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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Subspace, Fear and Survival

Clarisse Thorn recently wrote a gorgeous entry about subspace, a state of mind common to bottoms during BDSM play. For clarity, I'm going to call on Wikipedia:

During the scene, the intense experiences of both pain and pleasure trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, which causes a release of epinephrine from the suprarenal glands, as well as a dump of endorphins and enkephalins. These natural chemicals, part of the fight or flight response, produce the same effect as a morphine-like drug, increasing the pain tolerance of the submissive as the scene becomes more intense. Since the increase of hormones and chemicals produces a sort of trance-like state, the submissive starts to feel out-of-body, detached from reality, and as the high comes down, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion, as well as incoherence. Many submissives, upon reaching a height of subspace, will lose all sensation of pain, as any stimulus causes the period to prolong.

I can't speak for the science of it. Anyway, I prefer Clarisse Thorn's description, and I feel great about quoting from it heavily:

When I’m starting to go into subspace it’s just soft and dark and slow. But when I’m really far under, I’m totally blank. Falling. Flying.

Somewhere else.


What is it, where do I go? It’s just submissive, masochist headspace. But I don’t always get into subspace when I submit, and I don’t always get into it when I take pain either. I’m not sure what the other ingredients are: some amount of trust, of course. And strong feelings about my partner make everything more intense … way more intense. Orders of magnitude more intense. Still, I’ve had new partners put me under with surprising thoroughness.

It’s a lot like deep sexual arousal — hard to think, hard to process, hard to make decisions — but the deepest sexual arousal does not put me anywhere near deep subspace. Deep subspace is. More. Than anything else.

This has been bothering me since I read it yesterday. I expect to be moved by her writing, and I was, but this piece left me feeling sad. A little lonely, a little mournful. And I realized, I was mourning, just a little bit. I haven't felt like that in a long while, and I haven't wanted to until I read that description.

Subspace can be risky. Clarisse addresses this, noting both that many people have trouble saying no or using a safeword when in subspace, and that there's a scary amount of emotional vulnerability involved. She talks about having to learn to slip in and out of deep subspace in order to respond to partners' check-ins.

For me, it feels very dangerous. Subspace feels like one big yes - like I want to say yes to anything. My defenses are down, and I am just happy to be being good. This can be exhilarating. If you, like me, are a person with a history of saying yes when a resounding No and fuck you would have been more appropriate, it can also be very, very bad.

For the last couple of years, anxiety that I might lose all control - that I might betray my best interests, again - has kept me almost entirely out of deep, trance-like subspace. This has been fine by me, since it's made it easier to look out for myself. On the rare occasions that it happened, it would be with someone I trusted utterly, who I knew wasn't going to push me, and who had proven, time and again, that they put a high value on my happiness. (I am thinking specifically of Mina.) Even this has been no guarantee, though. I have an ugly tendency to start to head into subspace, panic as I feel myself give up control, and veer abruptly into Trigger City. (See the sights! Bring the family!)

So, subspace: it is a loaded subject for me, apparently.

Instead of moping, though, I've tried to do some productive thinking. Like Pollyanna, I have been playing The Glad Game - that is, focusing on what I have to be glad about, rather than what I have to be sorry about. In the interest of my continued gladness, I'd like to extoll the virtues of my drug of choice: fear.

I want my BDSM play to be like watching a horror film. I want to be shocked. I want to be left in suspense. I want to be kept guessing. I want empty threats, and the creeping suspicion that they may not be empty after all. I want sharp and shiny, blunt and heavy, weapons I can imagine piercing and breaking me, and weapons that are all the more frightening because I've only glimpsed them out of the corner of my eye, and I don't know what they could do. I want to close my eyes, and then realize that just listening is worse. I want to be wretched, breathing shallowly, unable to look away. I want it to scare the pants off of me. I want to know, all along, in the rational part of my mind, that I'm going to be just fine.

Here is what I love about fear: the rush. I love getting hit with adrenaline. I love the alertness, the clarity of it. I love the way it narrows my focus to exactly what is going on in front of me (or behind me, or on me).

I love that it makes me feel helpless, in a way that's external. I can be afraid for myself, rather than of myself.

I love it for being the opposite of how I experience subspace. Subspace is about surrender. Fear is about survival. Fear reminds me that in spite of my socialization, in spite of my eagerness to please, and in spite of how difficult it can be to put my own needs first, my survival instinct is alive and well.

Subspace is about my play partner: what they do to me, how I feel about them, where they take me. Fear, in this case, is selfish. It is about me caring what happens to me. Right now, that feels incredibly powerful.

And now, since I'm taking care of myself, I am going to get some sleep.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boundary Rant

I'm really bad at having limits.

I mean, in practice, I'm great at having limits. I'm like the queen of limits. I have a whole bunch of them, and most of them shouldn't be pushed because they're backed up by triggers. I'm good at negotiating, I'm good at articulating why certain limits are in place, and I'm getting better at using a safeword before I start to completely freak out.

I'm not bad at communicating my limits to other people and insisting that they respect them; I am bad at having limits. I'm bad at living with needing them. I'm bad at not hating myself for having them.


I got the idea from Arthur that good submissives don't have limits. They will do anything. Even if they aren't comfortable with something, they will not only suck it up, but they will get off on the idea of doing something they don't want to do for the sake of their dominant partner. In my head, there is an Ubersub out there who will do every single fucking kinky thing and like it. Incidentally, she is also every other partner that all of my past and future partners will ever have. So, it is a pretty major failing, that I am falling short of this.

I could get into how this is irrational and untrue, but why bother? Of course it is.

I blame Arthur for this, to some degree, and not just because it's fun and easy to blame him for things. He definitely trained me to feel lots and lots of shame at refusing him anything. I've always bent over backwards to be accommodating, though, since childhood, and I've always felt a degree of anxiety at having wants and needs that might interfere with someone else's. (My mother told me recently that she and my dad used to worry about that.) Arthur exploited this tendency, but he didn't create it.

I'm also going to go ahead and blame, y'know, This Culture That We Live In, in which women in general are taught to accommodate, to put others' needs before our own.

And this is why I spent most of the last couple of days in a trigger-happy state of panic, convincing myself that no one will ever want to be with me because having limits makes me essentially unlovable.

I can't honestly give him the credit for this, but if Arthur had done this deliberately - had made it so that asserting my boundaries can be triggering - it would have been truly masterful. No pun intended.

I know, even when my brain is flooded with panic, that having limits is universal, and that asserting them is good. I find it really attractive when someone can articulate to me what they want and can handle. I've dated and played with people since Arthur, and none of them has ever behaved as though I've disappointed them. This is all on me now.

I barely identify as a submissive anymore, partly for this reason. (You got a better blog title? The Masochistic Maven? Whatever.) For me, the expectation of obedience can be dangerous. Saying yes too quickly, too often, can make it harder to say no. I've also realized that I can't always handle activities that go along with submission: taking orders, using honorifics. And not being able to handle it makes me feel bad about myself, and then we loop back around to the beginning of the post and start all over again.

This is why I go on and on about consent, and negotiation, and giving yourself permission to say no. It is not just because every single person needs to hear it: it is because I need to hear it. I need to hear it over and over, until that message is louder and clearer in my head than the one that says I should feel ashamed for dictating what other people can do with my body and mind.

I am trying to stop worrying and love my limits.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Best present ever!

My darling friend - who would like to be called Bastian because, like the character in The Neverending Story, she is privy to my wacky adventures without participating in them - just got me this shirt:

In case y'all can't tell, it's the Bronte sisters. Charlotte and Emily are checking out the hunks in Byronic magazine, and Anne is grumpy because her sisters' taste in men tends toward the brooding and assholish. Anne wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the first novel to deal with domestic abuse. It's awesome. It is way more awesome than, say, Wuthering Heights.

I feel that this shirt also does a good job of depicting my actual life, as the jerk who ruins everyone's fun by saying things like, "Blue Valentine was basically The Notebook, only this time you were supposed to think he was abusive."

You can get your own Bronte shirt here. You should also check out the comic that it's based on.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Anatomy of a Negotiation

I'm back on my soapbox. It's been awhile. I've been in the process of moving to a new city, and then in the process of traveling up and down the west coast to visit friends. The former was terrifying and all-consuming, and the latter has been wonderful and also all-consuming. I spent some good time in Washington, and, in between drinking great local beer and trying to spot the stealth vampires, I had some time to think about how the BDSM community fails us all. My favorite pet peeve.

I've been thinking about something that happened at a play party I attended just before I left my last city. I had been chatting with this woman for a while, when she expressed interest in tying me up. I hadn't planned on playing that evening, but I was enjoying her company, and I happily agreed to it. Once I was tied, she got pretty handsy - not in a way that I found to be wildly objectionable, but in a way that fell outside of the mere tying-up to which I'd agreed. Let me be clear: there was an established party safeword. I trusted that if I used it, she would stop, and on the million-to-one chance that she didn't, the twenty-odd people in the room with us would notice and step in. If I'd raised any objection, I'm sure she would have respected it. I wasn't upset; I was just noticing that we were having a less-than-perfect interaction. This woman did everything else right: she expressed her interest in a respectful, no-pressure way, she checked in during the scene, and she made sure that I felt good once she'd untied me. I think that the reason that the groping went unmentioned when we were establishing what we wanted was that she honestly didn't think to separate groping from tying up. I'm sure that, in her experience, no one has objected to it - and I was no exception.

Someone I know was in a similar situation recently, at a different party, with a couple of guys who proposed a tying-up scene and then started in with impact play without asking. It seemed like the two guys, both of whom were new (their first party) had spent the evening watching other people restrain and beat up their play partners, and had gotten the idea that that's the unspoken rule of how things go. It makes sense in that environment, especially if you've got no other point of reference. That tying up leads to spanking leads to whacking with whatever implements you can get your hands on is as natural an assumption as kissing leads to groping leads to sex. Which is, oh wait, a totally fucked up assumption.

Both parties are regular events, each with a list of rules that guests are supposed to read before attending. One list is more comprehensive than the other, but both include basic precautions for safety ("No blood in the air.") and privacy ("No photographs without explicit permission."). Both of them mention negotiation, but not at length, and not enough to prevent the kind of misunderstandings that I mentioned above. Hyde and I were discussing this, and we thought that it would be a nice idea to include some negotiation guidelines with the party rules, as an aid to newcomers, and to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It is deceptively easy to believe that we are, most of the time, since play is supposed to follow a simple formula.

Here's the formula: boy meets girl, boy politely asks girl if she would like to play with him, girl consents enthusiastically, boy and girl negotiate, boy and girl have a mutually satisfying time playing, show-stopping musical number.

There's something missing from the narrative about how to go about playing with someone. Namely, what the hell is negotiation?

Is it when someone takes some hostages, and Samuel L. Jackson has to talk them into releasing the hostages? Sort of. In BDSM, as in the cinema, being a good negotiator does make you a total badass.

In very basic terms, negotiation is when two or more people talk about their wants, needs, and limits before a scene, so that they can come to an agreement about what the scene will entail.

Unfortunately, knowing what negotiation is doesn't make a person good at it. It certainly didn't make me good at it. Learning how to articulate my wants and needs so that I know my partner can understand them, making sure that I understand my partner's wants and needs, and trying to do all of that in a way that isn't a complete buzzkill, has been an ongoing challenge for me. Too bad that it's one of the most important skills you can have, as a play partner or as a lover.

Still, I have learned a good deal in the past couple of years, and I'm going to do my best to articulate it. Below, I've written up some makeshift rules for negotiation. I'm tailoring these more for negotiations with first-time partners, or for individual scenes, not necessarily for entire relationships.

Tell your play partner what you like.
Tell your play partner what you don't like.
Likes and dislikes can go by degrees, so be as specific as you can. For instance:
"I like being pinched, except on my inner thighs."
"I like the violet want, but I can only take it for a few minutes."
"I like being spanked, really hard, until I bruise."
"I like being called names, but don't call me 'toy'."
"I like being called names, especially 'whore'."
"I don't like being bitten, so you can use that as punishment, if you want."
"I don't like pain, but I like proving that I can take it."
"I like being spanked because it turns me on; I like being slapped in the face because it makes me afraid."

Tell your play partner your limits.
This is different from what you like and don't like. These are things your partner should never do. Even if it's something you don't think they'll do in the context of the scene, mention it. (I, for instance, have to tell all of my play partners not to touch my solar plexus. Yes, it's unusual. Shut up your face.)

Talk through what you'd like to do together.
Come up with a list of activities that's good for both of you. You don't have to outline the whole scene if you don't want to, but you should both (all) have some idea of what to expect.

If you haven't talked about it, it's off the table.
It's always worthwhile to say this out loud, before you start. If you're in the middle of a scene in which you've explicitly agreed to handcuff your play partner, drag him around by the hair, and flog him until he begs you to stop, you don't get to start biting his neck, even if it seems perfect at the time. You don't know what affect that's going to have on him, and he hasn't explicitly agreed to it. On the other hand...

Establish whether surprises are okay.
Before you start playing, ask your partner if you can do something that you haven't explicitly negotiated during the scene, as long as it isn't one of their limits.

Check your assumptions.
Do you always have sex with your play partners? Do you always kiss them? Do you always call them sir? Or slut? Do you always give them orders? Do you always punish disobedience? Think through what you expect in a play encounter, and then ask about every element of it, even the ones that you think you can take for granted.

If you think you're going to need some kind of aftercare, ask for it beforehand.
Again, you want to be on the same page.

Set up safewords, and make sure both know what they mean.
Even if you're just using the stoplight system ("red" means stop), I have heard so many different versions of what "yellow" means. Does it mean "stop that specific thing you're doing"? Does it mean "check in with me"? Does it mean "I'm almost ready to stop, so start winding it down"?

Remember: negotiation can be sexy.
You are talking about what you want to do to each other. How is that not foreplay?

And then, of course, you may not be able to tell your play partner about your likes and limits, because you may not know yet. (As I've said before, I've been in the position of having to reevaluate and re-learn what I like and can handle, so this is fresh for me.) In that case, let the other person know that. Talk about what you're curious about, and feel free to ask them to check in with you. Remember that safewords are awesome, and using them when you need to makes you look good.

These are my initial thoughts. I'd love to hear what anyone else has found helpful to keep in mind. I'm hoping to do something worthwhile with this eventually, in the larger world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Icky Kinky Fiction

There's some upsetting stuff described in this one, so be warned.

A few months ago, during a bout of flu, I read
Story of O. A friend had loaned me her copy, and she and her boyfriend (both kinky) told me it was incredibly hot. In a way, I feel lucky that I read it while I already had the flu; I feel certain that otherwise, Story of O would have given it to me.

I could not have hated it more.

For the lucky readers who have never read this classic of filthy French fiction, a summary:

O gets picked up for a date by her lover, Rene. (I haven't figured out how to make accent marks using Blogger. Apologies.) He takes her to a crazy mansion in a place called Roissy, where she is dressed up in a big old-fashioned dress - which turns out to be the uniform of the women there - and is then chained up, beaten, whipped, and raped repeatedly by a group of masked men, one of whom is Rene. O is understandably distressed, but since she is intensely devoted to Rene, she gets into it, since she figures out that this is what he wants from her. She spends a month in the mansion being trained - meaning that she serves as a sort of maid, until one of the men decides that he wants to have sex with her, at which point she's supposed to be completely available to him. There's also a lot of anal stretching, described in loving detail. [I did have to have a conversation with one of my friends in which I explained that it's still rape if she doesn't consent to it and can't say no, yes, even if she secretly likes it. I'm very upset that this conversation had to happen.]

After a month of this (and I am leaving out so much seriously upsetting stuff), O gets to return with Rene to the real world, where she is a successful fashion photographer. Now, however, she is his slave, as evidenced by the fact that she isn't allowed to wear a bra anymore, or some boring, stupid garbage. She also has to wear a ring with a certain symbol on it that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who spent time at Roissy. If a man recognizes this symbol (and there are only male doms and female slaves at Roissy, big shock) and decides that he would like to have sex with the wearer, she has to let him, no matter where they are and what else she's got going on at the time. [It's worth noting that this is not a good use of Chekhov's loaded gun on the mantle in act one: no one ever solicits her because of the ring. It's just there, a sick-making accessory.]

At some point, Rene reveals that he has an English half-brother, Sir Stephen (the "Sir" indicates a real title, for once), to whom Rene has decided to give O over. She'll continue to live with Rene, but she'll answer first to Sir Stephen. [I want to say that there's something Oedipal going on here, but I'm sure what the equivalent is when it's between brothers. Agamemnal? Whatever.] Sir Stephen beats up O a bunch, she decides to make him fall in love with her, he eventually does, and after a lot of agonizing, O decides that she likes him better than Rene. Eventually, Sir Stephen sends her off to this all-women BDSM household, where she gets to hang out with a bunch of ladies and get beaten up by the matriarch for a couple of weeks, at the end of which they pierce her labia and brand her ass with Sir Stephen's initials. Fashion-forward!

Oh, and at this point she's living with this woman Jacqueline that she has sex with, and whom Rene has ordered her to trick into going to Roissy against her will, so that he can make her his slave. O has pangs of conscience about this, but when Jacqueline is totally horrified by O's new body mods, instead of being super jazzed about them the way O is, O decides that Jacqueline deserves what's coming to her. Then there's a lot of stupidity where she, Sir Stephen, Rene, Jacqueline, and Jacqueline's younger sister go on vacation together to Sir Stephen's beach house or something. The sister falls in love with O and is miserable. Jacqueline runs off with a movie producer or some such person. Sir Stephen takes O to a party where she is naked except for an owl mask and everyone admires her, and she feels like the most submissive little flower in the pond. The end.

The end? Yes. Kind of. There's this weird little footnote about how there were two alternate last chapters, both of which were rejected by the publisher. In the first one, Sir Stephen takes O back to Roissy, where he abandons her. In the other, she realizes that he's about to abandon her, and tells him that she'd rather die than live without him, to which he consents. Isn't that sweet?

Okay, so the summary ran a little long, but I had to at least take steps toward conveying how revolting this book is. Holy cow. Also, she couldn't have a real name? Seriously? I read somewhere that O is a sometimes-used nickname for someone called Odile, but still. I mean, did it have to be so ham-handed? Did it? Did it?


I don't think I should have to spell out what's wrong with this, but I will, since I'm so rarely on the same page as other BDSMers. Okay, Rene takes O to Roissy with only a hunch and a hope that she'll enjoy it at all. There's no way she can consent to it beforehand, since she has no idea what's about to happen. Once she's there, she's not exactly in a position to consent, either, since she's chained up and getting whipped. It's not like she has a safeword. I'd say that it's lucky that she turns out to be a big old submissive, but I think that's as much conditioning/Stockholm Syndrome as anything else. You know what else is wrong with this book? Everything. All of it.

Really, the only thing I like about it is its history. Its author, Dominique Aury, an eminent writer and intellectual, wrote the first chapter (Roissy) for her lover, Jean Paulhan. He was a big fan of the Marquis de Sade, and had said at some point that only a man could write something that dark and filthy. Aury set out to prove him wrong (and also to make him hot for her). When she presented him with the pages, he urged her to turn the chapter into a novel and publish it. (This cleared a lot up for me about the writing; the first chapter feels like a passion project, and the rest reads like a writing assignment.) The 47-year-old author published Story of O under the name Pauline Reage, and kept her authorial identity secret until her eighties. I'm gonna say, I think this is pretty cool.

What bothers me more than anything, then, is the amount of attention the book has gotten, and continues to generate, among BDSM communities. It is embraced wholeheartedly as the standard of D/s erotica - a thought which makes me shudder. And then, when I think about it, the other go-to piece of BDSM fiction, the movie Secretary, is problematic for much the same reason.

Secretary tells the story of Lee, a woman who leaves the institution she was placed in after she is caught self-harming, and attempts to join the work force. Lee is painfully awkward and shy around people, but she excels at secretarial school and lands a job as the secretary for E. Edward Grey, a lawyer with a private practice. Mr. Grey is about as socially inept as Lee is, which he barely manages to hide by barking orders at her, criticizing her appearance, and generally being a terrible boss. Seemingly at random, he softens his behavior, and begins to give her orders of a more personal nature, designed to improve her life. Finally, after he punishes a typo by bending her over his desk and spanking her, the two of them begin a D/s relationship in the workplace that neither of them ever discusses explicitly.

I know I'm being a lot more vague about Secretary, but I do think that it, unlike Story of O, is worth checking out, and I don't want to give too much away. And yes, I love this movie even though it's rife with nonconsent and sexual harassment. I know that it's unfair to compare two works written about half a century apart, one of which was intended as some erotic fluff, and the other of which was intended to have cinematic merit. Still. Secretary gets some leniency from me because it is mindful of how not-okay the characters' actions are; these are two very fucked up characters who are somehow able to find love and stability in spite of going about it in the worst way possible.

I also know that I am going easy on Secretary because it was my first real introduction to kink, as I'm sure it was for many people. I saw it in high school and thought, "I want that." Full disclosure: I have a Secretary poster on my wall.

I understand that I can only be so critical of this movie when I have such positive associations with it. At the time that I saw it, too, I had no frame of reference for how BDSM was supposed to be. Secretary was it. I knew that the movie contradicted certain of my feminist and basic ethical values, but I didn't know that there was a different and better way to do dominance and submission, or at least I had no idea how to go about it. I can also understand that the same must be true of Story of O, for lots and lots of people. Probably also those ridiculous Gor books, which I have never read and yet feel fully entitled to mock.

This begs the question: where are the beloved works of BDSM fiction that are all about consent? That celebrate negotiation as a necessary - and hot! - part of kink? Why are the standard collective fantasies about actual rape and assault? This seems pretty fucked up to me, especially since the BDSM communities that I've seen do
so little to promote consent as anything other than an annoying formality.

I wonder what would have happened differently if my first exposure to BDSM had been through a piece of fiction about enthusiastic and sexy consent, rather than one about being molested at the workplace. I'm not going to say that I would never have been abused, because that's simplistic and silly, but - I'm going to say this with the full knowledge that I'm about to go home and curl up in bed, under my porny movie poster -
Secretary couldn't have helped. I don't want to put all of the responsibility for creating a sane dialogue around anything on any one work of art, but it's ridiculous that there aren't really any other mainstream options. Except, of course, for porn, which is basically Story of O Lite.

I think there's got to be a companion post to this that looks at elements of good BDSM fiction - what I would like to see. That's going to have to happen later, though, because this has gotten seriously long. (Yeah, yeah, that
is what she said.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Good Etiquette Goes Bad: a short short story

I'm currently living in an area where manners mean a lot. By and large, people are friendly and polite as a matter of course. They smile at me on the street. They make small talk with strangers. After living here for over a year, I've started addressing older strangers as "sir" and "ma'am". It's a little old-fashioned, but it goes over well.

Unless I'm at a play party, in which case it is very bad form to assign those titles to someone with whom you don't actually have an existing power dynamic. Anyway, I don't want to be giving anyone ideas.

So I do a lot of "Excuse me, si... uh, 'scuse me."

I am going to be putting my foot in my mouth one of these days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On Labeling Myself

One thing that keeps coming up lately is how I label myself. Since I've started labeling myself, I've been calling myself a submissive, and that's been varying degrees of accurate. For a long time it was completely true: I was primarily interested in being overpowered, in taking orders, in service, and in a system of punishment and rewards. That is a lot less true now. I know that a big part of that is my bad experience with it a couple of years ago. For a long while after that, I completely lost interest in submitting to someone else in any prolonged or serious way, and I've only recently started to think about wanting it again. That is, it's barely even a part of my fantasy life again; I just want to want it again.

That's probably another entry entirely, but the point is that it's barely accurate to call myself a submissive anymore.

It is still accurate, in a way, to call myself service-oriented, or at least to say that I'm into service, but I really shy away from doing that now. One really mundane reason is that I've been cleaning houses for money for the last few months, and that makes me a lot less excited even to clean my own house, much less that of someone who isn't paying me. The more insidious reason that I'm reluctant to say that I'm into service, though, is that I'm only into it in specific contexts, and a lot of people would love to take advantage of it.

Okay, let me be more clear. In a blog in which I talk about abuse constantly, "take advantage of" is pretty strong language. Here's what I mean by all of that: I like service, when it is eroticized. I like when the other person is also getting off on having me do things for them. I don't just get turned on by doing the vacuuming. (My job would be a lot more interesting if I did.) I know that there are people for whom the mere act of serving someone else is a total turn-on, but it just isn't for me. I don't necessarily want to make your dinner or scrub your sink; I want to please. I want to delight. Obviously, I want to arouse.

Here's the problem: most people really like to have things done for them. They want their dinner made. They want their sinks scrubbed. They want it for free. Heck, I want my dinner made and my sink scrubbed for free! If I found someone for whom making my dinner and cleaning my house was so intrinsically gratifying that they would happily do it for free, I'd be thrilled! I am not that person, though. And yet, as soon as I say I'm into service, I can see the eyes light up, and a moment later I am getting gleeful offers. When I try to explain the context situation, they say that it would be erotic for them! I could be naked while I cook! "No, thank you," I tell them.

It's hard to imagine ever accepting one of these offers; I think that service is probably something I'll reserve for intimate partners. After all, doing domestic service for someone who is in it for the free labor feels a bit like having someone fall asleep on me during oral sex. It's just humiliating - and not in the fun way. Not to mention that it is a dull-as-bones waste of my time.

On to: why no other label is good either.

Right now, I should probably just be calling myself a masochist. What I actually want is to have painful things done to me. The reason I don't use that label all the time is that I'm already tired of other masochists playing the who's-more-masochistic game of one-upsmanship, and I think that if I joined their ranks, I'd just be bringing it on myself. The other night, I had a woman ask me, very solemnly, if I'm a masochist or a pain slut. When said that I didn't know the difference, she explained that a masochist is into pain, but a pain slut is really, really into pain. ("I used to be a masochist, but I only recently became a pain slut.") I told her that I didn't know. Calling myself a masochist would just be inviting other people to challenge it - and god, will they ever - and I'm just not up for it.

Which leaves bottom. Bottom is true - and it sounds kind of cute! I feel like it's tough to take yourself too seriously when you're calling yourself a bottom. Am I being a jerk by saying that? Am I ignoring history and destroying context? Possibly. Very possibly.

On the other hand, bottom is just so vague, and seems like such a tiny part of who I am, sexually. It's appealingly neutral, but its neutrality makes it kind of disappointing to me. Not to mention that I switch, once in a blue moon.

I don't know. It was never reasonable to expect that my sexuality could be summed up with a word. Maybe I should stick with acronyms. SLUL: Submissive-Leaning UnLabeled. Or something like that.