Posts Tagged ‘preferences’

2009 9 Apr

[storytime] Switching — have I always been a domme?

I spent last night (that is, Tuesday) at the very first Chicago Pleasure Salon, which went incredibly well! I had an amazing time, and from the feedback I got, lots of other people did too. Pleasure Salon will continue on every first Tuesday, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Planning all these sex-positive events keeps me busy, and my non-activist life is eventful, too. Lately, that’s made it hard for me to find time to actually … you know … have romantic encounters and process what’s going on in my head. (I guess that’s ironic, huh?) But although keeping up with myself has been challenging, there’s been an unmistakable shift. Namely, I’ve gone from being “pretty sure” that I’m “mildly” interested in topping, to “dead certain” that I love topping. I thought I might be a switch; now I’m sure. And the way that’s playing out is making me rethink all my previous relationships. (For those unfamiliar with BDSM terms: “switch” refers to a person who feels comfortable either as a top — that is, a dominant and/or sadist — or a bottom — that is, a submissive and/or masochist.)

I’ve written before that I always had sadomasochistic fantasies — since I was very, very young. Apparently, I was wired for BDSM since day one. (I don’t think everyone who practices BDSM feels it as quite such an intrinsic identity, but there are a number of us who do. I’ve had the “you mean, you tied up your Barbie dolls when you were a child too?” conversation many times!) In my early teens I had a bit of a freak-out and repressed it all; then BDSM came and found me almost a decade later. With a vengeance.

I came back into BDSM as a bottom, and it was a crisis. It was impossible to deny how much I wanted it, but I hated it too. On some level, I thought, “Well, this makes perfect sense” — it felt right. But on another level, I was horrified. I couldn’t reconcile my integrity as an independent, rational feminist with my need to be subordinated and hurt. It was a confusing, incredible time. I cried a lot, and I drank a lot, and I didn’t sleep much. I hated how fulfilled my bruises made me feel. It took a while for me to find some semblance of balance.

I adjusted: I took ownership of myself as a bottom. I believed it, accepted it, and gained a huge measure of fulfillment from it. Let me say that again: I’ve gained a huge measure of fulfillment from it. I love feeling agony I can’t escape; I love feeling as though I’m enduring shocking brutality; I love being hurt until I cry …. I love it. I love it.

And yet. I’ve always been a bit controlling, a bit fierce, a bit challenging. (More than a bit, really.) As I began to think of myself seriously as a bottom, I needed a way to mentally slot those personality traits into my new identity. Thus I concluded that I’d “always” been a bottom, but that part of that had “always” been challenging people in an attempt to get them to smack me down. The “bottom” label helped me adjust and figure out what I wanted, but perhaps it limited me, too. I decided that the dominant parts of my personality had always been an attempt to find strength in others; to provoke viciousness; to encourage others to lash out at me and subdue me. I did do some minor topping — but it was very minor. I never saw it as important, as necessary; I didn’t recognize that need the same way I felt my masochistic urges, which were a desperate near-overwhelming craving. I never thought of it as serious.

Still, at the same time, the energy between myself and my significant male partners was always such that outsiders were routinely shocked if they found out that I was the submissive. I guess it was evident that I took on a lot of power in my relationships. When I fell in love, it was with men who focused on me; who poured energy into me; who put a lot of thought into what I wanted, listened closely when I talked, admired me as much as they wanted me. The biggest thing I’ve sought in my lovers has been vulnerability, openness. To feel like they craved me, needed me. To feel like I could shape them. Arguably — to feel that I had a significant measure of actual control.


Recently, I met the first male submissive where the energy between us felt compelling. He got my attention by offering me the gift of his fear … simply saying that he was scared of me. Intrigued, I focused on him, started to watch. Over the course of months we would see each other occasionally at social events; every time I saw him, I felt him more strongly. All we did was talk, but magnetism hung in the air around us like heavy perfume. I remember one conversation we had — our words were so charged that several people around us at the dungeon stopped talking and just watched. When I finally set my nails into him weeks later, it was like I’d been holding my breath. He closed his eyes and flinched against my hands; I finally exhaled.

It was so intense, so different. But as I got into it more, I started seeing how similar it is to the way I’ve acted in the past; and as he started telling me how he thinks about submission, I felt my viewpoint on my own power shift. He told me about how he thought of some childhood fantasies — dreams of being controlled by women in apparently powerless positions … and I thought about some of my own fantasies, of being a captive or a courtesan or in some other overtly powerless position where I nonetheless would have emotional dominance over my captor. He mentioned that he’d thought about dominating, but only as a submissive — taking control only because his partner wanted him to … and I thought about one of the most affecting BDSM encounters I ever had, where my partner reduced me to tears and then put his arms around me and said he’d done it only because he loved me.

You have to be careful with these after-the-fact realizations about selfhood. It would be easy for me to go back and edit all my memories and say: “Ah, I see now; at all these points, I thought I was bottoming, but really I was in control. I thought I dreamed of submitting, but really I wanted power.” I still think I’ve always been a bottom, but I wonder at some of the dynamics I’m remembering now. Perhaps one could say that I have also, on some level, always been a domme.

Bottoming is heavy, deep. When I’m doing a good scene as a submissive, I go under. I can barely speak …. Everything blurs into darkness. Doing a good top scene is so different. It sparkles. I laugh. All my words are precise as scalpels. Everything is clear. It’s true that both topping and bottoming make me lose myself, go blank, in a similar sensual-sexual way, and I see commonalities between them. I don’t act the same in both roles, but I want similar things: as a bottom, I dream about bleeding; as a top, I crave blood on my hands. Still, the difference in how I feel when topping vs. bottoming is significant.

So, yes, of course I see why we’ve come up with the top/bottom breakdown. I feel no need to question its existence, or call it unnecessary. Most gender and sexuality theorists these days acknowledge that sex and gender exist on a continuum, rather than as black-and-white absolutes, and I bet there are people out there asserting that there’s no reason for the black-and-white top vs. bottom; but I think that the black-and-white top vs. bottom is useful even if we can’t quite parse it all out. The distinction helps us draw the map, create these acts, decide what exactly will happen between us.


He makes me cry because he loves me. Is he the dom or the sub? I’m a princess locked in a tower, with a strong knight defending me. Does he serve me, or do I belong to him? I’m a beautiful courtesan with haunting eyes, charging fabulous prices for my favors. Am I bending men’s hearts, or doing their bidding?

I still think it’s true that my provocative tendencies can be submissive. That I sometimes seek to create a combative dynamic in the hopes of losing. Craving to fight and be defeated. Craving to be broken, tormented, enslaved — to belong to him ultimately and completely. But I also crave his devotion — I want to own my lover. I crave power over his desire, the agony he endures for me, his ultimate submission. And I crave a shifting dynamic. I pull his head back, laugh low in his ear, I smile as I hurt him until he — overwhelmed — breaks out of my hold and takes control.

Top. Bottom. Switch. Both. All.

I want it all.

2009 25 Mar

[storytime/advice] On Collars

I received a lot of really great positive feedback after I gave my BDSM Overview presentation at the Museum of Sex. One of my favorite letters was this one. I swear, I should start an advice column ….

Her letter (posted with permission):

Hello Clarisse,

I attended your lecture at the Museum of Sex on Friday and I just wanted to say that it was very helpful for me. I’m very new to the BDSM scene and I guess I’m being mentored by a dominant who I am dating. He’s very patient and understanding with me, but I’ve had quite a difficult time accepting even the fact that I am submissive. As I once told him, to me submissive equates weak and helpless. I’ve always wanted to think of myself as a strong, independent, feminist woman so I am having a hard time with this. It definitely made me feel better to hear you talk about your similar struggle. I am not being coerced, or lured into anything I don’t want — I am definitely submissive and interested in BDSM and exploring that whole path — but it took me a while to accept that I am submissive, and I do have issues with it a little still. I just want to make sure you understand that it’s not an issue of being forced or asked to do anything I don’t want to do.

But I did want to ask about the use of collars. I don’t know if this is more of a personal preference, but he is interested in buying me a collar and I just can’t shake the association with pets, slaves, a.k.a. degradation! He is the most charming man I know and treats me better than any “vanilla” boyfriend I’ve had, so I know he would never want to degrade me, but I just can’t shake those associations and a collar means a lot to him. Do you have any advice?

I answered:

Of course I can’t tell you whether it’s right for you to let your boyfriend collar you. Of course only you can make that decision. You already know those things, I hope! What I can tell you is about my own experience.

First, though, a side note. You might consider trying to find a different mentor, rather than relying on someone you’re romantically involved with. I mean, you might want to have this man stay your lover, but find a separate person who can mentor you.

For one thing, it’s a really good idea to have a mentor who is of your “type” — so for instance, as a bottom, I’d advise you to find a mentor who has experience bottoming. For another thing, it’s a good idea in any relationship to make sure that you have resources for advice and assistance other than your partner. And this is especially true of fledgling BDSM relationships, where there’s so much new to learn and understand! Of course, part of seeking an outside advisor is that you want to feel sure that you’re getting unbiased input. But it’s also worth noting that it can put a lot of strain on your relationship for your boyfriend to be, not just your lover, but your major source of BDSM information and understanding. That’s a lot of roles for one person to fill. That might feel okay now — it sounds like it’s a new relationship and you’re both excited — but after a while, being so dependent on one person could become a real problem for one or both of you. Or it might not. Again, I don’t know what’s right for you. This is just some general tried-and-true advice from mentoring groups I’ve encountered.

On to your actual question! There are lots of different feelings on collars, in general. There are people in the BDSM community who simply use collars to demarcate temporary roles. A while ago, I played with a man where we agreed that once he put the collar on me, I would obey him unquestioningly for the evening; then, at the end of the evening, he took it off and the encounter was over. That was just for one night, and in that case, the collar might be considered like a symbol, or a costume — putting us in a certain kind of space together for that time. But collars are also sometimes seen as a deep sign of love and commitment. I know people who consider collars to be as strong a statement as a wedding ring. They wouldn’t even think about wearing a collar just for one night, or for someone they met recently.

Personally, I have evolved a bit on my preferences, and collars mean something different for me from what they meant several years ago. When I first came into BDSM, I was very uncomfortable with it; I needed to take small steps to keep myself comfortable. Also, I was doing BDSM with a man whom I felt emotionally uncomfortable with — I think that I wanted to distance myself from him emotionally whenever we did BDSM. As a result, I believed (that is, I told myself) that I was only interested in the physical sensation: pain. I said that I wanted nothing to do with submission or ownership. I remember that I even told one friend, very emphatically, that I’d never ever wear a collar! Never!

Later, when I had my first BDSM-flavored relationship with someone I loved and trusted, I realized that I did want to wear his collar. I wanted to feel like he owned me and could do whatever he wanted with me. I started to understand that I did want aspects of ownership in my BDSM — I recognize now that I even want aspects of degradation. But I had to come into that slowly, because those things were emotionally very hard to accept for an independent, rational feminist such as myself. And it can be confusing to work out in practice, too, because I don’t want those things from everyone! For instance, I’m willing to do some BDSM with people I don’t know very well — but I need to trust someone a lot before I can enjoy a degradation scene with them. And obviously, since I top sometimes, there are some BDSM partners where it wouldn’t even enter my head to wear a collar. Every relationship has its own texture.

As for the statement, “You own me” — I don’t say that to someone unless I’m totally into them. It feels dark and a little scary, but it also feels real and important. It feels like I’m saying something even stronger than, “I love you.” If I were with a man who wanted to put a collar on me, and if putting a collar on me meant saying to him — whether aloud or silent — “You own me,” then I would have to be totally in love with him to do it.

Desires change over time. Sometimes people don’t like things that they’ll like later. Sometimes people stop liking things. But of course, sometimes people always like certain things … or never like certain things. Maybe someday I’ll wear collars casually. Maybe someday I’ll decide never to wear a collar again! Maybe I’ll even get bored of collars and wear them as nothing more than jewelry!

So maybe you’ll never want to wear a collar, and that’s fine. Just work on it slowly. Don’t rush. Certainly, if wearing a collar feels like degradation to you — and you don’t want to be degraded — then don’t do it! I know you don’t want to ignore your lover’s needs, though. So if this is so important to him, try asking him why it’s important. Does he want to degrade you? Or does he want to feel like he owns you? Or does he just want some kind of mark on you? Or does he just want you to carry a symbol of his? Once you know why he wants to collar you, maybe that’ll help you work out a compromise. For instance, if what he really wants is for you be marked by him or carrying a symbol, then he could give you another piece of jewelry that you always wear.

Hope this is helpful, or at least illuminating!

2009 1 Mar

Sex-positive documentary report #3: “When Two Won’t Do”

The topic this week at my sex-positive documentary film series was consensual non-monogamy, and it went great! One of my priorities for the screening was to have a lot of people who actually practice consensual non-monogamy in the audience — and also sticking around to participate in the discussion group. I spent a huge amount of time calling both local polyfolk and local swingers before the screening, and in the end I felt like I succeeded!

One group I got in touch with was the organizers of the upcoming Chicago Polyamory Conference 2009, slated to take place March 28-29. If you have any interest in polyamory, you should definitely attend the conference. I also talked to local poly activist Cunning Minx, whose podcast is worth checking out (and not just because she interviewed me a couple weeks ago). It was harder to get in touch with local swingers because I know fewer swingers personally — but some did attend, which made discussion all the better!

So before moving on, let’s talk about Frequently Asked Questions …. What is swinging, anyway? What’s polyamory, for that matter? The Ultimates, a swinger couple, were kind enough to send me some links to FAQs about swinging: here’s one set, and here’s another. I already had some polyamory FAQ links lying around: here’s a great one I just heard about recently, and here’s the FAQ for an old-school Usenet group on poly. (The Usenet-derived page isn’t as shiny or well-formatted as the others I’ve presented here, but it’s the link I’ve sent out to everyone who asked me about poly for years, so I have a special attachment to it. I probably have some of those answers memorized.) If you’ve got questions about consensual non-monogamy, those four FAQ links will give you a lot of insight.

Now that that’s all out of the way: my review of the third Sex+++ documentary and discussion!

The film was called “When Two Won’t Do” (screening courtesy of Picture This Productions). It was a huge hit! The place was totally packed. 70 people maybe? I’m not sure. And at least 30 for the discussion. I guess word is spreading … we might have to start turning people away!

(Our lovely and talented Hull-House Museum education coordinator Lisa and I have talked about seeking out a bigger venue, but there are many serious complications that would attend that process. Another option might be to reprise the entire Sex+++ series again in a year or two. That’d be huge, and I would not be able to take care of the details myself — at least not next year — but I certainly think it would be worth doing. As a side note, I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from far-flung locales about whether Sex+++ will be traveling. It’s very flattering! You guys must all think I have so many more resources than I actually do. I’m just a lone sex-positive activist, my friends … I’m not an institution.

Speaking of resources, we’re still looking for sponsors … :ahem:)

Anyway ….

I’d say that “When Two Won’t Do” is a fantastic, detailed, educational portrait of a newly polyamorous couple and many problems that face beginning polyfolk! There was only one thing that outright frustrated me: the film felt pretty anti-swinger. As curator of this film series, I’ve put a lot of effort into finding films that don’t come off as being opposed to any given type of sexuality. There are so many documentaries that exoticize alternative sexuality or treat it in really problematic ways — particularly marginalized sexual subcultures such as poly, swinger, BDSM. I’m watching some of these films ahead of time in order to make sure that they don’t add to that marginalization, but I didn’t watch this one, and I wish I had. If I had, then I would have made a pre-screening announcement to the effect of: “This documentary is a nuanced picture of a polyamorous relationship, but it doesn’t cover swinging very well — don’t judge the entire swinger subculture from the very narrow picture given by this film.”

I recognize that part of the film’s anti-swinger bias is simply the fact that the couple who made it, Maureen and David, didn’t feel that the dominant swinger model works for them. (In general — and this is of course not true of all swingers, but it’s a definite theme in the swinger subculture — in general, swinging emphasizes couples who are emotionally intimate with each other and have love-free sex with others. The polyamory subculture, on the other hand, generally emphasizes building emotionally intimate relationships with multiple sexual partners.) So, it’s not necessarily that Maureen and David intended to judge swingers or anything … they just aren’t into it. But the two filmmakers could easily have cut in some footage of swingers talking about issues of communicating with their main partners — that would at least have leavened the “wild, crazy and emotionally irresponsible!” portrait they painted of the subculture, a portrait totally lacking in nuance. Or Maureen and David could simply have filmed themselves saying, explicitly: “What we saw of swinging doesn’t work for us, but we can see why it works for others, and as long as other people are having fun with their consensual non-monogamy, we won’t judge their model.”

Fortunately, there were swingers at the discussion group — mostly represented by the very eloquent Ultimates, who do a lot of work in the swinger community — who were able to comment and respond to questions. And not only were there both polyfolk and swingers at the discussion; there were also lots of people who had no real exposure to either subculture, which meant that they got newly educated about both! Yay!

For me, one of the most telling moments of the discussion for me was when one person asked, “Could we define polyamory vs. swinging?” Both were defined quite beautifully by audience members who practiced those respective approaches — and both definitions were, I thought, pretty similar. I understand that the polyamory community prefers to distance itself from swinging, and vice versa is probably true as well. But at heart, both swinging and polyamory are obviously about finding a way out of the conventional monogamous paradigm; both approaches, when practiced well, emphasize excellent communication skills and distancing from jealousy. I could list an awful lot of commonalities among those four FAQ pages ….

It makes me think that the really big difference between swinging and polyamory is not so much in the practices themselves, but in the people who comprise those subcultures and the cultural mores within those subcultures. Loosely speaking, I see this in the stereotypes applied to swinging vs. polyamory: stereotypes like “swingers are older suburban couples with otherwise normal, white-picket-fence lives”, or “polyfolk are younger, pagan, fantasy-reading hippies with long hair”. Those stereotypes don’t speak for everyone in the swing/poly communities, but they really do describe some major general demographics. (And I say this in the most loving possible way. I love suburbs, hippies, and fantasy fiction myself … :grin:) There are also huge differences in what’s culturally accepted within swinging vs. polyamory. For instance, I’ve noticed that swingers tend to be much more into plastic surgery than polyfolk.

In turn, this leads to the question: How does the urge towards consensual non-monogamy manifest itself in other groups, other cultures, other subcultures? Both swing and poly are extremely weighted with white, privileged Westerners. Are there consensual non-monogamy subcultures that I’ve never heard of among, say, lower-class Americans? It would make sense to me if privileged people are more likely to create these subcultures — privileged people tend to have a lot more time and money to devote towards questions of sexuality. But then again, maybe I’m just narrowed by my own surroundings, my own associates, my own subcultures, my own privilege.

Anyway, that question is tangential, and highly theoretical to boot. To return to “When Two Won’t Do”: again, I thought it was a nice portrait of beginning polyamory and the polyamory community. It showed a lot of heartbreak, a lot of negotiating and re-negotiating, a lot of “we screwed that one up so let’s try it again” — things that are so important in any committed relationship, really. It also showed some beautiful moments of love and intimacy and great communication, plus excellent relationship ideas and advice. It didn’t explicitly ask a lot of questions, but I think it created a great framework to discuss some really important ones.

Here’s one I’ve pondered a lot: is consensual non-monogamy better considered an intrinsic identity/ sexual orientation, or a chosen lifestyle? I find myself coming down on the vague side of, “Both.” I think some people are simply wired for consensual non-monogamy in ways that other people definitely aren’t. Maureen, the “main character” in the documentary, seems to know for sure that poly is what she wants; her partner David, though he’s open to experimenting, is just as clearly not into it. David’s someone I would think of as “monogamy-identified”; I consider myself to be that way. But I remember over the New Year, I had a conversation about this with one of my favorite people in the world — who happens to be poly — and she scoffed at the idea that it’s an identity/orientation. She feels that she can switch back and forth … that it’s a choice for her, not that polyamory or monogamy is an intrinsic need.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t seem to do well with messages that depend on tricky concepts like context or individual differences. So I’m not sure how best to propagate the viewpoint of “it can be chosen or an identity! whatever makes people happy!” I guess I could always just keep saying that there is no “should”.

Well, there’s more to say (as always), but I think I’ll wrap this one up. If you’d like to buy the film, you can purchase a copy on the website for Picture This Productions.

Our March 10 documentaries will all be on the subject of BDSM — my favorite! This should be fun. We’re starting with “BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!” by Erin Palmquist, whose title explains it all really. From there, we’ll move on to “Leather” (members of the leather community describe it), “Cut & Paste” (a personal documentary that explores the historical contexts of race, gender identity and sexual agency) and “Forever Bottom” (a clever look at the stigma attached to being on the receiving end in gay male relationships). I’m so excited!

2008 26 Dec

Casual sex? Casual kink?

I have the benefit of a very sexually open, pro-sex, highly sex-educated upbringing. Perhaps as a result of this, I went through a period — back when I was first becoming sexually active — where I simply could not figure out why sexual acts with people I didn’t care about, didn’t seem to turn me on. Or rather — they turned me on a little, but not … much. It actually took me a while to register that the difference was emotional engagement: sexual acts with people I really cared about were dramatically better. This seems so obvious, I’m kinda shocked by how long it took me.

(For the record: I identify as very sex-positive! — but my issues with the general sex-positive message, or at least the way the message has largely been received, deserve their own post. I’m sure I’ll write one soon.)

Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I not only was way more into sexual acts with people I was emotionally invested in; I was really not into sexual acts with people I wasn’t emotionally invested in. I personally dislike casual sex, even when the acts in question are as “mild” as heavy petting. So I pretty much stopped.

On some level, though, my preference against casual sex has always bothered me. For a while, it was because I just didn’t feel “liberated” enough. (I wish I could get every American child with a liberal sex education to write this 100 times: “It is a perfectly valid preference if you don’t want to have casual sex! It doesn’t mean you’re repressed, or warped, or should try to train yourself out of it!”) Anyway, after I got past the “liberation” trap, I started feeling depressed about the fact that this is a huge limit on my sexual experimentation.

I mean, ideally, if I want to explore my sexuality to the greatest possible extent, I need to be open to having sex with lots and lots of people, right? And I’m just … not. Which means that my sexual experimentation is limited to people I already care about, feel somewhat connected to, have built something with already. I find this incredibly annoying! But ultimately, I acknowledge that I feel much worse if I try to force/guilt trip myself into casual sex, than I do when I limit my sexual partners. I feel way better when I’m somewhat frustrated and not getting any, than I would if I tried to take the edge off by screwing some guy I’m not very interested in.

(Oddly, I’ve had one or two casual encounters that I enjoyed. I’ve never been able to figure out why those were different from the others — I’m working on it. Maybe it’s just that I connected emotionally more quickly to those guys than I do to most people? … For the most part, though, I recall my casual encounters with a wince — mostly because I felt so confused. “Why aren’t I enjoying this more?” I was asking myself. “I must be. Sex is fun, right?”)

So. I have established that I’m not into casual sex. I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries with people I’m not very sexually interested in. And I’m okay with that, albeit frustrated.

But what about casual kink?

I discovered my BDSM orientation a few years ago; I went through a period of adjustment, and then I went through a couple of monogamous relationships. Since the end of my last relationship I’ve played, BDSM-wise, with people I didn’t know very well — in a few cases, total strangers. I’m glad I did it, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. But the encounters that rated as most enjoyable were ones where there was more effort put forth to emotionally connect, especially the ones that happened in private. (I think privacy really intensifies my ability to connect to my partner.) *

Not that it’s incredibly easy to connect to me! There’s this stereotype that tops are closed off and emotionally cold, and bottoms are emotionally open — easily taken advantage of. But when I look at my BDSM experiences, I see that I have often been less emotionally accessible than tops I’ve played with. I shut myself down, I don’t talk about what I’m thinking, I give only small wedges of information about myself and what I want. It takes a lot for me to tell a top much of what I’m feeling. This is a pattern I am working to break.

What all this probably means is that it would be good for me to take more time to get to know the tops I’m interested in, before I play with them. I should try to build care before going straight for the BDSM.

Yeah, half of me thinks I really should simply close myself off to casual kink, the same way I’ve pretty much closed myself off to casual sex. Yet the other half is screaming against that, because my BDSM urge is way stronger than my sexual urge. Not that I don’t love sex, and want it, and enjoy the hell out of it! However. I crave BDSM. Going without sex feels less like celibacy than going without BDSM.

It’s also easier for me to enjoy casual BDSM, than it is for me to enjoy casual sex. There’s a few reasons for this. One is that extreme pain can … blank me … much more easily than sex can. And I need to trust my partner way more to immerse myself in the right headspace for sex, than I do to get into the right headspace for masochism.

In conclusion, I’m not sure, but I think I’m coming to a place where I want to limit my casual BDSM. Which is even more frustrating than limiting casual sex! And it’s even worse at this moment in my life, because I got very badly burned in my last relationship — the passage of time just seems to make it more obvious how much further I need to heal before I’ll be ready for a new boyfriend. Am I limiting myself to celibacy until then? Damn it, I don’t want that!

Sigh. We’ll see.

… Of course, preferences do change over time. I’m open to having different feelings about casual BDSM (and even casual sex) now, from my feelings in the future. Also, I’ve been having some surprisingly intense toppish fantasies lately, too (surprising because — until now, anyway — I’ve identified mostly as a bottom). Those fantasies don’t seem to have anything to do with sex, and they feel somewhat … performative. I’m curious to see whether, in the course of exploring them, I’ll find myself interested in topping casually and/or publicly.

* Hey kids! If you are considering having a casual BDSM experience in private, then be careful! If you can, then ask your partner for references — call the references, and see what they have to say. Meet any potential partner in a public place and hash out the details of what you want to happen, before you go private with them. Be sure to look at their driver’s license, and text their real name and license number to a trusted friend before you leave the public place. Arrange to call the friend at a prearranged time later — and instruct the friend to go to the police if they don’t hear from you. (Incidentally, you should probably do the same thing if you go home with a stranger to have sex with them!) Please note that you are usually quite safe if you have a BDSM experience with a stranger in the middle of a community playspace such as a dungeon; if you do that, make sure that you know the house safeword (it’s probably “red”) so you know what to scream if you want outsiders to intervene. Please also note that even if you are a top, you are not totally safe with someone you don’t know or trust: for one thing, you could be risking assault charges if there is a communication failure and your partner ends up feeling violated … or if your partner is a sociopath and decides to screw you over.