Friday, January 30, 2015

Goddamnit, Hulu! 

When I tell you that I don't want to watch the 50 Shades movie trailer, stop showing it to me! 

I answered your stupid survey question, saying that it's irrelevant to me. Most of your other ads allow me to swap ads. Yet I either have to sit through the damned thing or refresh a million times to get to another commercial!  

No means no, Hulu! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Car Wreck Waiting to Happen: My Problem With Problematic Domism

So, in keeping with the sort-of Back to Basics theme I find myself in, I thought I would re-post this old Tumblr reblog from a while back. 

I hadn’t posted it anywhere else at the time because I had more to say on the topic and didn’t have the time to really delve into it as much as I would have liked to. 

But, at the moment, I find myself in a bit of a writer’s slump, story-wise, so it appears I have the time.

As a concept, I actually do think that Domism is a problem that plagues the BDSM scene and kinksters’ place in the wider vanilla world as well. And that’s something that I want to explore in a separate piece that I’ll save for later.

But before I talk about my actual take on Domism, I want to talk about my problem with some people’s idea of problematic Domism. My problem with Domism—much like my problem with feminism and political correctness, all ideas that I agree wholeheartedly with as concepts, even if I’m less on-board with many of individual viewpoints that are too often shared—is less about the idea and truth behind the concept and has much more to do with how people perceive and present the idea. The way we within the community perceive Dominance and submission and, in a broader sense, the way those things are perceived outside the community is a troubling issue—particularly for those of us who play outside those perceptions.

However, what I find troubling as well is that, in an effort to address the issue and find ways to fix it, we too often have too many people taking things in troubling directions. Too often, we get too many people who insist that the problem is imagined or insignificant.

But, you also get people…whose intentions are good, but who end up playing into the very problem they’re trying to fix.

Let me give you my example:

About a year ago, beyondthevalleyofthefemdoms (which, in so far as I know, no longer exists) had posted their take on Domism, and how the systemic problem of inequality in the BDSM scene extended to the entirety of BDSM as a whole:

[…] I’d like to address an important point that came up during discussion of my previous post: The kink I am talking about is not some obscure and terrible kink that few people have. I’m talking about power exchange. Run of the mill power exchange that everyone in the BDSM scene seems to fetishize. The D and S in BDSM.
Power exchange is, at [its] root, deeply problematic. I don’t mean that in the Tumblr kind of way. Problematic doesn’t mean “unspeakably evil and must be destroyed.” Problematic means that something upholds systemic inequalities. There are a lot of things that are problematic that can be perfectly fine- heterosexuality, for example. There’s a systemic inequality between men and women that most heterosexual relationships do nothing to challenge. That doesn’t mean that heterosexual relationships are bad or should not exist, only that they usually reinforce/do not challenge the status quo.
D/s upholds systemic inequalities in the kink scene. It is a constructed systemic inequality (although to be fair, basically all systems of inequality are constructed. This one is just a little more obvious.). Domism, the privileging of dominant people over submissive people, is not possible without power exchange. Dominants and submissives only exist within a limited cultural context- Outside of kink spaces, they are identities with little relevance. Submissives aren’t banned from getting married, or receiving federal benefits, or access to adequate schooling. Dominants are not conferred any special advantages, because in the rest of the world, nobody knows or cares that you’re dominant, or even knows what a dominant is. But within kink contexts, there is a serious power inequality between dominants and submissives, regardless of anything that has been negotiated. I encourage you to read the link about domism for more information.
Power inequalities make real, meaningful consent much more difficult, because there is always the risk of coercion. When the people with extra power find having and exercising that extra power erotic, the difficulty level increases even more. Fetishizing unfairness and inequality does not challenge unfairness and inequality. It reinforces it.
When I talk about monsters, I am talking about dominants. That means me. That also means you, the person reading this, if you identify as a dominant. This isn’t just about douchebag cis male doms in utilikilts, or about that guy who’s a rapist in your community (although it is also about them). This is about problems with the entire concept of dominance. This is about how the way the scene teaches us to do things now is totally fucked. This is about whether we can do better, or whether it’s even possible to do better. Is it possible to enact dominance without being coercive? Is it possible to make real decisions when there is a power inequality? How can we do better? Can we make dominance less oppressive? Is it even worth saving?

I do think it’s admirable that this person is concerned about this. I know many tops for whom this is a troubling idea they wrestle with—and, let’s be honest, that’s better than the alternative.

But, as a bottom—if not a submissive—I appreciate the concern, but take issue with sentiment. The whole premise of “Domism” is that the automatic assumption that “Dominants are powerful” and “submissives are weak” is logically flawed, right? 

So their worry that every act of Dominance is coercive is essentially the worry that every act of submission is, at least potentially, an act of violation. That every submissive is always and already a victim. That every submissive is weak at the hands of a more powerful Dominant.

Their worry about Domism is a textbook example of Domism in action and one I don’t agree with that. At all.

The act of submission takes great strength, intelligence, and savvy. It means that, hopefully—if you’re doing it well—that you’ve done your research and you know what acts you enjoy, how much your body can take, and who you can play with to ensure that your play plays within those bounds. 

And, if you don’t, you shouldn’t be playing. 

At all. 

With anyone. 

And, if you do, the likelihood of your play venturing into that coercive territory is pretty low. And, the likelihood of you being able to deal with it, if it should—by adjusting your expectations, if you realize in-scene that your capacity for submission is greater than you thought, or safewording out or doing whatever necessary in the moment if you need to—is much higher. 

Because you’re prepared. 

Because you—as the bottom—decide what happens to you. Because you have the strength of will—no matter the roles or scenes or games—to decide that.

And, for tops and Dominants, if you can’t trust that your bottom or submissive can do that, you shouldn’t be playing with them. If you can’t trust them, the way they trust you, what are you doing together at all, much less in a very involved and complex relationship like BDSM? Where the consequences of that lack of trust are staggering?

It’s a trite analogy, (and definitely breaks down, if looked at too hard—since both people ought to be doing some amount of the other and, speaking as a high-tolerance kinkster who tends to top from the bottom and bottom from the top…yeah, not all of us follow the pattern) but, in these types of relationships, the top serves most often as the gas pedal and the bottom most often as the breaks. You shouldn’t be driving the car at all, if you can’t trust both parts to do their jobs.

The fact of the matter is, while being kinky—being turned on by what turns you on—may not be a choice, acting on it is. If someone chooses to act on their submissive desires, they know—or really ought to know—what they’re getting into. As a submissive, it is their responsibility to know the risks they’re undertaking before they go out in the wider, wilder, wilier BDSM world, to ensure that they don’t get harmed and that they don’t harm their tops by causing the very psychic dilemma the poster is talking about. 

Erasing that responsibility—taking that burden and shifting it to the backs of Dominants—may seem like a noble gesture, but it’s ensuring the Domism perception that a submissive’s place is inevitably that of a perpetual victim. It’s taking away our ability to decide, to choose, to act on our own. It’s essentially saying that the big, bad Dom will protect you, even if it means denying us both what we want. It’s saying that you don’t trust us enough—don’t think us capable or strong or smart enough—to do our jobs.

And then all we’re left with is a bunch of unhappy, unfulfilled people in a broken-down car.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Abuse From a BDSM Perspective

So, I’d never planned to post this on my blog. I’d posted my response on the article last March, when it first came out, and was happy enough to leave it at that. It just seemed too personal, too angry, too emotionally fraught for what I wanted out of this blog, which is supposed to celebrate kink and sex and love in all its many, varied forms. Not linger on the not-so pleasant side of ignorance and bigotry kinksters can too often find themselves on. 

But Google tells me that Riding the Iron Bull – Kink and Dragon Age: Inquisition has been read by a lot of people. It has the second-highest views out of everything on my blog and is the most viewed piece on my Tumblr. It has the most comments on it and has sparked a great conversation and, I hope, helped present a different perspective for people who may not be as familiar with this vantage point. For better or for worse, I'm in this conversation—I’m quite possibly many people’s introduction to it—so let's have it.

And, since a lot of the discussion seemed to be about living with integrity, it seemed a little hypocritical of me to not address this just because it makes me uncomfortable and shines too bright a light on parts of my past that I prefer not to.

Especially if it could be helpful in an important discussion that needs to happen.

There are reasons why people mistaking Safe, Sane, and Consensual BDSM for abuse upsets me. More than just the usual and obvious reasons that I love and live BDSM and don’t want to see it misrepresented time and time again. There are reasons why I feel obligated and outraged enough to speak out about it when it happens.

Because they’re not the same. They are polar opposites. And, believe me when I say that when the two get automatically and ignorantly lumped together, you are doing a grave and unforgivable disservice to both kinksters and to abuse victims. And, speaking for both groups, please stop. 

So, even though I wasn’t really planning on it, I’ll say it again:

I hate you, Will Saletan. 
I hate you for your entire article. I hate you for just about every sentence in this ill-educated, utterly biased, closed-minded, completely skewed piece
But, mostly, I hate you for your article’s parting line: 
“But if you can’t accept consensual domestic violence as just another lifestyle choice, that doesn’t make you a prude. It makes you perfectly normal.” 
I don’t know you. I’ve never read anything else you’ve written. But I hate you for, if for nothing else, the phrase “consensual domestic violence.” 
It’s not even just as a kinkster that I object to this—though the kinkster in me can think of many, many, many nasty ways to teach you the very clear difference between consensual and non-consensual acts. 
I object as a person who knows domestic violence. 
And, clearly, if you were able to string those words together, Will Saletan, you know nothing about domestic violence. If you’d ever lived it, ever knew or met or seen or listened to a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or a child who’d lived through it, you wouldn’t be able to utter a phrase so thoroughly offensive and obtuse as that. 
And that is what you’re saying, no matter how you deny it. You cannot, as you state, logically parse out "consensual domestic violence" in three parts. That's ridiculous. It completely discounts the fact that "domestic violence" is a well-known, oft-used term. No one uses "domestic" and "violence" together to mean anything other than "domestic violence." You’re calling it "consensual abuse," which is not what BDSM is. It shows a complete lack of even a basic understanding of both the English language and logic. 
Because domestic violence—or really any kind of abuse—is someone trying to kill your soul then forcing your broken, beaten body to limp around like nothing’s wrong. It’s them forcing you to live through a kind of death over and over and over again and making you feel as if there is no way to stop it. It is them breaking you down so they can use the pieces to build themselves up. I can think of few things that parallel that kind of hell, much less something that surpasses it. 
To put the word “consensual” in front of that. To say that anyone would willingly ask for, sign-up for, or seek out that kind of treatment. To link that kind of evil to behavior and relationships within the BDSM world, relationships built on care, trust, and love. It’s reprehensible, Will Saletan, and you should be ashamed of yourself. 
It’s the equivalent of saying that all healthy, happy sex is consensual rape or all sales transactions in stores are consensual thievery or that all jobs are consensual slavery. The acts, stripped down to their basest levels, look the same, don’t they? Robbed of all context and basic understanding, these acts that are dichotomous in nature—that should only be uttered together as complete contrasts—all deserved to be looked at and treated as pretty much the same, right? 
I’m not saying that abuse doesn’t happen in the BDSM world or that people haven’t used BDSM to cover flagrant abuse. But the abuse I’ve suffered didn’t come at the hands of kinksters. Most of the abuse I’ve seen or heard of wasn’t committed by kinksters. The BDSM community is populated by people and within all societies and groupings of people abuse happens. But saying that the existence of abuse within the BDSM community means BDSM causes or leads to or opens itself up to abuse is like saying that the Girl Scouts cause abuse because there have been Girl Scouts who’ve grown up to abuse or be abused. It’s a logical fallacy and makes you sound like an idiot.  
I am a masochist, Will Saletan, and it’s taken me years to be able to say that without shame or confusion. I’m not this way because I was abused. It’s because I was abused that’s it’s taken me years of shame and confusion to accept this part of myself. It’s because all my life I’ve listened to people just like you, Will Saletan, who’ve told me that this part of myself makes me sick, makes me wrong, makes me deviant and outside of society, that I’ve hidden this part of myself, questioned and struggled with it. Because bigoted, uneducated people like you equated something that brings me joy and pleasure with its antithesis. Linking something I love to something I hate. 
Because for anyone who’s enjoyed—loved and longed for—this lifestyle, we know that BDSM isn’t about breaking people down; it’s about building people up. It isn’t about taking someone weak and making them take it; it’s about showing someone that they’re strong enough to take what they want. Even without your or the world’s permission or approval. 
We may never be mainstream. And that’s okay. When we say we want acceptance from the mainstream, we aren’t saying that we want everyone to be just like us. We’re just saying that we don’t want to lose our jobs or our kids or our lives because of who we are. We don’t want the world to look down their noses at what they think we do and who they think we are. We don’t want to be seen as just statistics and stereotypes who deserve ill-treatment and misfortunes because you think we asked for it. We just want to be seen for who we really are and not for the lesser creatures people like you want to portray us as. When we say we want acceptance, what we want is to be accepted; it’s as simple as that. 
And that doesn’t make us freaks or abusers or victims, Will Saletan. It just makes you an idiot.

I understand that BDSM isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I understand that it makes some people uncomfortable. I get that. I accept that. And I think that’s perfectly understandable and well within everyone’s rights. No one has to be into what I’m into. No one has to even like that I’m into it.

But, please, stop pretending like you have the right to tell me or people like me that we can’t or shouldn’t be into it. Please stop pretending that you know more about who and what we are than we do.

Because you don’t. You just don’t. And we have science, statistics, and psychology on our side to prove it. Even Will Saletan had to kinda eat crow because of the backlash of these articles. And, after doing some very basic research, he realized that maybe—just maybe—there’s more to this involved, complex lifestyle than his prejudice was willing to allow. Is this article still biased? Is it still rather insulting? Oh yes. But that’s kind of the point. Even our detractors’ arguments—from the people who want to hate us and dismiss us on principle alone—don’t stand up well against just the most rudimentary Google search. And, if your argument is that flimsy, don’t you have to—aren’t you obligated to—re-examine it a little?

Or at least don’t you owe it to the people you’re insulting the favor of not spreading your factually inaccuracy all over the internet like you’re an expert in a field you’ve never even bothered to study?

And please stop using abuse victims as shields. Because you’re doing us no favors. In fact, you’re hurting us. Especially those of us who happen to be kinky. Because one of the most common issues abuse victims face is people—ourselves included—thinking that we deserve the abuse we receive. 

Imagine how much more complicated that becomes when you’re kinky. 

When abuse no one should have to suffer gets mistaken for the play you love. 

By yourself, making you stay too long in unhealthy relationships that invert and corrupt concepts and actions that aren’t meant to harm

By the people you love, who can’t and don’t want to understand what and who you are so they don’t want to hear about it, leaving you with no means of support or compassion if things go south. 

By the police, who do too often think you deserve what you get and treat you like a waste of their time. 

By society, who is all too happy to paint you as a cautionary tale and a bad punchline to scare other people into toeing the norm. 

By a media, who recklessly glorifies and commodifies the fantasy-done-wrong of abuse-sold-as-BDSM while simultaneously sex-shaming real-life kinksters.

The fact is that, yes, abuse happens in kinkland. Jian Ghomeshi has made this horrifically clear. But conflating the two makes it harder to help victims, even if that wasn’t the intention. Because, as Dan Savage told Sarah Bessey, “Shaming people for being kinky is about as effective as shaming people for being gay. Screaming ‘Jesus!’ at gay people doesn't turn us straight. It does, however, turn some of us into deeply conflicted, sexually repressed, self-hating gay messes. Likewise, screaming ‘Jesus!’ at kinky people—male or female, dom or sub—won't turn them into vanilla people. Just messes.” We are who we are. Just people trying to live our lives and find love and happiness. And people trying to make us into who we’re not won’t solve any problems; it’ll just bury them deeper until they become problems none of us can afford to ignore.

So, please, stop screaming for a second and try a radical, new approach: Talk to us. Ask us stupid questions. Ask us embarrassing questions. Ask us obvious questions. Please, I’m begging you, ask us thoughtful and non-intuitive questions.

Because, believe me, whatever you have to say—if you say it with real, open, and honest curiosity that’s willing and wanting a real, open, and honest response—it can’t be more offensive that what we’ve already heard. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Adoribull - Part Two

My Adoribull - What You Want of Me
Part Two
Read Part One Here

Dorian smiled his small, secret smile. The one the Bull liked to think he saved just for him. “How would I touch you?”

The Bull’s mouth felt dry as he tried to figure out what Dorian wanted him to say. He looked into the other man’s eyes and tried to read his desires there. But all he saw were questions he didn’t know if he had answers to.

What did he want?

He wanted what Dorian wanted. 

He wanted to be wanted. Needed. He wanted a purpose to serve and a place to belong.

But that hardly seemed like the answer Dorian was looking for. So he kept his peace.

“Would I touch you here?” Dorian asked as he trailed his nails over the Bull’s thigh, scraping at the sensitive crease of his leg just beneath the leather of his belt.

The Bull’s breath hitched as skin so often protected felt breached. Exposed. Naked beneath the layers of cloth. “That’s good,” he grunted. And not, at the same time. It left him vulnerable in a way that didn't sit well with him. But, for Dorian, he could handle it. He swallowed again. “Real good.”

“Good,” Dorian said as he shifted a bit on the bed. He reached up for the clasp of the Bull’s harness over his large, now heaving chest. “Very good.”

The Bull held his breath as he watched those nimble hands work the leather off him. He didn’t understand this. Didn’t get the rules. He felt Dorian’s sweet mouth kiss the heart of his chest as he lay the harness off to the side, before his tender lips trailed hot brushes down over his middle while Dorian’s hands made short work of his belt. He shook his head, trying to clear it. No, he needed to think. Needed to make sense of this. Needed to regain control.

“How about this?” Dorian asked, his face all but pressed up against the Bull’s needy flesh as he dragged his trousers down off his hips slowly. Dorian carefully worked it over the Bull’s erection, all without his delicate hands ever touching him beyond the briefest touch. It was an exquisite tease. Dorian placed a kiss—a glistening mark of lips and tongue—just above his belly before he tugged the Bull’s trousers to his knees.

The Bull felt his body strain, reaching in a need to touch. He reached out to grab Dorian by the waist, so he could reverse their positions and press the smaller man into the mattress.

But Dorian stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “My turn this time,” Dorian insisted, “remember? All you have to do is lay back and enjoy.” Suddenly, Dorian sat straight and smiled, a wicked gleam lighting his eyes. “In fact...”

The Bull sat up as Dorian scuttled off the bed before disappearing over the edge. After a bit of scrounging, Dorian stood up, that gleam making the Bull wary, as the mage began to unwind a bundle of rope. “Uhh,” the Bull grunted.

“Forgive me, if I do this wrong,” Dorian said as he climbed onto the bed to straddle the Bull’s wide hips, the press of his cock against the mage’s thigh almost obscene, “I don’t exactly do this as often as you.”

The Bull gritted his teeth as Dorian’s hips moved over him, as all of his body pressed all along his own, while the squirrely mage reached up to tie the Bull’s wrists together behind his neck. The Bull breathed deep, smelling the sweet scent of the man as his nose touched Dorian’s throat. God, he smelled good. He leaned forward to lick the delicate hollow, that dip of skin.

“Ah, ah,” he heard Dorian say as he yanked the Bull’s bound hands back. “Behave,” he warned as he gave the Bull a stern stare. “If you think you can.”

The Bull thought about that as Dorian laid him back onto the bed. The rules were definitely changing. Turning on their face. Don’t do what you normally do. Let me do. He nodded slightly. Okay. He could play that game.

Curious, he pulled against the rope knotted around his wrists. It was a good hold. He smiled. Not bad for his first time.

“You are so large,” he heard Dorian comment softly, more to himself than to anyone.

The Bull chuckled, adjusting his neck so he could rest his head and horns on his arms. “Thanks for noticing,” he said with a lewd hip thrust.

“I mean, all over,” Dorian said scoldingly. “So much larger than most people.” He laid his hands on the Bull’s chest, his hands so small over the wide expanse. “You’re so powerful and strong. A formidable force. If you wanted to get free right now, you could, couldn’t you?”

The Bull shrugged. Break his thumb, twist free. If he had to. But that was the point of the game. When the roles were reversed, all Dorian ever had to do was say the word and the Bull would set him free. It was only really fun to be caught by someone you knew, at any time you wanted, would set you free.

Dorian sighed and pouted. “This is still all about what I want, isn’t it?” he asked. “You’ll lay there and let me...” He waved his hand dismissively. “All because I asked you to.” He frowned. “Why have you never asked me to?”

The prone Qunari shrugged. “Figured, if you wanted to touch, you’d do it. You didn’t.” Which was fine. He could understand that. He sucked in a breath as he felt the Tevinter’s refined fingers trace a large, matted scar that slashed across his chest. Just one of many marring his war-hewn body.  He clenched his fists, feeling the asymmetrical loss on his left hand, as he took in the perfection of Dorian's form. Seeing the mage's frown deepen, he assured him, “Hey, don’t worry about it.” There were many, many, many ways to get off, so who was he to complain?

“I’m sorry,” Dorian whispered into the air. He shook his head. He sighed and ran his hands down the deep vee of the Bull’s waist. “I feel like I should know how to do all this better,” he told him longingly. “I wish it didn’t feel as though I were stumbling my way through blindly.” He shut his eyes and turned away slightly. “I feel like, for all that we do together, I’m the one who always ends up hurting you. And I never wanted that. I’d always thought,” he said with a sullen lift of his shoulder, “that, when it mattered—if I ever found someone who mattered—I would know how to do it right.”

The Bull frowned. He wanted to correct him. Wanted to assure him that he was fine. That he could take it. But the Keeper of Illusions bit his tongue. Because, bound beneath the man above him, with the taste of unspoken truths on both their tongues, it felt harder to lie.

Strange games indeed.

"God, how I hate confession," the mage sighed.

The Bull frowned, not liking the hurt and shame on the other man’s fine features. With a forced laugh, the Bull said, deciding they both needed a much lighter mood, “Well, seems to me, that you were doing just fine before you decided to try to talk me into climax. Let’s get back to that and see what happens, huh?”

Dorian stifled a laugh. “Fair enough.” He gripped the Bull’s hips. “I suppose it’s fine that you’re only doing this because I asked. Even if that’s true,” he said as he teased the thin skin covering the Bull’s hipbones, “I still want to give this to you.” His hand—that only slightly shook—reached out to grasp the Bull’s cock. “Just,” he said as he leaned down, licking his lips nervously, “it’s never been like this—not quite—so you’ll have to tell me if I’m doing this right.”

The Bull moaned as he felt Dorian’s mouth slide slickly over him. “Sure feels like you know what you’re doing.” His wrists twisted in the rope’s grasp as he felt Dorian’s chuckle reverberated over his skin. Goddamn, that was good. Dorian’s tongue was a wonder, swirling and stroking, while his hand gripped and moved over his dick. He bit his lip as pleasure built inside him. He wanted to thrust faster. Or maybe to slow this all down. But, tied up and held down, it was out of his hands. It was odd and unsettling, caught by ecstasy that left him unbalanced.

He looked down and met the other man’s gaze. Hot and determined, Dorian’s eyes burned. Felt like a tactile stroke of its own. The Bull lifted his head to watch Dorian take him in his mouth, the look and feel of the act so carnal he felt himself race toward his end. The Bull gasped as Dorian scraped his nails over the inside of his thigh—something the Bull was always fond of doing to the mage—tearing his orgasm from him with a roaring cry.

For a long moment, pleasure rocked him. He felt adrift in a world of sensation. His heart thundered and his lungs burned with each breath.

He choked on a laugh as someone pounded on the wall.

So much for discretion.

He heard Dorian chuckle softly as he gave his cock one last lick before climbing up the Bull’s panting body.

“Damn, kadan,” the Bull breathed as Dorian untied him. “Just...damn.”

Dorian preened as he tucked the rope under the bed again. “Too right,” he said smugly. “Now, next time I ask you what you want, you’ll have your answer, right?”

The Bull let out a laughing yawn as Dorian moved to lie sprawled over his chest, the silken slide of the mage’s body against his sweat-soaked skin both miraculous and profane. While he’d definitely enjoyed what Dorian had done—no question about that, not while his body still felt sticky with the evidence of that—as he tucked his now free hand behind his head and stared out into the dark, he wondered if maybe, in the morning light, he would find the words to tell Dorian what it was he really wanted.


Read my companion Adoribull fanfic "Watch Words" for Dorian's response. 

Don't forget to check out the post that started this all 
"Riding The Iron Bull - Kink and Dragon Age: Inquisition"

Not to mention my Sex-Swapped Iron Bull Cosplay

And please check out my other stuff here

And, as always, enjoy!

My Adoribull - Part One

My Adoribull - What You Want of Me
Part One

*  Last time, I swear. But these two have been bickering in my head for days and this seemed the best way to get them both to shut up. I don’t normally do fanfiction, always too afraid that I’m mucking about with someone else’s baby too much. But, like I said, this story wanted to be told and, when all was written and done, I thought it was pretty good. So apologies in advance if my Adoribull isn’t your Adoribull. And, if you don’t already know, I am, by nature, an erotica writer, so ya know, mind the filthy, filthy smut.

Half-way up the stairs, far from prying eyes, the Bull felt Dorian reach for his hand, tucking his elegant fingers into his own large, calloused grasp. He loved the touch of Dorian’s skin against his. It was a soft luxury, finely crafted. Like a forbidden treasure he was never fully sure he wasn’t about to break or have taken away. In the shadows, he stared at their entwined hands as Dorian lay his head against the Bull’s forearm. They were so different, in size, looks, and manner, with centuries of both their people between them. Impossibly held in that small twist of mismatched hands. They walked in silence and the Bull wondered what that would look like in the light. Wondered what, through others’ eyes, they would see.

He shook his head. Didn’t matter. Asit tal-eb. It is to be. This was what they were. They existed in the shadows. In stolen moments behind closed doors. And, even if he wasn’t altogether sure exactly why that was—discretion, past ghosts, or some damn thing or another—the Bull supposed it was better than nothing. Touching hidden treasure still beat the shit out of an empty hand.

Didn’t it?

After all, he was Hissrad, Keeper of Illusions. A spy and a liar, by nature. Maybe he belonged to the shadows and had no business thinking about the light.

He watched Dorian enter his room as if it were his own, as if he had every right to be there. As if he belonged there. Which, admittedly, he did. His room—his bed—was theirs in a way Dorian’s never would be.

Which was fine.

All his things were here. He could just imagine the horrified look on Dorian’s face, if they got caught bringing rope or his tools into the Tevinter’s fine, pristine room. No, it was just more practical to come here. To his space. His domain.

And it wasn’t as if he cared if his curtains caught fire.

“Are you all right?”

The Bull blinked as he turned to see the man he would always think of as his, whether or not the claim was returned, lit by the lamp, the light making his pale skin seem to glow. “Sure,” he said as Dorian reached for his belt. “Finally got you all to myself; my night’s definitely looking up.”

Dorian shook his head with a small smile, rolling his eyes indulgently as he shrugged out of his clothes. Left in little more than trousers and his boots, he placed a hand on his coyly cocked hip. “Well, now that you have me here, Qunari, what do you plan to do with me?”

The Ben-Hassrath agent in him studied the mage, for a moment. He’d taken off his shirt, but left the pants. That meant slow. He wanted the Bull to take his time. Not too much—or he’d have made him strip him layer by layer—but he was definitely in the mood to play. The hand on that thrust out hip was deliberate. Meant to draw his eye down as those slim, elegant fingers tapped impatiently against the tight, taut muscles of his ass.

The Bull smiled. He could work with that.

“Come here,” he told Dorian as he took a seat on the bed.

Dorian frowned, as if considering it, before sauntering over to stand between his knees, looking put out. The Bull narrowed his gaze at the man. It was a weird game the mage liked to play. Pretend not to want what you clearly want. Ask for something by acting like you don’t want it.

But the Bull supposed he’d played weirder games before. Sure, that milkmaid/new steer game he’d played with a particularly inventive serving wench had been an odd experience, but at least the rules had been easy enough to learn. Dorian’s game always seemed to have new or changing rules. Ravish me in the bedroom. But don't touch me in the tavern. Talk dirty to me. But say nothing in front of anyone else. Tell me what I want. But don’t make me say it.

The Bull shook his head. He wanted the contrary man all the time. Like, all the time. He could have his sword hilt-deep into the belly of an enemy, feeling their blood hot and spraying all over the battlefield and he still wanted the eye-rolling, little mage.

But Dorian seemed to need these four walls, needed his games and the shadows, to want him. The Bull wished he didn’t need to know why. Didn’t need to know when what they did—who they were—together was acceptable and when it wasn’t.

He knew it was complicated—the mage had told him so enough times. Knew Dorian’s past held darkness that overshadowed his present. And hiding, for the Bull, was easier than coming out into the light was for Dorian. He knew that.

It’s enough to be wanted, he told himself as he reached out to grab the band of Dorian’s pants, pulling him close for a kiss. After all, what the hell did he know about love? About relationships? Even though this—what he had with Dorian—felt like more than he’d known before, what did he know, really? It just felt strange that he could talk and be free about relationships built on little more than heat and fun, meant only to last for the space of a night or two, but here, with his mage, he had to hide. Had to be hidden. Maybe, for all the crap Varric filled his books with, that was all there was to love. The games lovers played. Maybe it was enough to know, within this moment, within this space, he was needed. Even if, outside that, he wasn’t.

Dorian stepped back as he laid a hand against the Bull’s shoulder. “I was wondering if I could ask you something.”

“Sure.” The Bull shrugged. He’d been quite literally inside of the man; felt only fair to let him in a bit as well. “What do you want to know?”

Dorian pursed his lips indecisively. “I was talking to Cole—”

“Oh great,” the Bull groaned. “What did the demon boy have to say now?”

Dorian smiled slightly. “Nothing really. Just...” He sniffed and fidgeted awkwardly. "He'd said that I was losing you. That 'the tighter you held me, the farther I slipped away.' " He shook his head and laughed. "Doesn't even make sense." He looked at the Bull. "It's not true," he told him, his tone insistent and obvious. "I'm not going anywhere."

The Bull nodded. They weren't going anywhere. Not moving further away. But not exactly moving closer either. He nodded again. "I understand." 

Asit tal-eb

It was enough. To have his strong, wise, arrogant, little mage—even for a moment, to be able to call him his—was enough. It made him feel powerful and proud. Made him feel worthy.

And, if that was all they had, it had to be enough.

Dorian sighed relieved. "And, well, I just thought you should know." He tilted his head curiously as his gaze swept over the other man. “He also said that I should ask you what you want.”

The Bull let out a confused laugh. “What do you mean?”

Dorian shrugged as his hand idly stroked the Bull’s broad shoulder, touching the tough leather that covered it. “You’re always saying you know what I want.” He gave a little nod as he drew small spirals over his skin, sending tingles through the Bull’s body with each light stroke. “And we always end up doing exactly what I want. Sometimes, even before I know I want it!” His hand stopped as he frowned, making the Bull instantly miss the touch. “But it occurs to me that I really have no idea what it is you want.”

He grabbed the mage’s hand and kissed his fingers gently. “Don’t worry about me, kadan; believe me, I’m just fine.” He smiled at all the smooth, naked flesh in front of him. “No complaints here.”

Dorian crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not worried, so much as curious.”

The Bull leaned back and sighed. So, now the man wanted to talk? He shrugged. All right. “Well, I really like seeing you go all tense and hearing you moan when I—”

“No, no, no,” Dorian said, waving his hand out as a silly, sweet blush flushed his pale neck and cheeks, “again that’s what you’re doing to me.” He shuffled his feet a bit, shifting his weight from one side to the other. “What if I…” he shrugged as his voice trailed off, “you know...want to do things to you?”

The Bull raised his eyebrows. “You want to do things to me?” He sat back up again, intrigued. “Like what?”

Dorian rolled his eyes and huffed. “I don’t know.” He smacked the Bull’s shoulder. “Not specifics anyway. Not exactly.” He shook his head. “Everything we’ve done is just so different than what I’ve known in the past. Before, with others, it’d been more hurried. More rash. More meaningless, if I’m being perfectly honest. But this, us…” He shrugged. “It’s just more. Sometimes more than I know what to do with. Anyway, that’s why I asked if there were things that you want me to do.” He made an impatient sound and waved his hand expectantly. “Are there things you want me to do?”

The Bull frowned and blinked. “Uh,” he said, taken aback by the question, “I mean, I don’t know.” He shrugged and shook his head. “I’ve never really thought about it.”

Dorian balked. “You’ve never thought about me touching you?” he accused, his voice practically screeching. “Well, that’s flattering.”

“Not like that.” It wasn’t like he didn’t think about them together. He did. A lot, in fact. Probably more than he should. It’s just that, in his fantasies, he was always the one doing. Tying up Dorian. Wielding tools on Dorian. His hands on Dorian’s body. Him giving Dorian pleasure. He shook his head. Wasn’t that enough?“ I just… “ Wasn’t that what Dorian wanted? “I’m happy with...” What more could the damned Tevinter want? “I mean, we could just keep doing what we’re doing.” What more could the Bull give?

“Is that what you want?”

The Qunari agent lowered his gaze and leaned back. The bed gave under his shifting weight as he pulled his legs up to sit cross-legged onto the bed. “I don’t...” He shook his head, feeling the game’s rules change. Again. This wasn’t how this worked. Wasn’t how they worked. He had a role, a job, within…whatever it was they were doing. But, within the space of a few words, the Bull felt that role slip, felt the balance between them shift. Damn demon kid, couldn’t he just stay out of what was better left alone? He felt heat rise under his skin, making his neck and face feel itchy as his shoulders slumped in on himself. “I don’t even know what you’re asking.”

What did it matter what he wanted? What difference did that really make, in the grand scheme of things? He enjoyed what they did; knew for damned sure Dorian enjoyed it as well. Wasn’t that enough?

The Bull felt more than saw Dorian step closer. He peered up at the man who stood tall near the bed. The perspective from below was weird and made him feel more than a little uneasy. “It’s a simple question, Bull.” The mage smiled sadly as he touched the Bull’s beard roughened cheek, lifting his face up gently and straightening his spine until they looked at each other eye-to-eye. Taking a lighter tone, he teased, “Don’t make me drag Cole up here.”

The Bull let out a small laugh. “Hey, I’m all for bringing in more partners, but—even for me—that’d be weird.”

Dorian gave him a wry glare and sat on the bed beside him. “Then answer the question.” He gave him a pointed look. “Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about me touching you.” Dorian let his hand slide down over the Bull’s chest, brushing over his nipples. “My hands on your body.” His voice lowered as his fingers dipped low to stroke his thigh. “The taste of you on my tongue.”

The Bull swallowed hard. “Well, when you say it like that…”

Read Part Two Here

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fixing Adoribull

This isn't going to turn into a Dragon Age: Inquisition blog (much as that might entertain some of my gamer friends) but, since I've been asked, here is the game's end to the Adoribull story arc and what, if I had to find a way to be okay with it, I would have changed to make it at least better for me.

Game End:

Inquisitor: Will you be returning to Tevinter now?

Dorian: No, actually, I was thinking of sticking around...for a while.
Inquisitor: (teasingly) Would that have anything to do with Iron Bull?
Dorian: (small laugh) It might... (shrugs) You know how it is.

My Adoribull End (if they had to stay together):

Inquisitor: Will you be returning to Tevinter now?

Dorian: No, actually, I was thinking of sticking around...with Ashkaari.
Inquisitor: (skeptically) You and the Iron Bull? Really?
Dorian: Yes, (stands a little straighter, almost defensively) me and the Iron Bull.
Inquisitor: (small laugh) Well, good for you.
Dorian: (sheepishly) You really think so?
Inquisitor: (clasps the man's shoulder) I do.
Dorian: (shuffles feet a bit, touches the dragon's tooth worn around his neck, and sighs awkwardly) Well, I wish you well, my friend.
Inquisitor: And I you.

Dorian still gets to keep his sense of discretion while also acknowledging that the Bull matters to him in meaningful ways, like calling the Bull by his given name rather than his adopted name (that may or may not fit him that well anymore) and wearing a sign of their significance in much the way a kinkster would value a collar or a person would value a wedding or promise band. I think, if I could see that Dorian cares for the Bull and treats what they have with the respect it deserves, I could find a way to find Adoribull…well, adorable.


I wrote a whole, embarrassingly long rant on Adoribull 
here. Don't forget to take a peek at the comments below,
there's some great discussion there. And, of course,
please feel free to join the conversation.

Also check out my Adoribull fanfics, if you want to see my
take at trying to find Adoribull adorable:

 For a peek at this relationship through Bull's perspective: 
"What You Want of Me"
And, to see Dorian's response, read:
"Watch Words"

For more fun, take a look at my Gender-Swapped Iron Bull Cosplay

And, as always, hope you enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Riding the Iron Bull - Kink and Dragon Age: Inquisition

So, like I’ve said, I’m not a gamer. But I know gamers. I love gamers. I am an encouraging and appreciative observer of the gamer culture. I will never be fluent in the language. I will never be able to navigate it without a guide. But I love that there are people out there who are and do. It’s an under-appreciated medium whose stories are often rich and unlike anything else out there.

That all said, I’ve spent the last two days obsessed with Dragon Age: Inquisition. Specifically, with Iron Bull. I’ve been watching clips of him on youtube on loop. Literally.

I’m not a gamer. I’m not into big, burly, muscle-pumped, beefcake men. But I think I’m in love with him. Like, giggle-into-my-hand-whenever-I-see-him, daydream-longingly, construct-long-drawn-out-fantasies-both-mundane-and-hot-as-hell, haven’t-felt-this-way-since-junior-high level love. He’s fantastic in just about every way. He is the perfect kinkster dream. They couldn’t have done him better.

He’s SSC personified. He negotiates, uses safewords (“watchwords;” love it!), provides after care, can articulate and critically think about his kinks, and has excellent boundaries. He’s smart and funny. He’s thoughtful and considerate. He’s capable of being soulfully eloquent as well as sinfully foul-mouthed. He has this sexy swagger to him that just makes a bottom’s knees feel weak. No joke; he may not be my physical type and I’m not submissive by nature, but I would fall at this man’s fictional feet and be extremely happy there. And make damned sure he was happy with me there too. Without question, he is absolutely one of my favorite kinky characters out there (if you couldn’t tell, because subtlety is such a strength of mine).

Which is why I can’t understand why so many people are so upset by him. I cannot see how they could look at this complex character who is thoughtful, in every respect of that word, and see “a relationship that’s a minefield of issues (unsolicited sexual advances, disturbing sexual fantasies, lack of balance, no natural progression, NO APOLOGIES, unhealthy dynamic, […] lack of respect/ignoring partner’s wishes).”

I’ve been watching clips of Iron Bull’s relationships with both the Inquisitor and with Dorian, seeing as many of the different options available as possible. And…how? How can anyone look at this fantastic character and see a rapist or an abuser? Possibly because I’ve seen so many options, I’ve been able to piece together what kind of man the Iron Bull really is and, man, have people got this whole BDSM-mistaken-for-abuse thing ass-backward wrong.

As for consent, this is ridiculous. The game goes way, way, waaaaaaay out of its way to make everything the Iron Bull does above reproach. He is king of consent. He literally does everything right. By the book. Flawlessly.

Let’s look first at his romance with the Inquisitor. The scene where they negotiate the rules of their relationship is textbook. It goes through every tenet of SSC BDSM. He uses open and clear communication. He lays out his expectations and boundaries. He gives a safeword. He establishes that the rules only apply in-scene. He checks in so often it’s a little ridiculous. He gives the Inquisitor (and thus the player) every opportunity to opt in or out before anything remotely sexy or kinky happens. He makes sure to obtain enthusiastic consent every step of the way. That is the epitome of consent. There is literally nothing more he could do.

And yet there are still people saying that they were triggered by this. That this romance option left them without options or choice. How? By the fact that the Iron Bull won’t have a relationship with the Inquisitor unless it’s a D/s relationship? Well, guess what? Some people are kinky and that’s what they want. And that’s their right. You, as the Inquisitor, don’t get to dictate what the Iron Bull wants. “The Inquisitor is fully within their rights to say no to a BDSM relationship. And Iron Bull is fully within his rights to say no, that doesn't work for me. Your rights end when they begin infringing upon another's. To say that Iron Bull should compromise for a normal relationship is like saying his sexual needs are less valid than our Inquisitor's. Why?”

If kink isn’t your thing, if it’s not how you want to play the game, that’s fine. I’ve been assured that there are many, many other options with other characters where you can get all the vanilla you want; I wish you your fill. But your “normal” isn’t everyone’s “normal” and what you want won’t fulfill everyone. Have yours—have lots of yours—but let everyone else have theirs too. That isn’t infringing on your consent. That isn’t abuse. That’s life. “[People] use the fact that the inquisitor does not have a ‘choice’ as further proof that [the Iron Bull] is abusive. I'd like to be very clear about something. Your ‘choice’ in any romance is the option to say no […] you can still choose to say no. What you cannot do is pretend that a choice to say yes is ‘no choice.’ ” If you listened to what the Bull had to say and chose to “ride the Bull” anyway, you knew what you were getting into—there was no way not to; he’s not exactly subtle. You don’t get to claim foul if you give fully informed consent. You don’t get to be upset that you can’t get everything you want exactly how you want it from him because he won’t love you the way you want him to and you don’t want to be loved the way he wants to love you. If you can’t handle him, if you find that the two of you are innately incompatible, you can always tell him no. I’ve been assured that he respects that boundary well and backs off. There’s your choice. You don’t get to change who he is and what he wants just to suit you. His consent is just as important as yours. To act otherwise, is in and of itself an act against consent.

As for the Dorian relationship, I’ll admit this one gave me a bit of pause. Out of context—which is kinda how the game presents it, as you really only get gossipy eavesdropped moments—many of the comments you, as the Inquisitor, overhear sound bad. If you don’t romance either Dorian or the Bull, I’ve been told, the game ships these two together automatically, if they're both in your party. Which is the worst idea ever. 

But not for the reasons people think. 

Adoribull is really anything but. I Googled the two and heard way too many people talking about how horrible the Bull is to poor Dorian. How he seduces the poor, poor man with a drinking problem while he’s drunk. How that’s a case of lack of consent. About how the Bull abuses poor Dorian by sex-shaming him by rubbing their affair in Dorian’s face in front of everyone. About how he sexually harasses poor Dorian by hitting on him all the time. “GIVE ME AN OPTION TO BAIL OUT ON THIS SHIT IN MY GAME, THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING!!!!! Give me an option to stop it from developing, because if it’s skevy enough it can be 'chosen to be interpreted as abusive' don’t you think I’d like to have a choice not to see my favourite character stuck in this relationships, without being able to utter a word about it???”

I’m sorry. Were you watching the same scenes as me? They’re constantly giving each other shit. About each other’s races. About each other’s appearances. About each other’s fighting styles. They’re just one big dick-measuring contest. The first time you really hear the Bull hit on Dorian, they are hilt-deep in such a cock-swinging fight. Sure, the Bull is crass and graphic, but so what? From what I can tell, that’s just the Bull. And when Dorian says no to that kind of talk, the Bull acts surprised at the mixed signals and backs off. Then, as the game progresses, it seems like they bond further, having much more intimate moments about shared experiences.

Which leads to an “ill-considered night after drinks,” as it sometimes does. Which, by the way, doesn’t mean that Dorian was drunk. It means they were having drinks. And then had a perhaps more uninhibited evening together, but it clearly wasn’t something Dorian regrets or there wouldn’t have been the “second time, and then...” Not to mention at the end of that arc, Dorian sticks around in the hopes of spending more time with the Iron Bull. Yeah, if Dorian is saying no, I really can’t blame the Bull for not hearing it. Cause that sounds like a pretty clear and consistent yes, even if Dorian doesn’t “know what’s going on, to be honest,” even if he knows that it’s “a whole lot of something.” For fuck’s sake, Dorian gets so turned on by what they do together that he magically sets the curtains on fire!

Seems to me, if anyone is being taken advantage of, Dorian is using the Bull. Badly. He’s so pearl-clutchingly riddled by “the shame” of it all that he’s taking it out on someone who’s just trying to be there for him. Look at how they both describe their relationship to the Inquisitor. When asked, the Bull talks about how good a guy Dorian is underneath it all and about how he hopes that they’ll be good for each other and how their relationship—hot as he finds it—will also help them come together in a more meaningful way. When Dorian is asked the exact same question, he laments on how much of a blabbermouth “that lumox” is and how he’s so ashamed about anyone knowing about their “dalliance” and how he wishes that no one knew about it.

I’m sorry, if you’re ashamed to be sleeping with someone, you shouldn’t stick your dick in them. They aren’t your secret shame. They aren’t your blow-up doll that you get to drag into the closet with you. They’re a person. And, whoever they are, they deserve better treatment than you’d give to a vibrator furtively hidden in your bedside drawer. If Dorian were so ashamed of sleeping with a black guy or an overweight man or a trans man that he refused to acknowledge the relationship in public, how infuriating would that be? How is this any different?

Far as I can tell, there’s a few ways to read that shame, none of which reflect well on Dorian.

One, this is self-hating homophobia leftover from an unfortunate upbringing. I’ve been told that Dorian had really shitty parents from a really shitty culture who tried to use blood magic to pray the gay away. As an ex-Catholic with her own share of heavily ingrained Catholic-guilt, I feel you. You get my sympathies for that and my congrats for getting out. But you don’t get the right to treat someone else like shit for no good reason. You don’t get to spread the shit someone shoveled on you onto someone else just because you don't know what to do with it. If anything, you should know better. Because, Lord knows, the Bull deserves better.

Two, this is kink-shaming. Dorian is riding the Bull to get his jollies. To walk on the wild side for a bit. All the while, looking down his nose at it all. Acting as if he’s above what gets his rocks off. The way he compares the Bull and their relationship to beer—this low-brow, undignified, dirty thing—is offensive. As if someone like him ought to be above something like that.

I’ve been people’s walk on the wild side and it sucks. You’re less than human at that moment. You’re just a novelty. A new experience. A soon-to-be memory. A story they can tell later. A titillated feeling of shame and excitement. That sex—that experience—is never about you. It’s all about what you can do, about what you can give, about what someone else can get off of you. You’re just a sex toy to them. A simple means to an end. Something someone wanks into without really much thought to you at all.

So, yeah, if that’s how you treat your lovers, fuck yourself. Because you haven’t earned the right to even touch the person you’re currently screwing over.

Three, this is a race thing. Listening to Dorian talk about the Bull’s race is disturbing in a way that hearing some of the other characters do so isn’t. Because when Krem calls the Bull a bastard because, within the traditions of his culture, he doesn’t have a mother, you never feel like Krem means it. It’s just banter between friends. But when Dorian talks about how he can’t trust the Bull because of who he is...that feels like truth. Dorian, in his heart of hearts, believes the things he says. Yet he’s having a sexual relationship with the Bull. That feels like fetishization.

Again, I’ve been people’s exotic destination too. Where you’re just a set of cultural expectations wrapped up in an ultimately strangely attractive package. Where that same titillated feeling of shame and excitement is now mixed with a strongly-held sense of superiority and a desire to claim the unexplored. You’re just sand they get to stick their flag in. Makes that beer line look even darker through this lens.

Four, maybe Dorian just doesn’t like the Iron Bull very much. Maybe his personality, his crassness and baser nature, offends him. Fine. That’s his right—no one has to like anyone; you can take a dislike to someone for any reason you want. But then stop sticking your dick in someone you don’t respect. Because that makes you a prissy, little hypocrite. So the Bull is good enough for you to blow your load in, but not quite good enough to talk to the morning after? Classy. Too often, we glorify hate sex. The kind of sex where it’s made hotter because there are no emotions, no attachments, involved. The kind where we get to do anything to and with that person because ultimately, at the end of the night, they don’t matter. We dehumanize them without realizing that it’s us who are throwing away our humanity. I’m not saying you have to love every person you fuck, but if you can’t give them a modicum of basic human respect, stop. Please, stop. It doesn’t do either of you any service.

Like I said, I don’t much like Dorian, after seeing this side of him. He’s cashing a lot of my past partners’ bad checks. And maybe that’s not his fault. Maybe I’m reading too much into this. But I feel like I understand where the Bull is coming from in this relationship. I’ve been there.

Which is why I find it so infuriating that people are taking the scene where the Bull seems to out Dorian about their relationship in front of the group so grossly out of context. At the beginning of that scene, the Bull approaches Dorian, using a very soft voice, asking to talk about their relationship. Because he’s, at his heart—strangely enough for a spy—really open and honest. If you matter to him, he’s going to treat you like you do. To which Dorian shuts it down. Complains about discretion. Essentially wants to dismiss and deny that the relationship even exists.

So, yeah, the Bull, in a then much louder voice, does what Dorian is too chickenshit to do. Acknowledges their relationship. In crude, crass, graphic language? You betcha. Because, guess what? Make a kinkster feel like they should be ashamed of being who they are and chances are good they’re going to prove to you just how unashamed and unapologetic they are. Because they have nothing to be ashamed of. They have nothing to apologize for. And, for most of us, it took a really long time—filled with shame and apologies abound—to get to that place. And no one has the right to make us go back. Much less the person we’re currently having kinky sex with. Tip to the wise: Just don’t. You may not like the reaction. But you will have deserved it.

To be fair, it took a few viewings (like I said, it’s been on a loop for days) for me to see this. And I got a much better view after watching both sets of clips. One of my favorite Inquisitor scenes is the one where the Inquisitor downplays and dismisses their relationship with the Bull as “blowing off steam” but then is surprised when the Bull walks away. I think this was the moment I fell for the Bull. The amount of self-respect it took to do that is beautiful. To know you deserve better and to walk away so you can get it; kinksters could use more stories like that. Where we demand to be seen and treated as people. And I love that you get to see the Bull use his sexuality as a defense mechanism here. To use that part of himself that people are trying to shame and hurt him with as his own weapon. It really helps to inform the scene with Dorian, even though you’d never see those two scenes together in the same play-through. The Inquisitor hurt him with the truth about how little he thinks of the Bull so, in turn, the Bull takes a bit of that same sentiment and turns it onto the Inquisitor. Again, that mentality of “you will not make me less just so you can look like you're more” is so well done in this moment.

Like I said, I think the Iron Bull is one of the most considerate lovers ever written. If I had to give him a fault sexually, it's that he's too considerate. He gives and gives and gives. He's all about giving other people what they want and need. And, while I think he definitely enjoys it, we never get to hear about what he—at his core, separate from his partners or circumstances—desires. He's such a service kinkster. The game even has a perfect scene where Cole comments on the fact that the Inquisitor “submits, but you serve.” Someone at BioWare smiles as wide as I do at that line every time they hear it. Because it’s true. I love me my tops, but bottoms rule, baby. That’s just the way of it.

In fact, the only thing we really ever see him demand is acknowledgement. Is the basic respect of recognition. Literally the bare minimum of common decency when it comes to relationships. Dorian goes on and on about the Bull’s lack of discretion, which is bullshit. Because he has discretion. Lots and lots and lots of discretion, so long as you acknowledge that you do indeed have a relationship together that matters. If you treat it and him with respect, he goes out of his way to do the same for you. Do the opposite…and, well, tit for tat. He just wants to feel like he's not being used. And yet to some people he's the rapist. He's the abuser. He's the predatory monster with “that mother clucking sick banter. Add one banter when Iron Bull RECOGNISES HE’S A CREEP AND APOLOGISES! Seriously, one more banter would have fixed it, instead of this Bull goes full 'I know you want it' Robin Thicke/50 Shades.”

The goal of a good service kinkster is to know what needs your partner has and to fulfill them without being asked. To anticipate what's needed and to meet that need. To observe and know your partner so well that you can be that in-tune with them. It’s the highest goal and something every partner ought to aspire to. The difference between that—which I would hope every partner, kinky or vanilla, aims to do and be—and what Fifty Shades and "Blurred Lines" do is that, in those other examples, the partner-in-question doesn't necessarily want what the speaker assumes they do. In "Blurred Lines" we never get to hear what the girl actually wants; no one ever asks her. It’s all about what the speaker wants couched in eye-brow-wiggling “you want that too, right? Right?” In Fifty Shades, we're stuck in Ana's head—for better or for worse—and she actually flat-out doesn't want what Grey assumes she does. That's what makes those things murky if not out-and-out red-flag consent issues.

However, in DA, when the Iron Bull, who was hired to be a people-reading super spy, says that he knows what that person needs, note that he tends to be able to back that up with why he thinks that. And really stop to observe that the other person tends to confirm that, yes, that is in fact exactly what they wanted. And they enjoy it. Over and over and over again. I may not have played the game, but I can clearly see that every time—EVERY SINGLE TIME—Bull talks about giving you what you want, you as a player get the opportunity to choose. To opt in. To opt out. To say "hell, yeah, let's go" or "nope, I'm out." As the Inquisitor, you literally have to choose him. Over and over and over again. To the point you want to scream at the screen, "Take yes for a goddamned answer already!" That's what makes it different. That's what makes these stories polar opposites. To compare the two as anything but contrasts shows not just a lack of knowledge about kink, but a shocking lack of basic knowledge about consent.

And, as for the relationship between the Bull and Dorian, you could make the argument that we don’t get to hear enough about it to say definitively that it’s not abusive. After all, it is extremely hard for abuse victims to leave their abusers for all sorts of reasons that might not be obvious to someone from the outside of that relationship looking in to see. Again, taken out of context—stripped of both their personalities and histories—the few scenes we get could be read that way. There’s an easier way to read them, but they could be read that way. But, here’s the rub: If we don’t have enough information to say definitively that it’s not abuse, we don’t have enough information to automatically assume that it is either. The Inquisitor goes to both of them individually to see what’s going on between the Bull and Dorian. And, as I said, from what I can see, if anyone’s a victim in all this, it sure as fucking hell isn’t Dorian. “Evidently some people interpreted […] the potential relationship between Dorian and Iron Bull is abusive. I really don’t know how that could be the case, so let me clarify: Dorian is very much a willing participant in what occurs, if less-than-thrilled at his life choices (or, at least, that’s what he evinces), and while their relationship might possibly be less-than-healthy on the whole, it’s possible for that to be the case without it being abuse. If you still feel such, go right ahead, but *I* certainly never said so. Got it? Excellent.”

Like I said, yes, a lot of my own past experiences are informing how I view this story. Just as I’m sure it was the same for the people who were triggered by that same story. You can make a million different people look at the same story and each one of them will see it differently. Sometimes slightly. Sometimes completely. Because we’re all coming at it with different experiences, different stories of our own. Stories are, after all, a conversation, with every story ever told informing all other stories. That’s how stories work. That’s their magic. Which means, if you want emotionally compelling and evocative stories, you have to be willing to risk being triggered. “Allow me to clarify, if I may, that we writers would never intentionally put triggering situations into the romances we write. We are, however, in the business of providing drama…and it’s very possible that drama might be interpreted by some as unhealthy or worse, so thus I cannot and will not offer a guarantee that someone will not encounter something triggering in the course of a game. I can’t even guarantee that it will be recognized in-game, considering all the possible interpretations one could make of a situation. Yes, I understand that some will consider that insufficient. They have my sympathy, but that is all I can really offer on the subject.”

And it’s really all the game creators should. Because they didn’t do anything wrong. They, in fact, did everything right. Even with my take on Dorian, I may not like it because I wish the Bull nothing but happiness and pleasure, but the story was so well done. Because there are people out there like that. There are people who’ve done what Dorian does. Who think they way I think he thinks. I may not like them, but that’s not the story’s fault. If anything, that’s to the story’s credit. That it could tap into that experience and portray it so well.

To be honest, when I read the comments from people who look at Iron Bull’s behavior and see abuse, I wonder how they can when they put so little effort into citing exactly what makes them think so. Maybe I have read into and thought far, far, far too much about all this, but at least I can explain exactly why I think the way I do. It makes me wonder if they’re even being all that honest with themselves. If their opinion really means what they think it does. If “what he’s doing is wrong” really translates into “what he’s doing makes me uncomfortable.” I’ve talked about this before, where people tend to demonize that which they find different. And kink and non-normative sexual orientations are today’s demon dejour.

Which seems odd, considering how popular they seem to be nowadays. Everyone claims that kink isn’t being demonized anymore. After all, look at how many copies of Fifty Shades have sold. Think about how many tickets the movie will inevitably sell. How can real-life kinksters claim that we still feel so invisible?

All you have to do is tune into CBS’s latest Moms episode "Godzilla and a Sprig of Mint" where the main character begins dating nice guy Colin Hanks who—surprise, surprise—turns out to be kinky. Into puppy play, really (which really does beg the question how and why he had such a lavish, Red-Room-of-Pain-eqsue dungeon; not that he can’t, but it seems unlikely that he'd need an elaborate setup like that, if that’s his kink, but I digress…). To which Christy pearl-clutchingly runs screaming. Because ew, gross, how can I ever even look at him again! Where, after having promised that she could be trusted with his truth, she can’t even bear to look at him afterward. Sound familiar? At least, DA has the decency not to demonize the Bull by making him crazy or over-the-top, like Hanks’s pathetically pouncing, door-scratching performance while Christy cringes in horror.

I had hoped that Fifty Shades would at least give the world an amount of awareness. Instead, it’s just reinforced the same ole crap. In fact, the MPAA gave the Shades film an R rating because of “the strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior.” Unusual behavior? Thanks, MPAA; you have such a way with words. Way to sugarcoat the word "perversion."

Even the twit actor, Jamie Dornan, they got to star in this movie could see that’s crap. “If people are into that they’re into that. By the way, if people make such a hoo-hah about the violence against women aspect of it, it’s far more common for men to be the submissive. And it’s consensual! There’s weirder sh– than that. I think plane spotting is far weirder than S&M. That I really don’t get. I can understand why people are into S&M, but standing outside Heathrow Terminal 5 waiting for Ryanair to come in?” 

Okay, so he’s wrong about what’s common in kink and could have put that better. But at least it’s better than that time he told Elle, “I saw a dominant with one of his two submissives. It was an interesting evening. Then going back to my wife and newborn baby afterwards … I had a long shower before touching either one of them.”

We’ve—for better or for worse—had our truths thrust out for public consumption. And, for all the strides we’ve made to normalize our lifestyle in the mainstream, we still too often get awful portrayals of who and what we are, where the media parades us around and treats the BDSM community “like ‘circus freaks.’ "

So when creators and storytellers like BioWare get it right, can you just let us have this? Without whining and bitching and moaning all over it? Enjoy your vanilla and let us relish in the rest.

Or, if you really just must, could you at least do us the respect of attempting to make a good argument for all your whinging?

Edit: Sorry for making a ridiculously long past longer, but I’ve had it repeatedly pointed out that I’m being dismissive of Dorian’s past. And, yes, I’ll admit that I don’t know it as well as people who’ve actually played the game. I know the basics of it and have listened and watched bits and pieces about it.

And does it make me like the Dorian character more? …Yes, in terms of that I like that he’s fully fleshed out and has a rich backstory and, yes, a very sympathetic history that does speak to very real and very important experiences that many players can relate to and that even more need a better understanding of.

That said, it still doesn’t make me like Adoribull any more than I did before.

Because, even as a service partner who is invested in the well-being of his partner, the Bull isn’t Dorian’s therapist. Lord knows, I doubt he’s qualified for such a position. I’m sure that, if you explained to him what a shrink was and told him to be one, he’d look at you like you were nuts. As intelligent and thoughtful as I think he is, there has to be someone else more qualified than him for that kind of thing. Sex and affection might make you feel good, but it’s not magic or a therapy-replacement. It’s not the Bull’s job to fix Dorian’s past. And it’s certainly not his job to teach Dorian how to be an out and proud gay man. And, in fact, I still feel like the best way for the Bull to do so is to lead by example. With someone other than Dorian. Someone who’s also out and proud and living with integrity. To show Dorian that, yes, it does get better. Eventually.

But, right now as it stands, Dorian isn’t ready for the kind of relationship he’d have with the Bull. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that he never will be. I’m saying that at the moment of their relationship in the game, Dorian is not there yet. You cannot still be half-in-denial and ask your fully out partner to give up their own integrity and climb back into your closet with you. If you cannot comfortably acknowledge your partner in public, you don't deserve that person as a partner. You haven't earned that right yet. Because that kind of behavior is not discretion, that's denial. They left their closets or never had the luxury of one. They went through the work to claw their way past their own past demons; it’s not healthy or right to ask them to crawl back through yours.

Even if that service partner is willing to. Because the likelihood of that ending badly for both parties is high.

Dorian needs to do the work of coming to terms with who he is and what he wants before getting into a relationship with someone else. Because, like Dan Savage always says, people need to be in good-working-order before they get involved with another person. Because asking someone you love to fix you isn’t a loving gesture. Putting that much demand and responsibility—that is ultimately your own job to do for yourself—onto someone else’s shoulders isn’t fair and has the possibility of doing more damage than good.

After all, how many times will Dorian’s self-shame spill over onto the Bull? Because if your self-shame is telling you that your being gay is wrong, what does that say about the person you’re having gay sex with? By believing you’re wrong, you are tacitly saying they are too. You are, intentionally or not, dragging them through your shame with you. How many times is it okay for that to happen? The Bull is a strong man and, yes, I know he can take it. But does that make it right for Dorian to ask him to? How likely is it that Dorian’s wish to downplay or dismiss the relationship they share—and thus by extension the person he’s sharing that relationship with—is going to chip away at the Bull’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth? Does building Dorian up make even just the possibility of whittling away at the Bull right? At what point is it okay to acknowledge that the Bull, who’s already done the work of living openly with integrity, deserves better?

But, all right, he’s a service partner and he is choosing to stay. As is his choice and he has every right to make it. Just wondering whether that’s as great or helpful or romantic as people make it seem. So the Bull helps Dorian baby-step his way toward living openly and having a better self-image of himself. Great. What happens when Adoribull ends? What happens when one or both of them walk away or get ripped away by circumstance (they are engaged in battle quite a bit after all)? If the Bull was responsible for raising Dorian up, what happens when he’s gone? How likely is it that all that new-found confidence and comfort with himself will go too? How likely is it that, without that person who he’s now learned to lean on to bolster himself up, he’ll be worse off later because he never learned how to stand on his own?

That’s why I don’t like the idea that what makes Adoribull okay with a lot people seems to be that Dorian is being helped by the Bull, so Dorian can get over his past and find a better future. Because it glorifies and validates relationships that probably deserve closer examination.

I’ll admit, I don’t like Dorian for personal reasons. Because I’ve stuck my metaphorical dick in those waters and come up burned. But I don’t think he’s a terrible person. I think he got handed a really shitty hand in life and is learning how to deal with it the best he can. 

And that’s life. You can be sympathetic and likable and still do awful things. You can have good reasons—good and perfectly understandable reasons that make perfect sense—for doing bad things to other people. But even perfectly sympathetic reasoning doesn’t make bad things right and, when the dust settles, that’s small comfort for the people you hurt along the way. I’m not saying that Dorian is abusive. I’m not even saying that he’s a bad person or character. I’m saying, of the two of them, the Bull is more likely to follow the Savage Love Campsite Rule and leave his partner in better shape than he found him in. And will likely be the one to walk away worse for the wear because of all this. Does that make Dorian horrible or a monster? No, but it does make me wish better for the character I love.

And I hope that, in his future somewhere—be it Dorian or the next person—someone endeavors to be as good a partner to him as he is to them. 


Don't forget to take a peek at the comments below,
there's some great discussion there. And, of course,
please feel free to join the conversation.

Also check out my Adoribull fanfics:

 For a peek at this relationship through Bull's perspective: 
"What You Want of Me"
And, to see Dorian's response, read:
"Watch Words"

For more fun, take a look at my Gender-Swapped Iron Bull Cosplay

And, as always, hope you enjoy!