Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crap, I'm a Hufflepuff

I realized sometime in the last year or two that I value loyalty, both in myself and others, more than any other character trait or quality.  In my opinion, true loyalty embodies almost all other positive traits: to be loyal, I must keep my word and do what I say I’m going to do (responsibility), I must be treat those that I am loyal to with respect, and I must be honest to those with whom I feel loyal.  Loyalty can be towards a friend or lover, or it can be towards something bigger, such as an institution.  My loyalty to my club includes, yet also in some way also supersedes, loyalty to my club brothers.  Loyalty is even more important to me than love, which I find often to be a word that has so many meanings, it is meaningless.  Love is a feeling, but loyalty is the realization of that feeling in action.  Commitment in a relationship isn’t about love, really; it’s about being there to change their dirty diapers or help them through rehab, ie. loyalty. 

Loyalty also provides a way of organizing our lives and priorities.  If we have a hierarchy of loyalty, such as I am first loyal to my Daddy, then to my club, then to my chosen family, then to my job, etc., it helps us stick to our value system and make hard decisions.  Obviously, such a hierarchy can be deviated from, but I know that my personal hierarchy helps me to structure my life and make decisions, from with whom should I spend my free time to on whom should I spend my extra money for Christmas. 

Even though this has been a recent realization, the primacy of loyalty as a value has existed throughout my whole life.  I remember in fourth grade, I stuck with my best friend who all of my other friends had accused of cheating on a test, and I lost, for a week or so (a long time to a ten year old!), all of my other friends.  I felt little to no conflict about this because I knew I was doing what was right according to my values.

Loyalty has its downsides.  I have had my heart broken many times, not by lovers, but by friends and family to whom I felt more loyalty than they returned to me.  Loyalty is supposed to be a two-way street.  There’s nothing worse than feeling like you would take a bullet for someone, only to realize that they won’t even give you a ride to the airport.  My poor Daddy has had to deal with an upset boi many times due to broken or unequal loyalty.

Loyalty is also, by definition, exclusive.  You cannot be equally loyal to everyone; otherwise, it would have no value.  Also, loyalty sometimes means compromising your other values, such as being dishonest to protect a friend, or even, as is often joked about, helping someone hide the body; true loyalty is not given lightly.  I often joke that I am a commitment-phobe.  Some people laugh at me when I say that because I am currently in what is now a 5-year plus relationship, I am extremely committed to many of my friends and chosen family, and I make commitments to institutions, such as school or sports teams.  However, none of these commitments were entered into carelessly or without deliberate consideration. There is nothing wrong with exclusivity.  We live in a world of grey, of conflict.  Loyalty is one way (and to me, the best way) of dealing with a situation wherein conflict arises.  Accepting the exclusive nature of loyalty without feeling guilty can be very difficult.

I have also realized lately that not everyone feels this way about loyalty, and that that is very difficult for me to understand.  It is such an intrinsic part of who I am and how I view myself that realizing this is not standard has been quite a revelation.  I’m not saying that other people are selfish or disloyal, but that loyalty is not the prime focus of their value system.  It may be something else, like honesty or work ethic.  I don’t give two shits about being honest to everyone, just to those who have earned my honesty and to whom I continue to strive to earn theirs.

Obviously (or maybe not so obvious as it should be), loyalty is a key characteristic of Leather culture.  I truly believe that this is one of the most important traits that spoke to me, and why I continue to want to be part of it.  I’ve only been gone for a month, but I miss my club so much.  I miss my chosen family.  I miss, most of all, the feelings of belonging, of order, of purpose, that come with having something or someone to be loyal to.  I have found that for me, moving seems especially hard because building the trust and understanding that deep, loyal relationships require takes time, and without those relationships, I feel unequivocally lonely.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How Not to be "That Guy"

How Not to be “That Guy”

A brief disclaimer before this post begins.  This post was not inspired by any one incident or any one person, but by the reoccurrence of many, many incidences.  If you think I’m talking about you, I may be, but you are probably in good company.  Also, I understand that this post only talks about one specific type of privilege, and I would love links to dealing with other types of privilege in the scene in the comments, including, but not limited to, racism, ableism, and classism left in the comment section.

I often find myself feeling uncomfortable around one specific group of people: heterosexual, cisgender men (if you have to look up cisgender, this post is definitely for you!)  This is especially unfortunate as a bisexual, tomboyish female because this is my largest group of potential play/sex partners, and feeling uncomfortable around them is not conducive to either one of those things happening.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t some amazing heterosexual, cisgender men out there (in fact, I played with a very awesome one last weekend at IML), and that you aren’t awesome if you accidently do any of these things.  But if you want to get in my pants, or at the very least, be my friend, it would help if you keep from being “that guy”: the hcm who does not understand or recognize his privilege and makes us females and queers uncomfortable.

The first step to not being that guy is to not question anyone’s identity.  As soon as my Daddy introduces me to someone as his boy, the first thing most hcm say is something along the lines of “She doesn’t look like a boy!”  Understand that this is the equivalent to me telling you, “You don’t look like a man.”  For non-gender conforming people, it has taken many, many years for most of us to come to terms with our identities not fitting nicely in the sex/gender matrix (same for those of differing sexual preferences).  Questioning this identity is not only annoying but insulting to all of those who don’t fit into the heteronormative matrix.  I also often see this with bisexual men and women, with many declaring that they are not *really* bisexual. 

Second, if you don’t understand something, ask (politely, of course).  There is nothing that makes me wetter than a hcm asking me which pronouns I prefer, even though my answer is always, “I don’t care.”  Some people really do care, so if you aren’t sure which pronouns to use ask.  If you would like to know more about why I identify as a boy, ask.  That being said, also understand that many people, including myself, don’t want to spend every party or event explaining their identity or being the token _____ person, so educate yourself on issues of gender and sexuality.  Reading is sexy.

Which leads me to three: recognize your privilege.  I saw the best quote the other day, which was something along the lines of “Privilege is starting on third base, but thinking you hit a triple.”  Privilege, by definition, has nothing to do with who you are as a person, good or bad, but instead, in this case, exists because you fit neatly in the privileged column of the sex/gender system.  With privilege comes power, and I hate to say this, but every time I meet a hcm, I recognize that there is always a potential for violence.  When you talk to someone who is not a hcm, there is a power differential.  This power difference can be hot, but like race play or disability play, it only is hot when both people recognize it and the underprivileged person knows that the privileged person understands what his privilege really encompasses.  This also means don’t be offended when I ask for your real name or to see your DL before I go home with you, or that I may hesitate bringing you into queer spaces. 

However, being proactive about your dismantling your privilege can be really great.  For example, I was slightly tipsy when propositioning Awesome Straight Guy at IML, and he asked me quite a few times if I was ok to play and if it was really something I wanted.  Although I was completely in control of my decision-making capabilities, I really appreciated his concern.  Being proactive about disassembling his privilege also protected him from what could have been, with another partner, a disastrous evening of unconsensual play. A heterosexual, cisgender male who recognizes that there is a power imbalance and works to dismantle that is amazing, and the reason why feminist men are so, so hot.

Four, unless you are my partner or I am actively trying to sleep/play with you, I don’t care about how attractive I am to you, and neither should you.  My worth as a human being should not be based on whether or not you want to have sex with me, yet we live in a world where women are judged by this standard all the time. (Also, this is very prevalent in gay culture, but that is the topic for another post.)  My job is not to look pretty for you, so I don’t want to hear about it either way unless you are actively flirting with me, and I seem open to it.  You don’t like that I am masculine-appearing?  Too bad, poor you.  Even if you are my partner or are trying to sleep with me, if you care so little for me as to be completely turned off by the fact that I rarely shave my legs or don’t wear heels, then I probably don’t want to be with you (see Hippyanguisette’s awesome post about pubic hair for more on this.  Also, this doesn’t mean that we don’t all have “types”, but if someone is not your “type,” that doesn’t make them not attractive, just not attractive to you.)  I do not want to be objectified unless we have entered into an arrangement where I want that to happen.  This arrangement may be something as subtle as pulling my shirt down a little bit so that you can better see my cleavage or as formal as negotiating a scene, but don’t assume that I want your opinion about how I look to you or that I am there solely for your viewing pleasure.

And last but definitely not least, learn when to STFU.  If a non-hcm tells you that what you are saying is sexist/homophoic/transphobic, rather than being defensive and trying to defend what you have said, listen to them and think about why they might have perceived what you said that way.  Also understand that there are certain topics you, by the mere fact that you are a hcm, you will never be an expert on, and that that is ok.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is to stop talking, listen, and question your assumptions.

Of course, these are only the most common actions taken by HCM’s that make me uncomfortable, not all or even most non-hcm will agree with this list, and I am privileged in many, many other ways.  However, if you are a HCM and want me to respect you, want to spend time with me, maybe even want to sleep with me, these are some great rules to follow. 

Also, for anyone who is interested in learning more about how to be an ally to an friend/partner/relative of an underprivileged group, Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones gave an excellent speech entitled “6 Rules for Allies,” which can be found here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Daddy/boy? What the hell is that?

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while, but real life has been getting in the way.  I have been meaning to write this one for quite some time, but real life had been getting in the way.  It especially seemed pertinent after that little misunderstanding at SPLF this year (no, I wasn’t there and only vaguely know what happened.  I am not upset about anything, nor do I think other people should be, but I do think it has shed light on the lack of education about this topic in our community.)

Daddy and I are always being bombarded with questions.  What is a Daddy/boy relationship?  How can you be a boy and have female bits?  Is it 24/7?  Isn’t it like a lesser version of Master/slave?  Well, here is my answer to all of those questions.  I would like to emphasize that these are my answers, and in no way reflect a Daddy/boy universalist definition.

No, boys are not littles.  Although Daddy and I do enjoy a good incest scene every once in a while, Daddy/boy is a power exchange dynamic very different from a little dynamic.  I am a grown adult, and although I enjoy child-like things, like Pixar films and stuffed animals, I feel no inclination towards “little” things.  Boys may have a youthful spirit, but we do not want to be viewed as littles.  That’s a completely different culture.

The Daddy/boy dynamic, however, is very much like a parent/child relationship.  Think of when you were growing up.  Did your parents give you chores?  Did they set rules and guidelines for you?  Did they make sure you did the things you were supposed to do?  Daddy/boy is the grown-up, paternal version of that.  My Daddy is there to help guide me, set boundaries for me, and be there for me when I fall.  However, unlike Master/slave, I am not his property.  It is my job to be obedient and his job to guide and protect me, but I am not property any more than a child is a parent’s property.

Not all Daddy/boy relationships are open, but ours is.  Daddy lets me date; in fact, he has even “chaperoned” (accidently!) one of my dates before (that’s a funny story for a different time).  I don’t want another Daddy, but I do want play partners and lovers that are my equal, much like teenagers want to date.  However, like teenagers, Daddy always has veto power over my relationships; he is a much better judge of character than I am.  Much, much better.

Daddy/boy is inherently 24/7.  Do you ever stop being a parent just because your child isn’t there or your child is grown-up (boys can grow up and even be daddies to other boys!)?  Also, for me, being a boy is independent of being in a relationship.  I consider boy to be my gender, which I know is VERY VERY different than other boys, but this is my experience.  I use the spelling “boi” to designate that I am happy with my innie-bits and my big tits, thank you very much, but I do not consider myself inherently different than “boys” with a “y.”  I love being around other boys, spending time with other boys, even playing with other boys.  I can always spot other boys, even if they don’t call themselves that.  Some awesome examples of boys who aren’t called that: Arya Stark from “Game of Thrones” and Neil Patrick Harris (which is one of the reasons why I love him so much.)

Now here’s the really important part, so listen up: Daddy/boy is no less legitimate than Master/slave.  And this is kind of a sore spot for boys.  Master/slave is the default assumption in our culture.  For example, this weekend I was out with some friends, and I met a new man, and he asked me about my “Master.”  I wasn’t upset; I was clearly wearing a collar, and it is a normal assumption to make.  However, exactly that: Master/slave is the norm, everything else is Other.

Why is this important?  It wouldn’t be if there wasn’t a value judgment inherent in that.  Our culture views Master/slave as THE BEST, and everything else as a lesser version.  In fact, the Daddy/boy movement is fairly new, starting in the nineties and really hitting its stride in the last decade; the girl movement is even newer (I don’t know much about that, but I am sure some awesome girls would be willing to answer that question.)  My older brothers had to fight for this type of relationship to be considered legitimate in a world that only had Master/slave.  I don’t want to be called a “slave.”  I am not that, not that there is anything wrong with it, just like there isn’t anything wrong with being a pup, or a fetishist, or a kinkster, or a submissive.  I am just not any of those things.

That being said, I think the frustration I have been sensing from many Master/slave couples is born out of this same problem.  Many people call themselves Master/slave, even though that might not be exactly the right definition for them.  While I do believe that relationships are defined by those who are in them (hell, I am a female in a Daddy/boy relationship), I think people could be happier and find others with whom they could share a similar kinship and understanding if more people were educated about other types of relationships besides Master/slave and saw them as equally legitimate.  No, Daddy/boy is not “TPE.”  So what?  I still serve my Daddy, I still love my Daddy, and there is a unique type of belonging that doesn’t happen in other types of relationships.

In conclusion, Daddy/boy relationships are exactly what they sound like. They are awesome, boys are awesome, and more people should consider that maybe this is the type of relationship they want.  And when you are thinking about relationship types, get away from the spectrum of TPE.  It values some relationships more than others.  Think of each one as different, and realize that you are going to be unhappy trying to be something you’re not.  Trust me, I thought I was a slave when I first started out.  I think my brothers would laugh at that now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Have Herpes

Yes, everyone, I have herpes.  The genital kind.  I had my first outbreak about three to four months ago.  You are probably asking yourself, why am I telling everyone such personal information?

Please, we all admit so much crazy personal shit on this site; herpes is nothing compared to most of them.  When I was diagnosed with herpes, I felt alone, ashamed, and frankly, afraid that no one would ever want to have sex with me again.  For a culture that talks about sex as much as we do, we sure as hell don’t talk about the risks of sex, like STDs or pregnancy.  Because I want this blog to go beyond narcissistic word-masturbation and actually help someone, I am willing to share this part of my life aloud and in print.  In fact, I think that this still an incredibly taboo topic and that is the reason I’m posting about it.

Here are the things I have learned (some of them the hard way) since contracting herpes that I would like to share with everyone in the hopes that someone else doesn’t have to learn the hard way:

1)  You are not alone.  Seriously, since I have started telling people I have herpes, people I have known a long time and people I have just met have been honest with me.  A lot of people have herpes.  Some statistics show as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men, and most don’t have any symptoms or know they have it.  If you have slept with four or more women, chances are, you’ve slept with someone who has herpes.

2) Herpes, in general, is no big deal.  In fact, most STDs are no big deal because the majority of STDs are curable.  When I had my initial herpes outbreak, I thought it was a heat rash.  If I hadn’t had the accompanying flu-like symptoms that are so common with herpes, I never would have even gotten tested.  It is basically the same as having cold sores and is actually considered a skin condition, not really an STI because you get it from skin to skin contact, not necessarily genital contact.  I am on anti-virals so that I don’t spread it to my partners, and also, so I don’t have tons of outbreaks (as they are often triggered by stress, and hey, have you met me?)

3)  There is no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex.  One of the reasons I felt completely ashamed when I contracted herpes was that I am a HUGE advocate for practicing safe sex, all of the time, with any partners that you aren’t fluid bonded with.  I felt like I must have done something wrong to have contracted herpes.  The fact of the matter is, I practiced safe sex with everyone, and I still contracted herpes because it is contracted from skin to skin contact.  Also, many people with herpes don’t know that they have it because it isn’t usually tested for during normal STD panels.  In fact, most people don’t really know their STD status for sure, as there are window periods for STDs such as HIV, and most people do not get tested on a regular basis.  As it stands, I say assume everyone has everything, practice safer sex, and understand that RACK rules apply, meaning when you have sex with someone, you are risk-aware that an STD may be part of the package and consenting to that risk.

4)  Don’t play the blame game.  By this, I mean don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame your partner(s).  Shit happens, and the truth is you will probably never know for sure who gave you that STD, especially if you are promiscuous with other people who are promiscuous.  You could have given it to them; they could have given it to you.  What I am saying is, if you find out you have an STD, put your big boy panties on, make the awkward phone calls, and then leave it at that.  Knowing who gave it to you isn’t going to make it go away, and it is up to your partners, now, to be adults, get tested, and if they are positive, make those awkward phone calls to their previous partners.  There is no need to follow-up, unless they bring it up to you.  We are all adults here, and we should treat each other as such.  As I said, risk-aware.

5)  Don’t be a dick if someone makes that awkward phone call to you, and freak the fuck out.  This situation sucks for everyone involved, but it especially sucks for the person with the STD.  Don’t make it worse by making it all about you.  Your partner did the moral and honest thing by telling you about his or her STD status, and guess what?  It was fucking hard and awkward for him.  So before you freak out, take a deep breath, realize that this was a risk you consented to when you decided to fuck him, and say “thank you for informing me.”  Because he could have been an asshole and not told you at all.

6)  Awesome people are not going to stop having sex with you.  I think most people who are educated understand number three, and sexually-educated people are the best people to have sex with anyway.  Since I have had herpes, I have only had one person turn me down for sex, and it is a way longer story than I want to post up here, but basically, I probably should not have been having sex with this person again in the first place.  Some of my partners have been less informed, and inquired about the risks.  I am fine with this, and I have since educated myself, but before I actually had herpes, I had no idea.  Therefore, I do not expect anyone else to magically know about herpes just because I, a friend/partner/one-night stand happen to have it.  However, most of my partners have been pretty awesome about the whole thing, and a few actually helped me feel way more ok about it.  Yes, telling a new, potential partner is shitty and embarrassing, but don’t you wish someone would have told you?  Also, if for some reason you don’t want to sleep with someone because of an STD, don’t be a dick about it.  Understand that that person actually has feelings.  You are entitled to take whatever risks you want, but honestly, I am more afraid that my Daddy is going to choke me out and accidently kill me than I am of contracting most STDs. 

In conclusion, we have sex with lots of people who have sex with lots of people.  There are risks involved.  Don’t be stupid; mitigate those risk by practicing safe sex.  But don’t get pissed off or freak out or feel alone, ashamed, afraid, or any of those awful feelings that I originally had if you do contract an STD.  It happens, it is usually no big deal, and the awesome partners/friends/brothers that you had before will still be there for you.  Hell, when I told one of my brothers I had contracted herpes, he threw a condom at me and asked me if  I needed him to show me how to use it.  And it’s people like that whose opinion should matter to you, anyway.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coming Out and Passing

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start writing a blog.  The reasons were two-fold.  One, I want to improve my writing skills and find my own voice.  Two, I feel that as a feminist, academic, and leather boi, I have a unique voice to add to the discourse surrounding the GLBT community and my Leather community.  As with all of my writings, my opinions stem solely from my experiences and belong only to me, not to my club or even my family. 

The topic of this first writing is about coming out, one that seems appropriate for an initial post.  I hate the term “coming out” because it implies that you do it once, and then you are “out.”  In my experience, coming out is something I do every day, all the time.  Perhaps the term is meant to imply coming out as the first time you are honest with yourself about the fact that what you desire for your life is different than everyone else around you, but I have found that my sexuality and my desires are constantly changing and evolving, so even that process is not as static and singular as the term “coming out” implies.

When deciding to write this blog, I struggled for weeks on whether or not to share it on my facebook profile.  For those of you who are friends with me on facebook, you know that while I don’t write explicitly about my extracurricular activities and my non-heteronormative life choices, I also don’t hide them.  This blog, though, is going to be much blunter and more honest than my profile, and I am not out to all of the important people in my life, particularly my parents.

Coming out to one’s parents is often viewed as the quintessential moment of coming out.  Our parents tend to be some of the most important people in our lives (I know that they are for me), but they also are some of the most judgmental.  They view our life choices as a reflection on them, and so they take our perceived failures personally.  I believe that this is the reason coming out to our parents is the ultimate “coming out.”  My reasons for not coming out to my parents are many, but the biggest one is that my parents have made it clear that they do not want to know about my sex life.  My parents don’t even want to know that Andrew and I sleep in the same bed because we are not married.  Since my partner and I are able to pass (which I will talk more about in a second), it makes bringing up issues such as bisexuality, open relationships, and BDSM more difficult.  For most people, including my parents, heterosexual = heteronormative, and everything else belongs under that big umbrella of queer, or as my parents would probably say, “things I think are unnatural, wrong, and weird.” I believe that if I were to have a serious same sex partner that I would come out to my parents.  For now, however, it is kinder to my parents to pass.

I sometimes hate the fact that Andrew and I can pass so well.  I am aware of the millions of privileges we are privy to only because he happens to have been born with a penis and I, a vagina.   However, anyone who knows us knows that we are far from a heteronormative, heterosexual couple.  I identify as cis-gender, but as a boi, somewhat gender queer.  We are open, poly, and in a Daddy/boi relationship, so when people assume we are in a normal, heterosexual relationship, I feel very uncomfortable, almost like a liar.  Part of me wishes that I could just have a sign that says “queer, non-monogamous leather boi” that I could walk around with all of the time so that people wouldn’t continually be making false assumptions about me and my partner, specifically in terms of societal gender roles and expectations.

I also feel like passing gives me privilege that does not belong to me, privilege that I wish to the depths of my soul I could share with my brothers, with whom I feel a kinship and closeness that I have never felt with most “straight” people.  We can hold hands in public without fear; we can get married within the church where we worship.   I can take my partner to a family reunion and not have everyone in my conservative, Catholic family feeling uncomfortable.  I want these privileges for my brothers.  I want them so badly that it hurts, and every time I pass, I feel that I am somehow betraying them like Peter, when he said he was not one of the disciples.  I share my difference with my brothers, and I don’t want to hide from it.  I am queer, damn it, but having to come out constantly when, and in fact, because I pass so easily, is exhausting.

I will conclude with a very honest admission:  The number one reason that I come out to a person that I just met is most likely because I want to play with them or fuck them, and most people assume that because I am in a relationship, I am off limits.  And that is the most aggravating assumption of all.