Friday, April 29, 2016

Lessons I Learned While Switching

Mitsu Mark talked about her experiences as a pro-Domme in her excellent piece “Lessons I Learned as a Dominatrix: 10 Things that Don’t Exist.”

In the same spirit, I wanted to talk a bit about some things I learned while switching, an experience that too many people still don’t really think about. Too often, people, both in-scene and out, think of the roles and identities we take on as static and set, when they don't have to be. I’ve talked about it before, but I identify as a bottom, but can and will top for partners who want to switch it up sometimes.

Which brings me to my first lesson:

THE WORLD DOES NOT WORK LIKE PORN: When it comes to sex—and even many aspects of play—I did already know this, but it’s one thing to know it and quite another thing to encounter it in real life. For example, before my current partner, I’d really only dated tops. Even my vanilla boyfriends tended to be control-freaks, ambition-driven go-getters, and take-charge kind of guys. And, while I knew that not all men are like that, in fact most men are not like that it’d been my experience that at least my partners were. So I had to learn to adjust to someone who doesn’t always and doesn't want to always take the reins. More importantly, I also had to learn how to step up, speak up, and run the scene in those times. Which leads me to:

YOU WILL NOT BE GOOD AT THIS FIRST CRACK OUT OF THE BOX: Again, I did know this in a purely intellectual way that doesn't really prepare you to deal with it in a practical sense. But, like Samantha Cole talked about, everyone has to start somewhere. You can read all the books, watch all the videos, can practice knots, can train with all the toys, all you want, and you will still feel unprepared for that first scene. Hell, I’d bottomed for who-knows-how-many scenes before I topped my first one. I knew the in’s-and-out’s of the kink I was doing from the other perspective like second nature. Yet perspective means everything. Because, lord knew, for all my years doing kink, in that moment, I felt like a newbie. Which is okay, because:

PERFECTION ISN’T THE POINT: I’ve talked about this before too, but this is easier said than done. Particularly for the top. So, like I said, I tend to date control-freaks, because I’m a bit of a control-freak too. When it comes to things that matter to me, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. And nothing matters more to me than the well-being of those I care about. So, while I would never demand or expect perfection from any of the tops I play with, it’s a much harder thing to let go of the idea and ideal of perfection when you’re the one holding the rope. And, sure, maybe the knots weren’t as perfect as I’d practiced and maybe I didn’t get to break out every toy I’d trained with, but we enjoyed ourselves. And that’s what matters. After all:

KINK IS NOT ABOUT ANY SPECIFIC ACT: Personally, I play with pain. I love sensation- and impact-play. My play, happy, healthy and playful as it is, tends to be the kind of kink vanilla people think of as hardcore. But not all play has to be like that. Play can be whatever you and your partner want it to be. It is whatever you want together. As much as I love the play that I love, what I do is never as important as who I do it with. Which brings me to my last lesson:

YOUR KINKS CAN CHANGE: Like I’ve said before, I do believe that being kinky is an orientation. It takes a certain kind of person to do what we do, to be who we are, and to love what we love. But, in the same way we’re all oriented in more hard-wired ways—like being straight or gay or bi or pan or asexual—other aspects of our attraction change and flow over time. Like I used to like strong, silent bad boys when I was younger, but—after years of dating those types—I realized that, in real life, those types tended to either bore me, at best, or, at worst...well, let’s just say, they aren’t called “bad” boys because they brought a whole lot of good into my life. These days, I’ll take a geek who makes me laugh and brings more love—love of books and movies and tv shows and fandoms as well as sex and play and romance—into my life over an alpha male any day. Especially when those geeks tend to bring a love for new and interesting kinks of their own. Part of what makes kink a fun and fantastic orientation is that it's dynamic. We want partners that bring exciting experiences into our lives. Partners who let us discover and explore new parts of ourselves. Partners who let us and encourage us to grow in interesting ways. And with whom, for whom, we can do the same.

We are always growing. Always changing. Why should our sex and play be any different? And, if we stop to think about it, would we really want it to be? And, to be fair, not all change is good, and that's okay, but being able to allow change in your life, to welcome and learn from it, is always a pretty good place to start.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Do I Have? - Figuring Out Fantasies, Fetishes, and Kinks

What’s the difference between having a fantasy, a fetish, and a kink? And why does it matter?

Often, having non-normative desires can leave a person feeling abnormal or even wrong. And it often takes identifying and analyzing those desires to realize that these parts of yourself are not only normal, but can be healthy and fun parts of your life.

Having non-normative fantasies are the perfect example of that. Too often we take too Freudian of an approach to fantasies, thinking “a happy person never fantasizes, only a dissatisfied one.” But research tells us that, not only do almost all of us have fantasies and a diverse range of them, it’s healthy and often makes us happier, both in and out of bed. And that, in fact, the denial of or anxiety over our desires can cause psychological harm. So long as it’s not negatively affecting your real-world, everyday life, no matter what fantasies reel through your head, they’re very likely psychologically normal and healthy.

However, the important thing to note is that there is a difference between fairly consequence-free fantasies and reality. Making the leap from what turns you on in theory to practice—particularly partnered practice—takes a lot of thought, work, and communication. In fantasy, anything we want to happen can happen, exactly how we want it every time. But lots of unexpected things can happen when exploring fetishes and kinks in real life with other real-life people, and we all want, as much as possible, to prepare and practice so we can have the most enjoyable experience possible.

So exactly what are fetishes and kinks? “Fetish” and “kink” are often used interchangeably and certainly can be. They are very similar and often hard to necessarily distinguish, since they very often overlap.

But, often, “fetish” tends to relate more with types, things, and attributes (eg. “I have a foot fetish” or “I have a Lolita fetish”). After all, the original term was defined as giving an object special significance, like a religious or ceremonial fetish item, that is “regarded with awe as having mysterious powers or being the representative of a deity that may be worshipped through it.” Sexually speaking, these are items or features that, for whatever reason, play prominently in our sexual expression. Perhaps, there is something about the look or feel of rope or leather or heels that arouses. Or, perhaps, there is something about redheads or Asians or BBWs that turns you on.

And, that’s great and healthy and fun. Just so long as you remember that the partners you’re lucky enough to explore your fetishes with—rope tops or bottoms, leather Daddies, babydolls, redheads, Asians, BBWs, whomever—are people first. Are absolutely and without exception more than just that feature you’re initially attracted to. Because, while you may have a fetish—and that’s normal and okay—the people you play with should never be treated as if they are fetishes. Because, after all, you want to enjoy and share your fetish with someone you appreciate, and who appreciates you, as a complete and complex person. A partner in every sense of the word.

If fetishes tend to be more about attributes, I’ve noticed that “kink” tends to pertain more to actions and relationships (eg. “My kinks are spanking and bondage” or “My kink is D/s power exchange.”) It usually refers to how one does or is. Interestingly, the earliest use of this word refers to “when a Rope which should run smooth in the Block, hath got a little turn, and runs as it were double.” Meaning it deviates from the expected in “an odd but clever way of doing something.” So, more than just the appearance or presence of rope or leather boots, there’s something about the act or dynamics of bondage or boot-blacking that you find appealing.

These acts, while fun and exciting, often require extra skill and knowledge that must be gained before you can actually do them. For instance, bondage requires knowledge about things like the benefits of one type of binding over another and where and how to tie someone up safely and to your desired effect. Impact play requires knowledge about where and with what you can strike someone for their pleasure safely and without causing damage. Playing with power exchange requires clear contextual understandings and negotiations about roles and boundaries. These are all fun activities but, to fully enjoy them, you need proper preparation. Which is part of what makes the whole kinky game great; gaining odd skills and learning clever techniques is part of what makes being kinky fun!

Think of fetishes and kinks as essentially the advanced expansion pack of sexual relationships. It isn’t the entirety of the game and it certainly isn’t a starter set. It’s not something that you just pick up and play. I’m of the belief that it should exist in your head and your fantasies for a good long while before you ever crack open that toy box.

Because this lifestyle takes real thought. It takes preparation and extra effort to turn it into a reality. And it puts you—Dom(me), sub, top, bottom, or switch—in a place of vulnerability and you want to know, before you’re whip-deep in a scene, that you’re ready for it. To just jump in without that time, effort, experience, and thought would be like trying to deep-sea dive before ever learning how to swim. That preparation is an essential and essentially enjoyable part of the experience. It’s not what you do so you can get to the fun part; it is part of the fun.

So enjoy it. Because, whether you have a fantasy, a fetish, a kink, or a combination of any and all, what you have is an opportunity. When done well, exploring your fantasies, fetishes, and kinks—whatever they are—safely, sanely, and consensually gives you a unique chance to learn more about yourself, your partners, and the near limitless fun you can have together!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sex, Kink, and Recovering Catholicism

Like a lot of kinksters—like a lot of people in general—I have a complicated relationship to religion and spirituality.

I’m what is only half-jokingly referred to as a “recovering Catholic.” Because, like alcoholism or addiction, you’re never not a Catholic; you’re just forever in recovery. Because, let’s be honest, for those of us that grew up in the tradition, that shit sticks with you.

In good ways, like in the fact that I personally, more than most people I know, love doing charity work; it was something that was instilled in me through the church and through school and my family as being a social good. One that I don’t feel the need to let go of, regardless of my personal place with god.

And, it sticks with you in not so good ways. Like the many ways it makes sex and shame so much more—and often so unnecessarily—complicated.

Which felt like a common theme in my various social media themes today.

So I thought I’d share some of the gems I found: Like this well-written piece by Amy Mackelden, all about her own issues and baggage when it comes to religion and sex.

 As well as, Matt Barber & Brittany Machado’s brilliant documentary “Give Me Sex Jesus,” all about the purity movement in the US:

Give Me Sex Jesus from Matt Barber on Vimeo.

Then, of course, there’s the religious conservative mess...I mean, movement led by some Utahn Mormons to brand porn a “social health crisis,” claiming that porn, specifically in public places like McDonalds and libraries, is like cigarettes and second-hand smoking:

Which, of course, reminded me of Dr. David Ley’s tweet: "Tobacco kills 6 million people a year; tell me more about porn being 'like' cigarettes." Yes, Tony Perkins and Sen. Todd Weiler, please, do tell.

And, lastly, and on a more uplifting if still sad note, I loved Touré’s piece on Prince I am a proud Minnesotan, even if I can't say that I'm a big Prince fan. But I do mourn the passing of an interesting and influential hometown artist and icon. Made all the more fascinating because of his fervent belief that "there was no need to separate the things we do on Saturday night from the things we do on Sunday morning." That is a message that was worth spreading and I hope it continues even though he's gone.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

So You're Dating a Kinkster

Learning that your partner is kinky isn’t always an easy or comfortable situation to find yourself in. Particularly, if you’re not kinky yourself or if your kinks don’t line up. But, as society becomes more accepting of kinks and fetishes, the more often we’ll find ourselves in this type of position.

And, even if it isn’t easy or comfortable, it can be a good thing. It can be an opportunity to know your partner better, to know yourself better, and to know more about the vast array of options available for you both to explore together. If I had only one piece of advice to give, it’s this: Take your time to think about it; simply because you’ve never thought about it before doesn’t mean there’s nothing to think about. Learning about kinks and fetishes, particularly with a person you care about, can change your perspective and expand your horizons in ways you don’t expect, however it turns out in the end.

And, remember, you’re not alone in this. As awkward and uncomfortable as you might feel in this moment, you are not alone. Your partner is opening up to you, is laying something intimate and vulnerable about themselves bare before you. That is rarely comfortable. It’s often really hard for people with fetishes and kinks to confess to our desires. Because, more often than not, we’ve been told by the rest of the world that our desires are wrong. That having them makes us crazy. That we are unloveable because we have these desires. And, in the same way it does to other people in the LGBTQIA+ community, that can do incredible damage to kinksters.

Added to that, for a lot of people whose kinks are important parts of our identities and lives, we’re often in a no-win situation when it comes to this facet of dating. If we wait to bring it up until we know each other better, we’re accused of trying to trick people or hide parts of ourselves that other people had a right to know before they got invested. And, if we state it upfront or talk about it too soon, then we’re accused of being creepily too forward or shoving our kinks in people’s faces. Either way, often, we’re the bad guy. There seems no set perfect time or way to have this very necessary discussion; we’re just trying to not screw it up too badly.

Often, upon hearing confessions like this, many vanilla partners are concerned about the health and state of mind of kinksters. I understand why that is. For a very long time, society thought having non-normative fantasies, kinks, or fetishes were signs of dysfunction or instability. That they were unhealthy manifestations or projections of past trauma or bad brain wiring.

But the fact is there’s no scientific basis behind that thought. There’s no statistical data that backs that belief up. Science actually doesn’t really know where fantasies, fetishes, or kinks come from. And we haven’t found good, reproducible ways to study them. After all, as Dan Savage often says, ask a kinkster who’s into spanking why they’re into spanking and they are as likely to tell you that they were spanked as a child as they are to tell you that they never were, and that’s the reason why they have their fetish.

It’s true that some of us, like myself, were abused as children, but not all of us were. And not every child who was abused, like my sibling, is kinky. The fact of the matter is we don’t know why one person responds sexually to a specific stimuli and another doesn’t. We just know that they do. And trying to figure out exactly why one person becomes a furry because they saw a Disney film as a child, or they decided to explore bondage because they read a culturally significant if factually dubious novel, and another didn’t, while intellectually interesting, isn’t psychologically or philosophically significant. Because I firmly believe that being kinky is something innate, that it is either something you already have within you or you don’t, and trying to pinpoint where it all manifested will not hasten it or stop it from happening. And, personally, I find the how’s of it all far more interesting than the when’s. Its affect on people’s lives is far more interesting to me than its often indeterminable origins.

The fact is there have been a slew of studies that show kinky people are psychologically healthier and sexually happier than vanilla people. If you look into kink culture, it’s not hard to see why that is. Because, as a subculture, consent, communication, and safety are always held up as the tenets of our world. To be in a happy and healthy place with kink, you necessarily have to go through the self-reflection and community-built processing—be it through joining kink groups or engaging in mentoring relationships or learning through books—to learn how to safely, sanely, and consensually do what we do.

If one wanted to speculate, it likely involves ways of thinking and how one sees the world more than anything. It’s why, if you ever go to a kinky event or go on FetLife, you’ll notice that kinky people tend to be geeky people. People who naturally see the world a little differently. Who see possibilities in things that other people don’t. Whose imaginations wonder and linger on things others don’t. If I had to pick one common attribute that all kinksters possess, cross fetishes and kinks and communities, that type of outlying creativity—not past trauma or incident—would be it.

So, if a partner confesses a deeply held desire to you, please be kind. If it’s your thing, if it’s not your thing, be kind. They are still the partner you care about. They still possess all the attributes and qualities that you found attractive before. Nothing about them has changed, except you now know one more aspect of what makes them the wonderful partner you cared about in the first place.

What I would recommend, if you find yourself in this kind of situation, is to step back. Ask for time from your partner to process this information. Don’t make judgements. Don’t form opinions. Take some time.

Then take that time to research. Find all the research you can. Positions that are pro- that kink or fetish and position that are con- that kink or fetish. Find stories from actual real-life kinksters who have that kink and have incorporated it into their lives in healthy and successful ways. Realize that, while kink and fetishes are not necessarily the norm, they are normal. They are statistically common and, on average, add to the quality of people’s lives, not the reverse.

Then, after you’ve looked at all the sides, talk to your partner. Figure out exactly what their particular desire is. Because no kinkster is the same. Just like vanilla people, we all express our love and affection and desire in unique ways. One person’s foot fetish may look completely different than another’s. And how they may want you to participate in that fetish may be—is very likely—completely different than what you’re imagining. So talk. Ask questions. Learn about your partner’s desires from the absolute best expert on it: your partner.

Then, armed with all the information possible—and only then—form an opinion. Decide if this is something you can do with your partner. If being with them and finding new and often exciting ways to please each other is something you’re willing to do. If that’s a journey you’re willing to go on with them. Decide if there are new and exciting things you want to do with your partner that maybe you’ve been afraid to confess.

And, if, after all that thought, you realize it’s just not something you think you can do, that’s okay too. You are allowed to want what you want and to not want what you don’t. But, please, don’t treat your partner like they’re broken or wrong or messed up. They just like something you don’t. You wouldn’t treat them like a monster because they liked horror movies or spicy food or golf when you don’t, would you? You’d simply understand that people and their tastes are different. And that’s okay.

And, yes, sometimes that difference can make or break relationships. Being able to share their desire with their partner may be a deal breaker for them; it may not be. You might be able to find other ways for them to indulge in their desire that doesn’t involve you or minimizes your involvement (eg. allowing a partner with a foot fetish to massage your feet or allowing a partner who’s into BDSM to attend kink events without you).

Being with a kinky person tends to mean that you’re with a partner who innately thinks outside of the box. Who is creative and intelligent. Talk to them. Work with them. Find solutions with them. Kink is an adventure; only you can decide how much fun you want to have with it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Has BDSM Become Blasé

Let’s be honest, BDSM has lost its edge. After all, there are only so many places we can take whips and chains, even in the vast expanse of fiction, and shock loses its value the second time around. So many of us seem to be taking a yawning been there, done that attitude with kink stories.

So why are we still telling them?

Because, for those of us who live and love this lifestyle, it was never about edge or shock. Its value lies in something else.

For me, it’s love. Romance, sure, but more than that. It’s about sharing a love of this lifestyle and, more importantly, a love of the people in it.

When I started Show Me, Sir, I wanted to tell more than just a love story.  I think one of the best parts about beginning to discover and explore your kinks is finding and befriending people who are just like you. Who share this thing inside you that feels so different.

And, for all the BDSM fiction I’ve read, that was a story I hadn’t really heard a lot. For all that we’ve culturally come out of our closets since the popularity of authors like E.L. James and Megan Hart, so many of our stories still stay there. So many are still confined to bedrooms and couples when, for many of us, our worlds are so much larger.

With Max, I wanted to give the lifestyle more scope.

Because, for kinksters, taking it out of the bedroom can be fun. In my first novel, The Taming School, kink was something Kat had to hide from everyone else. That she could only enjoy under pseudonyms and in the privacy of her partner’s bedroom. And that is an experience that many kinksters have. But it isn’t every experience. I wanted, in my second novel, to have both Max and her Sir have friends and connections in the kink world outside of each other. I wanted them to be able to share this aspect of their lives and love with those friends, both in terms of active play and in communal support.

Community events like munches and play parties offer fantastic settings for stories still yet to be told. Stories that allow us to discuss things like the more-than-monogamy mentality that many of us have with relationships, where play and sex and love aren’t always confined within a couple, but are often more open to personal interpretation and preference. And it allows us to talk about the nature of play which, while innately sexual, is often friendly and…well, playful, and not always romantic or exclusive. There are so many ways to love and connect in kinkland that are unique and too often unexplored.

And, by taking kink out of the closet, it also allows us to address more of the dangers many of us face, the prejudices still out there in the world. The further we come out of our closets, the more open we make ourselves to the world, which is still not always a welcoming place for us, for all the attention we’ve gained within it. There are still so many assumptions made about who we are and what we do. Most of which has very little to do with who we actually are and what we actually do.

So, when we come out, we face things like family and friends and lovers who are suddenly afraid for us or are afraid of us. People who’ve known us our entire lives or who’ve known us better than anyone else in the world, in one admission, look at us like we’re strangers or frauds. Who, as Mollena Williams puts it, “fear the pervert cooties”. Suddenly, employers or coworkers who had never cared what we do in our off-hours feel like they can and ought to weigh in on our private lives. And, should we happen to trust the wrong people with this side of ourselves, we can lose friends, family, children, jobs. In the wrong state and in front of the wrong authority, we can even find ourselves on the wrong side of the law.

And, even in less extreme ways, there are a million micro-aggressions we face everyday. Accusations of setting back feminism or equality. Unwarranted assumptions about our sexual appetites or habits. Disparaging comments on our personalities or life choices. People thinking that, just because you’re submissive, that they can push you around without your consent or that, just because you’re Dominant, that you must be abusive or controlling.
There is still the pervasive belief that, if you're kinky, you must be unhealthy, unhappy, or unlovable.

We need more stories about us that are told by us. Stories that seek to speak not just to the kinky things we do, but to who we are as people. To say that kink stories are blasé, when there are so many kinkster’s stories that aren’t often captured in traditional kink stories, is like saying all love stories are blasé. We’ve told love stories forever, yet we keep telling them. Because each story is different. Each story is unique and special. Each story is important and deserves its chance to be told.

Including ours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Beautiful Piece that Makes Me Proud to be Part of Sinful Press

I am so grateful for all the authors who came before me, those who will come after me, and to every person, from publisher to reader, who has helped me get where I am.

Please read Lisa Jenkins's beautiful piece "Erotica for women – moving forward" here.

Get Your Own Copy of Show Me, Sir on
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Do As I Say and Say What I Do

Janine Ashbless, in her piece “We Need to be Wicked,” talks about the tendency we have to idealize and almost idolize women in romance and erotica genres. And how that’s not as good of a thing we might think.

Because, as I said yesterday, if we want real and honest and true stories, we need to recognize and deal with our flaws as well as our virtues.

And, beyond that, Ashbless is right; giving our characters—particularly our female characters—the agency and choice they deserve inevitably means that they will make mistakes. They will sometimes do the wrong thing. They will be selfish. They will go against social goods. They will even hurt people.

Because we all do.

And, so often, that is where our most interesting stories are. The moments that we would rather hide are so often the stories that need to be told most. There are reasons why we so often gravitate to characters like Catwoman and Harley Quinn, who so often stand as “an example of humanity’s innate desire to revel in that which we know we shouldn’t. To make bad decisions and feel good about it.”

And, to be fair, while I think that wickedness is part of their fun and what makes them so likable, I think the main reason we love them so much is that, when done well, they have the thing we all want: the ability and fuck-all bravery to do what they want. Damn the consequences. When done right, things don’t just happen to them; they happen to the world. Their choices, their actions, make a difference. For better or worse, they change their world.

And that, instead of as Ashbless puts it “stories of passive, conformist, characterless doormats pushed into a corner,” is what I would like to see more of.

I want to see us make choices. I want to see us triumph. I want to see us mess-up. I want to see us have to clean up our messes and not just wait to be rescued or taken care of. I want to see how our world changes, for better and for worse, because of the choices we make.

I want to see us matter.

Read Janine Ashbless’s piece “We Need to be Wicked,” here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It’s a Job for Feminism – Toxic Masculinity in Kink

Original Source:
In M. Never’s piece, “What is BDSM?” she talks about many of the images and ideas many of us think about when we think about Dominant men in BDSM. “He was all man, all Dom, and all consuming. And he scared the living shit out of me. Which, is of course, what intrigued me [with] a bond so strong between Dom and sub, it’s nearly indestructible.”

And, don’t get me wrong, I love good, old fashioned alpha males. There is a undeniable appeal about them, which is why the trope has lasted the test of time.

But, as someone who has sat down and talked to many of these alpha male Doms—and plenty of alpha Dommes, for that matter—something you start to realize is...they’re just people. Beneath the leather and outside of the pages of fiction, they are just people. With the same insecurities and fear, the same hopes and joys, as everyone else.

As Dan Savage is wont to say, “BDSM is cops and robbers with your pants off.” It is a role we, as kinksters, put on and take off as needed. I’ve said it before, “Often, we talk about the roles in BDSM being something that (...) we can step into and step out of. And that is true. In a practical sense. BDSM is highly stylized, highly dramatized, highly intensified play. You can’t do it 24/7. It would tire you and stress you out past the breaking point fast. Because the world isn’t built to sustain a 24/7 BDSM role. No one can be Dominant all the time, in complete control, without doubt; the first, last, and only word on everything. Just as no one can be submissive all the time; you have to think on your own and put yourself first sometimes. A kinky person wants a partner who can slip into that headspace as well as slip out of it when appropriate. Who can be a fully functional person in the real world as well as a freaking awesome partner in the crazy, sexy times. But, even though the roles come off and on at will, the inherent kinkiness—the ability to slip in and out—is permanent.”

And, personally, I think it’s important for our fiction to acknowledge that. To make the distinction between the role and the person.

And, to be fair, we do. We talk a lot about submission and what that means for submissives, particularly female submissives. Earlier today, I talked about how submission can mean different things for different people and that’s okay. That there is no one real submissive and that’s important to note.

I believe the same is true for Dominants.

We love the idea of alpha male Dominants. And, while there’s nothing wrong with that fantasy, untempered by a healthy dose of reality, it can foster the idea that that’s all that’s out there. That to be a Dominant man—or even a kinky man—that is what you must be. You must be always in control. You must always be strong. You must always be overwhelming. You must always be sexy and a little scary, just not too scary. You must fit the fantasy.

And, for a kinky man, that’s a lot to live up to. No one can be the fantasy. And no one should have to.

There are so many wonderful men in kinkland. And every one of them is unique and deserves to be celebrated. Each one of them have stories and sides of themselves that deserve to be told.

Something that I am truly proud of, probably more so than anything else about this whole publishing/writing process, is that I get to hear from fans of all kinds, from vanilla people to submissives to bottoms to tops to switches to Dom(me)s. I get to hear from everyone. I’ve heard so many stories from people who’ve read my work and related to it. And some of the messages I cherish most are the ones from men. From male bottoms and male tops who are so grateful that, in a genre that so often features them as fantasies but so rarely caters to them as people, they got to read a story that didn’t. That recognized them as a person, with strengths and sexiness but also flaws and the all too human triumph over those flaws. Where they got to be characters—with real development and growth—and not just plot devices or fantasy-fulfillment.

I believe that, as a kinky feminist—who believes not just in female empowerment but in the true equality of people of all genders—part of my job is to give that gift to these men. And to their partners. To portray them as honestly as I possibly can. So we, as a whole, as a world, can see them more clearly. As more than just fantasy.

But as the reality they are.

You can read M. Never’s full piece, “What is BDSM?”, here.

Kink Is What You Make of It

“The idea of ‘realness’ in BDSM is a very dangerous concept. It puts unrealistic expectations on behavior and doesn't allow for personality, triggers and personal preferences. It’s as if this so-called [kinkster] is trying to put BDSM in a box that fits everyone - or at least every person with which he or she interacts. Newbies sometimes also use this language to try to appear more experienced than they really are.”

In Christine Blackthorn’s piece, “I am submissive – or am I?”, she points out that there are “thousands of different kinds of submissives and Dominants out there – just as there are thousands of kinds of people.” Which is why it’s so hard to pinpoint exactly what these terms really mean.

Yesterday, I talked a bit about the necessity for nuance in kink terms. Kinksters are just the biggest, geekiest nerds you can shake a pair of twenty-sided dice at. And we LOVE our terms. From SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual) to RACK (Risk-Aware, Consensual Kink) to PRICK (Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink) to YKINMKBYKIOK (Your Kink Is Not My Kink, But Your Kink is OK).

Even BDSM—which stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism—is just the perfect proof that we are pedantic word nerds.

And, for the most part, I, as a word nerd, love it! I love defining and dissecting the meaning of terms and phrases. I think that, when talking about kink, these terms can help build ideas of identity and community. The world too often makes us feel like outsiders, so anything that can foster feelings of inclusion and belonging are awesome in my book.

My worry, though, are the times we use these terms to exclude.

Because here’s the truth: There is no one true or real or right way to do kink. So long as everything is done safely, sanely, and consensually, you are unequivocally doing it right. Whatever your play looks like—whether it deals with power exchange or doesn’t, whether you play with pain or don’t, whether you use toys or not, whether your kink is wildly popular or is something only you and your partner seem to enjoy—so long as everyone involved is having a good and healthy time, go for it! Enjoy it!

And anyone who tells you differently, anyone who insists that there is some universal “necessary part of submission” or Dominance or fetish or kink, I promise you, they are the ones doing it wrong.

One of my favorite parts of kink is that it is what you make of it. It is the questioning and sometimes even the necessary abandonment of traditional norms. It is all about negotiating and advocating for what you want. We are kinky because we defiantly would not let the world tell us how to live and love.

If no one is being harmed, then who are we to judge each other? Who are we to try to force each other into boxes and roles? Don’t we have enough people doing that already?

That was one of my goals with Show Me, Sir. I wanted to present a style of Dominance and submission that doesn’t fit the normal standards. That doesn’t look the way we’ve been accustomed to seeing it. Because it does not have to.

As I’ve said before, kink exists—thrives on and needs—context. Without it, everything we do falls apart. Without the consent and enthusiastic enjoyment of the participants, kink just isn’t kink anymore. So, however you want to do it, do it safely, sanely, and consensually and don’t worry so much about what anyone else thinks.

After all, even if it’s not my or yours or anyone else’s cup of tea, YKINMKBYKIOK.

Read Christine Blackthorn’s full piece “I am submissive – or am I?” here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pose Naked For Me - Part Two

Short Story – 
Part Two
Read Part One Here

To read the rest of this story, please check out this novel of interwoven stories with Deep Desires Press!

Kinksters call it play for a reason. Come have some fun!

Life can make love hard, especially in the kink community. Follow an eclectic, kinky ensemble, through a series of interwoven stories, as they struggle to put a little more play into their lives.

Especially when the marriage between Kat and Peter Richards starts to fall apart. It’ll take this community of kinksters to bring them back together again. After four years of marriage, Kat and her husband’s relationship seems so…nice. Not bad. Just average, ordinary. Nice. They haven’t played in forever and she desperately misses it. She wonders if they’ve lost their spark and worries her happily ever after came at the cost of her sex life.

Peter will need the help of their friends  — from an exhibitionist learning to reconnect with her body and appreciate being looked at again, to an exhausted, off-duty cop having a rough night with an unexpected partner, to a Little struggling to keep her roleplay fantasy fresh against the toll of reality’s ticking clock — to remember that, with trust, communication, and the right partners, play can make life and love so much better.


Please check out my novel Show Me, Sir from Sinful Press that celebrates feminist kink!

See what happens after Kat & Peter's happy ending in my story from Deep Desire Press!
And Listen to an Excerpt
Please check out my novel The Taming School from Sizzler Editions that explores discovering kink!
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Find even more great reads and Put Your Money Where Your Orgasm Is!

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Pose Naked For Me - Part One

Short Story – 
Part One

Darrin Phillips fiddled with the strap of his second-hand, hand-me-down digital camera, wondering what the hell he was doing here at dawn on a Sunday, when any normal person was either getting ready for church or sleeping off last night. He wondered, as he stared out at the empty, abandoned beach-side forest, why the hell he’d let himself get talked into this. He wasn’t a photographer. He wasn’t even an amateur or a hobbyist.

He was an idiot with a camera he barely knew how to use and a handful of pictures his friends had convinced him were decent enough to post online.

“You have an eye, Dare,” Hayato had told him when the man had first proposed the offer. “A way of looking deep into a person and bringing out their essence and beauty. Of seeing what’s beneath the surface.” Then he’d snorted—an odd sound to come out of the prim, proper man. He’d shot Dare a scoffing look before adding, “Plus, you’ve a reputation of handling even the most stubborn subjects.”

At his job, maybe. Dare worked at Patty’s Playhouse, a children’s arcade and restaurant known for its singing waiters. He wore a stupid toy soldier costume with mitten-hands and sang six-year-old’s burger and pizza orders back to them. He dealt with temper tantrums and crying fits on the daily. Whiny complaints—from parents as well as children—had become the vernacular of his life.

So he’d learned early on to cajole. How to use compliments and distractions as verbal shields against the never-ending assaults. He’d learned how to watch for signs of stress—a wobbly lip from a child, a clenched jaw from a parent. Even in his fellow wait staff, he’d learned to tell when the noise of it all had become too much.

Like he had with Wendy—the rag doll waitress—who’d almost slapped a bratty birthday guest armed with spitballs and an early curiosity about that sacred space beneath a girl’s skirt. From across the room, he’d seen the exact minute her temper flared. The second her rouged cheeks flushed with embarrassed anger when the precocious fourth-grader lifted the hooped tulle. In flash, he’d rushed over in time to grab her pulled-back hand and lead her into a waltz out of the party and into the break room, where he’d poured her a coffee and let her finish her shift unmolested.

It was a shit job and Dare knew it. It wasn’t where he’d planned to be. Wasn’t where he wanted to be for the rest of his life but, he supposed, with working all day with rowdy, hyper kids and tired, on-edge adults, yeah, he’d built a tolerance to stubborn.

He just hoped that carried through to today. The couple approach, strolling the park’s path in the early dusk light. He watched as Hayato and the woman walked, her fiery hair glowing in the climbing sun’s rays as it waved in the chill morning breeze.

Max Wells. Queen bitch of the publishing world. The cocked harpoon in shark-infested waters. Dare wasn’t above admitting that she scared the hell out of him.

Or, at least, he thought she should.

He’d heard rumors about her being a ball-busting ogress. There were legends abound about her shredding grown men with manicured nails before grinding their bones into dust to powder her face.

When he’d imagined her in his mind, whenever he’d listened to those stories, he’d always imagined a giantess. An amazon. A hard, coarse cyborg of a woman built to destroy a man.

Not this woman, who laughed deep and throaty as she and Hayato neared him. She was small. Not even five and a half feet, she wouldn’t so much as brush his shoulder. She was lush too. Softly rounded, curved and full. And she smiled.

Smiled! With her whole face, from her glossed lips to her dimpled cheeks to her crinkled nose to warm, brown eyes.

She was gorgeous. She didn’t look like a ogress or a harpoon or even a bitch. Dressed in a long, tan sweater dress and tall boots, she looked like a nymph in the woods. An angel bathed in golden morning light...
Read Part Two Here

For the Love of Tops

Samantha Cole in her piece "Sub to Dom” talks a bit about the pervasive favoritism in fiction for submissives and bottoms. So often, we get their histories, their perspectives, their worries, their fears, their joys, their highs. Their stories. While tops and Dominants are left less fleshed-out or even flat.

I think there are a few reasons for this. From the recent rash of first-person narratives—hard to delve deep with another character’s background and motivations when you’re literally stuck in your MC’s head—to the stats that say, across genders, most people prefer the submissive bottom role. It’s the role most of us are drawn to; of course our fiction is going to be too.

And, while it’s absolutely understandable how we got here, that does a definite disservice to Dom(me)s and tops, who have fascinating stories and face unique challenges and experiences that deserve to be told and explored with the same dedication and enthusiasm as their partners.

So, full-discloser: I too identify as a bottom (see here for more nuance, and for the necessity for that nuance, between terms). I’m a fan of sensation and being acted upon. And, at least in kink play, I know that I’m selfish as fuck. When playing with someone I trust and care about who also trusts and cares about me, there is nothing I love more than to be the object of their desire. To be the focus of their attention and action. For me, whatever the actual act, that is the best kind of sex.

But I’m also a fan of fair play. So, for those who want it, I’ll switch for them and do my best to step into the top role, even if it’s a less than natural fit for me. But, for a good partner, aren’t they worth the effort?

So that’s the perspective that I’m coming in with.

And, I gotta say, to all my lovely Dom(me)s and tops out there: Respect.

Nothing but deep and grateful respect for the effort and struggle it is to play a role that is so often minimized, misunderstood, misrepresented, and even demonized. On a regular basis. You so often go unseen, left in the shadows too many of us, kinky and vanilla alike, like to imagine you enveloped by. And, let me just say, I see you.

As Cole points out, there is so much training and knowledge and planning that goes into scenes to make them look and feel effortless. And we so very rarely see that. Because that’s the magic of scenes. It’s the fourth wall illusion that makes them work. And because we don’t see it we sometimes forget to acknowledge it. Particularly in fiction.

It’s why I try as much as I can to make my stories a 50/50 split narrative between my tops and bottoms. So we get an idea of what’s happening with each. It’s why, as Cole suggests, I try to tell stories about Dominants and tops learning their craft. Because, like everyone else in the world, no two tops are the same; why should their stories be treated as cookie-cutter copies? We all get into kink for different reasons. All our roads take distinctly different, kinky twists. We should be going down more of these paths and seeing where they take us. What they can show us.

Because, yeah, of course, while I believe tops and Dominants are born kinky, they weren’t born knowing the many skills and vast amounts of information needed to top. Of course, they, as Cole says, don’t “instantly know how to be one.” How could they? They, like the rest of us, are only human.

And, particularly given the world’s tendency to see them as less than—to see them as either monsters or myths—they deserve to be seen as treated like the people they are.

Read Samantha Cole’s full piece "Sub to Dom” here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Talk Dirty to Me – What the Erotic Zeitgeist Says About Us

"Each year, I adjust myself to the new erotic zeitgeist. I imagine what would happen if I stuffed all the manuscripts I receive in a time capsule, and buried them for our descendants to unearth in the next century. What would they say about the things that turned us on? As much as we enjoy certain fundamentals of sex — the flesh, the suspense — there are minitrends that flow in and out of our erotic history, and they make a distinct impression on me. […] But in my unpaid role as a sexual anthropologist, I'm drawn to explore the undercover meaning of a sexual blip on the charts. After all, these various writers who all settle on the same erotic subject don't know each other; they have no idea that scores of others are writing and fantasizing about the same obsession. […] Sexual repression is like a jack-in-the-box that you can never entirely stuff back in its hiding place. Whatever we are not supposed to think about in a time […] is exactly the sort of secret fantasies that are going to flourish.”
Susie Bright

KD Grace, in her piece “What Women Want,” asks "One of the most disturbing [questions], in my opinion, though one of the most important questions to be addressed by all women […] does erotica feed [society's] stereotypes?"

Because our porn—what we turn to to turn us on—matters. It says something important about where we are as a society and who we are as a people. It is a snapshot of our present moment in time’s fears, desires, and needs.

So many people are so quick to dismiss erotica and porn, saying they, as I’ve said before, “Aren’t real stories. Of course they are. They are important and vital. Everyone in history has been touched by and has experienced in some way love and sex. Those things are inextricably bound to our lives. Hell, every person in existence owes their lives to those things in one way or another. Erotica and romance stories are humanity’s way of exploring that ubiquitous aspect. To delve deep in our psyche and society and speak honestly about the things we want and need. What is more real than that?” Yet, still far too many people are far too content to “secretly surf my porn online and, while I'll gladly enjoy and wank to the work in the privacy of my own Kleenex, I still plan to publicly shame the people who make it. Because that's what good and decent people do. Because porn is literary sausage; I want it to exist, just not the people and processes that make it.”

We’re too often too afraid to look at it too closely. Coweringly afraid, I think, of what it might say about us.

Take BDSM and kink.

Now, I’m of the mind that being kinky is a sexual orientation. I think that it takes a certain kind of person to do what we do and find pleasure—real, honest pleasure beyond the taboo novelty of it—in it.

But I also recognize the fluidity inherent in the orientation.

I am kinky.

But how that manifested itself within me, the particular kinks and fetishes that part of my being latched onto…yeah, there was probably a lot of nurture mixed in with the nature of me. Or at least as much as nurture as my attraction to geeky boys with glasses and a smart mouth within the nature of my heterosexuality.

Because, yes, of course, the world and time we live in would impact our desires. How could it not, when it shapes everything else about us? I’ve talked a bit about this before, but I do believe that when anthropologists look back at this moment in time, they’ll note the correlation between the rise in BDSM’s popularity and the very deep struggle for equality—among genders, orientations, race, class, religion, and a myriad of other minorities. Right now, when the state of power feels so in flux, when so many of us fight for recognition and respect and basic human dignity on the daily, it’s not hard to see the appeal in playing with the exchange of power in safe, sane, and consensual ways.

I think erotica, and the sexual landscape as a whole, offers us a safe space to explore the struggle of our current state in cathartic and thoughtful ways. To decide for ourselves what things like power, equality, consent, and identity mean to us and how they affect both our erotic and wider, more mundane lives.

To decide if we’re happy enough dismissing this rich and impactful genre as simple fap-fodder, not worth any thought or consideration past our climax.

Or if we’re brave enough to, as Grace states, defiantly seek meaning in this too often discounted medium.

Read KD Grace’s full piece “What Women Want” Here

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ambiguity in Abuse, Assault, and Allegations

The Toby Turner Youtube scandal happening right now is bringing the topic of consent--particularly the topic of the legal system and consent--to the forefront.

And, first off, I am not qualified to talk about situations like this, once they reach this point. I think few of us are, including far too many people in the legal system and even in the medical and mental health and social protection fields. It is still something we don't know how to navigate well or how to cope with the fact that it is constantly changing and evolving as society does.

That said, I've been a victim. And it is often really hard to come forward. It's often really hard to admit even to yourself. Even if you are able to talk about it, it's often very hard to articulate, because situations feel different when you're in them and, with hindsight and what-if games, it's hard to see and feel clearly about it.

And I've been friends with victims and it is really hard to know how to help. How to be an ally and an advocate in ways that don't end up making the situation worse, both from a legal and a general support standpoint. I was told once by a cop in the community that, often, it ends up being friends and allies of victims who talk to each other and to the victim about the abuse or assault prior to reporting that cause the most inconsistencies in stories once the incident gets reported. Which can severely damage a victim's credibility and chances at justice. 

And, yes, I've been friends with people who've been accused of abuse or assault. People whom I believe either didn't intend to abuse or assault and, yes, even those I know for a fact didn't abuse or assault, as the situation also tangentially involved me.

And all of these break my heart. The fact that I don't know anyone who has not been in some way affected or connected to situations like these.

And, like I said, I am not qualified to help once the situation has happened. Once it becomes an issue for the cops or the courts. I, like most of us, don't know what to do, at that point. Don't know what to believe.

What I do know, what I do believe, is that we need to change. The world needs to change. We have to be better than this. We need to be able to talk about sex and relationships in ways that protect us. In ways that, whatever we do and with whomever we do it with, make us feel safe. Hopefully, in ways that can help us avoid assault and abuse. By allowing people to recognize abusive behavior, both in others and in ourselves. And by encouraging people to get the help they need before they get hurt or hurt someone else.

Because studies consistently show that most abuse and assaults aren't committed by random strangers in the dark. 

The hardest to recognize and the hardest to handle forms of abuse and assault come from the people we love and whom often love us in return.

And that’s messed up.

And it’s messing us up.

And I don’t want to wait until charges need to be filed to address it.

Consent: It’s Not a Bug; It’s a Feature

Nicola Corkin, in her piece “Yes means Yes – feminist musings on consent in sex”, says “Our inability to allow the woman an active, hedonistic participation within sexual acts is the root problem for consent to sex, and thus rape, in our modern world. As long as we do not allow women to say ‘yes’ to sex, there will not be a societal and cultural recognition of her right to say ‘no’ either.”

I absolutely agree with this statement. As I’ve said before, I don’t see how one logically respects someone’s right to say “no,” if they also cannot respect their right and ability to consensually say “yes.” Consent only works if we can trust, respect, and accept the answers we’re given.

If you can’t do that for your partner, you need to sit down and have a very long, very involved, very honest conversation with them about their expectations, your expectations, and where the disconnect might be.

Which is hard. I know.

Especially because, even as we shift—and rightfully so—toward a more consent-driven attitude toward sex, we’re still not good at talking about consent.

And we need to get better about it.

About treating it as an on-going and never-ending conversation.

Because it is complicated. And treating it like it’s not often does more harm than good. Because, consent is a complex, constantly fluid thing.

Particularly, with kink. Since, “in kink, pain and damage aren’t automatic indicators of abuse like they are in the vanilla world. In fact, we tend to be quite proud of our bruises and scars—often descending into a battle scar contest worthy of Jaws […] It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around, even among kinksters, this idea that a top can beat a slave bloody and raw, can string a submissive up until they pass out, can burn, can suffocate, can cut, torture, and rape a bottom and—so long as everything was agreed upon beforehand and wasn’t objected to at any point—it’s not abuse. It’s just fun. However, even in the kinkiest relationship, the most vanilla sex—in the dark, half-clothed, married, missionary—can be abuse if done without consent. Consent is king.”

We cannot afford to treat consent like a toss-away, yes-or-no question. Or even a one-time conversation. It is something that we need to understand and accept as an ever-present part of our lives and relationships. Whether this is your first hook-up with a partner or you’ve been married for most of your lives. Whether you’re exploring a new kink or doing the same-old, same-old that you’ve done a million times. Because the suspension scene that felt thrilling and fun last week may not be something your partner is interested in tonight. The humiliation scene you enjoyed the hell out of yesterday may emotionally hit too close to home for them today. Hell, the flogging scene you’re currently enjoying right this second may change from one lash to the next. That is the accepted risk of play. As I’ve said before, “To act as if one can enjoy kink without risk is a little ridiculous. Part of what makes kink fun—what makes it kink—is that it carries some amount of risk. That’s part of its charge.  If all risk is erased, if you’ve controlled and sanitized it to the point of complete safety, you’ve taken kink to a place past vanilla.” And that risk is not a bug or blip in the programming; it is a feature. Which means, by default, consent—obtaining and maintaining it—must be too.That’s why we have so many safeguards and procedures in place—like checklists, check-ins, safewords, negotiations, and aftercare—to handle this type of situation. We wouldn’t have so many tools and ways of dealing with it if it weren’t important.

And, to be fair, even the most vanilla, in-the-dark-mostly-clothed-monogamously-married-missionary sex ought to be playing by these same rules. Because, no matter what you’re doing with a partner, the rules of consent still apply. And, whether you know it or not, you want them to. For both you and your partner. Proper consent is not about covering your ass or going through the motions; it is about prioritizing pleasure. Yours and your partner’s. Consent and pleasure are the same conversation. Because we all want partners—and should be striving to be the kind of partner—who cares about the other person’s pleasure. We all want to be with people who want to be with us. Who want to be doing what we’re doing. Otherwise, what are we doing?

As Corkin points out, even—especially—among kinksters who are into consensual non-consent play, also known as simulated rape play, it’s only fun if everyone’s in on the game. If everyone consents and is getting pleasure from it. That’s why we call it play.

Which is why we need to stop treating consent like it’s some obligatory step we’re forced to take before the fun starts. It’s not a Terms of Agreement contract that we all can afford to treat like yeah, yeah, yeah, I totally read that. Or at least it really shouldn’t be. And really doesn’t have to be. Consent doesn’t have to be an obligation, if you accept it—incorporate it and lay it out—as part of the game. We need to learn how to get comfortable, even get sexy, with asking each other questions. We need to learn how to give each other multiple choices that expand our ideas and definitions of sex and play. And we need to learn to stop seeing that vast and near infinite amount of choices as consolation prizes to penetrative sex.

Because, if penetration—and not mutual pleasure—is your goal, they make toys for that, you know. And consent is never a thing you have to worry about with your inanimate toy.

But, yeah, consent will always be an important and necessary and gratifying part of a partnered relationship, from hookup to committed.

And it should be.

Moreover, you should want it to be.

Read all of Nicola Corkin’s piece “Yes means Yes – feminist musings on consent in sex” here.