Posts Tagged ‘storytime’

2012 14 Mar

“Confessions” is doing awesomely! Here’s an excerpt!

I am completely thrilled to announce that Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser is doing awesomely. Within two days of release, it reached #1 in both the Feminist Theory category and the Sex category on Amazon! There are testimonials and reviews linked in my last post (and in the comments). If you haven’t bought it yet, you totally should. (Also, you can become a fan of Confessions on Facebook!)

A number of people have asked whether I’ll release it in physical form, or on another electronic platform. Due to popular demand, I will release physical copies of the book within the next few weeks — but they will be fairly pricey, because it’s a long book and production costs will be high. UPDATE: I also released the book through Smashwords, where it can be downloaded in any format. DOUBLE UPDATE: Click here to buy the book in paperback at CreateSpace!

I’m also really happy to tell you that my panel at the SXSW-interactive conference went well. The panel was about pickup artists and feminism, and SXSW took a recording, so I’ll link you to the recording as soon as it’s released. Also! The well-known pickup artist coach Adam Lyons was on the panel with me, and I was able to snag an interview, so watch this space for more on that.

So yeah. Buy my book on Amazon or on Smashwords or in paperback at CreateSpace. It’s awesome, I promise.

* * *

Before I give you an excerpt from Confessions, let me show you a classic photo of what pickup artists call “peacocking”:

The gentleman in the boots is Mystery, and the one in the snakeskin suit is Neil Strauss.

Aaand … here’s an abridged excerpt from my book! (Previously run on Role/Reboot.)

* * *

My dress was bright red, I was wearing an obscene amount of eyeliner, and I was surrounded by thumping music and flashing lights. I’d spent my evening hanging out with pickup artists (PUAs) in their natural habitat: a nightclub. They were a mixed group. Some seemed shy and awkward, some blustery, and some completely confident. One of them took a shine to me: David, a PUA instructor who wore a lavender rhinestone-studded suit to the club.

Most of the PUAs departed the club around 1 AM, except for David, still hilariously out of place in his sparkly suit.  We hit the dance floor again until David asked, “Want to go get something to eat?”
“Sure,” I said, and left the club with him.  On our way out we ran into one of my non-PUA friends, who gave David a sharp look.  “You get her home safe,” said my friend.
“Of course,” David said amiably.

2012 8 Mar

“Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser” NOW AVAILABLE

Pickup artists.

(Cover image copyright © 2005 Beautiful Disasters Photography. Thanks so much to Beautiful Disasters for giving it to me. Cover image description: A girl in a corset with a bowler hat tipped down over her eyes.)

I have basically been running a marathon with my brain in order to release this ebook in time for the SXSW-interactive conference, and I’m a little stunned that I succeeded. You can click here to buy the book now for Amazon Kindle!

UPDATE, March 24: Thanks to everyone who bought it so far! It really made a splash! Within two days of release, the book hit #1 in both the Amazon “Feminist Theory” and the Amazon “Sex” category … and it stayed at #1 in both categories for a week. It’s at full price now, and as of this update, it’s still #1 in “Feminist Theory.” You can now also now buy the book on Smashwords, which offers pretty much every possible e-format.

UPDATE, April 15: Now you can buy the book in paperback form at CreateSpace!

Here’s the Amazon description of the book:

There’s an enormous subculture of men who trade tips, tricks, and tactics for seducing women. Within the last half-decade or so, these underground “pickup artists” have burst into the popular consciousness, aided by Neil Strauss’s bestselling book “The Game” and VH1’s hit reality show “The Pick-Up Artist.” Some men in the seduction community are sleazy misogynists who want nothing more than power and control. Some are shy wallflowers who don’t know how to say “Hi” to a girl. The one thing they all have in common is a driving need to attract women.

Clarisse Thorn, a feminist S&M writer and activist, spent years researching these guys. She observed their discussions, watched them in action, and learned their strategies. By the end of it all, she’d given a lecture at a seduction convention and decided against becoming the next great dating coach. In “Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser,” Clarisse tells the story of her time among these Casanovas, as well as her own unorthodox experiences with sex and relationships. She examines the conflicts and harmonies of feminism, pickup artistry, and the S&M community. Most of all, she deconstructs and reconstructs our views on sex, love, and ethics — and develops her own grand theory of the game.

Also: you should totally become a fan of Confessions on Facebook! I encourage discussion there, and in comments here. I’m very curious to see what people think of it all.

Right now I’m here in Austin for the conference, and even though I’m completely exhausted, I’m also psyched. I’ve been recruited for a panel on pickup artists and feminism that’s being run by Kristin Cerda — it features myself, the female dating coach Charlie Nox, the pickup artist coach Adam Lyons, and the well-known feminist Amanda Marcotte. The panel will take place on Saturday March 10 at 6.30 PM. If you know anyone who will be at SXSW, you should totally tell them to attend!

* * *

Reviews and Testimonials
(I’ll update this as more come in)

I lived and breathed the PUA world for years and I honestly thought I had seen everything. But Clarisse brought some fresh and interesting perspectives, which was really cool.

~ excerpt from interview with pickup artist coach Mark Manson

I found her book to be insightful, thoughtful, engaging, and very well-balanced. She talks about all sides of the community, the positive, negative, and horrendous, and she draws larger lessons about society and human nature.

~ excerpt from Psychology Today interview by Scott Barry Kaufman

Clarisse’s analysis is as interesting, easy-to-follow and well-laid out as it is in all of her writing, but the most compelling thing in this book is not the analysis itself (which I was expecting), but the way in which Clarisse uses memoir to supplement her analysis. Clarisse is a brilliant sex writer with what appears to be (on the page, at least) an unflinching ability to reveal personal information. That talent is highlighted here as Clarisse fleshes out scenes that create a parallel emotional and intellectual journey, allowing the reader to travel with her through the insights and frustration of her time on the fringes of the pick-up artist community. Her intelligent writing about S&M and polyamory help establish her presence in the text as someone with a subaltern point of view, and place pick-up artistry within the context of other sexual subcultures so that the book’s criticism is grounded in an almost ethnographic framework which works to keep the text from becoming sensationalist or exotifying.

~ excerpt from review by feminist science fiction writer and Nebula award winner Rachel Swirsky

Gutsy, troubling, messy, and great

~ Jonathan Korman on Twitter

This is a very good book. Putting hideous in the title implied to me that it was a man bashing book or a condemn all the evil PUA dudes to hell kind of read. However, being a knowledgeable member of the PUA community, i was still intrigued enough to check out the Amazon Kindle preview.

Hello! Finally, somebody — male or female, it didn’t matter to me — has taken this whole PUA seriously and made a real study of it. This book is more like 5 or 10 books in a good way. Tons of great insights, ideas, interviews, stories, etc. A very generous sharing by the author. … And to be completely honest, the really serious student of PUA will want to get this book and read it cover to cover to learn how to be even better at his craft — lots of valuable clues in here (sorry, Clarisse, but you really did spill a lot of beans… thank you :)).

~ excerpt from Amazon review by Turiyananda

I think this is going to become a very important piece of modern feminist literature.

~ Bianca James in a quick review

Clarisse is unflinchingly honest (radically honest, even) about the occasionally hot, often tormented, and chronically analytic headspace she experienced as a sex-positive feminist investigating the bizarre subculture of pick up artistry. She risks endangerment of her sanity, her feminist paradigm, and her person to stalk, interview, and, yes, flirt her way through the underworld of geeks and sleazebags of pick up artistry. … After outlining and explaining this disturbing world, she tore it to shreds in a dissection that is too honest to completely please anyone involved: pick up artists, feminists, and innocent bystanders will all leave with a lesson or two.

~ excerpt from Amazon review by Katy Huff

The book is intense, mesmerizing, disturbing, and sometimes downright terrifying. It’s also amazing: there’s tons of information that I use every time I interact with a partner.

~ a gentleman Facebook commenter and early reader

Clarisse’s big strength in Confessions is her empathy. A lot of times people only understand their little corner of the gendersphere and have ideas that are at best strawmen and at worst outright lies about the other corners. But Clarisse understands why men might take up pickup, and how it would help them, and how it can become destructive. She understands the eroticism of power, both in vanilla and kinky sex. She understands actual sex-positivity, not the caricatured version of “we are all SLUTS because it is EMPOWERING” that idiots continually push.

Clarisse Thorn understands that shit is complicated.

~ excerpt from review by feminist Ozy Frantz

I really enjoy how Clarisse’s writing makes it seem she’s telling me this over coffee. ♥

~ Lidia-Anain on Twitter

If there’s an overriding message, I think that’s it: that whether it’s feminism, or BDSM, or polyamory, or PUA, these are all dangerous, complex, conflicted territories, some perhaps more treacherous than others, but difficult to navigate all the same. Where we stop, who we meet, how prepared we are, how our fatigue and weariness affect us, who we have as our traveling companions, what we bring with us to comfort us, what we encounter that frightens us, what reminds us of home and what reminds us that we’re no longer there… all of these things are of account.

All of them, always, in ways that we know and recognize, and in ways that we don’t, sometimes early enough to correct, and sometimes only too late.

~ excerpt from review by Infra

* * *

If you want to review the book, then I would obviously love that. Just let me know and I’ll post a link to your review. In the meantime, here are some of my past posts on pickup artistry:
* Feminist S&M Lessons from the Seduction Community
* [guest post] Detrimental Attitudes of the Pickup Artist Community
* Ethical Pickup Artistry

OK but seriously, buy it now for Kindle or buy it on Smashwords … or buy it in paperback form at CreateSpace.

* * *

2012 18 Feb

[storytime] The Tale of My Broken Neck

Neck-breaking! It happens. It happened to me, and people keep asking for the details, so here’s the Definitive Story of Clarisse’s Broken Neck.

The Accident

I’ve always been terrified of both biking and driving; I never wanted to learn either skill. One could blame this on the fact that I was in a car accident at a very young age. Or on the fact that I tend to live in my head a lot and I’m not great at staying 100% aware of (or interested in) the physical world around me. Or on the various nightmares about biking and driving that I had as a kid. I kept dreaming that I was in charge of a vehicle that went out of control.

I ultimately learned to drive when I was 21 for work reasons, and also because — while I try to make sure that my risks are very careful and well-considered — I also try not to indulge myself when I’m scared of things. Age 26 was when one of my friends finally managed to teach me to ride a bike. Many had tried before, but I just couldn’t get it until age 26. I gritted my teeth, I learned, and I practiced.

And then, in August 2011, age 27, I fractured my spine in a stupid accident. Maybe the fear itself was what screwed me up. Or maybe my fears were extremely rational; maybe I sensed something about myself and my balance and my own physical awareness that other people couldn’t see, and maybe I should have listened to myself …. Oh well.

Basically, I slammed headfirst into a lamppost late one evening. This would have been much more hilarious if it hadn’t almost killed me.

The accident happened while I was practicing on Chicago’s lakefront path. Other than the broken neck, I was almost completely unharmed. I was wearing a helmet, which is presumably why I survived. I didn’t even know my neck was broken at first. I hit the lamppost, fell back off my bike, landed on my knees, and realized that my neck hurt a lot.

I remember being relieved that my glasses weren’t broken.

I lay down on the path and caught my breath. The pain in my neck didn’t register so much, as long as I lay straight. Then I thought: I’m not in a safe area of the city. I should get home. So I stood up — fuck, my neck hurts — I stood up, took a few deep breaths to power through the pain, and picked up my bike, which was unusable. I decided that I ought to go home and sleep; I figured I’d feel better in the morning.

After walking maybe a hundred feet, I knew something was wrong, like seriously wrong. My body felt dulled and my movements felt uncertain. I ruffled through my thoughts and decided that although I felt like I could remember everything important, something was fuzzy. Maybe I have a concussion, I thought. So I called one of my flatmates and asked him to come get me. When he found me, I was throwing up into a garbage can, and he insisted that we go to the hospital.

I vomited four more times while the hospital kept me in the waiting room; I also started shivering and crying uncontrollably. After maybe an hour, they took me back into the Intensive Care Unit and laid me down on a table, where some doctors gave me morphine and informed me that I’d fractured my spine. I was told to lie very, very still and to quit doing things like standing up and walking to the bathroom. Some doctors were very reassuring, but others were like: “Um yeah, we don’t really know the extent of the damage and you could still accidentally sever your spinal cord, so just lie still, would you?”

That was when I got really scared, and started composing messages for people I loved in case of my untimely death.

I thought about calling my parents, but I knew they’d freak out way more than I was freaking out, and I didn’t want to upset them until I had some kind of solution to the situation. And I updated Twitter, which is ridiculous, but I guess that’s what bloggers do when we break our necks, especially if we only have a text-capable phone rather than a smartphone.

I lay on that table for many hours, until well past dawn.

The Choice

I had texted my in-case-of-death messages to my best girlfriend, which was sort of a mean thing for me to do, I guess, but I wasn’t sure how else to go about it. Obviously, as soon as she woke up the next morning, she got the messages and freaked out. She was out of town, but she sent her husband to keep me company. As the news got around, other friends of mine came to visit or called or texted. Some of them brought me vegan food, or actually stayed with me in my hospital room on cots, or argued with health care professionals who didn’t seem to be listening to me. The guy I’d broken up with several days before came and fed me smoothies all weekend, which was incredibly nice of him.


2012 10 Feb

[storytime] The Strange Binary of Dominance and Submission

It’s been a while since I felt simultaneously very into someone, and very sure about him. It’s a strange feeling. I’ve been playing with theories about how “flirtation is basically an exercise in strategic ambiguity” and “insecurity is an integral part of romantic intoxication” and “uncertainty is an emotional amplifier“, and I do think that those ideas are true in many ways. But I got so wrapped up in theory that I forgot how it feels to be way into someone … and only a little bit scared.

* * *

I met Mica at a Saturday night party. When I left the next morning, he said he wanted to see me again as soon as possible. “Monday?” he asked. “Tuesday?”

“Monday,” I said. “Tomorrow.”

He’s a smart, creative thinker. There are layers to him, and he practically shines: so why not call him Mica? I would love talking to him for those reasons alone. But there’s also a kind of certainty to him; a calm presence; an extraordinary quality of attention. Once he’s focused on a partner, there’s a rhythm behind everything he does. He’s so precise that when I’m kissing him, I feel like an awkward puppy.

I observed this very quickly, and something else: that the quality of his attention — often overtook him. Controlled him. In a sexual interaction, it’s difficult to distract him from catering to me. And since he’s excellent at reading my desires, I usually don’t want to distract him.

It made me think of what I was like, years ago, before I understood my submissive tendencies. Mica hadn’t done much explicit S&M before, and when he’d done it, he was dominant. I didn’t want to project too much, or make any assumptions about him … but I couldn’t help noticing.

The second night I was with him, I asked him to inflict light pain on me. Very light. I didn’t want to go further with him, yet. But his instincts for delivering pain and watching my reactions were, as I suspected, beautifully calibrated.

The third night I was with him, he touched my face and kissed me. I felt my eyelashes flutter and my body melt, and he smiled. Then he said, “I’m feeling really gentle tonight. I don’t know how much I’m up for.”

He doesn’t want S&M right now, I thought. Sometimes guys date me and get anxious that I’ll be disappointed when they don’t want to do S&M. This is understandable, given that I’m an S&M writer. But I hate that, because the last thing I want is for one of my partners to feel obligated … and besides, even I don’t want all-S&M-all-the-time. I smiled directly into Mica’s eyes and told him I was fine with it.

In bed, I watched him. Watched his extraordinary attentiveness. Eventually we got to a point where I was leaning over him, kissing him. I watched him give up his body to the kiss. He doesn’t want S&M right now, I thought, … except that his main experience with S&M, so far, is being in charge.

“Do you trust me?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said. “Absolutely.”

I clenched my nails into Mica’s side, and his back arched. It was the clearest invitation I’d seen from him and, I suspected, the clearest invitation he knew how to give. If he even knew that he was giving it. It can take a lot of time and experience for a submissive to learn what they want well enough to give good feedback for it. It’s one of those submissive skills that people don’t think about enough, because for some reason we’re always too busy teaching dominant skills.

I kissed Mica again, and tore into his back.

He was ready for it. His breathing fast became irregular; he gasped; he shook in my hands. After a while, I pulled back and simply observed the intensity flooding through him. His body undulated like a wave.

“I knew you were dangerous,” he breathed. “In exactly the way that I want.”

“Dangerous,” I repeated. I hesitated. “What do you mean?” His eyelashes flickered, and I saw that he was too far under to answer me. He probably barely knew what he was saying. (In S&M, we call this state of mind subspace.)

I pushed him a little farther. I only used my nails, but you can do a lot with your nails. I said his name, over and over. He struggled, he fought his own body. I observed the struggle and saw myself in it. “I know,” I told him.

Eventually Mica said, quite seriously, that he wanted to stop. I was certain that he could take more. A lot more. I might have been able to convince him to continue, and had him thank me for it later. But he needs to know that I’ll respect him when he says to stop. Also, in a somewhat self-interested way, I don’t want to set a precedent where his boundaries are entirely nonverbal; where his limits depend on my capacity to see through him. Maybe someday, when we know each other really well. Right now, it would make it too easy to seriously harm him … and for him to hate me afterwards.

So I stopped.

“No one has ever touched me so deeply, so fast before,” Mica said, later. And, later later: “This changes everything.” I lay still, kept my arms around him, listening. “That was total catharsis,” he said. “I mean –” a note of doubt crept into his voice. “Do you actually like doing that?”

“Yes,” I said. I said it fast and hard, because he needs to believe it. I understood why he was asking: I’ve been there. When I was first getting into S&M, the first time I felt that way, I had a hard time believing that my partner actually liked doing that for me. It felt so incredible. It felt like I couldn’t possibly be giving back as much as I received. Sometimes, I still feel that insecurity.


2012 19 Jan

I’m in the hospital! Comment mod will be slow.

When this is posted, I will be in the hospital recovering from more stuff around that broken neck thing. I might update Twitter at some point, but don’t bet on it. Comment moderation and answering comments will be slow. Don’t hate me.

UPDATE: I am out of the hospital and everything went fine! But comment mod will still be slow because I have no inclination to do anything but take Vicodin and sleep for many days.

In the meantime, I encourage you to enjoy this Twitter screencap, which brought me close to tears of mildly-bitter and ironic laughter:

(Image description: (more…)

2011 17 Dec

[storytime] The Tell-Tale Ring … With A New Conclusion

I know I said at the end of my last post that I’d write more about “failed S&M encounters”, but that’ll have to be my next entry, because this is what I feel like writing about now. The first half of this post originally appeared at the girl-power site Off Our Chests; the second half of this post is an update, culminating on Friday morning.

* * *

So, I have this ex. I dated him for a long time, but we haven’t really talked in ages. I suspect that I hurt him pretty bad when he dated; he hurt me pretty bad, too.

I’ve written about him only a few times. For instance, I wrote about him when I discussed my history of figuring out how to reach orgasm, because he … was not a good sexual partner. He pressured me in a lot of unpleasant sex-related ways. During one fight, he even shouted at me that he didn’t care about my sexual satisfaction.

I know that he was manipulative. I know that he ignored my needs. And I know that he hurt me. But I also believe that he loved me. I know he understands me deeply, and respects me in a lot of ways. I know I was important to him, and I know I wasn’t always the most reasonable partner myself.

Where is the space for me to reconcile these things?

I once wrote a long post about him that got very different reactions from different readers. A commenter on one feminist website informed me that he had abused me; she told me that I “should” admit that I am a victim of abuse. Whereas a writer an an anti-feminist site wrote a whole post about me titled: “Another Sexually & Emotionally Defective Feminist.” The post described me as “histrionic” and “flawed” and “melodramatic”. This armchair psychoanalysis concluded that my sexual identity makes me “defective,” and that the whole experience arose because of my own failure to understand myself.

It seems that from the outside, some observers will conclude that he was “at fault”, and some will conclude that I was “at fault”. Obviously, I’d prefer to believe that he was “at fault”. But maybe “fault” isn’t the most productive way to think about this?

I know he hurt me. The relationship was incredibly problematic. I see some of the things he said to me in descriptions of emotional abuse tactics such as gaslighting. That post defines gaslighting like this:

For our discussion, I consider gaslighting to be a repeat, systematic series of lies that are designed to make the victim doubt her reality.

… Gaslighting can be intentional, such as … where a partner purposely moves or hides your stuff to make you feel forgetful and untethered to your memory.

Gaslighting can also be an unintentional side-effect, as a classic outcome of living with a narcissist, or with a partner who is trying to cover up their pattern of abuse, or with the addict trying to cover up their addiction. It is done in order to preserve the … [gaslighter’s] vision of himself as an honest and upstanding person without actually doing the things that would make it so.

For example: after the fight when my ex told me that he didn’t care about my sexual satisfaction — after I walked out of the room, and walked around crying for hours before I finally had to come back because I was staying with him and had nowhere else to go — after that fight, he told me that he’d never said those words.

I know he said those words. I even said, “You can’t mean that,” and he repeated them. But I was so tired, after all the fighting and the crying, that I didn’t push when he told me that he never said it. All I felt was disjointed confusion and pain and … lack of words.

I let him create the reality between us — or he took control of that reality, with his subtle social violence. And our sex life remained bad. So bad that when I think of having sex with him today, all I can feel is shivering disgust.

Maybe he didn’t mean to do it. But it’s important for me to understand that even if he didn’t mean to mess with my head so much, he did it anyway. It’s important for me to understand that even if he didn’t mean to hurt me so bad, he hurt me. It’s important for me to understand those things because it helps me trust myself; it helps me value my own emotions; it helps me protect myself.

Late in our relationship, he gave me a ring. It was a valuable ring; an old heirloom. After we broke up, I tried to give it back. “No,” he said, “it’s yours, I gave it to you. I want you to keep it.”

I didn’t especially want to keep it — but I kept it. I didn’t know what else to do.

Years later, I was leaving the country. I found the ring as I was packing up my life. I called him and told him I wanted to give it back.

I left the call to the last minute, because thinking about calling him made me so anxious. We talked for a while about nothing important, and I remember thawing. I remember thinking, oh, that’s right, he’s smart and funny and he knows me so well. I liked him for good reasons.

It took me a while to bring up the ring; half an hour or so. I said that I knew it was an heirloom, that someday he’d meet someone else who should have it. I said that I didn’t want to wear it. That I didn’t want to keep it at all.

It was late at night and I recall standing, stretching, listening to his voice on the other end of the line.

“No,” he said. “It’s for you. I gave it to you. If you don’t want it, then you can sell it or give it away or bury it or throw it away. I don’t care what you do with it. It’s yours.”

But he knew I’d never throw it away or give it away or sell it or bury it. And as I stood holding my cell phone, I remember thinking that this was the last hold he had on me. I recognized how I felt. I was feeling disjointed confusion and pain and … lack of words.

I didn’t want the ring. I didn’t want it.

But, “Okay,” I finally said, and we said goodbye and hung up, and I still have the ring.

I don’t especially stay in touch with him. He contacts me sometimes and says we should hang out. I always find excuses not to see him (though sometimes I can’t avoid it). It’s been years, but I’m still keeping my post-breakup distance. And I know that hurts him. Sometimes I feel smug that I came out of the whole affair with no desire to see him; sometimes I feel a little angry, sometimes I just feel sad.

I wonder if I’d feel more okay seeing him, if he hadn’t convinced me to keep the ring.

* * *

I originally published the above in late November. A few days ago, my ex contacted me and said he’d be in town. Said he’d love to hang out.

I’m going to give him a pseudonym. I’ve never named him in my writing before.

I’ll call him Mr. Blue Sky. Because he and I both love the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”: I can see blue skies through the tears in my eyes. Because his eyes are sky-blue, and he loves that song by The Who. Because when he and I were together, I felt like saying I didn’t love him would be like saying the sky wasn’t blue.

It’s been a long time.


2011 31 Oct

[storytime] A Unified Theory of Orgasm

Before I post my article about orgasms, happy Halloween:

I discovered this tiny sculpture (easily fits in my hand) at a friend’s party this weekend. Apparently it is known as a “Halloween labbit”; it was created by Frank Kozik and produced by the designer toy company Kidrobot. This discovery might just be the highlight of my entire life. Seriously. Study questions include, “What would you do if that were a real animal that ran into the room where you’re sitting right now?”

… Aaand on that note, let’s move on to “A Unified Theory of Orgasm”. This article was originally published at the girl-power site Off Our Chests.

* * *

and it’s poisoned
every romance
I’ve ever had.

masturbating doesn’t work. I don’t know why. I tried therapy too, but my smart, understanding, sex-positive, open-hearted doctor couldn’t help. drugs while fucking? check. I date attentive men who only want to make me happy, but no matter how fantastic they make me feel, I can’t get off. and believe me, I like sex. I love sex! how can it feel so good and not end in an orgasm? I tried experimenting, and I sure do love the kink. it feels great. but doesn’t get me off. I’ve tried everything. everything.

now I have the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. but just like every other one, he can’t get me off. big dick? oral sex? tons of foreplay? kink? it’s all there. nothing works. I used to lie to my boyfriends and say it was ok that I couldn’t get off. then at least they could enjoy sex without feeling guilty. but then they’d stop trying, of course. and this one is still trying … sometimes. I mean, it’s clearly never going to work. so I can’t blame him for not having the same passion for trying as he used to. and I keep thinking I should back off. after all, why put pressure on him to “perform”? he’ll just resent me if I keep asking for more, even if I’m gentle about it and compliment him and all that. since nothing he does works. it will never work.

and I try so hard not to get frustrated, but I can’t avoid the knowledge that I am fucked up, I must be broken. I mean, any normal woman would have come by now. so what do I do? I don’t know what I need. do I back off and focus on him? that’s what I end up doing, because I can’t face asking for a little more attention in bed anymore. what’s the point? he’ll just resent me when it doesn’t work again. so I back off. and I can’t help resenting him, just a little, for not noticing how much I’m hurting. and not trying, even if I am broken, and I will never ever come.

* * *


I. Vaginal Pain
III. Frigid
IV. The Fight
V. Men’s Perspective
VI. S&M, Redux
VII. Figuring It Out
VIII. Study Questions

* * *

I. Vaginal Pain

When I wrote the above, I was actually pretty close to figuring out how to have an orgasm. But I didn’t know that. I’d dealt with the anxiety of being unable to come for so long — and I’d also recently begun to understand that my sexuality is oriented towards S&M — and so anguish just flooded out of me, into those words. I craved S&M, but acknowledging the craving made me feel like a “pervert”, a “freak”. It contributed to my already-overwhelming fear that I was “broken” because I couldn’t figure out how to come.


2011 14 Oct

BDSM versus Sex, part 2: How Does It Feel?

Every once in a while, someone will ask me a question about something BDSM-related that I feel “done with”; I feel like I did all my thinking about those topics, years ago. But it’s still useful to get those questions today, because it forces me to try and understand where my head was at, three to seven years ago. It forces me to calibrate my inner processes. I often think of these questions as the “simple” ones, or the “101” questions, because they are so often addressed in typical conversation among BDSMers. Then again, lots of people don’t have access to a BDSM community, or aren’t interested in their local BDSM community for whatever reason. Therefore, it’s useful for me to cover those “simple” questions on my blog anyway.

Plus, just because a question is simple doesn’t mean the question is not interesting.

One such question is the “BDSM versus sex” question. Is BDSM always sex? Is it always sexual? A lot of people see BDSM as something that “always” includes sex, or is “always sexual in some way”. In the documentary “BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!“, one famous BDSM writer is quoted saying something like: “I would say that eros is always involved in BDSM, even if the participants aren’t doing anything that would look sexual to non-BDSMers.”

But a lot of other people see BDSM, and the BDSM urge, as something that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sex — that is separate from sex.

I see two sides to this question: the political side, and the “how does it feel?” side. Both sides are intertwined; when it comes to sex, politics can’t help shaping our experiences (and vice versa). I acknowledge this. And yet even when I try to account for that, there is still something deeply different about the way my body feels my BDSM urges, as opposed to how my body feels sexual urges. I don’t think that those bodily differences could ever quite go away, no matter how my mental angle on those processes changed.

I already wrote Part 1 of this post about the political side of this question. Now for Part 2 ….

The Embodied Side of BDSM versus Sex

Although Part 1 was all about how the divide between “BDSM” and “sex” is often nonsensical, or purely political, or socially constructed … that doesn’t mean that the divide does not exist. I once had a conversation about ignoring social constructs with a wise friend, who noted dryly that: “One-way streets are a social construct. That doesn’t mean we should ignore them.” Just because the outside world influences our sexuality, does not mean that our sexual preferences are invalid.

Some polyamorous BDSMers have very different rules about having sex with outsiders, as opposed to doing BDSM with outsiders. For example, during the time when I was considering a transition to polyamory, I myself had a couple relationships where we were sexually monogamous — yet my partners agreed that I could do BDSM with people who weren’t my partner. Those particular partners felt jealous and threatened by the idea of me having sex with another man, but they didn’t mind if I did BDSM with another man. Maybe the feelings of those partners only arose because they categorized “BDSM” and “sex” into weirdly different socially-constructed ways … but those partners’ feelings were nonetheless real, and their feelings deserved respect.

And there are also unmistakable ways that BDSM feels different from sex. There is something, bodily, that is just plain different about BDSM, as opposed to sex. I often find myself thinking of “BDSM feelings” and “sexual feelings” as flowing down two parallel channels in my head … sometimes these channels intersect, but sometimes they’re far apart. The BDSM urge strikes me as deeply different, separate, from the sex urge. It can be fun to combine BDSM and sex, but there are definitely times when I want BDSM that feel very unlike most times when I want sex.

The biggest political reason why it’s difficult to discuss this is the way in which we currently conceptualize sexuality through “orientations”: we have built a cultural “orientation model” focused on the idea that “acceptable” sexuality is “built-in”, or “innate”. Some BDSMers consider BDSM an “orientation” — and I, myself, once found that thinking of BDSM as an orientation was extremely helpful in coming to terms with my BDSM desires. But one thing I don’t like about the orientation model now is that it makes us sound like we’re apologizing. “Poor little me! It’s not my fault I’m straight! Or a domme! Whatever!” Why would any of these things be faults in the first place? Our bodies are our own, our experiences are our own, and our consent is our own to give.

The orientation model is one of the cultural factors that makes it hard to discuss sensory, sensual experiences without defaulting to sexuality. As commenter saurus pointed out on the Feministe version of part 1 of this post:

Sometimes I think that we have compulsions, needs or “fetishes” that aren’t sexual, but lumping them in with sexuality is sometimes the most convenient or socially manageable way to deal with them or get those needs met. They might even physically arouse us for a variety of reasons, but that might be a side effect instead of the act’s inherent nature. Which is not to say that every act can be cleanly cleaved into “sexual” and “non-sexual” — of course not. But I think we lack a language around these needs that doesn’t use sexuality. I see a lot of groundbreaking work coming out of the asexual and disability justice communities in this regard (which is just to say that I find the folks in these groups are churning out some incredible ways to “queer” conventional dominant ideas about sexuality; not that they never have sex or whatever).

I think one answer to that is to just open up the definition of sexuality to include these things, but as someone who identifies vehemently not as “sex positive” but as “sex non-judgmental”, I know I don’t personally want all my shit to be lumped in with sexuality. It just makes me picture some sex judgmental person insisting that “oh, that’s totally sexual.”

I, Clarisse, can certainly attest that it’s common for people to have BDSM encounters that are “just” BDSM — “no sex involved”. For example — an encounter where one partner whips the other, or gets whipped, and there’s no genital contact or even discussion of genitals. (I’ve written about such encounters several times, like in my post on communication case studies.) And I’d like to stress that when I have encounters like that, they can be very satisfying without involving sex. The release — the high — I get from a heavy BDSM encounter can be its own reward.

I’ve also had BDSM encounters where I got turned on … (more…)

2011 30 Sep

[storytime] Chemistry

Thank you, all my readers, for your patience. To make up for the long wait, here’s an extra-long post.

* * *

It’s a long story and a short one, but I guess all of them are.

I’m 27. It’s about that age: A lot of my compatriots are getting married lately — most monogamously, some to a primary polyamorous partner. I myself have a stack of relationships in my past. Some were monogamous, some polyamorous. Some have been on-and-off; some short-term; one that lasted six years. Lately I’ve been processing some tough questions about polyamory, but I’d like to stick with it.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want in a primary polyamorous partner. The kind of guy I could marry. I wonder if I’ll ever get to that point. I wonder if I’d know him if I saw him.

* * *

I met Mr. Ambition at one of the aforementioned weddings. Several people recommended that I talk to him, and we liked each other right away. Mutual friends used words like “zealot” to describe him; let’s just say he’s got an intense history of dedicated activism. Charisma, integrity, and pure energy pour off him. His words are almost always articulate and challenging. He can socially dominate a room without thinking. He works a challenging job ten hours per day; exercises two hours; socializes several hours; sleeps and eats when he can. He gives hugs easily, laughs easily, hands out compliments like candy.

Mr. Ambition is most definitely not a neutral personality. Of course, neither am I.

At the time, I was just coming out of the worst stage of my research on pickup artists — a subculture of men who trade tips on how to seduce women. Also, I’d just had one of those breakups where I was too busy feeling stupid to properly understand how hurt I was. (Don’t you hate those?) You can read all about those Dramatic Events in my upcoming book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. In the meantime, suffice to say that I felt … flattened.

Arguably, I should have had a sign taped to my forehead that read: “Emotionally Unavailable.”

I went to dinner with Mr. Ambition later that week. At the end of the meal, he sat back and looked at me. “You’re so authentic,” he said.

“I haven’t felt very authentic lately,” I said frankly, but his words felt good. Like a balm. Like I was healing.

* * *

We got along excellently, had a lot in common, etc. Typical this-relationship-starts-well stuff. One evening, after we’d been out to eat in a big philosophical group, Mr. Ambition noted the hotness of my intense theoretical bent. “When you were discussing social justice and ethics tonight,” he said, “I wanted to reach across the table and grab you.”

He mentioned marriage within weeks. “This has never happened before,” he told me. “I’ve never dated someone I thought I could actually marry.” Whoa, tiger, I thought, but I had to admit that he hit a lot of my Ideal Characteristics as well. Intelligence, drive, charisma, and morality: it’s hard to argue with that.

Our sexual chemistry was okay, but not climb-the-walls stellar. We’ll develop that, I told myself. He’s less sexually experienced than I am, and we’ll learn each other just fine. Fortunately he’s got some experience with polyamory, but in terms of S&M, he’s another of those vanilla-but-questioning guys (I never learn). When we did S&M, I had to monitor the situation extra carefully because it was so new to him.

And for all his intelligence, it was really hard to talk to him about emotions. It wasn’t that he was cold or distant; on the contrary, he’s one of the most fiery people I’ve ever met. But he had a lot of difficulty explaining what was going on in his head. Indeed, he told me that he had a lot of difficulty knowing what was going on in his head. He did things like laugh when a friend hurt his feelings, then deny that he was hurt, even though I could plainly see the stricken look behind his eyes.

I wasn’t surprised that he was more physical than verbal about S&M. Very straightforward: throwing me around, pulling my head back, digging his hands into my skin. He’s incredibly strong, and sometimes I called my safeword simply because his strength scared me.

There was one particular S&M encounter … early in the evening, I called my safeword because I wasn’t sure he was into it.

“Red,” I said, and he stopped. “Is this okay with you?” I asked, and he nodded.


2011 16 Aug

So, I broke my neck.

That’s why I haven’t been around the Interwebs for a while. Because I broke my neck in a bicycle accident.

I’ll tell the whole story another time. For now, I just want to reassure everyone that I’m alive, and — miraculously — there will probably be no permanent damage. There are no signs of neurological issues or paralysis. I was in the hospital for a bit less than a week, and I have been outfitted with a neck brace called The Halo:

Yes, it was actually screwed directly into my skull. With screws. I feel like a cyborg. Or possibly a China Miéville character.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to writing regularly. Right now I’m too loopy on both pain and painkillers to be very effective. But it probably won’t be too long. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who sent good wishes via Twitter, email, etc.

Oh! And also? The only reason I survived this accident with nothing more than a fractured spine is because I was wearing a helmet. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I would be dead right now. Wear a helmet!

Much love to you all.