Model: Gerard Reyes
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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.
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.
Let us make the sounds we were never meant to make.
Let us curse. Let us drive. Let us grill steak in the yard.
Here I am, gender. Tell me again the girl I should be,
please, just say it quietly, so no one will hear.
First, a confession. I will say this quietly as if no one could hear. Waite’s last book, the lake has no saint, winner of the Tupelo Press Snowbound Series Chapbook Award, left me cold. This coldness—my frigidity—made me sad; I was a fan of her earlier chapbooks, Choke (Thorngate Road, 2004) and Love Poem to Androgyny (Main Street Rag, 2007). I want to be very clear: my dissatisfaction with the lake has no saint was—and is—my limitation as a reader (and ultimately as a writer). Waite bears no responsibility for it; she is a skilled poet: deft, careful, engaging, challenging. Here is one truth: the lake has no saint is more bold, more daring, more innovative on the level of language than I comfortably tolerate as a reader. I am, I must confess, the frumpy lesbian in the back of the bus, carrying postcards, comfortable in my womanhood, talking about revolution. A revolution that is material, not on the page, not in the realm of language. A revolution that brings equality, but does not necessarily recalibrate the entirety of sorority. At the front of the bus are poets like Waite, hip and svelte, fashionable and endearing, politically and rhetorically revolutionary.
Waite’s newest book, Butch Geography, invited me to join her up front. Butch Geography is deeply narrative in its orientation. The structural and linguistic innovation in this collection, while still present, are muted. The poet of Butch Geography tells me a story, quite beautifully. A story that I want to hear; a story I can hear.
Like Waite’s early work, Butch Geography is deeply concerned with questions of gender and sexuality. Woven throughout the collection are sequence poems titled, “Dear Gender” and “On the Occasion of Being Mistaken for a Man by. . . .” The misapprehension of gender comes from umpires, cashiers, waiters, security personnel, pregnant women, and therapists. The catalogue itself highlights the pervasiveness of gendered assumptions in daily life. This pervasiveness of the gendering of our lives, however, is not a discovery. Omnipresent gendering is a basic insight of feminism. The discovery in Waite’s poems that dazzles is how she carefully maps the terrain of what it is like to live on the edges of genders. I use the plural consciously. Waite’s poem challenge singularity. They challenge binaries. Waite brings to life the cracks and crevices of genders in Butch Geography.
Waite also demonstrates the centrality of gender in our lives; she explores and the intimacy and uncertainty of gender. In one of the “Dear Gender” poems, Waite writes, “Dear Gender//When you cry, the moon doesn’t stand a chance./Our faith in you—we don’t lose enough sleep/over it.” Characterizing gender as sad, as crying and possibly mournful, Waite infuses it with new significance as though it were not already significant enough. While gender is so present it seems to disappear like oxygen, Waite tinges it with odor, so that we know we are breathing it in, interrupting the unconscious, or subconscious, embrace of inhalation, exhalation. In “Dear Gender,” Waite concludes by reassuring gender, “you’re going to be all right.” She confides that what she means is:
the heart is the most overworked muscle
in the body, that you won’t drown out there. Forgive
yourself. Write your name in water. I will make you
into God. I will let you answer prayers at last.
Waite’s reconfigures conventional images about love, working with the tropes of the heart, water, and prayer, reminding us how much love is about, and shaped by, gender. It is dazzling.
Waite’s interrogation of gender is informed deeply by her lived experience but also by contemporary science, feminism, and dialogues within LGBTQ communities. In the poem “XY,” for instance, Waite explores the possibility of being “chomosomally mismatched.” Waite says, “The doctor is careful with me, knowing how my being XY makes me a bad example of a woman: an XY woman is an ex-woman, whose blood has been infected by Y—the testosterone an uprising, a fire in her blood.” She then proceeds to imagine the man she could have been. She names him Michael, “after my father, who did not love me.” She says, “Michael is the easier version of me.” Do you see how devastating and difficult and beautiful these poems are?
Near the end of the collection is the poem “Butch Defines Feminism under the Following Conditions.” This poem captures, for me, a wonderful perspective on the ways that gender has changed over the past twenty-five or thirty years, years that correspond, not incidentally, with Waite’s consciousness. She writes in the second stanza,
And what’s so wonderful about equal anyway, or
so equal about wonderful? And moreover,
men are not wonderfully equal nor are they equally
wonderful as I am full, full of sand, full of gender-contraband,
full of what I am, which is, I admit, part man if you
want to look at it that way, which is the only way you can.
This playfulness of language charms me; the way Waite morphs the word equal through the stanza, the carefree, almost throwaway rhyme of sand, band, man, and can. Sonically, this poem sings, but the message—the messiness about feminism and gender and Waite’s fierce unrelenting analysis of it—makes me love the poem. Waite concludes with these lines,
I’ve got feminism between my legs
and she is as fierce and tender as a lover.
I’ve got feminism, but feminism keeps
turning me over on my back in the bathtub,
has me pinned, has me woman-ed.
And this is where the definition begins:
there has to be something in there about rights and dykes,
something in there about eating meat, about dating cheats,
about calling them tits, about getting hit, about the rules
and tools of the patriarch because we hate that arch,
the one above us, as arches usually are, as we walk
through and under, through and under.
I love walking in a world with Stacey Waite, a world that is feminist, a world with butches carefully mapping their geography, singing “the anthem/of those places we’ve always been,” a world that troubles feminist, a world that finds our backs arched as hands move through and under, through and under.
By Stacey Waite
Paperback, 9781936797257, 88 pp.
“Promise?” she whispered.
Her pink t-shirt was pulled up, as was her bra. Her thick black rimmed glasses were almost falling off and her bangs were in her eyes. Her breasts were big, pert, the imprint of the lace of her bra left pink and red patterns on the soft skin. Their eyes locked and she squeezed one breasts hard as her hips swayed. Her eyes were thickly rimmed around with black makeup and the corner of one eye was smeared.
She was straddling his legs as he laid back on the couch. She moved one hand down and grasped his cock again, biting her lip as she played with it.
“I promise, but you’re the one on top,” he said quietly, aware of roommates who might or might not be asleep in nearby bedroom.
“Fuck it’s so hot,” she said, spitting on her hand and then pulling on his cock, letting her wet palm twist around it.
“I just want to rub against it a little, I can’t put it in though,” she said.
She’d told him they couldn’t go all the way. They could do everything but. He’d been fine with that, she was beautiful and funny and smart and they’d kissed on the couch for hours, teasing and grinding against each other as their clothes came of a piece an hour.
He looked down as she pressed his cock against the bottom of his stomach and then pushed herself up so she was sitting on it. His cock was laying just in-between the lips of her pussy as she moved up and down, grinding her clit against his hardness. He could see the pink lips slipping against the shaft and the white skin of her tan lined crotch contrasting the tan of her thighs and the bright pink of her thigh high socks.
The sight was almost too much. After she rubbed twice against him, he could feel her wetness making their parts slick against each other. Her breath caught when that happened and she leaned down, unable to sit up anymore, as she continued move against him.
Her breasts swung slowly and so he sat up enough to lean over and lick at one nipple. She let out a moan, her nipples being far more sensitive that most women he knew. As he sucked on it she ground down hard on his cock.
A few times, when she leaned back a bit it almost felt like he was going to slip into her, but she always moved back.
“I think I can come like this,” she said, her eyes far away as she moved.
He thought he might be able to too, but he didn’t think that was in the rules. He’d have to move her off him if he felt like he was getting close.
She leaned down and kissed him on the lips, her hips moving faster. Her glasses fell off and clattered to the floor somewhere.
Then, suddenly, some angle changed and the head of his cock slipped in. He gasped and she froze. She just hovered there, breathing hard.
“Bad, bad,” she whispered to herself and moved enough so that he popped back out.
Then she was rubbing again, a little harder, short motions forward and back. He could feel her hard clit on the shaft of his cock and his whole body was mourning the feeling of slipping into her tightness.
“So close,” she said moving faster again.
He felt like the wetness almost doubled as she slipped against him and then she let out a yelp as she moved and his cock slipped in again, this time almost all the way. She groaned and grunted in frustration, but she didn’t move off of him, his cock was still inside.
“We’re not supposed to,” she whined, her hands on his chest almost pushing herself off of his cock, but then sinking down a little lower.
“Oh fuck,” he groaned, the feeling of her soaked pussy tight around him after so much friction making his whole body tighten.
“It’s so hard,” she said pushing down until his whole cock was inside of her.
“We should stop,” he whispered, desperately wanting to fuck her.
“Yeah, it’s bad,” she said moving up and then down on his cock.
“We’re not supposed to,” he gasped, as his hands moved to her hips.
“We’re not-oh fuck-allowed,” she said starting to just ride his cock all the way.
He pulled her down on it by her hips and she pushed herself back up pressing her hands against his chest. She was so wet they could both hear the slick sounds of their fucking.
“I’ll stop, just-in one second,” she whined.
“Yeah, we should,” he said, suddenly thrusting his hips up and grabbing her hips tight.
“Please, please fuck me,” she said, kissing him again, her breasts pressing against his chest and her arms slipping around him.
They rolled over on the couch, most of the cushions falling off. Then she was on her back, her legs open wide and he was driving into her.
“Hit me,” she said between moans.
Their eyes locked again as he fucked her hard and then taking her face in one hand slapping her hard across the cheek with the other. Then he moved his hand behind her head and took her hair in his fist and drove into her harder while he kissed her.
She was gone then, her eyes unfocused and her pussy tightening around him so hard it hurt.
“Coming-” she mumbled along with a string of incoherent sounds.
He let her come, feeling his own orgasm almost there, but waiting, waiting as the white hot pressure built.
“I’m-” he started and pulled away from her, but she wouldn’t let him. Her legs wrapped around his waist and her hands around his torso.
“No, I’m going to-” he tried but she was moving her hips, pushing his deep inside of her.
“You better not come inside me,” she whispered, a dark smile on her lips.
When he came his body was trapped and confused and he felt her tighten round him as he cock shot come into her again and again and he shouted and grabbed at the couch, slamming into her until his muscles were sore and gave out.
Somehow they were on the floor, wet and sweaty, his cock still inside of her.
“That was bad,” she whispered.
“So bad,” he agreed.
“Horrible,” she giggled.
“Dirty and forbidden,” he said moving again, his cock starting to harden once more.
“We’re not supposed to fuck, it’s forbidden,” she whispered, moving her hips against him.
“You did it,” he laughed.
“You came inside me!” she said with a smile, slapping his chest.
“I know, it’s all slippery now,” he said, starting to thrust harder.
“Do it again,” she said closing her eyes.
Eventually he did. Then they ate ice cream and tried to figure out something else to make forbidden.
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.
John Irving, Joan Didion, David Byrne, Rem Koolhaas, Madeleine Albright, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Dennett, Andrew Sullivan, Ed Ruscha, Brian Eno, and more.
Since 2005, the LIVE from the NYPL program masterminded and anchored by intellectual impresario Paul Holdengräber — one of the most interesting people to ever encounter, should you be so fortunate — has transformed the New York Public Library into a wonderland of stimulating conversations on literature and life with some of today’s most celebrated writers, scientists, artists, philosophers, musicians, and other luminaries. Among Holdengräber’s signature touches are the 7-word autobiographies he asks each of his prominent guests to provide, to be read as he introduces them. Here is a selection of the best such personal micro-biographies — the literal, the abstract, the sarcastic, the poetic — from the entire run of the series so far:
Tom Wolfe at LIVE from the NYPL, November 2012 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Tom Wolfe drops some delightful vintage lingo:
Ace daddy, gym rat, Balzolan reporter, Ph.D.
Cheryl Strayed at LIVE from the NYPL, October 2012 (Photograph by Sarah Stacke courtesy NYPL)
The magnificent Cheryl Strayed, whose Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar was among the best psychology and philosophy books of 2012 and is one of the best existential favors one can do oneself, goes for truth-by-way-of-its-opposite, offering “seven words that won’t define [her]“:
Philosopher, professor, author, sailor, New Atheist
Jim Holt, whose Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story remains indispensable and who has previously shared some mind-bending insight on the nature of “nothing”:
Failed mathematician who happily declined into journalism.
David Byrne at LIVE from the NYPL, December 2012 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
David Byrne, who knows a thing or two about how music and creativity work, appears blissfully oblivious to the 7-word-limit brief:
unfinished, unprocessed, uncertain, unknown, unadorned, underarms, underpants, unfrozen, unsettled, unfussy
Daniel Kahneman in conversation with Nassim Taleb at LIVE from the NYPL, February 2013 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Daniel Kahneman, whose Thinking, Fast and Slow is one of the most insightful psychology books in recent history, compensates for Byrne’s excess with his own sub-quota answer:
Endlessly amused by people’s minds
Brian Eno at LIVE from the NYPL, November 2011 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Brian Eno, sage of timeless insight on art:
I like making and thinking about culture.
Andrew Solomon in conversation with Paul Holdengräber and Krista Tippett at LIVE from the NYPL, March 2010 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Andrew Solomon, whose meditation on horizontal vs. vertical identity and the power of love is a soul-stirring must-read, goes for something his mother used to say to him:
Good listeners: more interesting than good talkers.
Paul Holdengräber, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Rem Koolhaas at LIVE from the NYPL, March 2012 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Hans Ulrich Obrist, legendary curator and art instigator:
Protest against forgetting
Malcolm Gladwell, overlord of the contrarian:
Father said: “Anything but journalism.” I rebelled.
William Gibson in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at LIVE from the NYPL, April 2013 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Postwar. Cold War. Stop the War. Later.
Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at LIVE from the NYPL, May 2011 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Elizabeth Gilbert playfully riffs off the title of her modern classic:
Eats/Loves too much…should Pray more.
Ed Ruscha in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at LIVE from the NYPL, March 2013 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Ed Ruscha, who does indeed have a soft spot for sign painting:
Rufus Wainwright with Lucinda Childs at LIVE from the NYPL, September 2011 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Rufus Wainwright, music god, rebels against humility with his characteristic charming irreverence:
According to Elton John world’s greatest singer-songwriter
Sherry Turkle in conversation with Steven Johnson at LIVE from the NYPL, October 2012 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Sherry Turkle stays true to her technodystopia:
Technology doesn’t just change what we do; it changes who we are.
Errol Morris in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at LIVE from the NYPL, November 2011 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
autodidact, necrophile, voyeur, filmmaker, opinionated writer, father
Don DeLillo at LIVE from the NYPL, October 2012 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Don DeLillo, who also abides by a rigorous writing routine, goes for a beautiful format:
why he is here.
Madeleine Albright echoes Helen Keller:
Optimist who worries a lot; Grateful American
John Irving at LIVE from the NYPL, January 2013 (Photograph courtesy NYPL)
John Irving, crusader against censorship, employs a strategic semicolon:
Imagined missing father; wrestled, wrote, fathered children.
Irving was apparently so delighted by the exercise that he took the liberty of writing a few more seven-word bios for other notables:
FOR DICKENS (THE WRITER):
Had many kids; wrote about unhappy childhoods.
FOR THE OTHER DICKENS, MY DOG:
Best dog ever — she had a family.
AND THOMAS HARDY:
Fate, the universe driver; stopped writing for idiots.
NATURALLY, I COULDN’T RESIST MELVILLE:
More than a postal worker; knew whales, too.
Edmund de Waal in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at LIVE from the NYPL, October 2011 (Photograph by Jori Klein courtesy NYPL)
Edmund de Waal has some fun with it:
Actually, I still make pots you know.
Rem Koolhaas stays true to form:
Mystic rational sober baroque patient immediate
Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan in conversation at LIVE from the NYPL
Andrew Sullivan, who is one of the living reasons to love the internet and whose decades-long advocacy has been critical in the historic attainment of marriage equality, follows Strayed’s suit with anti-descriptive sarcasm:
French, straight, single, Anglican, diabetic, illiterate, slut.
Then comes Dan Savage, whose own tireless advocacy can’t be overstated:
asshole, blond, slut, shy, sunny, father, husband.
Anish Kapoor offers what’s arguably the most beautiful, in sheer poetics of language, answer:
As if to celebrate I discovered a mountain
Joan Didion at LIVE from the NYPL, November 2012 (Photograph courtesy NYPL)
Seven words do not yet define me.
Paul Holdengräber (Photograph by Jocelyn Chase)
And, of course, this omnibus wouldn’t be complete without Holdengräber’s own 7-word autobiography, as pointedly brilliant as the man:
Mother always said: Two ears, one mouth.
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As a result of the fallout from Abiola Abrams most excellent column that dealt with non-consensual race play – in which I was quoted – I was contacted by The Grio, which is a pretty big deal news outlet geared towards African-Americans. Or Blacks. Whichever you prefer. I’m all for brevity and I like saying ”BLACK!” so I opt for the latter.
But I digress.
So, The Grio is seeing this huge blowup about this column, they see me being all “No, you guys, sometimes it is OK.” And so they were all “So, race play. Tell us about that.”
OK. I’ll try. Again
I wrote as well as I could, and I doubt the’ll run my replies unedited. In the interest of journalistic integrity and shit, I’m posting the whole of what I wrote so that, if something is lost in translation, (or oft-necessary brutal editorial brutality) there will be a record of all I shared.
1.In a recent Essence relationship column, a black woman who married a white man was shocked to find that her husband liked to use racial slurs during sex. Many users in comments about the piece have commented that “race play” is actually a common form of sexual expression among people interested in exploring fantasies. Can you explain to our audience what that is?
While there is no one set definition, for the purposes of discussion and when I conduct lectures on the topic, I describe it as follows:
“Race Play” is a form of consensual sexual role-playing in which the actual, perceived or assumed racial / ethnic / national identities of the participants is specifically the focus of the scene. Race play can include the fetishization of a specific racial feature, (skin color, hair texture, facial features, etc.) it might incorporate an assumption of supremacy based on race, and it sometimes even delves into troubling aspects of bigotry and privilege manifested in base racial slurs and exploitative scenarios.
There is often an assumption that the “dominant culture” is always the one taking the “oppressor” role in race play scenarios. That simply isn’t true. Anyone can be the aggressor, and some race play scenarios are heady “revenge fantasies” against the institutionally advantaged, privileged individual. Race play can run the gamut from subtle to horrific. A scene could be something as subtle as people of the same ethnicity engaging in a teasing one-upmanship because the other is “lighter / darker” and incorporate the conflict of intraracial politics. It could be as horrific as re-creating the interrogation of an Iraqi prisoner by a racist US Marine Corps officer that then turns to an explicitly sexual scenario. Truth is, these fantasies might or might not be fodder for our day-to-day fantasies. Most of us have, at some time or another, had a thought – even if it is fleeting and quickly quashed – about a sexual desire that is disturbing or unsettling. Those who choose to engage in consensual sex that explores taboo scenarios will, sometimes, choose to plumb the depths of these fantasies in order to titillate, to explore, and to see how they react in high-stakes situations. I’ve discovered some truths about myself I might not have encountered had I not chosen to explore these types of scenes. I’ve seen where I am able to be strong, and seen where my spirit was bruised. I’ve re-created scenarios from my life and experienced, and “flipped the script” so as to gain some measure of closure. Racism and bigotry and the pain they engender are real. But now often do we have the ironic opportunity to consent to and control our own pain? I have discovered that consenting to small amounts of pain and abuse and suffering is like an inoculation of my soul against the pandemic of hatred. That controlled dose can be a spiritual inoculation: I emerge from these journeys with a newfound faith in my own strength, a new sense of resilience and powerful resolve.
2. The letter makes it clear that the woman is not happy that her husband uses slurs during sex. How did it happen that they married without her knowing that he might have this sexual interest? Can you discuss the need for openness and clarity between all couples regarding sexual matters? Do you think this is even more important for interracial couples?
In the letter, the author indicates the proposal happened within six months of the relationship beginning. That is a very rapid turnaround for a lifetime commitment. It begs the question if they even engaged in sexual activity before they married. If they chose to wait until they married to have sex, the fact is his desire to participate in racial humiliation likely wouldn’t have come up in casual conversation. If one is going to wait until marriage to have sex, I feel it is exceedingly critical to have many frank talks about your needs, wants and desires. Sexual compatibility is a critical function in a marriage for most people, and having a surprise as disturbing as this obviously is to the author is one reason people who choose premarital abstinence may opt for extended engagements so that these issues can be explored. If it was the case that they did engage in premarital sex, it might be that he was holding back this particular facet of his desires because he was reluctant to “scare her off.”
If you are committing to spend the rest of your life with someone, honest and open communication about your sexuality is something to ignore at your own peril – and the peril of your relationship. Some folks wish for sexual contact every day of the week. For others, once a month is fine. Both of those levels of frequency are reasonable. But put those two people in a marriage and suddenly the do-it-once-a-month person becomes a frigid prude and the do-it-every-day person becomes a wanton slut. Those things aren’t true, but perception and desire absolutely need to be aligned in order to have a successful sex life.
As a kinky person, I have learned to take a deep breath and explain as much as I can about my desires when first getting to know a potential partner. People who are involved in BDSM routinely and frequently negotiate “scenes:” which are encounters that can include all sorts of kinky sex. We take in stride the discussion of “Yesses” and ‘No’s’ and boundaries and limits to what we will and will not do. Though it can be awkward, it helps to minimize the risk of mismatched intentions and desires. This would be a great tactic for non-kink identified people to embrace! Talk it out. If you are too shy to talk, write an e-mail. But get it out there.
Interracial couples are often coming from divergent backgrounds when it comes to traditions of dating and mating. When I was younger and beginning to explore my sexuality, I remember some distinctly racial and cultural divides between my friends when it came to sex. Most of my Black girlfriends though oral sex was “nasty” and “dirty” and something freaky white folks did, while my white girlfriends saw it as a great way to get off without risking pregnancy. Talking about your sexuality not only in terms of your personal experiences, but also within the framework of your racial and cultural experience can open up whole new realms of communication that can engage mutual compassion and expanded understanding. Traditional gender roles, the use of sexual aggression, and the role of sex within a relationship are things that can have distinctly different flavors depending on one’s culture, ethnicity and heritage. Sharing on that level can foster understanding and minimize damaging missteps.
3. Many readers and commenters on this letter have stated that there is no way a white man who says these types of things to his black female partner can really love or respect her. In your experience, is this truly the case? Can you explain to readers that it is possible for love and mutual respect to co-exist in a relationship in with race play is desired by both parties?
Love and respect is not guaranteed by avoiding certain modes of speech, nor is it obviated by the presence of seemingly hateful speech. One of the most remarkable things I have found about exploring uncomfortable sexual fantasies is that it takes an enormous amount of trust, love and respect simply to share these fantasies. MOST people will never explore them, because of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of seeming abusive, fear of seeming emotionally damaged, fear of losing their partner. By acknowledging, sharing and exploring these deeply taboo desires, we trust each other to listen, to take an enormous risk, and to “go there.” When partners consensually, mutually agree to wade into these deep waters, they are trusting that the other does truly desire this activity, and that they will be respected on the other side of that intense journey. The person taking on the “oppressor” role is not exempt of risk. A white person coming at their Black partner with racial slurs without mutual negotiation, consent, and ongoing assent risks, at the very least, alienating their partner in a way that is potentially irreversible. I contend that it takes a fearless heart to manifest these fearsome desires. Respect also means respecting the difficult and complex reality of our sexual desires. When I respect my desires enough to share them with a partner, and they respect me enough to risk massive emotional fallout in the name of mutual sexual gratification, the resultant explorations can lead to unsurpassed intimacy.
I cannot stress enough the absolute need for consent on ALL sides of this equation. Without consent, without a strong affirmative from ALL involved parties, this moves from the realm of edgy role-play to abuse. Straight up, end of story, no compromise. Love and respect can look like a hug and a kiss, a bow and a curtsy, or inescapable bondage and brutal words. What is vital – what is real – is the love and consent and respect that embraces ALL of who we are, not just the easy parts.
Mo here, talking about being (mostly) mono in a poly world. And by “poly world” I mean the BDSM community as I experience it.
I’ve been around a while, and I am not a shrinking violet when it comes to hopping around the country chilling with my Leather and Kinky and Sex Positive and Freaky Peeps. And due to this, many assume I play all the time, everywhere.
This is not the case.
I don’t have people banging down my door. This is just the fact. Why? Lots of reasons I suppose. But since I’m in a bit of a gutwrenching funk, I’ll focus on the one contributing factor I can process without it becoming a festival of self-deprecation.
I’m pretty monogamous. Not entirely. Certainly not by the standards of broader society and not even by the standards of some other kinky monogamous people. But at my core, I really have only room for one in my heart’s harbor. I can’t have an octopusesque emotional USB hub and have network multiple people, it overloads me and it is unlikely I’ll do that to myself again. I get Very. Intense. In relationships and that paradigm does not work well for me. In fact I prefer to use the term monoamorous, since it tracks better alongside polyamory, and is more descriptive of my heart’s tendency to wish to bond and love one, but does not imply that the one heart-bond is exclusive of other affectionate bonds.
But this makes me a bit of a unicorn amongs the Confederacy of Perverts. Along about the time I became actively involved in the public BDSM community, back in 1996, there seemed a movement afoot that really embraced an open and polyamorous paradigm in kink. Most dominants had multiple submissive partners. Dominant women were NEVER short of willing supplicants, and het male tops usually had solar systems of partners…maybe a spouse, a lover, a sub, two slaves…whatever suited the dominant’s needs and made them comfortable.
For some, this works!
For some, it HAS to work.
I can say that, from personal experience and from speaking with many people over the years, this arrangement was often one they entered out of emotional necessity, or out of adoration and love for the dominant involved, or out of fear of being alone. If someone you love is poly, it is often the case you will “go there” to see if it can work.
I heartily advocate this approach. Why? Because sometimes you need to have the experience to know for certain.
I’ve done non-monogamy since the age of 16. I’ve done non-monogamy in my BDSM relationships and furthermore, none of the people I’ve served or any of regular play partners have been monogamous types.
Years ago, ago, I evoked hearty gales of laughter when I stood at a local Munch…one I’d attended for over 10 years…and introduced myself as being monogamous. This was not because this was a major departure for me…I have never stood and introduced myself as poly. Being in poly relationships does not a poly identification make. No, the laughter was because, to many people, it is “funny” to hear someone proclaim monogamy.
Being a single monoamorous female submissive is not. Fucking Easy.
Not for me, anyway.
See, here is the thing:
There are plenty of people…awesome people…awesome people in relationships…who want to play with me. So, yes, in a way, I have access to lots of wonderful people I love, who are happy to fuck me up. And I appreciate them, and sometimes, on a good day, I’ll go there and have a spectacular scene.
But a scene is only an hour or two.
And I have to go home alone. THAT is where the problem kicks in. I don’t have anyone with whom I can unpack the emotional aftermath, to cuddle days later if something comes up. When I play with someone already in relationship, I’m an adjunct, an afterthought, the cherry on top the icing on the cake, the gravy on the turkey. I’m not the essence, the meat, the focus. If they don’t play with me, no biggie. They have [x] other play partners, and their primary / secondary / partner(s) / whatever to whom they go Home.
I do occasionally get over myself enough to ask people to play. And I like to play with people I know. And yes, I’m selective. But when I ask, and then have to be slotted within the comfort levels of a primary, or shuttled between 3 other playdates, or blown off because they top is tired after 3 other scenes, I am sure as fuck not feeling like an awesome rock star. I feel expendable, and I really feel how much my position engenders vulnerability. For me that is taxing. And often, it just isn’t worth the price.
I go through cycles.
And often, the cycle means I’ll wind down and only play in situations where the expectations are crystal fucking clear for me. Like when traveling, at cons and events where I am already in the mode to not fully “Let go,” because there isn’t the time or bandwidth.
As a single person, playing with poly people means I will never be as important to their core “need” set as they potentially could be to mine. That inequity can only float me so far. Even in relationships where we have carefully structured guidelines for insuring emotional needs are met, those prioritization techniques will not work if all parties involved don’t feel the same sense of urgency over loss. If I am engaged with a poly person who has other relationships, their sense of urgency and investment is dissipated over several other people they love, whereas I have my heart and soul focused solely on them. As much as some people eschew the “hierarchical” model of non-monogamy, I know how different it is to be the central love, the heart, the home of my partner versus being the secondary option or the occasional indulgence.
Mark Twain said ““Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” And in my experience, I have yet to be in a relationship situation where I was the “option” and felt fully valued, appreciated, and important. In fact, even in casual play situations, people who aren’t monogamous and have many options available to them are disinclined to prioritize me. What USUALLY happens is that everyone “leaves it open” and “doesn’t want to commit” for fear of letting someone down. SO one has to hope the magic Pervfaries make everything right and perfect. And when that doesn’t happen, as is often true, we all have to smile graciously and say “Well, they never PROMISED it would happen, so no harm, no foul.”
But it does harm, in tiny ways. Micrometeors hitting my emotional forcefield, leaving my worldview pitted and a little milky. If you have 4 people to choose from, and you hit 3 out of 4, you’re doing great! But if you are that last one…the #4… left untouched at the end of the night…it sucks. Sucks balls. I’m going to bed alone, unbruised, and not feeling very well taken care of. You’re going to bed tired from all the scenes you did…without. Me.
Is this anyone’s fault? Nope. Does it make poly people evil? Nope. It means that as a monoamorous person in a predominately poly community, I’m on Polyfolks turf and I have to suck it up. And hey, there’s gotta be other monogamists out there, right? And if there are, I’m well positioned to meet them. I am about as “out there” as one can be, so no one could accuse me of “hiding my light under as bushel.”
But being that “out” has its own risks and pitfalls.
There is a uniquely horrid sensation to feeling trapped in my own accomplishments, in my own work. I wish I could get past the feeling of being caught within a shiny glass ball, beating my hands bruised and bloody as I try to explain I’m shy, I’m lonely, I feel broken, damaged…the confidence, the certainty, the glow the warmth the whatteverthefuck you THINK you see is there because it is me but ALSO there is the me who stares wildly and screams inside because, after all of these years, she hasn’t met the person she loves who loves her back and who was satisfied to be with her. She isn’t ever enough. They always need someone else. All she wants is to have someone she loves and respects look to her and feel the certainty that there isn’t anyone who they’d want to be with right now except for her.
The human condition I suppose. This doesn’t make me unique…not by a longshot.
The flip side? I wouldn’t change who I am for anything. It is unimaginable to me that I’d give up anything about my life now. And if the price I have to pay is the occasional howl into the Screaming Dark Place, so be it. I’ll walk with my Bad Voice; I’ll sit with that self-doubt until it fades. I know it will: it has faded considerably since I decided to live, and not die, and March 14th, 2007 marks the demarcation of that window.
But sometimes…? I really really wish what I wanted was what the majority of my kinky peers want. I take a deep breath and hope to meet the Owner who can see themselves accepting my service and offering their dominance and sees themselves pleased to have our relationship be our focus – to relish the work and the play and who has a heart uplifted and a mind resolved to focus on ownership, as my heart is opened and my mind energised by slavery.
As someone who is submissive, not only in terms of power-exchange relationships but also quite sexually submissive, I field a lot of questions about what that means.
“So, do you just, like, lie there?”
“You don’t care what happens to you in bed?”
“Will you just do whatever they tell you?”
“I assume you have to be spineless to be a sub.”
“Awesome. I command you to suck my dick.”
Well. No, No, Maybe, hell no, and after you suck mine.
One of the things that get me going on rants is the assumption that so many people make that submission is tantamount to cowering in corners, waiting to be used and abused. There is an insane amount of energy, drive, will and desire that it takes to submit successfully. And by successfully, I mean to the mutual satisfaction of all involved. Because yes, submissives and slaves and bottoms need to have their needs met, too. And for some of us, one of the hottest ways we have our needs met is by providing pleasure to others, facilitating ease in their lives.
The first connection I made with how aroused I became as a result of serving someone else was an interesting by-product of a rather passionate affair I had many years ago. Interestingly, after a rather earth-shattering first meeting with a man who had a certain … something … that wound up disabling my not insubstantial defenses, and after a rather exhilarating, dangerous, edgy, deeply erotically brutal encounter, I had an unsettling epiphany. All I wanted to do was keep him happy. Bring him coffee, get his dry cleaning, buy his cigarettes (after taking note of what brand he smoked) draw his bath, find a restaurant I thought he would enjoy … anything to have him pleased with the job I’d done. And the more I did for him, the more irresistible he found me, and the dynamic fed on itself, a sexual weather system that exploded in gorgeous thunderstorms of intense passion and lustful liaisons. And when he told me how hard he got, how much he wanted to fuck me, and exactly how he was going to do it, and assured me that I was the cause of all of the delicious torments that were about to be inflicted upon my quivering, sweaty willing flesh? Well…well.
This initial experience was enough to turn my head towards a path of submission and service that I continue to walk this day.
When I was first exploring my submissive self, I assumed that deducing and doing whatever the dominant wanted me to do would be fulfilling enough, and I would be pleased by that and that alone. This is an ideal that some people hold holy: the selfless slave, the doting submissive who only needs the sustenance of knowing they did a good job to be satisfied. That affection, feedback, love and attention from the dominant is a “gift” that may be given at the whim of the dominant, and that they are not entitled to those bits of emotional nourishment. I have learned the hard way that a diet of emotional crumbs leads to spiritual starvation. There are absolutely things I need, as a submissive, as a slave, as a human in bondage, to thrive in my desired role. And that is part of what makes me who I am. It is not just me putting everything I am on the table that makes these connections erotic and beautiful and edgy and vital.
So. What about submitting, what about service, what about taking a thorough flogging, what about menial chores, what about being useful, is sexy? Why is it eroticized? What makes it hot?
In a word? Passion.
The first time I looked into the eyes of someone who was using me with a seeming disregard for my own satisfaction, saw the heat and fire in the eyes of my lover as they took what they wanted from me and effortlessly bent me to their will, when I saw how ferociously and almost dangerously aroused they became? That passion pulled me abruptly from the realm of what I had known about sex into a new place. I was rather shocked to experience the oxymoron of feeling closer to the person who was causing me intense erotic pain than I had to previous lovers who had been gentle and circumspect in their lovemaking. This realization – that the brutal edge of passion was intensely erotic and profoundly compelling to me, drove me to question many things. My sanity, first! But then what the root of that desire was. And then to question how I could have more, and more, of that energy in my life.
As I become involved in the Leather, kink and BDSM communities, I realized that that passion came in so many more flavors than even I could have imagined. The first time I was to do a rope bondage scene, I thought it would be quite tedious. It was anything but. I wrote a bit about my love for rope and how it evolved and certainly the intense desire that my partner had to see me bound and helpless fueled my own passion.
I have had other play partners for whom a very different a type of play ignites their own fires. And I have discovered that, for me, asking a new play partner “Where do you want to go today?” is the best way for me to serve them and, in turn, serve myself. It can seem an evasive technique to answer a query of “What do you want to do?” with “Well, tell me what you find hot, what draws you in, what it is that made you decide to jump into the is dark world.” But in fact, I learn so much. The dominant whose eye light up as they talk about scenes where their partner is squirming in embarrassment, the top who eagerly shows off an impressive selection of canes, the switch who loves nothing more than pony play because they know what it is like from both sides of the bridle, the master who is dedicated to their path of mastery and seeks their partner, their counterpart, in whom they will manifest themselves and invest their love, time and energy…all of them are now engaging in foreplay with me. Yep, foreplay. Because I am certainly turned the hell on listening to what turns other people on. And if I am interested in playing with you, I certainly need to know what pleases you most. What gets you hot the fastest, what you think about when making yourself come…over and over…in the dead of night when you are playing the film of your darkest dirtiest hottest fantasies in the private theater of your own mind.
The passion doesn’t have to be for a specific type of play in order to get me hot. Someone keenly attracted to me is more likely to pique my interest than someone who does not demonstrate an intense desire to get into my pants. If I am interacting with someone, and I don’t feel a particular spark, I can promise you that I will take a second look at that person if they manage to frankly express a sincere expression of the fact that they find me desirable. The people I recall with the most passion (and when I say “recall” I mean “masturbate furiously while recalling”) are those who were the most flagrant in their lasciviousness. From the ex-boyfriend who reveled in my fat belly and became immediately hard when I took off my shirt to the lover who agonized for several long moments trying to decide to come in my cunt or in my mouth (“Both are so, so sweet, baby, I can’t decide…” he whispered) their expressions of lust for me were hypnotic and irresistible. Passionate lust is sexy as hell. Wanting me…wanting to do bad things to me, and telling me so, wanting to possess me, use me, consume me, with ferocity and delight is an aphrodisiac like no other.
Desire is sexy. Lust is hot. Once I know what you crave the most, when you tell me you want me, and I have absorbed some of your joy and delight in these things, in me, I have a handle on how to do what turns me on the most: be aware, open, present, aroused and rarin’ to go and do what it takes to bring that fantasy to form. And I know this is true for people all over the spectrum of kink. Dominant, submissive, switch, top, bottom or just a kinky motherfucker? We ALL love feeling desirable, feeling wanted, feeling like the center of the universe for our partner. Regardless if it is for a fleeting few hours of play, a quickie in a borrowed bed, or a lifetime committed relationship: bringing the rawness of passion to the fore can move a quotidian encounter into the realm of heroic hedonism that will leave an impression that will not soon fade.
"Did I say you could get so wet?" I felt spit fly off my lips when I said it. We’d been wrestling. Chasing each other around the house. I’d finally caught her in the living room and shoved her ass onto the tiny couch. Her forehead was under my hand. Her head pressed against the wall. She was wearing shorts and I’d shoved my thumb under the fabric to feel her pussy. Wet. She was very wet. I gripped her soaked panties. My hand jammed between her legs. I squeezed her pussy. She winced. She shook her head quickly back and forth and mouthed her answer to me, "No," but the sound of her words never came out. She was breathing in, not out. She was sucking the word inside her, "No. No. No. No. No." Her eyes were squeezed shut and big, wet tears bloomed on her eyelashes. "No," I said calmly, "No, I didn’t. You’re right. You better go clean yourself up." She was panting so rapidly that I felt real concern. I’d been playing with her like a cat with a mouse. Catching her, being cruel for a moment, letting her go again. These were the first tears. And now she was panting. When she opened her eyes to look at me, they were open so wide. Shock.
I shoved her pussy away from me and walked out of the bedroom to go make myself another drink. I listened to the water running in the bathroom. “Wash your pussy for me,” I thought, “Pat yourself dry and we’ll begin again.” The ice cubes rattled in my glass as I carried it over to the bar. I poured a double. Whiskey. I let it roll around in my mouth. Imagined the taste of it on her tongue. I closed my eyes and remembered the night before with her dirty martini and my bourbon and the cigarette we passed back and forth before sucking on each other’s tongues for nearly half an hour. I’ve never wanted to make out with a girl for so long before. I could suck on her mouth for days.
I thought I heard her sobbing in the bathroom. I whispered to myself, “Take your time, baby. Get it together.” She’s so good. She’s so damn good. She gets wet so easily. She comes so hard. I needed her to be good tonight. I needed to show her what I wanted. I needed to fuck her just the way I liked it.
"Are you done in there yet?" I yelled. I pressed myself against the bathroom door, pushing against it. I put my lips up against the wood and whispered to her, "I want you back out here. There’s more to do." She opened the door and I turned away from her. I sat down on the little couch, letting my knees fall open wide. "What do I want?" I asked. She looked at me. She got down on her knees and reached her hand to my shirt buttons. I slapped her away. Her fingers moved to my belt buckle. I slapped her away again. She leaned back and cocked her head, staring at me, trying to figure me out. I looked back at her with no expression, silent. She grabbed the low cut v neck on her shirt and yanked it down along with her bra, exposing her tits for me. I nodded at her and parted my lips, "Uh huh." She rubbed her nipples with her flat palms, her fingers held stiff. She pulled her fingers slowly across her flesh and flicked at the soft curves, stiffening her nipples, reacting to the sharp feeling. I grabbed my crotch and tugged at my jeans. My cunt felt her, wanted her now. Her eyes darted down to my belt.
She tugged at the waist of my jeans. “No,” I said, “You can’t take anything off.” Her eyed darted up to me, flashing annoyance, but she nodded. She pulled on the backs of my knees and slid me to the edge of my chair. She rubbed hard in the hollow of my hips with her thumbs, pushing my legs wider apart. She buried her face between my legs and I felt her hot breath come through my jeans. “Jesus,” I whispered, caught off guard. She was eating my pussy through my jeans. I could feel everything. Her teeth pulled on me. She was letting her spit soak through. Her wet mouth met my suddenly very wet cunt through the layers of fabric. I gripped the arms of this tiny, rickety couch, “Holy fuck,” I let out. I wasn’t expecting her to turn the tables like this. I wasn’t ready, but Jesus she felt so good on me. I forgot everything for a minute. Just for a minute. I felt my pussy opening for her and I snapped back to my plan. I needed her to be mine tonight.
I grabbed her throat and stood up, pulling her off her knees and onto the couch. I gripped her throat tight, her hands flew up to my arm and pulled but I kept my grip tight. She stared into my eyes. That look. That wet, wide-eyed look that says in a shaky little voice, “I trust you right now. I trust you.” I stared at her. I was breathing hard. I felt sweat on my face. I pressed my forehead against hers and stared. Both our faces were wet with sweat. “I’m going to take care of you, baby,” I said to her, “I’m right here. Right here, tonight.” She nodded and turned her head a little to the side. I kept my forehead pressed against her, now on her temple and her damp hair. “I need you to do something for me now,” I said, “Put your hands behind your neck and lace your fingers together.” I waited for her hands to move into place. “Okay,” I said, “Like that. Can you be still for me?” She nodded. I didn’t hear any sound from her. I stood up and waited for a minute, watching her sit still, watching her hold herself stiff for me. “I’ll be back.” I said, walking away.
In her bathroom, I took my jeans off and buckled on my largest cock. She normally wants just one finger inside her. I’m not cruel. I don’t what possessed me, but somehow I wanted a big dick inside her tonight. My biggest. Maybe I got mean because we were so sweet together. Maybe I needed to know something more. I wanted to fuck like that. Pushing each other. We’d spent all day, all day playing. Sucking on each other. Napping. I’d spent hours with my face in her pussy. She can come again and again and again a thousand times with no stopping. I’d dreamed of this woman before I knew her. I fuck her like I know. She fucks me… well, I can’t even say it. Not yet. That comes later. That’s a different story. But I’ll tell you that I let her hold me in her lap and undress me like a girl. I let her finger me and suck me and fuck me all night. I let her watch me stretch long, my back curved off the bed. I let her see me buck in a bleary haze. I don’t know what she sees exactly, but she sees me come.
I pulled my jeans back up and held my cock in my hand. I went back to her. Her hands were in place. Her eyes were open but looking down to her lap. I gripped her cheeks and pressed my thumb and fingers into her flesh. “Look at me,” I said. She did. “Slide your hands up above your head. Keep them against the wall.” She did that too. I pulled her shirt over her head and off. I unhooked her bra and threw it on the floor. I pulled her boots off and let them drop with a thud onto the hardwood. I snatched at her shorts and panties and jerked them both down to her ankles, leaving them there for her to kick away. I looked up. Her hands were still above her head against the plaster. “Good,” I whispered. I gripped both her wrists in one hand and gripped her cheeks again in the other. “I want to fuck you so deep tonight,” I said. I pressed the cock up against her pussy. I pushed the tip inside her, not yet wet enough. She made a tiny, pained sound. She stared at me. Sweetly, so sweetly, she asked “Do you want to hurt me?” I answered “No,” out of habit and kissed her mouth hard. I pushed against her and heard her the sound of her head rubbing hard on the wall. Then I looked at her. “No. I do,” I said, “I do want to hurt you. I want you to feel this. I do. This might hurt.”
She nodded at me. Serious. “Okay,” she said. It sounded funny, that okay, but it was just right. “I want you to fuck me the way you want,” she said. Her cheeks blushed a deep crimson as she spoke. “I want you to show me how you like it,” she whispered. It was like a starter gun had been fired next to us. I slapped her face hard. Once, twice, again. I kept slapping her. I’d slap her. Stop. Stare at her. She’d nod. And I’d slap her again. After a dozen or so hard slaps, I reached down to my cock and held it up against her pussy again. I shoved her shoulders back. I gripped her neck. I shoved her in these tiny ways that made her jerk and stutter. I knelt down into a squat and slid the tip of my cock deeper inside her and back out. I spat in my hand several times and rubbed it on my cock before moving inside her again. Just the tip. Just the head. Her face registered the girth. We’d have to move off the couch to fuck. But I wanted her to feel this right now. I wanted her unsure.
I grabbed the back of her neck and lifted her up. She pulled on me as she stood, her hands climbed me like a ladder. With her hands on my shoulders, I dragged her over to the bed and shoved her across it face down. I grabbed the lube and poured a sizable amount into my hand. I rubbed her pussy and my cock and wiped my hand on my thigh. I held my cock between her legs. “You’re going to have to come to me,” I said. She fell back onto her knees and rubbed me up and down. I saw her legs shake. I pet her back. We were slow right now. Soft. Easing our way into it. “I don’t know if I can do this,” she said, “I’ve always had a small pussy. But I want it. I do want it.” I pushed hard against her. “You can do this, baby,” I told her. I fucked her with the tip of my cock. Slow. I felt her burn. I saw her back glow red. The room grew hot. She dripped sweat onto the sheets. My shirt, still on me, was stuck to my back and sides. My jeans were tugged down to my knees, binding me. I pulled my shirt off and then pushed her head down against the mattress, her face in the tangle of sheets. “You can do this,” I said.
"Get on top of me," I told her and pulled myself onto the bed, tugging my jeans off. She threw one leg over me and looked down at my cock. I held it. She stared at me as she pushed her pussy down onto it. I watched the long, thick shaft disappear inside her as her eyes grew wide. She gasped and held her hands to her chest. Looking at the scene, it seemed simple. Here she was lowering herself onto my cock. I was just lying there beneath her, staring into her eyes. Innocent. Sweet. But I knew this was hard. She felt too little for this and here she was with the full length of my shaft inside her. “Can you feel how deep you are inside me?” she asked. I thought there were tears in her eyes. I nodded. “I feel you pulling on me,” I said, “I want it to hurt. I want the pain to make it last longer.” She blinked. Her mouth was open wide. She was moving slowly up and down on my cock. I stared at her. I waited. Then I jammed my hips upwards, shoving deep into her. She winced. I slapped at her tit. I slapped hard. Her hands moved to protect her and I stopped. “Put your hands on your thighs,” I said, “Keep them there.”
I went back to slapping her. I slapped one tit and then the other. I held each tit steady, one at a time, and slapped it hard. I slapped at her nipples. I stopped to pinch them. And all the while, I jammed my cock hard inside her. Hard. Again and again. She winced. She shook her head. She moved her lips with no sound coming out. She stared at me with a scared little, soft little look on her face. “You can go there,” I said, “I want you to go wherever you need to go.” She stared at me. She nodded and started to cry. I heard this tiny voice inside her say, “Uh huh.” I slapped her tits again and again. “I’m right here,” I said, “You can feel me.” She pulled one hand up to her forehead like a woman with a migraine. I let her leave it.
I don’t know how many times I hit her, but my arms were burning, my shoulders ached. She curved her body over me and wrapped her arms around me. All her weight settled onto me and I pulled my legs up to push as deep as I could inside her. This was good. I could tell it felt good. I sensed her starting to cry harder. I clamped my hand over her mouth and my words streamed out, “I want you to come to me, baby. I want you to show me how much you can take. I want you to go where you need to go and come back to me. I’m so deep inside you right now. We’re bruised. Both of us bruised. I can feel it. Can you feel it?” She was nodding as I spoke. Nodding and whimpering “Mmm hmm” under my hand. As we rocked into each other harder, pounding, she was whimpering, a high pitched moan. I felt her teeth and her spit. Her open mouth on my palm. “Do you need to bite my hand?” I asked and turned my hand sideways, offering it to her. She clamped down with her teeth and the pain shot through me. It thought she’d cut the skin. I imagined the gentle partner offering a hand to the laboring wife during childbirth and finding the grip unbearable. But you stay put. You let her transfer pain to you. You let her ease herself through you. I knew this hurt her. I heard her cry out with it. But I knew it felt so good, too. I knew she surprised herself. She was nodding her head and gnawing on my hand.
When she came, her noises were unrecognizable and tears streamed down her cheeks. I left my hand in her mouth but her teeth let go of me. I kept my hips raised with my cock deep inside her. I felt her pussy throb around it. I felt her tears on my neck. I held her so tight. I pulled out of her and she rolled me onto my back. “Press me down,” she said, “Press me down as hard as you can.” I lifted myself up and balanced my full weight on her. I held her. We were soaked in sweat and now shivering from the cool breeze coming in through the window.
We fell asleep soon after. I wasn’t sure if anything had hurt much. I wasn’t sure if she’d gone anywhere too far away before she came back again. But we slept deeply together that night. I woke early and put my hand on her chest but she jerked, saying, “No,” and I pulled it away again. She was dreaming. Something. She wanted something to go away. I rolled over and fell back asleep. She woke me in the morning with kisses on my neck. “I’ve got something to show you,” she whispered, giddy. I rolled over and she held her breast in my face. It was almost entirely purple. One big bruise. It was a little shocking, but so damn hot. She told me not to flatter myself, “I bruise easy,” she said. But still, it felt good to see it. I don’t know why. I don’t know what that feeling of pride was in having hurt her. “Is your pussy sore?” I asked. She answered me with a slow, wet kiss. Long and slow to start me up.
A few minutes later, I was buried in her thighs with a single finger dragging the walls of her pussy wondering how many times she could come for me this morning. Her words repeated themselves in my brain, “I bruise easy.” I’d never wanted to bruise a woman before. I’d done it, but for her pleasure and not mine. I’d never desired it. I’d never wanted to hit her and hurt her and fuck her so hard. But when this is right. When this is what takes you there. When you see that release and the peace that comes. You want nothing more than to make it happen for her and see that bloom under her skin. You want it to be there a few days later when you’re out for coffee. You’ll pull the picture of her bruises up in your mind and tenderly caress them before putting them away to focus once again on whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’ll know her. You’ll know something deep and true about her that can never be described or explained or even understood. But it doesn’t matter. You’ll just know.
Her face, boyish, grinning at me, looking down with the sexiest ‘aw shucks’ shake of her head. Her strong hands moving quickly to find a place to land that feels solid. Something to hold her steady for a moment because she moves as a constant. Her energy pulls at me when I get close enough. Pulls me in. Holds me there.
I scratch at the closely cropped hair on her head. After we’ve fucked and she’s falling asleep, I pet and pet her and she nuzzles against me like a sleepy little pup. I kiss her above her ear and nip at that sweet, thick mass of hair. I growl and she laughs and groans against my neck. “I can’t stop fucking you,” I whisper with my teeth grazing the side of head. I roll her onto her side. She reaches an arm back and grabs my neck, pulling my mouth harder against her. My teeth clamp down for a moment. I hold her neck in my mouth. She stirs awake enough for me, for this, for more. I listen to her body. It’s her ass suddenly pressing back into my belly as I slide lower against her back that tells me. I listen. I listen to her. I push my fingers against her and feel what she tells me. I press my ear between her shoulder blades. My mouth is open and breathing heavily. We are going to begin again.
I rock against her, my chest pressed up against her back, starting slowly and then building into something more like wrestling. She responds, first rocking with me, playful, and then kicking one leg in front of her to help her fight back. She laughs. I feel her laughter. Her back shakes against me, her strong shoulders. I dig my chin into her thick muscles. I bite hard next to her shoulder blade, making her yelp, and move quickly to roll her onto her belly and pin her down. She lets me. She pushes back, but she lets me grip her wrists and hold her down. I press my hips against her, lifting my chest and belly to push myself with a stiffening desire up against her ass. I curve over her to suck on the back of her neck. I growl with my lips smashed against her skin, “Again. I need you again. Now.” Her head is pressed into the mattress, turned to the left. I see her wide, crooked grin. Her eyes are closed. I grind my cunt against her ass. I feel myself get so wet. My pussy drips down my thigh. Hard now. Pounding. Pushing against each other. We go from playful to serious in a split second. And now I’m gripping her wrists more tightly. And then her neck. She opens her eyes and looks at me. That grin. Her open mouth, gasping. Tight on her neck. My fingers. Squeezing her in my thighs. The sweat on my chest and lower back surfaces quickly. We’re wet where our bodies rub together. My thighs slip against her. Sweat. I let go of her for a moment to reach down and pull the sweat off her back with my fingers, bringing them to my mouth for a taste. “Salty,” I say, “Taste this,” and touch the tip of my finger to her tongue. She pulls me into her mouth, sucking hard. “I need to fuck you,” I tell her. She nods her head, pulling my finger deeper insider her mouth, her cheeks sink as she sucks on me. “Yes,” I tell her and press my face against hers.
I kneel between her thighs, shoving them open. I lean down to the floor for the knocked over bottle of lube we’ve been going back to all night long. It slips in my fingers, spinning on the hardwood floor, hard to grip. More wetness. More. More fucking. It’s been hours. I was exhausted and nearly asleep only a few minutes earlier. And now I’m awake and staring at the flushed red patch that grows on my chest and on the back of her neck. Red. Flushed. Hot. Ready.
I listen. I watch. Desire is visible, tangible. Hot, so hot. I hear my own voice suddenly yell out, guttural, animal. I say the word that’s in my head aloud, “Animal,” and lift her hips off the mattress. Her ass, so perfect below me. I push three fingers inside her. Slicked up. So wet. “Fuck,” I yell or maybe she does, “Yes.” She pushes her elbows into the air and lifts her low belly, her ass elevated higher for me. She comes to me. I invite her. Or maybe it’s the other way around. “More,” she says. “More lube. More of you.” My chest rattles and shakes. “Fuck, yes,” I whisper, lost in ecstasy, religious, expanding inside my body, my mind, lost to myself in the physical present tense. More lube. A lot. I drip it onto the back of my hand and twist and bend my wrist moving another finger and then my thumb inside her. She slaps the bed hard with her hand. “All of me,” I whisper to her. “Yes,” she whines through clenched teeth, and then “Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck me,” streams out of her and drives me blind.
I’m on my knees, leaning back. I see the muscles in my stomach stretched tight. I stare down at my body kneeling here between her thighs. I stare at my hand moving deep inside her pussy. I lift my free arm like a rodeo rider and swing it above me to help me move and sway, pushing my hand deeper, so deep, rhythmically inside her. She opens for me. My knuckles disappear. “Fuck, yes.” I yell, “Fuck, yes.” My left arm swings down, swings, so fast like a whip and I smack her ass hard. My flat palm hits her. Stings. My own hand stings so much I wince and only hit her harder each time. Relentless. I can feel it inside her. I can feel the spanking she’s getting and her pussy opens for me again. More. Deeper. A cave inside her. Ancient. I close my eyes and smile, leaning my head back so my face is turned towards the ceiling. We are both yelling, “Fuck.” I smile so good so happy so lost.
My luck. I can’t believe my luck. I lose myself for a moment. Remembering how just hours before this moment I walked into that bar and saw her. Saw her grin. Saw her boyish jaw. Her good hands. The scar on her wrist. How she slipped into that soft accent and stared just right with her head tilted just right and her tongue her lips her teeth just right. How we laughed at everything. How I told her I wanted to take her home. How she said yes and yes and we left together and fucked for hours. And here she is, my hand inside her, both of us reaching for pure, ecstatic release. Our mouths open. Our heads upturned. Like the birds on my arms. Soaring. The birds we talked about for a long time. The birds she will dream about. Her own birds.
I am fucking her now. The room is so goddamn hot. The muscles under her skin ripple beneath me and make me catch my breath. Sweet girl. So sweet. I fuck her like this for a long time and keep hitting her ass with my open palm, swinging my arm wildly from one side to the other. Her ass starts to glow red in the dim light. The heat of this minor injury rising up to warm my belly. I feel her bones rattle. I watch her mouth open and suck the air. I watch her eyes squeeze shut. I see her fingers crook and grip the air, so stiff. Her body clenches and relaxes and pulls her forward into this deep abyss of pleasure and pain all mixed up together so you don’t know which is which. And I scream out once or twice. My voice bouncing back against me off the walls.
Rattle and moan. Wriggle your hips. Laugh. Yell. Bite your lip. Wrinkle up your nose, that nose, your cute face, so fucking cute, catches me, caught me.
My chin is wet with sweat. My forearm is burning. I stop smacking her ass and grab my own wrist to fuck her harder, shoving my hand inside her faster and watch her react. She reacts. “Animals,” I say and she smiles, “We fuck like animals because we are animals.” “FUCK,” she yells back at me.
No more words. Just the sound of us fucking. For a long time.
I can’t remember how we slow it down. How it explodes and ends. Somehow it just does. Somehow I pull my hand out of her and drag my wet, sticky fingers over her ass and up her back to her shoulders. Somehow we are sleepy again and she is held tight in my arms and we kiss with big open mouths, sucking. My heart still pounding. I catch my breath. We’re going to do this again. We talk. We agree. She stays. I want her to stay. I need to fuck her when we wake up. We need more of this. We laugh. Who does this? Maybe everyone. How would we know? We only know this. We only know ourselves. Our own lives. Fucking. Fisting. Hitting. Biting. Clawing. Scratching. The struggle. The playfulness. The heat and the wetness. The marks we leave. Her bruise from someone’s bite before me that I lick and trace. Let’s dance together like this. Let’s make a pact. Again. Like animals. Soon.
This week marks one year since I began writing this blog, SoloPoly.net. So much has happened since then — most of it good, all of it instructive.
The spark that pushed me to start this blog was a horrible breakup I suffered last July: I was dumped, courtesy of blatant couple privilege, by my married poly boyfriend of 3+ years. Turned out that once his wife got insecure, she was not expected to manage her insecurities — and I no longer warranted consideration.
Yeah, that experience sucked — but it clarified some valuable lessons for me. Especially why, and how much, I treasure my autonomy — and how I can use that as a foundation for navigating relationships.
Often people fear breakups, and avoid them even when relationships are hopelessly toxic or beyond resuscitation, because they fear being on their own. Such is the stigma that single or solo people face in this society — as is the myth that staying visibly coupled up protects you from feeling lonely.
But what I discovered, partly through breakups, is that for me solohood is the best way for me to live my life and relate to others. It literally took many years and a lot of pain to finally get that through my skull.
Since that breakup, this blog has been an important part of my healing process. And many people have told me they find it helpful, too — which makes it even more of a “win” for me!
Before that ill-fated relationship, I’d been married for a long time to a man I love very much — he remains very close and dear to me. Still, I was often lonely and depressed in that relationship, which spanned nearly two decades. It wasn’t just that he and I were ill-suited to be married to each other. No: As long as I made it a top priority to preserve our couplehood (an identity I’d always unconsciously assumed I needed to be happy), I avoided taking responsibility for my own happiness. I kept sacrificing myself on the altar of an “us” that ultimately couldn’t exist without “me.”
When I reluctantly, finally let go of couplehood, I found me. And so much more.
As it turns out, I am indeed damn good at being my own primary partner. I’m so much happier this way, and my life is far more stable and fulfilling. I do have important intimate relationships with friends and lovers who matter greatly to me, but I stand on my own feet. I make my own decisions for my relationships and life. I decide which goals to pursue and risks to take. I roll with the consequences whenever I screw up, slack off or simply happen to be unlucky.
And I don’t feel one bit guilty about focusing on myself as an individual first. It’s right, and good, to put on my own oxygen mask before assisting the people next to me.
Like any human being I am not an island; I value interdependence as well. Especially my close friends, four of whom stuck by me on a daily basis with sympathy and patience while I duct-taped my heart back together last summer.
More recently I’ve discovered a strong sense of the interdependent value of community, locally and in the world. I believe in acting on behalf of the greater good; that’s the kind of “us” which resonates with me far more strongly than mere couplehood. My book project is a big part of that.
Fortunately, having such a solid sense of autonomy is what allows me to be the best lover, friend and family/community member I can be. I try to choose my interdependencies consciously and carefully, and to add value to any connection I make.
Couplehood doesn’t exempt anyone from heartbreak; neither does solohood. But now, when someone close to me makes a decision or holds a view that saddens, hurts or betrays me, it’s so much easier for me to grasp that their choices are not a personal referendum on my worth as a human being.
… And it only took me 46 years to really grasp this lesson! (OK, so I’m a late bloomer.)
So for me, my last bad major breakup ultimately yielded a world of good. Starting this blog led me to strong kinship and community with fellow solo poly folk. It also put me on the path to my current project, a book on nontraditional relationship options. (So far I’ve gathered input from nearly 800 people for this project via my survey.)
Recently I asked the members of the Singleish & Solo Polyamory Facebook group to share the value and insights they’ve gained from their own bad breakups. Here’s what some of them had to say. (Quoted here with permission)
Crystal Joy wrote:
For me, I learned SO much. To sum it up I learned the importance of being authentic to me, speaking my truth at all times, and honoring my personal boundaries in relationship.
A bit more specifically I learned that:
Abuse can occur even when someone does not physically hurt you or threaten your life.
Codependence is not just a relationship thing. It is in my opinion a U.S. societal structure that is slowly shifting toward coempowerment.
People show you how they really think a lot by their actions outside of their words.
When your internal guidance (your instinct) is telling you “no,” it will continue to tell you that over and over — until you finally see this in your life and realize it.
Even in a abnormally intense crazy breakup, later on you can end on a positive note — even if both of you have differing viewpoints on life.
Michael Fleming wrote:
The breakup of my marriage felt like I had been stripped of everything I held to be right, my world was turned inside out. I had to rebuild myself and reacquaint myself with my core values.
I am eternally grateful to my former spouse for ending the relationship. I am a better man because of it. The breakup strengthened my belief in polymory.
Wayne Dyer says that your greatest growths come after a great fall. It’s like you have to get down low, like a high jumper, in order to spring yourself up. That’s what it was like for me.
Stephanie Bolick wrote:
My line of polyamory-themed jewelry was the result of my breakup of my quad relationship, which had lasted a year and half. I lost not only three partners I loved very much, but two children in that breakup as well.
It’s only been four months since then. My health had tanked pretty badly due, in large part, to the enormous amount of stress I’d been under during the six to eight months leading up to the breakup (which mostly had nothing to do with my partners). So as you can imagine, the breakup was incredibly devastating.
I was also a stay-at-home mom at the time. In an attempt to keep myself as busy as I possibly could (to keep myself from being alone with my thoughts) I took a job offer from some of our mutual friends who owned a handmade jewelry and craft boutique downtown. During my downtime there I began playing with ideas for a poly charm for myself. When I posted pictures on Facebook it went viral — and now I have an entire line of handmade poly jewelry.
I worry sometimes that maybe I’m using the jewelry to avoid dealing with my feelings. I still wake up crying in the middle of the night and I wonder if I haven’t processed my feelings properly.
My worst relationship was such a pit of hell, but I came out of it so much less naive and more willing to stand up for myself — and also really understanding my own darkness so much better.
I still think about it frequently. Not in a bitter or angry way, but just reflecting on how I survived and am a totally different person now. But the lessons in my own darkness were priceless. Maybe I should send my ex flowers!
How interesting. Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my first miscarriage, the event that saw me pull my life into focus and triggered the chain of events that led me out of the monogamous marriage I had been in. What curious synchronicity! Here’s my post about that part of my life: Birth and Rebirth.
Most good I got from a bad breakup: Friend and lovership with the metamour. That was completely unexpected. They broke up in the cascade failure that my breakup was part of. We bonded over processing the strangeness we just went through and have remained dear to each other for a decade now.
I think the most good that’s ever happened from a bad breakup is that I escaped a future with the sort of person who would put me thru a bad breakup. I think that’s a pretty big “good” all on its own.
My latest bad breakup happened only a few days before I spent several days sharing a hotel room and co-presenting with an ex from a good breakup. The contrast and the conversations with the Atlanta Poly Weekend attendees who were surprised to learn that we were exes because of how well we get along has inspired us to co-write a workshop on how to break up well, to be presented at next year’s APW, followed possibly by a book on the subject.
But as that hasn’t happened yet, I hesitate to count it as one if the good things that came from a bad breakup, in case it doesn’t pan out.
At 16 I married a physically and verbally abusive man. He told me that, since I had kids, nobody else would want me. He kept telling me I was stupid — even though I was always a straight-A student. I believed him. We were married nine years during which he hit me, cheated on me and put me down.
After the last bout of physical abuse I left. I put myself through college while working three part-time jobs and raising two young children on my own. Turns out the only stupid thing I did was believe his lies.
I don’t tend to pick abusive men anymore. I see the signs early enough and get myself out.
Many thanks to all the solo poly folks who contributed to this post! And also to my former boyfriend and his wife: thanks so much for being unintentionally helpful while acting like complete jerks! It gives me some hope that the jerks in this world may serve a higher purpose
What’s the most good you ever got from a bad breakup? Especially if you’re a solo poly person. Please comment below!
I like to call my sweet boy “baby” because he has the most beautiful clear blue eyes and soft skin. I like to see him blush. He blushes easily. When he kisses me his prickly mustache makes me itch. I bite at the hairs above his lip to make him yelp. Sweet boy. My baby.
He’s young. A whole childhood and then some between our ages. He has never written a letter or licked a stamp. He’s never made a mix tape. Never held a record in his hands or let the needle drop. He looks at me with his sky blue eyes, the silver in his nose shining. I love his boy face. His heavy lower lip and the way he lets it fall open.
I say, “Baby, you are so beautiful. So handsome. Such a pretty boy.“ He snuggles next to me on the sofa and we watch a scary movie and neck. He makes me crazy, this boy. His flat chest and his scars. He lets me trace the lines with my tongue. He lets me touch him. He lets me watch his own fingers pull pleasure from his beautiful pink shaft. I am learning him. Beautiful boy. New boy.
When we met, he told me how he liked to watch movies and neck. He said that word, “neck,” and I got so wet I almost felt ashamed. How does this beautiful boy with his sweet face and scratchy cheeks melt me so? I kiss his face. I suck his neck while he moans and rubs his pants. We suck and grind against each other until I nearly lose my mind. Until that moment when he snaps and grabs me and shoves me down on the cushions, pulling at my clothes, scratching me in a frenzy. He bites me, growling. I claw his shorn head. “My boy,” I whine, “My beautiful boy, how long do I get you?” He laughs. I smack his head hard. He grabs my wrist and squeezes it tight until I wince. I’m an odd distraction for him. Something old, something new. He likes to hear my stories. I have lots of stories for him. I tell him my stories while he sucks hard on my nipples and moves his hand into my pants. He’s always surprised at how wet I am, how wet he’s made me.
Every thought disappears when he fucks me. My jeans pulled down mid-thigh, his fingers inside me. All his weight on my back. Heavy, pushing. He’s strong, so much stronger than I’ve known. He fucks me with his hands until my cunt hurts but he doesn’t let me come. He pulls me up, pushes me onto my back, and tugs my jeans all the way off. He pushes my knees apart wide. He kneels between my legs and slaps my pussy hard until I see stars and come so powerfully that I usually kick him off of me, my legs shaking visibly afterwards. A wet mess of a woman.
He slips his jeans off. I smile at his ratty underwear, full of holes. “Down,” I whisper and he pulls them down for me. “Play with yourself,” I tell him and he tugs at his swollen cock. So pink. So beautiful and long. I watch and move my mouth closer. I’m gentle with him. My soft lower lip. My light tongue. I nod my head for him, “Yes,” I’m saying as my head moves up and down against him. I say yes to everything about him. Yes to my beautiful boy. Yes to these moments, these late nights, the shitty coffee I make in the morning and bring to him in bed. Yes to his pile of laundry on the floor. Yes to the dishes in his sink that I’ll wash before I go.
"You’re such a boy," I say to him when he comes into the bathroom to take a piss while I’m brushing my teeth. He laughs. I spit into the sink and splash cool water on my face. He bends over me tenderly and I feel his mustache against my neck. My skin shivers. "I was your boy last night," he says, "And I’m still your boy this morning." "Baby," I say, "Beautiful boy." He kisses my wet face. His tongue moves slow and sexy in my mouth. I’m thinking it in my head, “How long do I get you?” I smile as he kisses me. I don’t really care how long I get him. I have him right now.
I've been doing a fair amount of thinking and talking, lately, about whether or not to self-identify as feminist. I wrote a post about it, had a discussion on the atheism plus subreddit, and have had a number of discussions with friends about it. One such friend lent me a copy of "Feminism Is for Everybody", by bell hooks, after we talked, which was a helpful introduction to some of the history of feminism as a movement.
Reblogging here and excellent blog post by a poly guy who's also a friend -- and a thoughtful writer. In this post, he says:
If I were to wait to identify as feminist until feminism as a whole only represented views that I, personally, identified with, I would probably be waiting until the hard parts were already over.
Oh, hell yes. In fact, this point applies to almost any choice to out yourself in any way, including as polyamorous or nonmonogamous.
Choosing to out yourself in any way (including claiming an identity label, whether it be "feminist," "poly" or even "Republican") is a very personal choice. Some people really struggle with it.
Sometimes this concern is based on concrete concerns such as: I'm afraid that if I'm out as poly, I might not get promoted at work. Or: my ex-spouse would challenge our child custody arrangement.
But very often, people choose the closet because they fear ostracism, stigma, loss of status/opportunity, or challenging the beliefs or opinions of others (especially family of origin).
No one is required to be out, or should be forced to be out.
Still, consider this: If you wish the world was a friendlier place for people like you, and if you'd face little concrete risk (aside from stigma, and maybe straining some relationships) for you to be at least a little more out than you are, yet you still choose to remain as closeted as you currently are -- then how exactly is that friendlier world going to happen? Who's gonna do the heavy lifting?
Okay...phew. I know that's a somewhat strange post title, but this project is fascinating and totally worth sharing, if not eloquently. The "Atlas of True Names" is a series of maps that substitutes the official names for cities, states, countries, and geographic areas with the meaning of their names in their original language....etymological … read more
One of the things that often surprises people is the fact that being queer, kinky, and poly doesn’t have to mean that someone is promiscuous.
“Promiscuous” is such an interesting word. My dictionary has two definitions for it:
- having or characterized by many transient sexual relationships
- demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual
Now, I’ve had quite a few “transient sexual relationships” in my time. Some of them were no longer than half an hour and others have included dates once or twice a year, over the course of many years. Sometimes, I’ll have a series of dates with the same person for a few months before we part ways, and other times we’ll develop a sexual connection based on “I’ll see you when I see you.” I think that most folks would consider the majority of these “transient.” At the same time, my approach has been anything but “undiscriminating or casual.”
I have high standards for what I want from a sexual connection, and I have high standards for the people I create those with. I expect people to come to it with an open heart, to be able to tell me their wants, needs, & boundaries, to be able to hear mine in return, and to find a way to have fun within those parameters. I require honesty around their safer sex and STI background. And I demand that they respect both my relationship with my partner, and the boundaries that grow from that. That’s a lot to ask for, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the question of our individual sexual preferences and kinks. Granted, I enjoy a fairly wide range of pleasures, but that doesn’t guarantee a good fit.
So I’m definitely not “promiscuous” by the second definition of the term and I think it’s pretty telling that the word is based on the assumption that having many sexual partners means not having a selective approach. I filter out a lot of people. It’s just that the circles I move through are full of folks who are tall enough to ride this ride, so I can have high standards and still have multiple partners.
When a friend jokingly told me that I’m easy, I instantly replied, “I’m not easy. I’m selectively convenient.” I don’t play hard to get, and that doesn’t mean that I’m easy. I expect a lot and if I don’t get it, I’ll start a conversation to see if that will change. If it becomes clear that I won’t get what I want and need, or that I’m not offering what the other person needs, I’ll disengage with as much grace as possible. On the other hand, once I know that things line up, it all becomes pretty straightforward. That’s where the “selectively convenient” piece comes in, because I’ll do what I can to make things as smooth as possible.
Being selectively convenient is sort of similar to how some dogs and cats operate. They’ll check someone out to see if they want their attention. If the answer is yes, they go all in. If the answer is no, they back off. And for some animals, the “yes” list is pretty small, but they don’t hold back from the people who are on it.
I think “selectively convenient” is a fine thing in any kind of relationship. If you’re monogamous, all that means is that your selection process is different from mine. For that matter, if you have multiple partners, you probably a have different selection process than I do because you have different needs. Within whatever structure you create, can you make your sexual relationship more graceful? Can you reduce the friction and increase the pleasure? Can you bring more flow to your sex? What would it look like to bring more ease to your sex life, to your partner(s), and to your relationship(s)?
If you want to figure out what “selectively convenient” means for you, start by thinking about what your selection process is. What are your wants and needs? What are your filters? Can you share them with a partner in such a way that they can hear it and respond? Are you open to their replies? And how will you talk with them to find the overlap between what you each offer and what you each want?
Those conversations take a bit of practice to manage with grace, especially when there aren’t a lot of role models for how to do it. Fortunately, there are some great resources that can help. Reid Mihalko’s safer sex elevator speech makes it easier to talk about your safer sex needs. Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up is great for anyone interested in having multiple partners because she interviewed folks in many different kinds of open relationships about what worked for them. I really like yes/no/maybe lists for figuring out what kinds of sexual pleasures might be fun. In many US cities, there are growing communities and social scenes where you can meet other folks who are exploring similar experiences. Even if you’re not looking for another partner, simply going to events and meeting other selectively convenient people can be a wonderful experience. And if you want some suggestions that are more tailored to your needs, you might consider working with a sex or relationship coach. That’s a great way to get some support and ideas that are specific to your situation and your goals.
Whatever your personal vision of what “selectively convenient” might mean, and whatever path you choose, think about how you’re holding yourself back. Then imagine what it would be like if you didn’t do that anymore. You’ll probably discover that it’s a lot easier to get there and the rewards are definitely worth it.
“Identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is a process that you must be active in.”
On the heels of this season’s finest commencement addresses — including Debbie Millman on courage and the creative life, Greil Marcus on the artificial divide between “high” and “low” culture, and Arianna Huffington on redefining success — comes screenwriter, producer, composer, and actor Joss Whedon, who delivered the 2013 Wesleyan commencement address, brimming with sometimes uncomfortable but invariably profound reminders of our purpose and challenges as human beings.
Annotated highlights below.
Whedon begins with a rather atypical subject for graduation speeches — the mortality paradox:
What I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die. … You have, in fact, already begun to die. You look great. Don’t get me wrong. And you are youth and beauty. You are at the physical peak. Your bodies have just gotten off the ski slope on the peak of growth, potential, and now comes the black diamond mogul run to the grave. And the weird thing is your body wants to die. On a cellular level, that’s what it wants. And that’s probably not what you want.
I’m confronted by a great deal of grand and worthy ambition from this student body. You want to be a politician, a social worker. You want to be an artist. Your body’s ambition: Mulch. Your body wants to make some babies and then go in the ground and fertilize things. That’s it. And that seems like a bit of a contradiction. It doesn’t seem fair. For one thing, we’re telling you, “Go out into the world!” exactly when your body is saying, “Hey, let’s bring it down a notch. Let’s take it down.”
And that’s actually what I’d like to talk to you about. The contradiction between your body and your mind, between your mind and itself. I believe these contradictions and these tensions are the greatest gift that we have.
Like science, Whedon argues, human identity is inherent contradiction, driven by “something that is a constant in your life and in your identity, not just in your body but in your own mind, in ways that you may recognize or you may not.” And given what we know about the myth of one-dimensional personality, this makes sense. But this ability to recognize and embrace our inner conflicts and bipolar tensions, Whedon assures as he echoes Bruce Lee, is a blessing rather than a curse — one of the hallmarks of being human, even. In that respect, he reminds us, like Anaïs Nin eloquently did, that our identity is in constant revision — or, as Vi Hart memorably put it, “Your greatest creation is yourself. Like any great work of art, creating a great self means putting in hard work, every day, for years.” Whedon urges:
You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key — not only to consciousness, but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in.
Whedon goes on to encourage us to try embracing rather than eradicating those inner paradoxes of which we’re all woven:
This contradiction, and this tension … it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.
In a nod to one of science’s core principles, which is the constant critical thinking that battles the vanity of certainty, Whedon speaks for the value of questioning your convictions before you become too ossified to nimbly respond to criticism:
Because you are establishing your identities and your beliefs, you need to argue yourself down, because somebody else will. Somebody’s going to come at you, and whatever your belief, your idea, your ambition, somebody’s going to question it. And unless you have first, you won’t be able to answer back, you won’t be able to hold your ground. You don’t believe me, try taking a stand on just one leg. You need to see both sides.
“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar,” Anaïs Nin observed. “In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent,” Martine advised in his famous 1866 do’s and don’ts of conversation, “so you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” And yet, Whedon argues, ours is a culture Simone de Beauvoir would wince at, one staggeringly uncomfortable with ambiguity and fixated on righteous reductionism — a toxic tendency where change is most critical and urgent:
[Our culture] is not long on contradiction or ambiguity. … It likes things to be simple, it likes things to be pigeonholed—good or bad, black or white, blue or red. And we’re not that. We’re more interesting than that. And the way that we go into the world understanding is to have these contradictions in ourselves and see them in other people and not judge them for it. To know that, in a world where debate has kind of fallen away and given way to shouting and bullying, that the best thing is not just the idea of honest debate, the best thing is losing the debate, because it means that you learn something and you changed your position. The only way really to understand your position and its worth is to understand the opposite.
That doesn’t mean the crazy guy on the radio who is spewing hate, it means the decent human truths of all the people who feel the need to listen to that guy. You are connected to those people. They’re connected to him. You can’t get away from it. This connection is part of contradiction. It is the tension I was talking about. This tension isn’t about two opposite points, it’s about the line in between them, and it’s being stretched by them. We need to acknowledge and honor that tension, and the connection that that tension is a part of. Our connection not just to the people we love, but to everybody, including people we can’t stand and wish weren’t around. The connection we have is part of what defines us on such a basic level.
Ultimately, what makes Whedon’s speech so beautiful is that he takes one of commencement addresses’ most contrived tropes and turns it on its head, gives its trampled flatness new dimension:
So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before. And that’s why I’ve been talking only about you and the tension within you, because you are — not in a clichéd sense, but in a weirdly literal sense — the future.
After you walk up here and walk back down, you’re going to be the present. You will be the broken world and the act of changing it, in a way that you haven’t been before. You will be so many things, and the one thing that I wish I’d known and want to say is, don’t just be yourself. Be all of yourselves. Don’t just live. Be that other thing connected to death. Be life. Live all of your life. Understand it, see it, appreciate it. And have fun.
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Despite the hundreds of millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and elsewhere, there are still many people who are understandably sensitive about the whole social media thing.
There are rightful concerns around privacy, and about mixing friends with professional life. Do I really want my clients to see my weekend family picnic photos that I shared with my relatives? Do I really want my family to see my attempts at promoting my business?
As human beings we act differently in different environments. This is not being a chameleon or disingenuous, it’s just human. We adapt our levels of vulnerability and self-disclosure according to what’s appropriate for the situation.
Social media has done something very funny with that, which is to combine our worlds into one place: family, friends, and work. Plus we interact with all of that from physical locations, like our home, that would normally give our body cues that we’re in private.
There are good things about this. I think the trend toward being more vulnerable, real and human within the world of business is healing overall.
There are bad things about this, too. It’s brought the realm of business and marketing into our social and family circles. Of course, business was always part of my family circle. My parents owned a retail store and talked about it at home all the time.
But my parents didn’t bring the advertising home and put it on the dining room table. Well, okay, my dad did that, but only when he was working on the ad, before sending it to The Washington Post.
The attempt to monetize our friendships is not new, but it has reached an unprecedented degree.
All of this is to say that I empathize tremendously with the integrity and privacy issues that so many are struggling with.
I have to admit that I do go into a bit of denial with Facebook in particular. It’s a privately-owned platform, the enormous amount of personal data collected is being put to both commercial and political use. Yet it’s also where a tremendous number of people are, and I want to connect with those people.
Social media has brought a great deal of good into my life, reconnecting me with childhood friends, increasing the depth of connection I have with family, and yes, allowing my business message to reach many people in a very human way.
Unfortunately the mixing of these spheres has also led to regrettable integrity lapses. A client told us that he had taken a course with someone else, and that other person had used our client’s profile photo without permission to promote that same course. The trouble was that our client hadn’t liked the course and didn’t want to support or promote it. Despite being asked, the other business owner didn’t stop using his profile photo.
When you are in public anyone can take your picture and use it. What this business owner did was legal, but it lacked integrity.
That’s perhaps a bigger lapse of integrity, but the normal, expected differences in how we act with different groups of people, such as when we post to family members in one moment, and then the next minute make a posting for our business, can *feel* uncomfortable, even like an integrity lapse.
Because there’s no transition, no physical or social cues that we’ve changed contexts, it’s hard to accept in ourselves the change in self-expression. It’s also makes the question obvious: should we change our self-expression? Shouldn’t we be the same no matter whom we are with?
No, we shouldn’t. And yet, we need to navigate this one with a lot of heart, because with social media it’s harder to segment our lives in what can be healthy ways.
I’m really curious how you navigate social media, or if you have chosen not to. Do you struggle with issues of integrity in social media, or are you at peace with how things are? How do you navigate it?
With love and appreciation,
One way to become more efficient and sustainable in a micro business is to have your writing do a lot of the work for you. If your just-right clients can read a web page that you write and click “buy” it can eliminate dozens or hundreds of hours of conversations with interested people.
What if you could send out a double-handful of emails and then watch orders come in? And what if you felt great about it because what you had written was right from the heart, without any manipulation or hype?
That’s why I’m leading the Heart-Centered Copywriting Intensive. With just ten spots open, and at least two of them are already taken, this will be a very hands-on course, with a lot of personal care, attention, and feedback from me.
It starts July 17. Check it out. And yes, I’m happy to talk to you before you click buy if you have questions. Efficiency doesn’t trump love.
When I’m not exactly in the mood, all she has to do is say “no.”
It makes so little sense. I mean, it’s actually silly. I’m not touching her, I’m tired and sore and grumpy and she takes my hand and puts it on her breast which is a reasonable form of seduction. When I squeeze said breasts she pushes my hand away.
“No,” she says in that slightly too serious way.
It’s not even remotely plausible. She just put my hand on her breast! No?
She’s aware. She holds the magnet opposite disire. She may have even thought she came up with this game.
Still, I’m hard. Not from the breast, but from the “no.”
There are other words that with do that. Weighty words. A variety of them, actually. The common denominator is that they are all forbidden.
I write dirty stories here, but the stories in my head are far dirtier. The fetish I seem to have is that it doesn’t matter what we are doing, what I’m writing about, what plot or gimmick, it just has to be “bad.”
Now, I’m a forward thinking fellow. To say my friends and lovers are liberal is a serious understatement. We accept so much as long as it is consensual and safe (or at least all parties are aware of the risk.) Still this “wrongness” this “dirtiness” is like a drug. There doesn’t need to be any reality to this forbiddenness, in fact I don’t want anything that’s really wrong. Cheating repulses me, consent is paramount to my arousal in many ways, for all the little girl games I’ve played the idea of anyone underage is horrifying, hell I don’t even flirt with co-workers, still that need for the forbidden is so strong even the lightest hint of it is enough to drive me mad.
And so it goes.