“To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially, part of the female soul.”
“The more closely we analyze what we consider ‘sexy,’” philosopher Alain de Botton argued in his meditation on sex, “the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human being who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.” But in his attempt to counter the reductionism that frames human sexuality as a mere physiological phenomenon driven solely by our evolutionary biology, de Botton overcompensates by reducing in the opposite direction, negating the complex interplay of brain and biology, psychology and physiology, that propels the human sexual experience. That’s precisely what Naomi Wolf, author of the 1991 cultural classic The Beauty Myth, examines in Vagina: A New Biography (public library) — a fascinating exploration of the science behind the vastly misunderstood mind-body connection between brain and genitalia, consciousness and sexuality, the poetic and the scientific. What emerges is a revelation of how profoundly a woman’s bodily experience influences nearly every aspect of life, from stress to creativity, through the intricate machinery that links biology and beingness.
Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality, or just about pleasure. It serves, also, as a medium of female self-knowledge and hopefulness; female creativity and courage; female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom. To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially, part of the female soul.
Once one understands what scientists at the most advanced laboratories and clinics around the world are confirming — that the vagina and the brain are essentially one network, or “one whole system,” as they tend to put it, and that the vagina mediates female confidence, creativity, and sense of transcendence — the answers to many of these seeming mysteries fall into place.
A pivotal player in this mediation is the female pelvic nerve — a sort of information superhighway that branches out from the base of the spinal cord to the cervix, connecting the latter to the brain and thus controlling much of sexual response. But this information superhighway is really more like a superlabyrinth, the architecture of which differs enormously from one woman to another, and is completely unique for each one. This diversity of wiring in the highly complex female pelvic neural network helps explain why women have wildly different triggers for orgasm. (By contrast, the male pelvic neural network is significantly simpler, consisting of comparatively regular neural pathways arranged neatly in a grid that surrounds the penis in a circle of pleasure.) This biological reality, Wolf points out, clashes jarringly with the dominant culturally constructed fantasy of how sexual intercourse is supposed to proceed:
The pornographic model of intercourse — even our culture’s conventional model of intercourse, which is quick, goal-oriented, linear, and focused on stimulation of perhaps one or two areas of a woman’s body — is just not going to do it for many women, or at least not in a very profound way, because it involves such a superficial part of the potential of women’s neurological sexual response systems.
Another key component of sexual experience is the autonomic nervous system (ANS) — the puppeteer of arousal, controlling all smooth muscle contractions and affecting the body’s response beyond conscious control. It encompasses both the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions, and ensures they work in unison. Because arousal precedes orgasm, the ANS first needs to do its own work before the complex pelvic neural network can work its own magic. Wolf writes:
For women, sexual response involves entering an altered state of consciousness. … In women, the biology of arousal is more delicate than most of us understand, and it depends significantly on this sensitive, magical, slowly calmed, and easily inhibited system.
To be sure, Wolf reminds us that it’s not at all uncommon for women to have a physiological response during rape, despite the enormous psychological pain and stress of the assault, but this response is not the same as the transcendent, dimensional orgasm that takes place when brain and body work in harmonious bliss. This also holds true in sexual situations that aren’t as violent as rape but still assault the ANS in one way or another:
If a woman’s ANS response is ignored, she can have intercourse and even climax; but she won’t necessarily feel released, transported, fulfilled, or in love, because only a superficial part of her capacity to respond has been made love to, or engaged.
In fact, the most fascinating aspect of the ANS, absolutely critical yet poorly understood, is that it is profoundly impacted by the mental landscape, steering the immutable interdependence between brain and vagina. The ANS, which serves as the translator between the psychological and the physiological, is thus particularly vulnerable to what psychologists call “bad stress.” (By contrast, the “good stress” many women experience in exciting or mock-dangerous sexual scenarios which they still control can be compelling and pleasurable.) “Bad stress” stems from the perceived lack of safety, and the presence of safety is absolutely essential to catapulting the female brain into the kind of “high” orgasm that is only possible in this disinhibited trance state. Wolf explains:
This biological, evolutionary connection for women of possible ecstasy to emotional security has implications that cannot be overstressed. Relaxing allows for female arousal.
Just as being valued and relaxed can heighten female sexual response, “bad stress” can dramatically interfere with all of women’s sexual processes.
“Bad stress,” researchers have now abundantly confirmed, has exactly the same kind of negative effect on female arousal and on the vagina itself. When a woman feels threatened or unsafe, the sympathetic nervous system — the parasympathetic nervous system’s partner in the ANS — kicks in. This system regulates the “fight or flight” response: as adrenaline and catecholamines are released in the brain, nonessential systems such as digestion and, yes, sexual response, close down; circulation constricts, because the heart needs all the blood available to help the body run or fight; and the message to the body is “get me out of here.” Based on [research insights], we now know that threatening environment — which can include even vague verbal threats centered on the vagina or dismissive language about the vagina — can close down female sexual response.
This notion that biology conditions consciousness and vice versa, of course, isn’t new. But the research Wolf cites presents compelling evidence that “bad stress,” especially rape and early sexual trauma, can have profound biological effects:
There is growing, if still preliminary, evidence that rape and early sexual trauma can indeed “stay in the body” — even stay in the vagina — and change the body on the most intimate, systemic level. Recovery is possible, but treatment should be specialized. Rape and early sex abuse can indeed permanently change the working of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) — so crucial for female arousal; and, if she is not supported by the right treatment, it can permanently alter the way a woman breathes, the rate of her heart, her blood pressure, and her startle reaction, in a manner that is not under any conscious control.
Even more strikingly, some studies have found that elevated SNS activation is linked to a variety of health hazards seemingly unrelated to sexual trauma, including vertigo, motor control and balance issues, visual processing problems, and elevated startle response. In other words, sexual abuse alters the brain in a way that sabotages multiple body systems and damages healthy stress response. Wolf recapitulates the implications poignantly:
Understood in this way, and with this significant evidence, rape and sexual assault, with their attendant trauma, should be understood not just as a form of forced sex; they should also be understood as a form of injury to the brain and body, and even as a variant of castration.
Demonstrating just how strong the connection between mind and body is, Korean researchers discovered that stress and sexual trauma actually affect, on a biological level, the very functioning of the vagina. Studying female rats, they found that “chronic physical stress modifies [sexual behavior] through a mechanism believed to involve complex changes in sex hormones, endocrine factors, and neurotransmitters.” What’s more, they were able to identify the precise biological mechanism responsible for this deep-seated interplay:
Evidently nitric oxide (NO) and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) play important roles in vaginal and clitoral engorgement — helping the smooth muscle of the vagina relax and the vaginal tissues swell in preparation for arousal and orgasm — and these chemicals and their actions are inhibited when females are negatively stressed.
The researchers found that the stressed-out female rats were less receptive and more hostile to their male partners, displaying measurable aggression and irritability, and ultimately refusing to copulate. Stress, it turns out, diminished the female rats’ ability to reach arousal by greatly impairing their genital blood flow. The scientists concluded:
In animal model studies, mental or physical stress increases the level of serum catecholamines, thereby causing vascular contraction, which in turn reduces blood flow and leads to sexual dysfunction. . . . Since stress is concomitant with an increased output of catecholamines in blood . . . it is reasonable to assume that blood flow to the genital organs reduces during periods of stress. . . . [W]e measured norepinephrine as an indirect index of catecholamine level and found that it increased in the stress group and decreased in the recovery group. This result indirectly supports the suggestion that stress affects female genital blood flow.
Most ominous of all was the projection that if such stress levels were sustained over time, the physiological changes they cause would eventually affect the vaginal tissue itself. Indeed, researchers tested those tissues after the female rats were dead and found “biologically measurable changes.”
Women, of course, are not rats, but this only means that the effects of such stress are even more profound. Wolf argues that besides impairing women’s ability to reach orgasm, “bad stress” also affects the overall capacity for joy, hopefulness, and creativity. Unlike rats, humans are also susceptible to forms of abuse beyond the physical — Wolf cites the tragically prevalent cultural tendency to deride the vagina and its owner, embedded even in the slang we have for female genitalia. She writes:
The role of manipulating female stress in targeting the vagina should not be ignored. This behavior—ridiculing the vagina—makes perfect instinctive sense. These acts are often impersonal and tactical—strategies for directing a kind of pressure at women that is not consciously understood but may be widely intuited, and even survive in folk memory, as eliciting a wider neuropsychological “bad stress” response that actually debilitates women.
She cites one particularly unsettling example:
In 2010, male Yale students gathered at a “Take Back the Night” event, where their female classmates were marching in a group, protesting against sexual assault. The young men chanted at the protesters, “No means yes and yes means anal.” Some of the young women brought a lawsuit against the university, arguing that tolerating such behavior created an unequal educational environment. Ethically they are in the right, and neurobiologically they are right as well. Almost all young women who face a group of their male peers chanting such slogans are likely to feel instinctively slightly panicked. On some level they are getting the message that they may be in the presence of would-be rapists — making it impossible to shrug off immature comments, as women are often asked to do. They sense there is a wider risk to them that is being threatened, and indeed there is, but it is not just the risk of sexual assault. If they are stressed regularly in this way, they will indeed depress the whole subtle and delicate network of neurobiological triggers and reactions that make them feel good, happy, competent, and as if they know themselves.
One study termed the complex and lasting effects of such stress, an increasingly recognizable medical pattern, “multisystem dysfunction” — and it can effect such a wide array of physical health issues as higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, hormonal imbalances, and fertility problems. But the most damaging consequences of these physical changes, Wolf argues, are cognitive and psychoemotional:
The female body reacts in the same way to “bad stress” whether the context is the birthing room or the university or the workplace. If the female brain senses that an environment is not safe, its stress response inhibits all the same organs and systems, regardless of setting. Many of the signals that either stoke or diminish female desire have to do with the female brain’s question: Is it safe for her?
So if a woman goes to work or to study in a sexually dangerous or threatening atmosphere day after day, she risks — because of the cumulative, long-term effect of that “bad stress” — having the letting-go, creative “relaxation response” inhibited even outside her work or school environment.
If you sexually stress a woman enough, over time, other parts of her life are likely to go awry; she will have difficulty relaxing in bed eventually, as well as in the classroom or in the office. This in turn will inhibit the dopamine boost she might otherwise receive, which would in turn prevent the release of the chemicals in her brain that otherwise would make her confident, creative, hopeful, focused — and effective, especially relevant if she is competing academically or professionally with you. With this dynamic in mind, the phrase “fuck her up” takes on new meaning.
The vagina responds to the sense of female safety, in that circulation expands, including to the vagina, when a woman feels she is safe; but the blood vessels to the vagina constrict when she feels threatened. This may happen before the woman consciously interprets her setting as threatening. So if you continually verbally threaten or demean the vagina in the university or in the workplace, you continually signal to the woman’s brain and body that she is not safe. “Bad” stress is daily raising her heart rate, pumping adrenaline through her system, circulating catecholamines, and so on. This verbal abuse actually makes it more difficult for her to attend to the professional or academic tasks before her.
Cartoon by Emily Flake from 'The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the Ifs, Ands & Buts of Feminism.' Click image for more.
Yet despite the compelling scientific evidence, the most moving and encompassing point Wolf makes is an anthropological one:
The way in which any given culture treats the vagina — whether with respect or disrespect, caringly or disparagingly — is a metaphor for how women in general in that place and time are treated.
Vagina: A New Biography is absolutely fascinating in its entirety. For a less scientific but no less pause-giving take, complement it with The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the Ifs, Ands & Buts of Feminism, then revisit Susan Sontag on sex.
Donating = Loving
Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:
|♥ $7 / month♥ $3 / month♥ $10 / month♥ $25 / month|
You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:
Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right.
This month, Arsenal Pulp Press is releasing a new edition of Sarah Schulman’s celebrated novel After Delores. Initially published in 1988, this gritty cultural snapshot-cum-mystery novel details the emotional rigors of queer life in downtown New York City in the mid-eighties.
From the publisher:
In this new edition of Sarah Schulman’s acclaimed 1988 novel, the unnamed narrator is a no-nonsense coffee-shop waitress in New York’s bohemian Lower East Side who is nursing a broken heart after her girlfriend Dolores leaves her for another woman. Over the course of a few days, she goes on the prowl looking for love, only to find herself immersed in a tangled web of seduction, deceit, and murder. Along the way, she meets a diverse array of characters, from Priscilla, a hot femme who leaves behind a tiny, pearl-handled gun, Punkette, a go-go dancer who works lunches in Newark, and Charlotte, a bewitching and brutal actress. This hilarious, unpredictable, sexy novel is a fast-paced flashback to the storefronts, underground clubs, and back alleys of the Lower East Side’s lesbian subculture in the 1980s―an electrifying chronicle of New York life featuring an edgy and totally original heroine.
Includes a new introduction by the author.
Sarah Schulman is the author of sixteen books: including the novels The Mere Future, The Child, Rat Bohemia, Shimmer, Empathy, After Delores, People In Trouble, and The Sophie Horowitz Story, the nonfiction works The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness To a Lost Imagination, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS and the Marketing of Gay America and the plays Mercy and Carson McCullers.
Read the new introduction to the novel here.
Sometimes you want an item close at hand: not in a pocket, but right there where you need it. A pocket watch, compass, knife, cell phone, or any other item you don’t want to dig for are all great candidates for a leather sheath. You might want to make something to hold a multi-tool or any specialized tool you may want to keep handy at all times. If you’re a widget lover and can’t find a case for your widget, just substitute widget wherever it says knife.
This article is useful for the knife you (might have) made, but also teaches the method of wet-shaping leather. When saturated, leather can be stretched and molded to fit different objects.
Lay the knife out on your piece of cardboard and roughly trace around the blade and as much of the handle as you want to cover with your sheath. The pattern is not symmetrical, as the back of the sheath has an extension that ultimately will be folded down and stitched in place to make a loop through which your belt will be threaded. Again, this doesn’t have to be perfect, and better too large than too small.
If you’re happy with it, fold the pattern in half along the line that will make the back of the blade part of the sheath and trim the overlap so the pattern is symmetrical. Push the paper against the blade to see where it lies within the pattern. You can see in the photo a slight crease in the cardboard, which shows plenty of clearance between the edge of the cardboard and the blade.
Next, use a little bit of adhesive tape to actually make the pattern the same three-dimensional shape as your leather will be. This allows you to make adjustments now while it’s easier.
You can see that I have trimmed back the pattern to even it out and give the handle a little more exposure. A little more trimming and we’ll be ready to cut out the actual sheath leather. Cut the tape holding your pattern together, and flatten it out.
Trace your pattern onto the wrong side of the leather (the fuzzy suede part). This is because a) it’s easier and b) it sets up the belt loop so the right side is facing forward. I tend to ignore the belt loop section of the pattern and use it just as a guide to trace a long piece using a ruler to make sure it’s long enough and straight.
Cut out your leather using a rotary cutter, but do not cut into the inside corners where the blade part of the sheath meets the belt loop, as you will over-cut and make unsightly nicks. Stop short of those spots and use an X-Acto or sharp knife to finish the cuts.
Wrap whatever your item is in plastic wrap, using plenty of it, and tape to tuck everything in nicely.
Assemble your dishtowel, item to be sheathed, a pan of hot tap water, and your spring clips. Place the sheath part of your leather in the hot water. It will change color and bubble a little as the water seeps into the leather. Just a few minutes is plenty.
Place your leather on the dishtowel and fold the towel over on the leather and push down to pat it dry and squeeze out the excess water. Place the knife on your leather and fold it over, forming it over the handle as you go. Using spring clips, clamp the leather in place and work the leather so it forms naturally around the blade and handle. You can form the leather with your fingers so it hugs the handle. Set it aside to dry, but I usually check it every five minutes for the first half hour to make sure the leather is moulding the way I want it to.
You can work with your leather again after several hours (depending on the heat and humidity) or leave it overnight. When the leather is dry, remove the spring clips and you’ll be left with a sheath “husk.”
Using the rotary cutter, trim the sheath to size by taking off the rough edges and following the contour of the blade and handle. You’re cutting through two layers of leather that has been water-hardened so it’ll take a little more pressure. Go slow and don’t cut yourself.
Using a leather gouge, cut a shallow groove into the leather following the edge of the sheath seam. You can do this freehand or use a gouge with a built-in guide.
Mark your stitches in the groove using a rowel tool. Six holes per inch is fine. If you don’t have a rowel tool, you can do it freehand and go slow and careful-like.
Place your sheath on a plastic cutting board and using your fid, create holes in the indentations you made with your rowel tool. Use a small mallet and tap your fid lightly. Once you have poked all your holes, lift the top layer of the sheath and do the same thing on the bottom, as your fid will have started holes on the bottom layer too. Make sure they line up or your stitching will not be fun. If you do not have a fid, you can use an ice pick or other pointy thing. Fids work a little better because they make a small slit, not a hole.
It’s much easier to sew the belt loop now before stitching up the sheath. Fold your belt flap over to the front and adjust it so it’s the size you want, and trim it to size. It should fasten just below the top of the sheath. Any deeper and you may run into problems with the handle not seating well in the sheath.
Using your four-prong punch, make a row of holes in both the end of the belt loop and the top of the sheath as shown. If you don’t have a leather punch, you can use a fid or ice pick or anything sharp and pointy. Trim excess leather, if any, off the end of the strap. Using your needle and artificial sinew, stitch the loop, going in and out until you have three stitches showing. Tie off your thread and cut your sinew close to the knot.
Using a single needle and sinew, start sewing from the bottom of the piece near the top of the sheath. Stitch the side going up through the leather and down through the next hole. You could use a double needle technique here, but for such a short seam, a single needle technique is fine.
Once you reach the tip of your sheath, turn around and go up from the bottom, doing the opposite of what you just did. The effect is to create a stitch that will not unravel, and with the groove in the leather, the thread is protected and sits flush or below the surface of the leather. Tie off your knots, then thread your needle in and out the end holes a few times, finishing by threading the needle through one layer of leather and then pull tight. Cut the lacing flush with the seam and it will be hidden.
Using the wooden end of your fid, burnish the seam of your sheath to even out the stitching and push the stitches down into the sheath.
Insert your knife. It should be just a bit snug — it will loosen just a little bit over time. Put it on your belt. Revel in the knowledge you made something cool.
I’m writing from St. Louis, after attending my niece’s Bat Mitzvah, the first of the next generation in my family to become a teenager! Just watching the years spinning by, evidently.
I’m going to make this short, so I can spend more of this last precious day with my parents, my sister, and her family.
The question I want to pose is: how can you tell if what your business needs is spiritual healing, deepening your connection to your heart and to love, and clearing away old blocks and patterns, or whether you just need some business know how, steeped in spiritual truth, of course.?
I ask because I’ve seen people spend a crazy amount of time, energy and money doing healing work on “issues” that really just needed to be resolved through learning some simple heart-centered marketing techniques. The healing alone without the learning would never have created the breakthrough.
I’ve also seen people consume a tremendous amount of business information, shelling out untold amounts to learn business skills and strategies, but never getting anywhere because they remained stuck in some emotional, spiritual, or family/generational dynamic that needed healing.
How can you tell which one you need? I often use my intuition and experience to make the call with clients, but there is a simple assessment you can use to figure out what would serve you best.
The name of the assessment is rather technical, but don’t let it throw you. It’s called the “Try one, then the other.” assessment.
I don’t mean to swing wildly back and forth from day to day, or hour to hour, “spiritual-healing-business-development-spiritual-healing-business-development…” Instead, notice where you are most comfortable. Are you most comfortable doing emotional/spiritual processing, and uncomfortable facing business learning? Or are you most comfortable going through course after course learning business strategies, but not implementing any of it?
Whichever one you are most comfortable with, and probably have done more of, try the other.
Struggling to make the income you need, and have been doing all kinds of healing on your “willingness to receive”? Maybe there’s nothing terribly wrong with your willingness to receive, and you just need to learn how to do marketing and sales in a way that makes sense to your heart and to the clients.
So take a marketing or sales course (like our Momentum Course). See what happens.
Have you been trying and trying to make your marketing work, shifting up strategies, working extra hard, pushing, pushing, pushing? Maybe you are trying too hard. Maybe you aren’t as open to receive as you could be. Perhaps it’s time to stop learning, stop working, and do some spiritual and emotional healing. Let yourself process through the stuff that may be blocking you.
Spiritual healing doesn’t always work like magic, meaning you do a healing, and the money just falls from the sky. More often you notice that an unconscious pattern had you doing and saying things that were turning people off, pushing people away, instead of just letting them come to you.
My general philosophy is to start on the business side. I teach someone something. If it works, if they take to it easily, then great! We go to the next business thing.
If instead, some reaction comes up, then we stop and doing healing work. Once that’s clear, we move forward.
In Sufism we don’t do spiritual healing just for the heck of it. Okay, we do do spiritual practice just for the heck of it, because it feels so good. But the underlying philosophy is that yes it is for our own heart’s journey home. And, at the same time we strive, similar to the boddhisatva philosophy of the Buddhists, to be engaged and of service to the world. A quote in the Sufi tradition ascribed to the Divine says, “I love those of My servants most, who are of most use to My creation.”
This means that a tremendous amount of Divine love arises spontaneously, organically, from being of service in the world. If our hearts are hurt, blocking us from serving effectively in the world, then spiritual healing can bring us relief. As we heal, we feel inspired and free to take steps forward in service.
I’m curious to hear from you, what’s your intuition with any current struggle you’re having with your business? Do you think it’s a business development issue, or some persistent block or pattern in you that needs healing? Let’s inspire each other with our stories!
In honor of five years of Butchtastic, let’s have a scavenger hunt! Let’s have a winner and a prize! Who’s in?
———– THE CONTEST —————————-
I’ll be collecting entries until Midnight, October 7th. The most complete entry will be declared the winner and if I receive more than one completed and correct entry, I’ll draw names to determine the winner. The winner gets….. I’d love to say I could fly to where they live and take them out for dinner but I don’t have that kind of budget, so I hope offering a signed copy of Salacious magazine with my story in it will be incentive enough. (if you already have a copy, we can negotiate and come up with a reasonable replacement prize).
Here’s what you do…
Scavenger ‘items’ to collect:
You can comment here with your answers (I’m not going to approve the comment, because I don’t want to give away the answers) or you can email me at Kyle at Butchtastic dot net
(it’s possible I could be bribed for hints…. )
©2013 Butchtastic. All Rights Reserved..
Today I pushed her head against the mattress and shoved her onto her side. I got on top of her and got off, rubbing hard against her full hip. She’d undone my jeans and tried to touch me, but I held her down. “I want you underneath me, silent,” I said. “Use me,” she said. Her voice told me to keep going. Her breath fluttered. Now there were no more words, just sounds. Sweating, grunting, panting. I climbed her. Over and over. My feet kicked around for a better angle. I spread my thighs wide. My hips thrust hard against her again and again. Grinding against her hip. Not caring if this hurt her. Ignoring what she might want. Right now she wants this. I felt sure. She wants me to take whatever I want.
I stared at the sweat on her face. Her hair was curling, wet on her forehead. I held my face above her and looked at my splayed hand pushing her head down. I held my thumb to her lips and she opened wide. “That’s right,” I whispered, “Show me.” She teased my thumb inside her, sucking and licking. Lightly dragging her teeth against my skin. I pulsed my thumb slowly in and out of her mouth. My own lips hung open just above her. Spit pooled under my tongue and threatened to drip.
I let my head fall into her neck. My hand pushed harder on her head, pressing her down. I was loud. Forceful. My lungs filled fully with each deep breath. I felt myself crashing up against an orgasm so explosive I thought I might hurt her. I might kick or punch her hard. One knee was bent and pressed against her ass. One knee twisting and stretched near her belly. She lay beneath me on her side and I rode her hard. Fucking for my own pleasure. Thinking only about the feeling under my jeans. My cunt, so warm and wet. Enjoying how good and still she was beneath me. I held her there. She stayed in place while I ground my clit hard against her. Raw and swollen in my jeans. Her stillness moved me.
I came loudly. Hard. All my weight forced against her. She groaned beneath me. Both of us drenched in sweat. Her face was wet. My shirt stuck to me. I rolled off of her, breathing hard for a long time. She stared at me. She watched me recover. My belly inflating like a balloon with each rapid, deep breath. My back arched and stretched as pleasure still wound its way all through me.
She traced my lips with her fingers. Smiling. “We’re always fucking,” one of us said. She took a bath and I read on the bed. Resting. I was dropping her off at the train station an hour later. I told her I wanted to fuck her again. “Why don’t you,” she asked and spread her legs apart before shoving my hand inside her panties.
It never ends. Not ever. Not this.
by Mia McKenzie
I’m kinda over the term “ally.” Between Tim Wise’s recent (but not new) bullshit, a recent visit to a college where some so-called allies don’t even understand basic racism 101, and the constant cookie-seeking of people who just can’t do the right thing unless they are sure they’re gonna get some kind of credit for it, I’m done.
Allyship is not supposed to look like this, folks. It’s not supposed to be about you. It’s not supposed to be about your feelings. It’s not supposed to be a way of glorifying yourself at the expense of the folks you claim to be an ally to. It’s not supposed to be a performance. It’s supposed to be a way of living your life that doesn’t reinforce the same oppressive behaviors you’re claiming to be against. It’s supposed to be about you doing the following things:
This is by no means a comprehensive list. But most “allies” aren’t even getting these things right.
So, henceforth, I will no longer use the term “ally” to describe anyone. Instead, I’ll use the phrase “currently operating in solidarity with.” Or something. I mean, yeah, it’s clunky as hell. But it gets at something that the label of “ally” just doesn’t. And that’s this: actions count; labels don’t.
“Currently operating in solidarity with” is undeniably an action. It describes what a person is doing in the moment. It does not give credit for past acts of solidarity without regard for current behavior. It does not assume future acts of solidarity. It speaks only to the actions of the present. Some other options:
These are all better ways of talking about–and thinking about–allyship because they are active, and because they require examples. This is key. Why? Because, as I and countless others have said many, many times, allyship is an every day practice. The work of an ally is never ceasing. As long as the isms are functioning–and they are functioning at full capacity every hour of every day–then the action of allyship must function just as perpetually, just as fully, just as tirelessly.
“Ally” cannot be a label that someone stamps onto you–or, god forbid, that you stamp on to yourself—so you can then go around claiming it as some kind of identity. It’s not an identity. It’s a practice. It’s an active thing that must be done over and over again, in the largest and smallest ways, every day.
Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Sounds exhausting. Well, yeah, it ought to. Because the people who experience racism, misogyny, ableism, queerphobia, transphobia, classism, etc. are exhausted. So, why shouldn’t their “allies” be?
Maybe how exhausted you are is a good measure of how well you’re doing the work.
Mia McKenzie is an award-winning writer and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous.
All work published on BGD is the intellectual property of its writers. Please do not republish anything from this site without express written permission from BGD. For more info, go here.
Get BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It’s the winner of the Lambda Literary Award.
Follow us on Twitter: @blackgirldanger
LIKE us on Facebook
The post No More “Allies” appeared first on .
My new book is available now — I love the cover so much:
Everyone knows what a dominatrix is. We all know what Fifty Shades Of Grey is about. Or do we? If you want to know about the real scandals, visionaries, history, and culture that shape BDSM, then this book is for you.
* * *
I realized that I had not written much about BDSM history, for example. And I wanted to compile all the most interesting BDSM cultural reference points in one place.
My blog and its associated book, The S&M Feminist, is personal and philosophical and contemporary. My book about pickup artists is, well, about pickup artists. I’ve got an anthology about rape in virtual worlds; an erotica novella; and even a story based on Indian mythology.
But I’ve never simply compiled all my knowledge about BDSM stereotypes, cultural tensions, community issues, and other contexts. So here it is — for all the people out there who are as nerdy about sexuality as I am. Enjoy! And if you have any questions left when you’re done, feel free to leave comments.
I’m thinking that this book will be part of a series — the sex+++ series about sexuality and culture. I have some other topics lined up and I’ve been talking to other writers. Stay tuned!
I recently started getting to know a man, having recently met online. Anyone who has done this square-dance knows how tough it is to establish sufficient mutual interest on a dating site and then establish, rather quickly, a pattern of contact and interaction comfortable and reasonably sustainable for all involved parties. Add to that distance and it gets to be quite a complex emotional ecosystem.
This man has, thus far, been good about returning email, we started on Skype, and have been in some sort of contact daily….that is, until he mentioned he was going to have a really packed couple of days of business and travel and would be back in touch toward the end of the week. I thought it was pretty cool that he mentioned it beforehand, and wished him well in his business.
Then, of course, because I’m me, I went into circular loops of ridiculous hyperspeculation where I froze and microtomed and analyzed each and every cell-layer within our interactions and tried to figure out how to survive TWO WHOLE DAYS without an epic rambling Skype chat. It is funny how quickly one can grow accustomed to and desirous of contact with someone, eh?
Upon returning from his trip today and before going to sleep, he took the time to catch up for a few minutes. I couldn’t figure out why I was so surprised and touched, but I was grateful for his taking the time, despite being tired and having shit to do, to stop to say hello and inquire as to how I was doing. When I thanked him for doing so, he replied “It is the least I can do.”
Then it came clear: he was right. If you are trying to get to know someone, or maintain a relationship, it IS the least you can do to respect the desire of the other person to do the same. And yet…I am so, so accustomed to men not even doing “the least they could do” to solidify and nurture our relationships, this small but significant gesture is something that surprises me.
It is not impossible to shift your life around when it means getting what you want. And yet some folks expect other people to do so to suit their needs without the thought of reciprocity. If a friend said to you “I want a car. But I am not willing to budget and save money for it, I don’t want to pay for insurance, gas or maintenance and I want it to run whenever I want it to.” you’d laugh in their face. And yet, in the context of Power Exchange relationships, we see this all of the time.
Dominants are often under the impression that they are free to remain calcified and static and let submissives turn themselves inside out in order to please them because that is the nature of submission, of slavery, of ownership.
I remember the slow, crushing sense of devastation when a dominant to whom I had submitted was finding it frustrating that we had to have some Big Talk go down in order to re-align things that had fallen off-track in our relationship. “I thought slaves were supposed to make your life easier!” he joked. Of course. For me, this was a tricky moment because my first reaction was to think “He is right. I am being too high maintenance and I should shut up and shut down.” My second reaction was to say “Hold on…Prime Directive” here…I am supposed to bring issues to his attention. Especially when the issue is that he is not keeping his word on having these heart-to-heart talks and that is impacting the foundation of our trust. Shit.”
The least we can do when we are trying to build trust to create relationships, to let someone know we wish to be there for them is to actually make time. Time is, hands down, THE most PRECIOUS commodity one owns. And to have someone offer me that is a gift I do not take for granted. And I hope none of us in power exchange relationships ever, ever forget that.
You are intrinsically worthy of time and attention from your partners. You ought not to have to “earn” that and you sure as hell are not “needy” or “high-maintenance” (I loathe this being used as a pejorative. High-maintenance often means high-performance) because you crave and NEED to attention and affection of a partner. Isn’t that WHY we form these relationships in the first place? Our need for attention? Affection? Contact? Love? To be seen and valued?
Anyway, who can say if things with this new Swedish dominant will flourish. Maybe, maybe not. I can however, already say I am grateful to have had the reminder that even “the least you can do” can carry some weight, and warm the heart of someone who has been a bit bruised in the past.
The question of whether or not to include trans women in women’s sexuality-based events is old and tiresome, but it still comes up with some regularity. I recently responded to a discussion on this topic and I realized that it might be useful to post my thoughts here, as I don’t know that I’ve ever done so in full.
I see a few main underlying assumptions come up in these discussions, and I’d like to counter them. Some of these arguments are stated outright, while others seem implicit in the language people tend to use. Most counter-arguments I’ve seen focus on the stated arguments, but I’d like to incorporate the underlying ones too, which makes the discussion a bit broader.
Comments are welcome, as always. That said, I realize that comments on posts like this often veer into the territory of flame-war pretty quickly. As a result I’m going to keep a tight rein on the comments here, and I may shut down comments fairly early in the game if only because so much of what might come up has already been said and I don’t think it’s worth rehashing lots of it here. This post is a position statement, not an invitation to a grand debate.
Assumption 1. There exists such thing as a “safe space.”
I feel strongly that the idea of safe space is a really dangerous one, no matter who’s claiming it for what space. It seems like there’s an underlying assumption in some comments that safe space does indeed exist or that it’s something worth striving for. For me, as soon as the concept comes up, whether this precise term is used or it just seems to be implied, I immediately become super uncomfortable and feel very concerned about how people will behave in whatever space is being discussed. I’ve seen this idea used as a battering ram, essentially, in way too many contexts, usually as a way to police behaviour in a mean-spirited manner or to exclude people or create an “in-crowd” of people who “get it.” Doesn’t really matter whether it’s an activist space, a party, a conference, whatever. Almost universally, it’s about people buying into a fantasy of safety that simply does not match reality—and making a lot of people quite unsafe by using policing-style behaviour.
In reality, you are only “safe” from things that might make you uncomfortable or triggered if you stay at home where you have absolute control over everything that happens (and even then, not always). Each person’s idea of “safe” is different, and therefore a group space cannot possibly be “safe.” “Safe” isn’t real, and as such I believe it’s not worth investing energy in. It’s much better, in my opinion, to create spaces where there are a few clear rules for acceptable behaviour (which does *not* depend on identity or status of any kind, gender or otherwise), a stated expectation of kindness and goodwill, and one or several people who are in charge of smoothing things out if they go wrong.
Assumption 2. We all have the right to expect to be comfortable in sexual space.
Speaking as someone who’s spent well over a decade attending group sexual events large and small in dozens of cities all over the world, I can say that no matter what the gender rules are for a given space, it is best for me to go into them not expecting to feel comfortable, *ever*. I’ve felt horribly uncomfortable at “women-only” events, and super comfortable in totally gender-mixed spaces. And vice versa too. The factors in that comfort level include people’s attitudes in general, the vibe and layout of the space, the level of alcohol consumption, temperature, the level of privacy, the loudness or nature/content of a scene or sex happening nearby, the organizers’ style, whether or not there’s pressure to play or fuck, the music, how high or stoned people are, what kind of porn is screening, the racial or age or body size or gender mix of the crowd, the presence or absence of one or two specific people… all of these things come into play in terms of my own comfort level, and they are not things I can know or expect going in.
I think we need to stop expecting sexual spaces to be comfortable in the first place, and understand that a thing that makes one of us feel right at home might make someone else feel sick to their stomach. (An intense blood play scene in the middle of the room… the presence of lots of butches… the opportunity to get high… Can you guess which one of those make me feel comfortable and which I find hard to handle? There is at least one of each. Do you think I would accurately guess your response to the same criteria?)
Most crucially, we need to remember that the exclusion of trans women is not the primary standard of comfort for everyone, or even for most people, or even for most cisgender dykes. When we expect a given space to make us feel comfortable in the first place, and then we reduce this question of comfort to a question of whether or not trans women are there, we are functioning from a very skewed picture of what actually makes a space comfortable for anyone outside our own selves, and making a lot of really unfounded assumptions about what works for everyone else around us too.
Assumption 3. One person having a trigger is a legitimate reason to exclude someone else from an event.
Here’s a list of some of the triggers and squicks I’ve encountered among the people I’ve met in the last few years as a travelling sex educator and event organizer: seeing someone taking off their belt; being touched on the belly; seeing porn; hearing the terms “fat,” “ugly,” and “stupid”; seeing blood; hearing a deep voice; seeing a masculine-presenting person fucking a feminine-presenting person doggy-style; seeing testicles (though a penis would be fine); military uniforms; finding out someone is bisexual or not a “gold-star” lesbian or gay man; watching age play or being in the presence of “littles”… I could go on. The thing about a trigger is that it’s deeply personal, by its very nature. Sometimes it’s about past trauma, sometimes not. I know that for me, if I saw someone do a food play scene, I’d have to either leave the room or vomit, and I couldn’t tell you why—that’s just how it is.
Regardless of what it is, it’s super important that we take responsibility for managing our own triggers and squicks rather than expecting spaces to be set up to accommodate us, and all the more so when our trigger is about someone else’s looks, presence or behaviour. Outside basic rules of good behaviour, or specific event attendance rules for specific purposes—for instance, this event is only for people in full-time M/s relationships, or this is an event where everyone is expected to dress head-to-toe in red—it’s really not fair to ask others to curtail their behaviour or hide pieces of themselves in order to be welcome. I would never think of asking someone not to do food play in front of me. My squick, my responsibility to manage.
Assumption 4. Trans women have penises, and I will see those penises if they’re at a sex party.
***Added 2013/09/23: I want to preface this bit by stating in no uncertain terms that the configuration of a person’s genitals is none of my/your/anyone’s business unless you are about to engage in some kind of sexual touching that would require that knowledge. It’s also not a legitimate factor in whether or not someone should be considered to “really be” the gender they say they are. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health takes a strong stand against requiring any kind of surgical modification for someone to “qualify” as their stated gender, and everyone from governments to party organizers should take a cue from them. As well, I want to make it clear that many (most?) trans women don’t refer to their pre- or non-op genitals as “penises.” Some say clit, some say girl-dick, some say strapless – there’s a long list. Women’s individual choices about what they call their bits take precedence over any externally imposed words. Mostly, though, as with the question of what someone’s genitals look like, what they’re called is also none of anyone’s business unless you’re getting sexual together. The following paragraphs cover some basic information about genitals that you can find in a range of trans-101 resources, as well as in the zine I link to in point 9. I’m putting it here purely to counter the misinformation that this particular assumption is based on – not to imply that it’s anyone’s actual business to know what’s going on with any individual trans women’s genitals. ***
I think that a lot of people who are triggered by the idea of penises are *very* unlikely to be upset by most of what they’d see at an event that includes trans women. For starters, a lot of trans women get bottom surgery—I’d say at least three-quarters of the ones I’ve met in dyke contexts, though that’s anecdotal of course. It is much more common for trans women to opt for, and prioritize, bottom surgery than for trans men to do so (which is surely at least in good part due to cost, but also due to expected results).
The women who don’t have bottom surgery yet, but who are planning to, rarely want to show off or use their genitals in public space the way some cisgender men might. For them, the whole point of surgery is that they don’t want to have a penis at all, let alone wave it around in public, even less so among people who may be uncomfortable with that.
Among the trans gals who haven’t had bottom surgery and don’t plan to, the vast majority don’t have genitals that look like what most people would understand or immediately recognize as being a penis—the use of hormones makes the genitals much smaller and softer, and it’s usually not easy to get an erection or ejaculate. If you’re basing your idea of trans women as “chicks with dicks” you may have been watching too much shemale porn—and understand, please, that even in that kind of porn the trans women in question often have to use Viagra to get it up at all, and still often can’t come or ejaculate, and are in many cases keeping their penises for the moment only because porn is a way to earn enough money for bottom surgery. So it’s a bad place to judge from, even though it’s the easiest and quickest place to go if you want to see images of trans women’s non-surgically-altered bits.
Last but not least, there is the rare trans woman who has a dick and who understands it as such and is both capable of and interested in using it in typically “male” ways. All I have to say about that is that if I had one—a dick, that is—so would I! I think a lot of women feel the same if the popularity of strap-ons is any indication, to say nothing of the well-known dyke fascination with gay male porn. I’ve never actually seen this happen at a sex party, in all my travels, and as such I might be a bit surprised if I did. But if I can handle watching countless cis-dykes pound away at each other with dicks they’ve purchased at a store, surely I can handle watching a dyke use one she happens to have grown. We “allow” trans men the freedom to use the parts they were born with to achieve pleasure—surely we can extend that same acceptance to the very rare trans woman who wants to do the same. It seems a very strange thing to start judging, especially when we’re a community of people who gets off on a rather stunning variety of sexual practices to begin with.
And for people who equate “penis” with “ability to rape or assault” and are therefore triggered by the possibility or the reality of seeing one… first, see point 3. Beyond that, maybe your parents were a lot more specific about this, but my mom always told me to watch out for men, not for penises, if I wanted to avoid rape. But this same logic meant that nobody really told me to watch out for women who assault and rape. I know it’s a shitty thing to have to face, and I know a lot of dykes don’t like to talk about it because it damages their sense of safety in community… but I have met plenty of women who have had experiences of sexual assault or domestic violence with other women (cisgender and otherwise). At play parties and sex parties and bars, at home alone with a partner, with someone they’ve dated for a little while, with someone they’ve married… it happens, and way more than we’d like to think. Pretending that assault and rape are only perpetrated by men, or only done by people with penises, allows women and people with vaginas to get away with it that much more easily.
Rape and assault are not about penises. They are about someone’s sense of entitlement to touch another person’s body without consent. We need to stop projecting our fears onto a body part (regardless of who’s sporting it) and start looking at how people actually behave. It will make us *feel* less safe to acknowledge this, but I think it will make us actually *be* safer if we can talk about it openly.
Assumption 5. Trans women are aggressive in a way that makes people uncomfortable.
To me this sounds a whole lot like “black people are all so angry!” or “women are so over-emotional and hysterical!” or even “gay men are so effeminate!” It’s a stereotype, pure and simple. It’s especially similar to those other examples because it’s a stereotype that focuses on the way someone expresses themselves. We expect these behaviours or expression styles because we fear them – oppressive white people are scared of angry black people, men who are taught not to feel or deal with emotions are scared of women expressing emotions, people who are taught that masculinity is precious and fragile and absolutely necessary to their survival are terrified to see how easily someone can “lose” their masculinity, and so forth. From there, if we see these things happen in real life once or twice, we believe them to be true of everyone in a given group all the time. Then it becomes really easy to *only* see those things, and to miss or simply ignore—or, in this case, *deprive ourselves of the opportunity to see*—people in that same category behaving in other ways too. Which they/we do, because we are human. We need to get past this, plain and simple.
Assumption 6. Trans women are all the same.
We need to make sure, when we’re talking about trans women just as with any other group, that we aren’t speaking as though they were all the same. Trans women are as different from one another as any other people are. Some are aggressive, some soft and sweet. Some big, some small; some butch, others femme, others genderqueer, and so forth. Some lesbians, some straight, some bi, some queer. Every imaginable racial and ethnic background. Every imaginable profession and economic status (though statistically more likely to be poor and underemployed, regardless of their education level, due to rampant systemic transphobia). Some pre-op, some post-op, some non-op (bottom surgery). Some on hormones, some not. Some who “pass” easily, some who don’t and won’t ever. Some who have breast implants, some who don’t. So anytime you start a sentence with “trans women are…”, think carefully about what you’re going to say next and whether it’s true all the time or not.
Assumption 7. The term “woman” or “women” is by definition about cisgendered women.
In my world, when we talk about women, that includes trans women, because trans women are women. If we’re trying to say something specific about women who were assigned female at birth and are still happy to be referred to that way today, we call them cis or cisgendered women. If we’re trying to say something specific about women who were assigned male at birth but later transitioned, we call them trans women, or possibly women with a history of transition. But “women” on its own doesn’t imply anything about how someone was born. There’s nothing offensive about any of these terms unless they’re applied to someone inaccurately or with intent to shame or hurt.
For me personally, I don’t love being called a cis woman, not because there’s anything wrong with the term or because I think it’s pejorative, but because I am actually not always comfortable living in a female body and I feel like I float in a middle space between several genders. “Woman” I’ll accept, though only barely, and I wish I had another option than either that or “man.” But when someone calls me “cis,” to me that makes me feel they are making some very mistaken assumptions about me, and *that*—not the term itself—can be offensive. (Same as being assumed straight, or femme, or able-bodied… nothing wrong with those terms, they’re just inaccurate when applied to me.) But even then, I can still recognize that most of the world, most of the time, sees me as a woman, and that I get certain privileges because of that. So being *perceived* as a cis woman still gives me advantages, even if I don’t apply the term to myself. As such it’s still a useful term.
Assumption 8. Trans women aren’t really women, because they weren’t socialized as women.
This one falls apart on several levels.
First, it assumes that all women were socialized the same way. This makes no room for the vastly diverse types of socializing we each go through. A past butch partner of mine, for instance, refers to her childhood as being a “boyhood”—she played sports, spent time with her dad learning about woodworking and was never forced to look or dress girly. I, on the other hand, was very much socialized to be a girl, with all the expectations and prohibitions that come along with that. This is a pretty stark difference in childhood gender-socialization experiences despite how we were both raised in white, Ontario-based, heterosexually-parented, middle-class families with religious mothers and multiple siblings. As soon as we start adding on other differences—race, economic status, geographic location, age, number and configuration of parents, sexual orientations within the family, religion, schooling and so forth—we multiply the ways in which our gender socialization might change.
Second, it assumes that the way we are socialized “sticks” the same way on everyone. I would argue, for instance, that probably none of us who are queer were socialized as children to be queer. Most of us who are gender-independent weren’t taught to be that way by our parents. And I’ve only rarely met people who are what I’d call second-generation poly—as in, they had openly non-monogamous parents and are themselves non-monogamous. Possibly even more rarely than that have I encountered people whose parents were openly kinky such that they were socialized from childhood to be perverts. (And certainly, I was never taught, as a girl, to be a dominant or a top!) I could say similar things about feminism—I don’t think, for instance, that I’m any less “real” or “legit” a feminist because my mother and father most certainly aren’t feminists. And I can assure you that I was never socialized to work primarily at night, or have a freelance career, or to do a PhD—I’m the only one in my entire family doing any of those things, and they are huge pieces of how I understand myself as an agent in the world and of how I live my everyday life. And so on, and so forth. So it’s very odd to see people who’ve made life decisions that for the most part radically depart from what they were taught to do as children try to argue that on this singular point—the question of gender—socialization trumps choice, trumps our innate sense of who we are and trumps all the efforts we make to do about that. It just doesn’t work that way. Of all people, we should know.
Third, the socialization argument dismisses and disrespects the enormous challenges that trans women have to go through to understand themselves as women, and to assert themselves as such in the face of huge social forces that tell them they are not and cannot be what they are. There are plenty of trans women who never felt like men in the first place, for whom existing in an assigned-male body was a horrific experience of dysphoria and disconnection, for whom being raised and socialized as male was deeply damaging to the point of leading them to depression and suicidality, or for whom the presence of a penis and the lack of a vagina (for those who haven’t had bottom surgery) is an ongoing source of trauma, not a free pass into male privilege. If we can understand our own struggles to self-define, to make sense of our desires and identities and bodies, surely we have it in us to understand others’ when they are arguably even more complex and more strongly discouraged by the world around them.
Last but not least, this argument also assumes that trans women are not treated as women by the world at large. It is true that some trans women are not read as women by the world around them. In those cases, they are often shunned, assaulted and disrespected—as “failed” women, as “failed” men, or as freaks in general. In this sense, trans women who don’t “pass” are punished in much the same way as cis women are punished when they fail to do “woman” right. For being too fat, or too hairy, or not passive enough, or too smart, or too capable, or not straight enough, or too slutty, or too frigid, or not curvy enough, or whatever else.
Trans women know exactly what it’s like to be told they’re not doing it right, and cis women know exactly how much that hurts because it’s done to many of us too. Trans women who do “pass,” on the other hand, are subjected to the same kinds of bullshit that many cis women are just for being women, even when we are doing “woman” right—essentially, lots of misplaced entitlement. People, especially but not exclusively men, feel entitled to comment on or touch or fuck our bodies, to expect our sexual interest, to measure their masculinity by how different it is from our femininity, to get paid more than we do, to be aggressive and active to our receptivity and passivity, to be physically strong to our weakness, and so forth. And beyond all this… trans women who sometimes “pass” and sometimes don’t get the unenviable privilege of being on the receiving end of *both* these kinds of bullshit, both of which are clearly linked to being a woman, if from different angles.
So I call bullshit on this socialization question. It just doesn’t hold water.
Assumption 9. The “cotton ceiling” is a way for trans women to bully cis women into having sex with them.
The idea of the “cotton ceiling” is intended to draw attention to how even in spaces that are politically and socially welcoming of trans women, transphobia often retains its influence on how we understand who is sexually desirable and who isn’t. It’s no different from other politicized criteria for desirability—people who are, for instance, fat or disabled are also often welcomed into queer women’s space but not seen as desirable compared to those hot slim, muscular, able-bodied sorts. This isn’t our fault—our entire culture tells us what’s sexy and what’s not, 24 hours a day, and that definition is terribly narrow. But it is really easy to forget how much influence advertising propaganda and social pressure can exert on what gets us wet and hard, and to let the mainstream’s terms dictate our desires.
It is possible to read the idea of the cotton ceiling as being about pressuring people to change who and what they desire. And that pressure can feel unwelcome. With that in mind, I would challenge those who feel it that way to look very carefully at the message that’s being delivered. Is it actually about you being told you need to go out and fuck people you’re not attracted to? Or is it about someone asking you to think about how much of your attractions are based on an underlying assumption of cissexism? Or perhaps, might it be about challenging women-centred sexual spaces to talk openly about trans women’s bodies and how to safely and enjoyably have sex with trans women—a topic about which it is ridiculously difficult to find solid information? (Try Mira Bellwether’s awesome zine, Fucking Trans Women, if you are in search!) Or perhaps it could be about challenging the producers of dyke sexual representation to include trans women as objects of desire—in porn, in art, in erotica—which is only barely beginning to happen?
This is a difficult line to walk in terms of messaging—there is a subtlety to the argument that can easily be misunderstood. And to be fair, some people delivering the message about the cotton ceiling may not be doing it in a skilful way. But I think mostly the misunderstanding here comes from people who are very attached to a body- or genitals-based understanding of gender and very threatened by anything that comes along and challenges that.
Fundamentally, it doesn’t do anyone any favours for a person to fuck someone for political reasons without genuine attraction. I really hope nobody goes out and fucks anyone just to prove a political point or make a statement about how wonderful and open-minded they are. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of such false desire, and I would feel pretty disappointed in myself if I noticed I’d started to collect a list of sexual partners who conveniently belonged to stigmatized minority groups so that I could brag about it.
Fundamentally, it also doesn’t do anyone any favours for a person to pressure anyone else to have sex, for political reasons or otherwise. So if a trans woman cruises you with a line like, “Hey, you should have sex with me to prove you’re not transphobic,” you have every right to say, “Uh, no thanks.” Failing that highly unlikely situation, though, I think a lot of cis and otherwise non-trans gals need to ratchet down the defensive reaction and take the opportunity to really examine how much of our desire rests on cissexism, and how much of the sexual culture we create and consume excludes trans women, even if we’re not doing it on purpose. That thought process may never change our physical attractions, and it doesn’t have to. But on the other hand, it might, and we shouldn’t be afraid of that. For a bunch of politicized people who are committed to resisting the patriarchy, fighting racism and advocating for accepting our bodies at any size, and then going ahead and representing those various bodies in all their delicious glory, this one really shouldn’t be a big stretch. And at the bare minimum, whether it changes our sexual practice or not, it could possibly help us to change a culture of exclusion such that the people next to us at that sex party—cis, trans and otherwise—can more easily access the kind of sex they’d like to be having.
Assumption 10. Trans men are a lot like women.
This one comes up as a counterpart to the “socialization” argument, specifically when people argue for the inclusion of trans men in women’s spaces as a counterpart to arguing against the inclusion of trans women in those same spaces. This is especially unhelpful to trans men.
A significant percentage of trans men are, well, men. They look like men, smell like men, identify and move through the world as men. If they’re told they’re allowed to attend a women’s event because they’re not really men, that’s pretty insulting.
Of course, *some* trans men are gender-fluid, or strongly attached to their history as dykes or as women, or see their transition as an extension of their former or current butch-ness and still prefer to date queer women, or what have you. So as such, some of them feel at home in queer women’s spaces, and it would be very sad and hurtful to exclude them. I totally get this. But let’s be clear that we are not talking about all trans men here. It’s a very specific range of trans men, and there’s a whole other range of trans men out there for whom such inclusion would be unwelcome at best and outright damaging at worst.
There are lots of trans men who never felt like women in the first place, for whom existing in a female-assigned body was a horrific experience of dysphoria and disconnection, for whom being raised and socialized as female was deeply damaging to the point of leading them to depression and suicidality, or for whom the lack of a penis (for those who don’t get bottom surgery) is an ongoing source of trauma, not a free pass into women’s space. Please let’s not disrespect these guys by assuming they’re “one of us” because they have vaginas. That’s what the rest of the world has been doing to them forever and sometimes it quite literally kills them.
This post is mostly about analyzing a set of arguments, sometimes in ways I’ve seen done by others, some less so. But in addition to the argumentation piece, I’m writing this to publicly say, in no uncertain terms, that as a woman who’s not trans, I fully support events that include trans women and tend to feel personally way more comfortable when trans women are welcome than when they’re not. For me, events that include trans women create a baseline of respect for people’s chosen gender identities—my own included—where I can breathe at least somewhat easier, instead of worrying about people making misguided assumptions and applying them to me and others. It’s a statement that clearly says “who you are is important, not who the world tells you to be.” This isn’t just symbolic. It makes a real difference in the vibe of a space, in my experience, and makes a lot more room for me too.
P.S. Adding this a day after first posting: I want to acknowledge an additional assumption that underpins everything I’ve tried to challenge here. This is the assumption that there is an “us” made up entirely of cis and otherwise non-trans women who are in charge of all women’s sexuality-based events and who get to make the decisions about including “them,” the trans women who’d like to attend. In fact my experience has been quite different from that. Trans women have been around for decades – “they” aren’t a sort of perpetually new part of “our” community, but rather a part of the fabric of it, of its history and its present and absolutely of its future. Several generations of trans women, and their contributions, long predate my own organizing efforts, for instance – so it’s a testament to the persistence of transphobia that somehow I, when I started organizing events in my early twenties, still understood that it was my job to “let” the trans women in (or bar them access). To me this feels like the height of disrespect – that some parts of the dyke world are still stuck on whether or not to include people who’ve been around since, y’know, the middle of last century. Many of the trans women in my community are older, wiser and more experienced than I am. I am fortunate to have many smart, powerful trans women as my elders – as scholars, as SM players, as dykes, as organizers, as role models, as writers and artists and activists. I’m grateful for their presence, their persistence in the face of discrimination, and for *their* willingness to let *me* in, to whatever extent they have.
There’s something you’ll get from Kelli Dunham’s book of essays that other comedians’ books don’t always include: heart. In Freak of Nurture (Topside Signature), Dunham offers a wide array of comedy, storytelling, observations and advice. Having spent portions of her life as a nun, a house boi, a volunteer childcare provider in Haiti, an emcee, and a registered nurse, there’s no shortage of life experience to spill on the page.
Some of her essays will read like her stand-up comedy material. In “The ABCs of Adventure in Gender,” she shares dozens of episodes of confounding people’s love of the gender binary, getting mistaken for a prepubescent boy, a drowning boy scout, a lost child, and Clay Aiken. Her punchlines are sweet and humble. When she discovers an internet meme using her photo and the caption “Dave Matthews with boobs,” she Googles a picture of Dave Matthews and has to concur: she does kind of look like Dave Matthews with boobs. Her comebacks are always noteworthy and hilarious: when rescued on a white water rafting trip by a boy scout troop and forced to spend the rest of the river run on their raft, one boy ventures to ask her which troop she’s from. “A drag troupe, okay?” Dunham huffs.
Many of Dunham’s essays read like transcripts of a comedy routine—you can practically hear the pauses for laughter—and others read like those hilarious, tell-it-again-please stories that some people have. While an entire collection of these choppy anecdotes would be one thing, the strength of Dunham’s collection is the diversity of its essays. She’s partial to themed lists and short pieces, and some of the writing is cute satire: Dunham parodies the children’s book Alexander and the No Good Terrible Very Bad Day, retelling it from the perspective of a repressed, kinky queer nun. Other essays slip easily into memoir-like long form, and these are where Dunham and her big heart shine.
In her romantic life, Dunham falls in love with a fabulous queer woman who happened to have a fatal bout with cancer. A few years later, Dunham falls in love with another fabulous queer woman, the late Cheryl Burke, and loses her to complications from Burke’s cancer treatment. It’s a kind of show-stopping tragedy that many writers—and most comedians—would clamp tight about, but when Dunham gets real, it’s the most eloquent and effective writing of the whole collection.
In “Pudding Day,” she narrates the whole chronology of her relationship with Heather, who died after a long battle with cancer through assisted suicide, with Dunham and a host of loving queers and partners and friends and family present. “Lulu The Cat Says Screw You” is equally as wrenching, sharing her loss of Cheryl Burke through the only inheritance she gets in the wake of her death—Burke’s stubborn cat Lulu. Comedic relief is never far from Dunham’s reach, though. It’s her teenage nephew who wryly observes about the cat-inheritance, “That’s the most lesbian thing in the world.”
It’s one thing to be funny, to share anecdotes and jokes about being a gender queer in the world, about how appalling the media coverage of the 2009 earthquake in Haiti was, or what it’s like to navigate being a big ol’ homo at Thanksgiving dinner. But Dunham’s gift is that she goes beyond funny. Her writing can be dynamic, generous and sharp, especially in the longer essays where she stretches her anecdotes into whole scenes, where the human heart of her experiences beats strongly. Dunham’s conversational tone will welcome any reader, whether they come for the laughs, the loss, the queerness or the altruism that Dunham shares. The book’s title comes from some hate mail Dunham receives, calling her a freak of nature. “You don’t know me,” Dunham writes, “you don’t know my family, or you would know I am a freak of nurture.” She means it as a pun on the nature/nurture debate, but its meaning multiplies throughout the collection. No one can nurture life, love, queers, friends, jokes or family the way Dunham can. She’s freakishly outstanding.
Freak of Nurture
By Kelli Dunham
Paperback, 9781627290012, 202 pp.
“Do search. But in order to find other than what it searched for.”
On a recent visit to the Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966 exhibition at San Francisco’s De Young fine arts museum, I was taken with a small, simple sheet of paper handed to visitors, printed on which were the artists’ ten rules for beginning a painting — a sort of manifesto that applies in various degrees and various dimensions to just about every creative or intellectual endeavor, making a fine addition to these favorite manifestos for the creative life. Friend-of-Brain Pickings and frequent contributor Debbie Millman, who knows a thing or two about hand-lettered wisdom and typographic poetics, has kindly rendered Diebenkorn’s script here in her signature script — please enjoy:
Donating = Loving
Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:
|♥ $7 / month♥ $3 / month♥ $10 / month♥ $25 / month|
You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:
Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right.
There was a peace in the courtyard of the hotel that he thought was gone from the world. A good strong pot of coffee wordlessly placed on his table, fresh fruit and fresh croissants, pristine white tablecloths under wide cerulean umbrellas which were in turn under a wide and cloudless azure sky.
He took his breakfast there every morning and between sips of coffee closed his eyes and listened for the not too distant sounds of the river. Waves lapping ancient stone bridges, the lonely cries of sea birds.
She came to him as she did every day, in her crisp white blouse with the pearl buttons and her black pencil skirt. She had a blue scarf neatly tied at her neck and she did not speak. She replaced the pot of coffee at the precise moment the first had become too cool.
Her hair was chocolate brown, her skin was a Mediterranean olive, and she was very beautiful. She was fine boned, fragile with a humble dignity and an aura of skill and professionalism. She, more than even the crispness of the newspaper and the tart finish of the very good coffee, made his morning ascend from mere loveliness to something nearing divinity.
Until the tourists came.
The family was multigenerational, garishly dressed, and cacophonous. The older three were brassy tuba guffaws. The younger three were trumpets of profanity and laughter. The two adolescents were flutes, flourishing through arpeggios of annoyance.
He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, mourning his perfect morning. Looking up, he saw the rich brown eyes of the the woman in white blouse empathize.
He gave her a tight lipped smile of thanks and took his paper back up to his room.
After a long hot shower, he hoped long enough and hot enough to wash the ruined breakfast away, he heard a firm knock on his door. He tightened the belt of the almost obscenely thick robe and opened the door, to find the woman standing primly, arms at her sides.
She, again, said nothing. She looked up at him, being nearly a foot shorter, and smiled kindly, raised a hand and turning her palm, motioning to the inside of the room. It took him a moment to understand, but he stepped aside and let her enter, confused but intrigued.
She walked into the bathroom, which was still densely fogged with steam. She looked over her shoulder at him and he followed her, feeling a strange intimacy being in the impressively large, but still private, space.
She raised a hand to his face and he suppressed the strange reaction to flinch. She rubbed his cheek, her hand smooth and cool, her thumb against the bristles of his stubble. He leaned into her touch. He was hers in that moment.
“May I shave you, sir?” she said in almost a whisper.
He’d heard her voice before, but not in a while. She had a rather high sweet voice with traces of a British education. She sounded younger that he remembered, but looking at her closely he saw she was perhaps twenty-five. Her seriousness gave her the gravitas of someone much older.
He nodded affirmative.
A single droplet of sweat beaded on her forehead, the bathroom being uncomfortably warm from the shower. She turned on the faucet of the sink and pressed the chrome handle of the stopper. As the large basin filled with water her hands went to her pearl buttons.
He watched her in the half opaque steamed mirror. She undressed adeptly, removing each article of her clothing, folding them neatly and placing them next to the neat pile of towels. Her skin looked darker in contrast to the light brown of her untanned breasts and the triangle of her mons. Her breasts were large for her frame, aureoles unexpectedly puffy and nipples thick.
She turned off the water and scanning his supplies neatly arraigned on the counter above the sink. She took his heavy nickel badger brush and soaked the bristles. She then opened the small pot which contained his shaving creme and twirled the brush in the thick white soap.
She put the soapy brush to the side and soaked a hand towel in the hot water, bringing it to his face. He closed his eyes and let himself sit down on the commode. She leaned down, slowly rubbing the cloth over his skin.
He opened his eyes as she brought the brush to his cheek and expertly applied the shaving creme.
Though there was a solemnity to the undertaking his eyes were unable to escape the loveliness of her form. As she lathered him his hand moved slowly to her thigh. She took no notice. He shivered at the smoothness of her leg and his heart raced a little as he ran his fingers from her knee to her hip.
She put down the brush and took his safety razor from the porcelain. The metal glinted in her perfectly manicured hands, her nails a dark burgundy and her fingers small and delicate.
She had obviously shaved men before. He wondered if it was her father or a lover. Her strokes were economic, precise, and quick. He knew that with the blade at his neck it was perhaps not the best time, but his fingers moved to her inner thighs and he smiled a little as she opened her legs slightly to accommodate his exploration.
As she continued, he felt the soft manicured patch of hair between her legs and sighed.
She paused and her hips shifted slightly, pushing his fingers into the neat slit, his touch meeting wetness. Then she finished the last few bits of soapy skin, moving to soak the towel once more and clean off his face.
He looked up at her and she smiled as she put a cool towel against his reddened cheeks and then dripping some of his aftershave into her cupped palm she rubbed his neck and face and he relished the bracing sting.
She massaged his face firmly, then moved her hands to his neck. She massaged his shoulders and neck and then straightened the collar of the robe and stepped back to examine her work.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?” she said, her voice a little deeper.
He pondered then the exact boundaries of her visit. He wondered if it was some penance for the disturbance of his breakfast. Looked from her angelic face, to her generous breasts, to the curve of her hips he thought it would be most disrespectful to deny her atonement.
“Yes,” he said, his tongue thick and his voice unsteady.
“I’ll need you in the bedroom now,” he explained and she nodded obediently.
“May I take your robe?” she asked politely.
He stared at her, his eyes growing slightly hard and the silence of the moment seemed to echo in the white tile room.
“Sir?” she added, correcting her lapse in protocol.
“Yes, thank you,” he said, standing.
She pulled at the knot in his belt, then slipped the robe off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. She moved towards him, his erection slidding against the softness of her skin as she kissed his collar bone and look up into his eyes.
She took his hand and led him the his bedroom where, as with all things, her performance exceeded his expectations.
photo by stacie joy
The idea of a savant – someone who exhibits a particular exemplary skill while somehow presenting with a seeming deficit in other areas – is fascinating to me. I’ve an affinity for those who are outliers, removed from the standard, separate from the mainstream. And that attraction slipped naturally into place when I came out on the BDSM and Leather Communities. I felt that I was finally coming home and had found “My People.”
Well, not so fast, rabbit.
There are factions, fragments, fickleness and fissures within the “Community” up to and including those who won’t even use the word “Community” to refer to the loose confederation of alternative people who practice Kink / Leather / BDSM. IN fact, I’ve taken to calling it The Pervert Confederation. Closer to accurate, methinks.
One of the more pronounced rifts is between those who are very spiritually focused in their kink vs. those who really love and deeply experience the sensation, but refuse to ascribe a deeper spiritual connectivity to the BDSM practice. I have the interesting perspective of not belonging firmly to either camp and that is because my kink is amoral. I don’t really go in much for assuming I will have a deeply connected spiritual experience across the board with everyone with whom I play. I’m not wired that way. Neither do I assume that, just because the skies opened up for me, and I called The 42 Sacred Names for G_d, that the person administering the treatment that got me to that point is also on the same spiritual wavelength.
In fact, it is usually best that they are not.
Someone has to steer the ship.
Which brings me to the idea of “Dominant Savants” and the double-edged scimitar that this particular idea presents.
If you accept that there are people who possess an astounding skill in one particular aspect of life, but lack it in another, you are with me in the beginning of this thought process. Someone who is a stellar whipmaster, bondage aficionado, piercer, what have you, may be able to act as your guide throughout an incredibly earth-shattering experience, but you would be absolutely making a dangerous assumption if you automatically piggyback a deep spirituality to their expertise. It may be there. It may not. It may be there for one partner and not for another. This doesn’t intrinsically make them a shitty player. It means you have to know what is happening for them. It means doing your fucking homework. It means listening to your gut. And yeah, absolutely it means taking risks and falling flatsplat on your face, alone, and having to get your shit together your damned self.
Read it again, my friend.
The rituals and emotional trips and triggers of BDSM have deep resonance for some, and not for others. And it is all good, so long as, when you come together to play, you are all reading the same fucking playbook.
A Priest may break the bread, bless it, and present it, but it is the Catholic worshiper’s personal belief in Transubstantiation that makes it “the body of Christ.” Same with the wine to blood thing. The ritual is part of it but the supplicant is doing most of the work there, frankly. No matter what the fuck the Priest does, without the worshiper’s belief and buy-in, ain’t no holy moment. Just some cheap-ass sour fucking wine and a bit of stale weird cracker thing.
If the dominant is, in this analogy, leading the service, the individual spirituality of the supplicant, or bottom, can be entirely personal. I am not saying it always is, but I am saying, without judgment, is that it can be.
And my surprising realization is this: I am fine with that.
So long as I know what I am doing, who I am dealing with, and I fully take responsibility at the end of the ride for myself, a brilliant “dominant savant” whom you share little or no spiritual connection outside of the scene can be a midwife to your own experience. If you can respect their skill and accept their different approach, I believe that this can be a very successful type of power exchange.
I spent over year bottoming to and, for a while, submitting to someone who would have been, at the time, hard-pressed to tell you exactly why he enjoyed BDSM. In my case, I’m a person dedicated to self-analysis and tasting, nibbling, stirring, sniffing and dissecting what takes me, again and again and again, to the depths of profound humiliation and the out-of-body-highs of intense sensation play. In his case, he just … liked it. This, of course, made me a “bit” obsessively fascinated by his approach to BDSM.
No matter how I framed the line of inquiry, I got the same baffling opaque non-response time after time. This eventually made me bat-shit crazy until I realized something critical:
It doesn’t fucking matter.
See, my experience is mine. As reflexively silly as this sounds, it is the thing that cut through my need to cling to the idea of connection that I so desperately craved. It was an idea I created pretty much on my own and guess what? It does not always translate well to real live people.
If I go horseback riding, jump on a roller-coaster, swim in the ocean, I don’t expect to process that with the horse, the Cyclone, or the Pacific. I experience these things, perhaps even in a profoundly spiritual way, and I let it become a part of my experiential self.
And if I fall off of the horse, or get stuck on the Cyclone in Coney Island, or get pulled by an undertow, I have to take care of myself.
This is, I think, the way I have experienced “dominant savants.” Those who can take me on startling journeys but are not, for whatever reason, on my wavelength emotionally and spiritually. It does not negate, diminish, or compromise the play / scene / relationship we have. But it does define and demarcate it.
In the year plus of this intense play relationship that was particularly marked by this interestingly connected disconnect, I had quite a few people either pull me aside to “Make sure I was okay.” or to straight up ask why I played with this person. Many, many people with whom he’d played vowed they wouldn’t ever do so again as they just couldn’t deal with the feeling of being the rawhide chew toy for some brutally rough play that did not have, as the upshot, an emotional connectivity they needed within and as part of aftercare for the scene.
At first I worried that I was also broken. That I was allowing myself to be emotionally damaged in a way that I was, somehow, missing. But I concluded that was not the case then and in retrospect, I still do not think it is now.
I believe that people come into your life for various reasons and those reasons aren’t always apparent at the time. In this case the benefit was clear. I played with a particular freedom I hadn’t enjoyed before, and very rarely since. I felt safe. Regardless of the reality, I felt. safe. And that is no mean feat to pull on me when I am, in fact, doing some crazy shit.
I sure as fuck have had deeply connected and spiritually conscious play with people. I prefer it. It is that core need for deep connection that motivates my journey in Leather. But as I slowly reprocess the past couple of decades, I realize that the vast majority of play I’ve done falls into the category of submitting to the universe, to god, to my journey, to life, by way of a guardian who facilitated this and gained a measure of pleasure from it themselves, but remained essentially unchanged. I have yet to have a top or dominant share with me that the scene we did altered their perception of kink, of who they were, or their role in life, and that they felt a kinship that defied explanation due to what we shared in terms of our play. And yet I have, in some way or other, expressed these very sentiments to several people in my life. Perhaps this is because dominants “just don’t do that.”
I was hashing this out with my dear friend, Rabbi Heidi Hoover one night and was tossing out analogies. I drew a parallel between playing in this “dominant savant” arena and messing around on a volcano.
See, we have plenty of empirical data letting us know that volcanoes sit there all cool and slope-y, looking sexy, but will, on occasion, fuck you up and all of your shit, too.
And your goats.
So whose fault is it you get burned? You have no business being there if you know it is a fucking volcano.
Of course, some volcanoes pop outta nowhere and are all like SURPRISE BUTTSECKS!! and, if they fuck you up, it’s not your fault.
Still sucks to be you though.
But more often than not you have warnings. Rumbles. Shifts. Stinky gas. And if you stick the fuck around and wind up Pompeiied, we can’t really feel bad for you.
“Aha, but people do live on volcanoes,” my Rabbinically Enhanced friend pointed out. “And after an eruption, the soil and the land created is extremely rich and beneficial, and so it attracts people back to it despite the risk.”
Yes, of course. People live in dangerous fucking places. On volcanic islands. On huge fucking fault lines. In the path of annual monsoons, floods, hurricanes. On floating shanties atop of piranha infested waters. But you live there in hope. In hope that the benefit you derive from your location will outweigh the possibility of loss, damage, death, devastation.
I accept the risk, I do my best to choose people I trust, and I am prepared to accept responsibility – personal responsibility – for taking this risk. Ownership has its privileges. And I feel privileged to take these amazing, dark and illuminating rides on my terms, with skilled and bold partners.
There is no way to describe the 33 hours I spent with her. What we planned and how it got sideswiped immediately. I went out drinking with friends instead of napping before I met her at 1am in a crowded bar. It didn’t matter. None of the plans mattered. She drank. Some crazy, drunk lady who insisted she was straight and married hit on her. We laughed. We looked around at the crowded bar and the douche bags filling up San Francisco these days and left. Fucking assholes wearing name tags and ordering shitty drinks. Wondering why the bartenders ignored them. Some guy jammed his elbow into my back as he crowded the bar and she stomped on his foot with her boot and held it there, not looking at him. I felt snobby in my disdain of the straight, obnoxious drunks who liked to look. Yes, girls like us fuck each other. Yes. We do.
Let’s be snobs tonight. Let’s know we’ve got a secret they don’t have. We know how to have a really fucking good time. Let’s go do that. We drive over the bridge. She’s drunk. I’m sober but so tired it’s absurd to be driving. We’re silent. Staring at the brightly lit up span. It’s all new and so strange. We mourn the dead bridge beside us. She calls to it and thanks it for carrying her over the bay for so many years. It’s touching. Her speech moves me more than I can explain.
This is all true. This is a true story. She deserves so much more than that. She already knows this one. She knows what happens. How we were tangled. How we slept. How we woke and decided not to go anywhere. Not to do anything. How we fucked and ate and fucked again. How she took me to a place I didn’t know about. How we were little boys together and then sweating, panting women looking at the mystery between us. How we smiled at those red lines left on my upper arm for hours. How we nearly argued, or maybe we did argue, as we ran to make our reservations. How the waiter appreciated our visit and was in on the whole thing somehow. How we laughed and stared at each other and felt filled with awe. Everyone knows that story. When you get down to it, it’s the story everyone knows already. I don’t need to write it down for you. There’s more to it than this.
Sometimes you meet a person who already knows you. Who takes your hand and leads you into a small, bare room where she strips you and fucks you right back to your childhood. Here’s the story she doesn’t know. Here’s something new.
She led me to the safest place. She took me there. She asked me for exactly what she wanted and then threw me over and held me down and changed everything. She drew me a new map. I found myself in a strange place. Not where I expected to be at all. I looked at her and felt myself trusting everything all at once and completely. She told me a story. She told me where we were. She told me who I was. She told me I didn’t have to like it. She told me she wouldn’t tell anyone. She told me to be quiet. I struggled like any wild animal does until it’s too tired to resist. But I wasn’t too tired. I wanted to be tamed. This was my desire. I wanted to find how deep it went.
My eyes bulged. My chest heaved. She held the strap tight. At first she was sweet. Telling me everything would be okay. She whispered to me the whole time she fucked me. She told me where we were and what was happening. She calmed me down. No one would ever have to know. I didn’t have to like it. I didn’t have to want it. It was going to happen anyway. Freedom. Religion. Absolution. The dark cave. The tangled woods. The tiny boat on the ocean. The belly of the whale. The death and the resurrection. It’s all the same. I’ve been there.
And then she turned me over onto my belly. I felt her eyes on me. My own powerless never more clear than in that moment. My desire dripping onto her fingers. Tears welled up in my eyes. I stared at the floor of my room and knew I was lying powerless on my own bed in my own room with my ass in the air and my arms held tight behind my back by my own belt. Getting fucked. Having been usurped. I felt low. Humiliated. Dirty. Craving. Look at her underwear balled up in the corner. My own underwear barely down to my knees. Look at my dirty sock half under the bed. I cry out as her knuckles pound against my pussy. I have never felt my pussy ache with a darker need in my life. I am begging her to fuck me. Silently. I’m whispering it in my brain knowing that she hears me, “Fuck me so hard you rattle my teeth. Fuck me with my head hanging off the bed and my feet scrambling behind me. Fuck me like this and drain everything from me and I will know who you are after this and you will know me.”
When she turned me over onto my back, my pussy opened for her and I muttered incoherently. She knew just exactly what to do to make me come so hard I thought my back would break. My body arched high off the bed, shaking. Everything shook. I didn’t cry then. My tears had dried up. I was an electric jolt of energy and then nothing. Limp. Doe eyed.
She loosened the belt that bound my arms. We traced the lines. She stretched her body out next to me and said sweet things. “Hold me,” I said, “I need you to hold me now.” And here was the thing. It was in that moment when everything fell into place. She wasn’t sure. She didn’t know. We didn’t know. And then I asked to be held and soothed. And she held me and pet my face and kissed my forehead. It was everything.
Twice now we’ve fucked and known that there were things we wouldn’t talk about. One time I fucked her and said so many things and I felt her go somewhere and I felt myself take her there and somehow I know just where it was and yet I don’t know and I don’t want to talk about it more than that. And then here, this story, when she took me and fucked me and I was in that place and she was there with me and I know that she knows yet doesn’t know and I don’t want to talk about it more than that.
Still, this is all true. This is our true story. She already knows it. And I know it. And yet we don’t. And we don’t need to talk about it any more than that.
Oh god, she is so good. Distracting. A distraction. So fucking good. Nothing makes me crazy like a girl with smarts and a kind heart and a dirty mouth. She has all that and heels. I’m lost. Gone. Hook, line, and sinker. Sunk. Sinking. Distracted. It’s good. I like a girl who likes to have fun. A girl who likes to play.
She sparks my imagination. She makes me want to write. Not this story. This is the story that comes first. She makes me want to write a story that’s so fucking hot and dirty it grabs her breath. She makes me want to write the story that gets her to shake her head and go silent. I want her neck to flush when she reads it. I want her to feel it between her legs and low in her belly.
When I see her, I kiss her. I suck on her neck and her fingers but mostly my mouth is on hers. My tongue runs delicately across her lips, her tongue held tight in her mouth. She comes up beside me at the meter while I drop the quarters in and I turn to grab her. I rub against her as we walk through stacks of books. Her too tight too short skirt. I can’t control myself. I won’t. I slide behind her and press my hips up against her ass like a dirty old man. I cop a feel. My arm reaching for a book on the shelf right in front of her casually keeps moving and grabs her breast. A firm grip, a squeeze, my teeth against her ear for a moment, “Holy smokes, you give me ideas.”
I’m not hesitating for a moment with her. I’m not holding back. Life’s too short. We fuck like it’s a game. A race to outdo each other. We fuck and every time it’s brand new. Astounding. Astonishing. We fuck and growl and spit and bite and hit and wrestle one another down to the ground and when one of us comes, we stop and stare. A shock. “Who the fuck are you? What are you doing to me?” This is all brand new. We are cracked open.
Let me tell you how we fuck.
The first time I wore a cock, tucked away, a surprise for her, she felt it under my jeans. She rubbed it hard against my thigh. She unbuckled my belt and undid my jeans. She snaked her hand into my briefs and pulled my cock out to look at. She unbuckled my harness and threw the cock to the floor, tugging my jeans and shorts down far enough to bury her face in my pussy and fuck me with her fingers. Her hand slammed into me. Burning. I was bruised and sore the whole next day. And after she fucked me. After she held me in her lap with my legs thrown back. After she’d had her way with me and felt satisfied with how many times I came. She said, “Don’t think I wouldn’t want your cock in me. I just didn’t want it now.” I looked at her like she was the first woman who had ever fucked me. I remembered her like I had dreamed her. Something felt far away and right there at the same time. “That was good,” I said “Really good,” and spread her legs wide.
I jerk off in front of her. I love to show her. She lies down beside me, spreading my pussy so she can see and stroking me while I rub my clit. She spits on my clit to watch it drip down. She stares and smiles and looks up at me with a sweet pleasure. She thanks me for it. She grabs my tit and squeezes my nipple until I jerk away. She licks my moving fingers, running her tongue up and down each one. She bites my thighs. She stretches beside me and throws one leg over my chest, her pussy under my chin, and opens herself for me to see. When I come, she shifts above me. “Show me,” I whisper.
She kneels over me and I watch her pussy drip just above my face. I stare as her fingers pull her swelling clit in a circle. I grab her hand, spit on her fingers, and shove them into her hole. She looks directly at me. Our eyes lock. “Fuck yourself for me,” I plead. She nods. I let go of her hand and she slows. Her fingers push once, twice, deep inside her pussy and then drag across her lips and on her clit and even up on her belly. She comes for me, but builds it up so slowly. My hand is back on my cunt. It hurts to jerk off again so soon but I can’t stop myself. I’m moaning and writhing beneath her. Smelling her arousal. The sex hangs so heavy around us. I watch her swell and see her skin turn a deeper, blood filled color. “Show me,” I hear myself muttering over and over. “Come for me,” I’m crying out, desperate and nearly blind. When she does, when she comes, she doubles over me with a twitch and a jerk. I grab her ass and pull her onto my face. Smothered. Delirious.
We tell each other stories. I’m going to make you wait. I’m going to strap you down and lick your pussy until you’re so fucking wet and ready and then I’ll go out for a drink and a smoke. She asks me to tell her how I’ll fuck her the next time. I make her tell me what she’ll do to me later. So many stories.
Tomorrow, she’ll leave the door open all afternoon. I’ll come find her and shove her back against the wall, push her shorts down, spit on my fingers, and bang her while I have one hand clamped over her mouth. I’ll whisper into her ear telling her that if she makes a sound, I’ll pick up my keys and walk out the door.
We are always right there at the same moment. This sounds simple, obvious, but think about it. It’s fucking incredible. A shift I couldn’t anticipate. We are always right there at the same moment, together. We start and end and can’t wait to begin again.
This isn’t the story I want to write for her. This is just the first story. This is the telling of what will be told. An introduction to the nice girl with a dirty mouth. I think you’ll like her as much as I do.