Monday, May 18, 2015

Degradation: YKINMK and That's Okay

Submission. Humiliation. Objectification. Degradation. These are words that get tossed around a lot in the kink scene, but they do not all mean the same thing.

This is my opinion on the matter:
Humiliation is about a Top getting off on a bottom's feelings of awkwardness, embarrassment, and shame. It is about a bottom being made to feel disconcerted, often mortified, and forced to endure a humbling scene for the Top's enjoyment. It is about the bottom providing entertainment through discomfort.

Me? I get off on humiliation.

Objectification is about the Top turning the bottom into an object—table, chair, artistic statue, whatever strikes his/her fancy. It is about the bottom being reduced to nothing more than that object, at least for a time. It is about the bottom being of service as something less than human.

Me? I get off on objectification.

Degradation is about the Top belittling and demeaning the bottom. It is about the bottom being made to feel inferior and disgraceful.

I do not get off on degradation.

The reason why is as simple as it is complicated.
Like many, I had a fucked up childhood. I don't like to get into details, or even talk about it—ever, with anyone—for a whole slew of reasons anyone who has suffered through a fucked up childhood will probably understand. But I will say that for far, far too long, I found life less than livable.

When I got older, I took control of my life, and things got better. But I still lived very...shall we say...fatalistically. I existed day to day, not quite sure when my last day would be, not quite believing the next day would come. I lived with what I considered lofty goals, and took hellish risks, because I wanted my death to mean something.
I wanted my death to be grand...because I didn't think my life meant very much.

It was around the time I met husband that my life began to really mean something. Will I give him all the credit for my improvements, the growth and recovery I went through? No, I will not. I was actively trying to get myself help, and fix myself up, for a fair amount of time before I ever met him. I don't think he ever would've even been interested in me if he hadn't see that strength (and stubbornness) of mine showing through.
But did he help? Hell yes.

He helped me start thinking about what I wanted out of life, what my goals were—because it was okay to make goals, it was okay to bank on a future.

He helped me understand I shouldn't be worrying so much about my grand death, it was my grand life I was supposed to be thinking about.

He made me realize my life had meaning, it had value and worth...and that value had nothing to do with what he thought of me, and everything to do with how I saw myself.

To this day, he reminds me all the time how important I am.
I am his priceless treasure.
I am beautiful beyond words.
He is so thankful he has me in his life.
It's as if I was made just for him.
He's so lucky...the luckiest man in the world.

I think I'm the lucky one. I'm a survivor, and I'm stronger because of it. I have no idea what kind of person I'd be if I hadn't gone through all the things I did...there's no point in wondering about it, because I'll never know. But I do know that everything I've ever been through has led me up to this point—and at this point, I got to say, my life is pretty fucking fantastic.

So no, I am not his worthless slut, or his useless slave, or his stupid cunt, or any of the other derogatory adjectives I hear other people use.

I am his slut, slave, cunt, hole, whipping post...whatever noun he decides strikes up his fancy. I am what he chooses me to be, because I am worthy of this privilege.
And my worth is not cheap.

I am NOT saying people who get off on degradation are doing ANYTHING wrong. This is the sort of thing that is completely subjective, and if you're the kind of person who gets off on it? Go for it.

I AM saying that as much as some people enjoy degradation, other people recoil from it; that it does not have to be an integral part of any power exchange dynamic or scene. That you can be a submissive, but being a submissive doesn't have to make you feel inferior in any way.

Not unless you want it to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A String of Broken Stars

"You want me to be a tragic backdrop so you can appear to be illuminated, so that people can say 'wow, isn't he so terribly brave to love a girl who is so obviously sad?' You think I'll be the dark sky so you can be the star? I'll swallow you whole."— Warsan Shire

One of my favorite relatives of all time was my Uncle D. Uncle D was not really my uncle—he was my father's uncle, which would make him my great uncle. But back in the day, Uncle D was one of those people who always seemed to be "walking awesome." He had the best stories to tell, and he knew how to tell them well; he could keep his audience captivated for hours on the edge of their seats. He was well traveled, and had done a lot, but more than that, things always seemed to be happening to him—things that (usually) ended up having a happy ending, or at least a riveting one.

He was a good-natured guy, and was always volunteering for his synagogue and other charity groups. He often took the jobs no one else wanted and somehow, turned them into the funnest jobs in the world.

I remember watching a video of him one time of him playing the lead part in his synagogue's play. He had taken the leading lady's part, because nobody else had stepped up. The whole video had him wearing a dress and a wig, dancing around the stage like Peter Pan. You could hear the audience roaring with laughter in the background.

The thing about Uncle D was that he wasn't very good at relationships. I believe he was married four times—it might've been more, I don't know. (In my family, a marriage that lasted less than a year wasn't a "real" marriage, wasn't anything more than an embarrassment, and was best swept under the rug.) Every one of his breakups and divorces had been bad, filled with drama and horror.

Of course, since it was Uncle D telling us the stories of these breakups, he was always the Good Guy, and the exes were always the Crazies.

When I was little, I took his stories at face value. Of course Uncle D was a good partner; of course his exes were to blame for whatever had gone wrong. Uncle D was Walking Awesome. How could anyone not want that in a partner?

And yet...and yet, he broke up with all his girlfriends and divorced every woman he married, and not one of those divorces was amicable. They were messy, courtroom affairs, with stories of shouting matches in restaurants and TVs landing on sidewalks, dishes broken and police called.
All his exes seemed to wind up being Closet Crazy Women.

They didn't start out that way. They started out as nice women.
He couldn't say enough nice things about them, in fact. Every time we heard from him, the conversation would inevitably turn to how amazing the woman in his life was. It was sweet how he spoke about them; it certainly made him seem more endearing.
But eventually—sometimes it took months, and sometimes it took years—but always, the women turned into harpies and shrews, and Uncle D was left wondering what the fuck had happened.

The last time I went over to Uncle D's house, it was a short while after he married his latest wife, J. I had never met J before, but of course, I had heard great things about her; how caring she was, how soft spoken and gracious.
I went to visit him with my father, who keeps kosher. Uncle D knew this, and he asked J to plan the meal accordingly.

J bought my father a kosher dinner meal. She made sure to keep it double wrapped in the oven, as one is supposed to do, made sure to serve it to him still closed, so he could see she had not touched it, and gave it to him with plastic utensils, since hers were off limits.
The meal was great, with J serving and Uncle D regaling us with more stories that had us laughing off our asses.
Then J brought in dessert. My father immediately saw that the dessert, while kosher, was also dairy. Since my father had eaten meat during the meal, he could not eat the dessert—and politely told J and Uncle D the reason why he had to decline.

Uncle D started scolding J in a way I had never seen before. He turned to her and asked her what she was thinking, how could she not have known. She replied—softly—that she'd forgotten, and made a mistake. Uncle D continued to berate her in front of us, apologizing to my father for J's stupidity, telling him he should have seen to the matter himself instead of trusting her, and all the while, shaking his head at J like she was no more than an errant child.
Finally, J snapped.
"It was a mistake, OKAY?" She said. "I forgot, now can you please just LET IT GO."
Uncle D stared at her in amazement. An uncomfortable silence blanketed the room. Finally, Uncle D moved the topic of conversation onto something else...but the rest of the visit didn't seem so fun anymore.

Years later, I reminded my mother of what had happened that day. She just shook her head and sighed.
"It's amazing to me how Uncle D can take all these nice, wonderful women, and turn them into something so different," she said. "Living with him must be very hard."
I had never thought of it like that before, but immediately I realized the wisdom of her words.

Uncle D's ladies were not somehow hiding their crazy—or if they were, they were hiding the same crazy we all have, each and every one of us, when pushed hard enough. They had been fine, lovely women when he had met them.
It was Uncle D who had twisted these women around.

He had berated them, mocked them, made them think they were stupid, made them think he was doing them a favor by staying with them for as long as he did. They constantly had to walk on eggshells around him, always second guessing their words, always wondering how he would take what they said and how he would react in kind.
No woman can live like that forever—not without turning into a bitter, cynical fishwife.

Uncle D wasn't bad at picking women. But he was very good at picking the right women, and then turning them into exactly the type of women he couldn't stand.
I think there a lot of men like this out there.

These day I start to grow suspicious when I hear some guy's tale of woe  about how ALL his exes turned out to be crazy, how he's had such "bad luck" finding "good women."
All I want to say to him is, Dude, maybe it's not all your exes. Maybe it's YOU. 

They won't hear it of course. It sounds good to say "My wife/girlfriend/Significant Other pretended to be so nice, but once we were well established, man, did she become a total bitch, I put up with her for theees looong cause I'm such an awesome guy, but I just couldn't take it anymore and I decided I had to move on, and that's why I'm single."

That sounds a hell of a lot better than "I acted the great guy until I got my woman well established and man, once I had her in my grips I totally treated her like shit and made her think she was so worthless not another guy would have her and she was lucky to have me. She didn't put up with my crap for very long though, the bitch."
...Yeah, I've never heard a guy own up to this truth.

I'm not saying every guy out there with more than one "horrible ex" story is like this. Some people really do have bad luck.

I guess what I'm saying can never really know what a person is like in a romantic relationship based on how good a friend they are, or even how good a person they are.
Some people are just very good at bad breakups.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Personal Views on Presenting and Expectations of Confidentiality

So, what did you do last weekend?

I broke my toe!

I also presented a class at a kink conference. The class was titled The Art of Begging; I'll let you figure out that one.
A demo was incorporated into the class. I was, of course, the bottom.
I had to fix my tear-stained makeup afterwards. I'll let you figure out that one, too.

Presenting a class is sometimes a delicate thing. You want your audience to learn something; you want them to walk away feeling like their time was well spent; but mainly, you don't want to embarrass yourself.
(At least not in a bad way. I embarrassed myself plenty at the last class I presented, and got resounding applause for it.)

You don't want your listeners to misinterpret or misunderstand what you're trying to say. You don't want to flub and say the wrong thing entirely.
Giving a class is often giving a first impression of yourself to a lot of people. You don't want to fuck that up.
But since it's a kink event, confidentiality also comes into play.

Class presentations are a different breed entirely from discussion groups, at least in my opinion.
Discussion groups typically have a moderator: someone who makes sure the meeting stays civil, on topic, and that everyone a chance to talk.
But the moderator is not there to impart their trained knowledge, or even speak more than anyone else; in fact, moderators often say the least of all. In a discussion group, everyone has equal right to speak, and nobody's opinion is held to higher regard than anyone else's.
We all have our own truth, and as long as we are speaking from our own truth, our words are well received.

But since we're all there on a level playing field, welcome to share our own truth, then holding those words confidential becomes vital. Nobody feels safe to speak when they have to worry later about their words being used against them—which is why discussion groups have rules about confidentiality.
I've discovered that the well-run groups have very strict rules...and very good enforcement.

But in class presentations, there is one teacher, one authority figure, imparting information to an audience. The audience may have the chance to ask questions, and offer up their own knowledge, but for the most part, the person talking is the one people came to see, and they expect to get some value for it.

At a kinky class, confidentiality rules still come into play. People expect that
1. No one who comes to the class will divulge to others whom they saw there
2. No one will share private information that they heard from another audience member

Of course these rules are often only loosely followed. In tight-knit kink communities where everyone knows each other, familiarity induces transgressions, some major, some minor. Breaches of confidentiality occur. When everyone is friends with each other by six degrees of separation or less, it's easy to forget that the rule of Keep Your Mouth Shut still applies.
Unfortunately, you never know when the information you share will end up in the wrong ears.

Many of us have horror stories. I know I have one. I shared information about someone's predatory behavior in a discussion group; I later found out a person in the group repeated everything I had said to the very wrong person.
It was messy, unnecessary...and said a lot about that person, frankly.
If you can't abide by the rules of confidentiality, don't go.

But in my opinion, the rules of confidentiality have nuance of exception when it comes to class presenters.

Class presenters are not just offering up their own truth; they're offering up a belief that they want you to incorporate into your own set a beliefs, to change your actions somehow, no matter how slight that change may be.
Class presenters are in a position of authority. When the audience enters that class, they walk in with the assumption the class presenter will present reliable information with credible knowledge—otherwise they never would have been allowed by the organizers to give the class in the first place. 
Again, this is my opinion: but I think this should hold them to a higher standard.

I think their words should be shared outside of the class. I think what they say through their place of privilege—because giving a class is a privilege—should be scrutinized and questioned. I do not think they should be able to hide behind the rules of confidentiality to conceal and belie their own words.

But I can't speak for other presenters, I can only speak for me.
So this is my rule as a presenter, clearly spelled out:

I expect everyone who attends one of my classes to keep confidential the identities of those who are there, the faces they see in the crowd. I expect everyone to keep confidential things that other audience members share.

I do not expect anyone to keep confidential the things I say as the class presenter. 

You don't like something I said, say so. You want to write a public review, write it. You want to drag me on the carpet for a statement I made, drag away.
As a class presenter, I am willing to take that on. I want it. I think it's one of the inherent responsibilities of any presenter, to be able to stand by their words—or apologize for them. If I can't do that, I shouldn't be presenting in the first place.

Like I said, giving classes is an honor and a privilege. It's a sign of the trust my community has in me, and I want to maintain that trust.
So if you ever hear me say something in one of my classes you think is wrong, or just somehow doesn't sit well with you? Ask me about it; disagree with me in the strongest terms you think are necessary. Public, private, I don't care. It would be nice if tell me when you've hit publish on something somewhere, so I have a chance to respond; but I'm not going to get mad if you don't.
For me, personally, there is no expectation of secrecy when it comes to what I say while presenting.

I just wanted to make that clear.