Thursday, December 7, 2017

Loving BDSM Series 6: Communication

What is your communication style?  What happens when you try to communicate your thoughts and needs?

My communication style is "poorly."

I jest, but I have a history of things like bullying and poverty that make asking for things I need exceptionally difficult, which tends to really have a toll on my relationships.  I got used to some serious shame when asking for things due to being rejected a lot for financial reasons as a child, and in elementary school I had very few friends (my best friend, I shit you not, pretended not to be my friend at all at school), so my communication skills developed... late.  Going into high school and even a little into college I hadn't shook any of the tendencies I'd developed to mitigate these factors.  And that kind of fucks with you.  I couldn't even talk to people organically until I got into the queer community at college, and it still affects me a great deal.

I also have a bad habit of not talking very directly about my needs.  I try to give people hints instead, which is not a real solution and has definitely hurt my sex life.

My current relationship I feel comfortable asking for things I need fairly directly, but it's honestly the first one where that's been the case.  If I am craving something that goes outside of my normal role I'm likely to text her about it beforehand, which increases my confidence in asking when she's actually over, or something like that.  But I feel pretty good about being able to say "yes, I want this" or "I am not in the mood for that."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Loving BDSM Series 6: Conflict

How do you handle conflict now?  How do you imagine handling it in D/s?  What do you think you'll need to do differently in a D/s relationship?

Quick admission I need to make here... I've never been in a vanilla relationship.

Seriously.  My first boyfriend back in high school, the entire way we met and started our relationship was on a forum where we had spiraled a conversation into a three-way BDSM relationship between me, him, and some other dude who was at one point kicked out for creating a Nazi alter-ego.  It was an online-mostly relationship and there was a lot of conflict because we were not great for each other... but it was still at its very base an attempt at a D/s relationship.  After that crashed and burned due to me coming out as trans, I would have sex with only two people, both of whom I met on FetLife and both of whom were functionally my subs (one a friend with benefits, the other my current partner).

The point is, this whole "imagine if..." thing is still reading quite weird.

Anyway, in my earlier relationship experience, the only one close to a vanilla relationship (even though it wasn't), we had a lot of conflict that we handled very poorly because we were teenagers with no life experience and sex education doesn't go far enough.  We were mutually manipulative, and BDSM sometimes factored into that (a cringeworthy and abusive thing I did--and I must reiterate that I wasn't old enough to be in the BDSM scene yet and didn't know shit--was use his desire to hit me as an emotional tool to make him feel like a bad person when he did something I didn't like, even though the hitting was consensual).  He'd throw his own manipulative shit back at me, mostly related to my trans status.  We broke up when I was I think 18 and I now really watch for this kind of behavior, because I have had echoes of this kind of manipulation around conflict in other types of relationships I've had (especially crush relationships).

My current relationship we tend to resolve the few conflicts we have by talking about them.  If it's too much to talk about it in person, it comes up in a text.  BDSM-wise this winds up being about things I've done during sex that had consequences I wasn't aware of for me to know in the future... but most of our conflicts actually are related to food or directions and we get angry at each other--not mean, but angry--and it turns into a joke after about how I didn't listen to her advice on cooking potatoes or rolling out pie crust or something.

I have no idea if this is how vanilla people resolve conflicts... but it seems to work?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Loving BDSM Series 5: Punishment

This kind of dropped off the planet for months and months, but just because why not, I'll start writing some of these again.  In addition I'll let you know that my girlfriend and her friend have a new podcast related to sex and relationships at Sexit Podcast on Soundcloud that you should check out if this sort of thing interests you.

Anyway, topic #5: As a submissive, are you willing to allow a Dominant to discipline or punish you in your relationship?  As a Dominant are you willing to require discipline or give out punishment?  What kinds of punishments can you imagine for bad behavior?

I'm getting these topics second-hand, so I don't know if it's intentional, but don't these questions read like they're directed at somebody who has never actually been in a BDSM relationship before?  Anyway.

I am a Dominant and punishment is one of those things I'm not great at from a consistency standpoint.  I like controlling, restraining, and using pain-giving toys, but when it comes to things like "I want you to do this" or "I want you to not do this," I'm fairly likely to forget what we agreed on.  So basically we have a structure in which this is supposed to happen, but I'm really lenient about it unless I go deep into Dom-space..

I also don't really have it in me to imagine things in terms of "bad behavior" because of both my perspective on the relationship and the way I view punishment to begin with.  My sub is an adult woman, not a child, nor do we have a dynamic mimicking this (even if she does call me "Daddy"), so the dynamic where I'm disciplining her for "being bad" kind of falls through.  In addition to that, I don't believe in corporal punishment for children or criminals, so I can't get into that headspace.

So when I punish, it's usually for something that happened during sex when I'm already in some sort of Dom-space, whether it's the dark stuff where I feel like a different person or the more playful Dom-space where I'm more confident than normal but too serious about it.  A great example is that she has occasionally called me names (one time we were playing with impact/slapping and she said "you fucker!") or escaped from a restraint, and I'm much more comfortable with that sort of thing than the weird life control thing some other Doms do (although obviously some subs want that, so more power to them... or less?).

When I am more submissive I am pretty averse to punishment.  I have in the past fantasized and considered seeking out punishment for lifestyle changes I wanted to make, but in retrospect am really glad I didn't go through with that as I know it would have just dragged my eating disorder on longer and some other garbage.

Happy Holiday Season! Don't teach your kids Santa is real.

My parents were really into keeping up the ruse of Santa Claus (and the Easter Bunny) when my brothers and I were kids.  They even went so far as to create video evidence using stop motion techniques on their old VHS video camera every year... running the camera, stopping it, putting a gift in place, and starting it again, continuing until all the gifts were there, so we could all watch film of them magically poofing into existence before our very eyes.  We were taught that Santa was sort of in cahoots with God and Jesus, making him in our childlike gullibility the only proof of God we had.  So when my parents told me it was them all along, after however many years (I don't actually remember) of being lied to, it was a life-shaking experience for me.  A number of people have had this be the catalyst for atheism; I didn't go that direction, but I did have to re-learn how to relate to the Divine radically differently.

When I originally started writing this (literally over a year ago), with Christmas looming, there were many parents out there sharing advice with other parents on social media about how to mitigate the problems with Santa... the trauma caused to kids when they learn he isn't real, the possible biases against other kids the concept could create, and so forth.  What I don't get is why more people don't suggest the obvious:  Don't trick your kids into believing in Santa to begin with.

This is I guess a sleeper subject for me... I strongly believe Santa trickery shouldn't be a thing, but it's also not a very popular subject, just like all parenting-related subjects, and I think my friends are always kind of surprised that I have strong opinions on this.  Since people think of the whole Santa lie as a mild, cute thing, it's easy to accuse myself and others of overreacting to something silly.  But here's the thing... while I've largely gotten over the personal trauma I experienced that night, there are still a lot of things about this practice that I detest, many of which don't actually have much at all to do with hurting your child's feelings once they reach that age.  Although that is, admittedly, a part of it.

First off, if you are raising your children into a religion, realize that Santa is very likely to become a God analogue for them.

A lot of Pagans (including myself as an adult) actually have adopted the Santa imagery used by Christians as a God stand-in, whether for Odin or the Holly King or some other deity.  When done responsibly (in other words, without lying), this can be a good teaching tool for Pagan children and a way to facilitate inclusion in secular Christmas activities so they don't feel left out of things.  I don't really understand why most Christians still use it, though, especially considering the high likelihood of teaching that he is literally a real divine or semi-divine person.

Think about it... you're drawing your kids' worship away from God and toward a being you know to be either fiction or at least fictionalized.  I was raised Roman Catholic, which I think makes more sense (Catholics work with saints, and Santa is after all a modernized Saint Nicholas), but saint veneration is one of the things protestants often despise about Catholicism, so adopting it for the youngest and most impressionable because it's cute or fun is really weird to me.  Were I a Christian I would consider this super risky for my children.

Anyway, like I mentioned earlier, Santa wound up being a godlike figure for me and at least one of my brothers.  I would literally pray to Santa Claus (making the later conversion to Paganism not at all surprising).  But religion doesn't actually work like Santa Claus, so you instill a very unrealistic worship manner in children this way.  And that's not even mentioning that for many kids, learning Santa isn't real will be the first time they consider atheism.  And while I don't have a problem with your kid being an atheist, if you raised them to be Christian I assume you might.

Next, you're setting your kids up for really gross levels of Christian exceptionalism.

Consider how your kids are relating to religious minority children when you do this.  Not all parents who do the Santa thing are Christians, but it's still mostly a Christian thing, and it's well talked about in fictional depictions of Santa that he doesn't visit religious minority kids.  People treat this like a big joke in movies and films, usually with reference to Jewish kids, but think about the underlying messages here.  How does this change your kids' perceptions of kids within those religions that they believe they have some mystical magical man literally giving them lavish gifts while other kids get nothing?  How do they process it when non-Christian parents do play this game with their kids?

And there are so many ways people try explaining this to kids (Like "he only comes if you really truly believe!") which try to explain why one of these kids wouldn't get visits, but again, how are your kids processing that?  Are they avoiding befriending children on the basis that they don't believe in something as obvious as Santa Claus when he's visited them every year for their whole lives?  Or are they just sort of ignoring or not noticing that major plot hole, causing it to solidify into one of their many future prejudices?

Speaking of which, you're also setting them up for shitty class values, too.

There's a bit of advice going around Facebook as I write this in which parents tell each other to have some of the less expensive gifts be the "Santa" gifts, while gifting the more expensive stuff as yourselves.  This way if your kids have poorer friends, there is less of a conflict and less risk that they'll grow up thinking that being rich somehow gives you Santa favor or something.

I don't think this goes far enough, because in order to work it would have to be acknowledged by all richer parents (and do you really think most rich parents give a fuck?).  This is another case where it becomes sort of an in-joke, but it's a really gross in-joke when you think about it.

Ugh, there's almost kind of a "The Secret" thing going on too, isn't there?  Like if you just wish hard enough you can magically get the things you want just poofed to your house.  When I was a kid and my parents were going through a rough layoff Santa was my emotional backup, which of course turned out to be a source of hope that never came through.  It was probably extra painful for my parents, too, who got to hear me say naive shit like "well... maybe I'll get it from Santa" if something I really wanted was too expensive for them to get for me.  I sometimes wonder how many times they got more expensive gifts from relatives to label as "from Santa" in order to keep up this ruse.

You're obligating both adults and children to lie about something ridiculous to your children.

When the subject of Santa comes up with a child, I wind up changing the subject as soon as possible.  I hate lying to children, especially over something I know has the potential to give them so much trauma and do so much bad to them, so avoiding the subject like the plague is the only way I can deal with it without just blowing the lid off the whole thing for them (I won't... in addition to the social ostracism I'd probably experience, that would probably be even more traumatic).  The point is, I really fucking hate it.

I hate it doubly worse as a religious minority.  Religious minority adults having to keep up some total bullshit around other people's kids and religious minority children having to keep up lies with their peers is just one of many ways Christian exceptionalism is solidified in this culture.  Christians are never obligated to pretend to believe in other religions' Gods or practices, so why are we?

The whole idea of Santa is dystopian and horrifying.

There's a semi-joke out there that Santa Claus is preparing children for living in a surveillance state.  I don't actually think that's a bad argument.  I'm not going to go into this in-depth, but seriously... he sees you when you're sleeping?  Jesus.

On a personal note, it's really demeaning.

So I mentioned earlier that my parents kind of went all-out, and as I kid I didn't have the understanding of technology to realize that a home video camera could do silly tricks (something I'd use later to film my grandma "disappearing" and create claymation stories).  Furthermore, every adult in my life was telling me that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were real on some level, and with that much support it just didn't make sense at that age that it wasn't true.

When I was bawling after having learned the truth, my mom said something that stuck with me, mostly because my response was hilarious, but in part because the implications are in retrospect very troubling.  This was the exchange:
  • Me: (Bawling)
  • Mom: "Well, think about it... did you really believe that a giant rabbit came into the house and hid eggs for you to find?"
  • Me: "................him too?!"
And yes, you're allowed to laugh at the hilarity of my childhood self learning Santa Claus wasn't real only to be equally shocked to learn the Easter bunny wasn't, but think about this... as an adult, believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy or other similar beings is almost universally understood as something completely ridiculous.  It's used by atheists to paint adult theists as all manner of ableist insults regarding intellect.  It's shorthand for "you believe something ludicrous and are an ignorant fool."  This is a thing that people universally, openly, and staunchly encourage children to believe, only to treat them like there was something really wrong with them for having believed in it anyway.

This is the part that really continues to get to me, that people I trusted to not lie to me about important things not only did lie to me for several years, but acted like I was stupid for having believed them to begin with.  Who wants their kid to believe that about themselves?

Finally, this is basically a ten-year non-consensual prank on some of the most vulnerable people.

In the age of the internet, it's easy to believe that now pranks have gone too far, with nonconsensual pranking (people being pulled into a joke--often a cruel one--without their knowledge or consent) being so commonplace that people barely think about it.  In the past year I've seen videos or discussions of videos involving people pranking black people into thinking they are being arrested, children into thinking they're being expelled, and furthermore, propagandist fake news (which could on its own level be considered a prank) is partially responsible for a horrible person being elected president.  Most of these pranks last a very short period of time.  Falling for one can be very embarrassing even if the event itself wasn't ridiculous, and not everyone can handle that.

This is a prank that not only can be traumatic, but lasts a large chunk of a person's life and teaches them a number of really bad lessons.  If I ever were to mystically change my mind and have kids, I would not teach this sort of thing to them.