… I got nothing.
The title is a song lyric from Cloud Cult’s “Everybody Here Is a Cloud” from the awesome album Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes).
I have an average sized cock. It’s around 5.5″-6″ when hard. Yes, I’ve measured. In the bell curve of penises I fall right about in the middle. And I’m still insecure about the size of my cock. I think most guys are.
Given all of that it was hard today to see Tristan Taormino retweet this:
RT AdriannaNicole Some people don’t like to consume beef, I don’t like to consume small cocks. Same. Thanks for making me smile today.
While I’d certainly not deny that people have and have a right to their preferences, I agree with what Elizabeth said, also on Twitter:
A major sex educator feeding a highly charged issue like that is irresponsible in my eyes.
So let’s turn the table for a moment and put in any other attribute. Substitute any of the following for “small cocks”: small tits, fat thighs, stretch marks, large labia minora, body hair. Am I just stating a preference then, or am I also reinforcing some pretty serious cultural programming and its attendant negative effects? And if I’m a high profile sex educator, then what message is that sending?
Isn’t part of the job of the sex educator, particularly a sex-positive sex educator, to help normalize the variations of the human body? Shouldn’t we be looking at ways to expand the sexual palate instead of reinforcing the cultural standards of what bodies should be like, especially when it comes to issues that carry so much body hatred with them already?
Ultimately I may be a bit of a hippie elitist. If your preferences are to avoid a certain attribute of a particular body part then it seems you’re more concerned with what you’re fucking than who you’re fucking. I would hope that sex-positivity would lead to whole-body sexuality over body part focused sexuality.
I actually wrote this for my personal blog, as it deals with things like my faith and my politics, but I realize I can’t separate those things out from my sexuality. What I discuss here affects who and how we fuck. It informs the philosophy behind this site and why we think it’s important to put ourselves out there the way we do. So I offer this to you. I assume that most of our readers are neither Christians nor Anarchists, but I hope that you see where we’re coming from nonetheless.
I mentioned this on Twitter, but I think it bears further exploration. More and more my expression of my faith and my politics (Christianity and Anarchism) is in gracious hospitality. I’m not always good at it (either the grace, the hospitality or both), but making space for others seems to be the most true way that my beliefs take shape.
Even from the start of Jesus’ narrative, making space is important. No one made space for his parents just before his birth, so they made space for him where they could find it. I often seem to reference Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” when talking about my ideal of working in the world, and I’m going to do so again. In it he sings “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
We live in an inhospitable world. We live in a world of rigidity, of yours and mine, of control and institution. But in that world, there are always little places where the control is broken. Those are the cracks. When Mary and Joseph and whoever else may have been involved go and find a feed trough for the kid, they’re moving in those cracks. Maybe making new ones, holding old ones open or even making existing cracks bigger. They’re making space.
In my world making space means several things. One is the conventional idea of hospitality. I offer physical space to people. They have a place to stay, food to eat, etc. Even that, though, is bigger than it sounds. Making room for people means making sure that they have a place in which they feel comfortable being themselves. It’s only with actually doing that for people that it’s become so important for me. Being in my home is, I hope, a place where people can relax into themselves, not have to be on guard, and feel safe. Especially emotionally. I’ve done that more over the last year or so than I ever have before. I didn’t realize how nourishing it is to me until I started doing it. But whatever I may do to offer, I get back the joy of having real connections with other people, and knowing that I facilitated their connections with others. Hospitality is not a cross to bear. It’s a joy that I share with people. More of our political, ethical and religious practices need to come from joy.
But there’s something more than opening my home in making room for others. It means cultivating an openness to and grace when dealing with other points of view. This part is harder for me, but no less important. Making room for people in the conversation is as important as making physical space for them. Being open to receiving others is at the heart of hospitality. It is non-authoritarian at its root, as I’m not even imposing my reality on them. That’s a lot harder than cooking supper. But the source is still joy, as making room for others in the conversation is where you find those cracks that allow you to really commune with another.
When Jesus said “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” he wasn’t speaking in metaphor. The people we open ourselves to are not acting as substitutes for God. It’s in those real, true connections that are only found in gracious opening that you experience God directly. That’s how the light gets in.
Going beyond opening my home and being open to the other, even when there are significant differences, there is the creation of the space to do this work. The blogs, books and conferences of the emerging church are doing this. I think Kink for All is doing this. And what I’m trying to do right now in starting a poly meetup is doing this. I have a need, and I think others have a need as well, to find connections over this common point, to offer and receive support. In creating a space for this, I am acting out my hospitality.
So, other than the non-imposition of worldview, what has this to do with anarchism? Making space is direct action. It is not relying on any power structure or institution to meet people’s needs. It’s saying “I see this need. I will meet it.” It is also mutual aid. The more we make room for each other, the more we offer to each other, the more we thrive without the need for coercion and force.
I’ve been worrying lately about how on earth I can live my faith and live my politics in a world in which I have material wealth (comparatively) and am privileged by society because of my race, gender and education. And everywhere I looked I found joylessness and asceticism as the solution. I found anger and self-hate over being born into a sin filled world. Kate Bornstein wrote in the preface to Pomosexuals, “it’s too scary to look at without some promise of laughter at the end of the read, some playfulness as a reward to all the painful self-inquisition.” That’s how a felt as I looked for ways to bring my beliefs into practice. All I found were indictments of myself for being born in a fucked up world, and no one seemed to want to work from the joy of existence to fix it.
It came to being in church yesterday, hearing a sermon with so much focus on sin, and being confronted with the sheer absurdity of letting a 4000 year old moral code dictate my ethics. I wasn’t there to hear about adultery, I was there looking for God. And then it came time for communion, and I prayed, “Please, just give me something physical, something tangible in the body and blood.” At this church trays are passed with the bread and “wine” and as I reached to pull the small cup from the tray I found it stuck. This is the second time recently that this has happened. I felt frustrated and thwarted in my search for that tangible connection, but just as the woman with the tray started to whisper “Try another one,” I gave the cup a slight twist and it broke free. As I pulled it toward me Elizabeth whispered, “You always seem to find the stuck ones.”
I laughed. It made sense. I don’t have to break down an oppressive world. I just need to make sure I make enough cracks to keep people from getting stuck in that oppression and hopelessness. I tried not to laugh as the bread dissolved on my tongue. When I want a tangible reminder of God, I only have to make room for that of Her in the people around me. If God is the light, I just need to keep living in the cracks, and inviting others into them. That is disregard for authoritarianism. That is faith in Christ. That is hospitality.
I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this knows that I have two important, ongoing relationships, the one with my partner Elizabeth and the one with my girlfriend, Red August. The dynamic between the three of us has been really fantastic pretty much from the beginning, and I’m so happy that I’ve got these amazing people in my life, and that they get along so wonderfully. Recent experiences (some of which led to my last post on introversion) made me aware of just how amazing it is that we manage each other the way that we do.
Recently my girlfriend and one of her dear friends came and spent the weekend with us. I happen to have a bit (okay, a lot) of a crush on this friend, and it turns out it’s not exactly a unrequited crush. So I spent the weekend with two girls I love and one I really quite adore (even moreso now). The rapid crush escalation was a form of NRE, and I hear it was just dripping off me throughout that weekend. But with all four of us in the house I became aware of just how many relationships were going on. We all have varying levels of friendship, romantic involvement and sexual involvement and interest in one another, which threw the varying relationships into stark view. So for the moment lets label each of us with a number, and list the various relationship configurations.
So four people create 11 separate relationships to be managed among the four of us. Fascinating!
So that means that on a day to day basis in the house we’ve got 1 relationship going. When Red August comes to visit we’ve got 4. When all four of us were here we had 11 different relationships, all with different histories and different levels of involvement. And we all made it through the weekend without any serious damage! We were exhausted, yes. But we were happy too, I think.
I’m admittedly nervous about being able to handle that many relationships, but I’m proud of what we did, and I’m excited about what we may do in the future. We’re learning what we need to deal with that much at once. It might be a rough road every once in a while, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.
One year of Pornocracy. One year of living together.
One year of making a home ours. One year of learning each other in new ways.
One year of a sex life under the same roof. Things are new… and familiar. Intense and relaxed. Adventurous and real and fantastic and nurturing and cozy.
You may notice some changes around here soon. We have a big redesign planned, and some new content in the works for Pornocracy 2.0. We will revamp our links list. We’re opening the door to tell you about good friends of ours with unique gifts. We’ll be looking for ways to communicate the deep changes we find in ourselves these days.
We are also ending our reviewing relationship with Babeland. They are a fantastic store. But we feel a bit of a disconnect with reviewing toys on our site. We’ll talk more about this, and about where we see Pornocracy’s values and goals heading from here.
One year. One year of blessings and sex and joy and spirit. Thank you for spending some of your year with us.
Gabe and Elizabeth
I’m involved in a conversation thread elsewhere where several individuals are exploring issues of specific sexual activities and levels of intimacy felt or expected in each activity — what it means to each of us to penetrate someone or be penetrated, to be touched various places, or to help someone to orgasm. I LOVE this exploration. Seriously, it is my life blood. I love the fact that I’m now in a relationship where it’s expected and encouraged and understood to be part of the maintenance and working knowledge of our relationship.
Those assumptions are there in communities around us because we are a poly shape, but it is not just a function of polyamory that this good and true thing of relationship/intimacy/bonding analysis runs deep. It’s assumed within our relationship because we are relationship geeks. We thrive on this shit.
I’ve always been a relationship geek. I’ve annoyed other partners who couldn’t figure out why on earth I would spend this much time analyzing sex, and I’ve found other kindred spirits that totally get that deconstructing and reconstructing the concept of intimacy is a great idea for a fun friday night. I’m willing to admit that I’m driven to do more than the minimum amount of this work. I’m willing to admit that it’s a full-fledged hobby, more ingrained than exercise or calorie-counting. I’m willing to state that it makes me a prime candidate for a successful poly relationship, even being mono. I’ve also seen many a monogamous relationships crippled and broken – whether they actually broke up or not – from a lack of this exploration. I’m not willing to make it only the purvue of poly pods. I may push it like a drug primarily because I enjoy doing it immensely, but I also demand it of myself and expect it of others because I know the sacredness of the knolwedge it brings. We all deserve to know that much about ourselves and our loved ones. We all deserve to know our needs so they can be met. We all deserve to be deeply known and seen and loved for who we truly are.