Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Has It Really Been That Long?

I took a mental health day today and decided to clean out some things on my computer. While I was at it, I decided to take a look at my blog. And it hit me that I'd given up on this thing over two years ago.

I'm not really sure why. Mostly because I'd become disillusioned with kink, social media and especially internet sex positivity. The internet had gotten angry, and me along with it. When that happened, it was time to take a break.

I also stopped writing because I didn't want Septimus to feel like I was reviewing his performance as a boyfriend anymore. Despite the fact that I wrote to get the crap out of my head, and it wasn't usually a reflection of him, our life together became more important than sharing my confusion with the world.

But two years is a long time and a lot of changes have been made.

I'm not a fan of twitter. I gave that up around the same time I realized that the public outrage of the day was just too much to deal with with the really limited time I had on the internet. I've found Pinterest and while I'm not pinning kinky pictures, I have found creating things more conducive to mental health than tearing them down.

In the last two years, I've decided that anything or anyone that doesn't add value to my life is gone. I've lost a couple of friends that way, but the net value to my own life has exponentially increased. I no longer worry about saying something, expressing an idea or opinion, or even saying something truly un-PC, because the people I've kept around me are those that don't ask me to cater to their delicate sensibility flowers. I kind of like that.

Also, in the last two years, Septimus and I have talked about aspects of our relationship that still have a way to go to play out. We've delved into him having other play partners, finding another girlfriend and taking our first baby steps into some sort of poly-ish kind of relationship.  I'm not sure where that's going, we're both kind of lazy about it. Well, not exactly lazy- just not really making it a "thing".

We've started playing with rope again. That makes me incredibly happy. I'm not really sure if he understands exactly HOW happy- he gets kind of icked out when I get too googly about feelings.

I'm still not sure where this blog is going to go. Or even if I'll pick it back up again for good. But for now, it feels good to write again, even a little.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The End of a Lovely Friendship

It's been nearly two months since I attended my last conference and I thought it was about time I wrote about some of the things I learned.

A little back story first, though.

When my friend wanted to create a conference for sex positive discussions, I was supportive of her goals, excited for her ambitions, and ready to stand by her during all of the crazy that would be sure to ensue. I thought I'd make myself perfectly clear that such a conference really wasn't my milieu, but that I'd do what I could to help her, support her, and be around for her to bounce ideas off of.  I wasn't (and I'm still not) interested in nearly any of the topics discussed at such a conference, and I really don't know many of the speakers who are "popular" in that area. I have my own interests and I learned really early on at my very first conference of this type that my particular interests have little place in that arena (other than to be 50 Shaded to Death and Back).

I'd actually not planned to attend the west coast conference, but she'd caught me in a moment of weakness and off I went. I met some really cool people, and had a somewhat interesting time. And I did learn a lot- just not in any session.

When the east coast conference came around, I also wasn't sure I was going to attend. My job is stressful, money was tight, and the timing was difficult. But I decided that I wanted to support my friend and so I made plans to go.

I hated every single moment of that conference. But I did learn (at least I read it on twitter) that it was my last.

I learned that in that milieu, I would be punished for something I didn't even know I'd done, and not be told about it until weeks later. Here's a clue- when someone is so totally out of their own scene- and they fuck something up- it might be a "learning experience" for everyone involved if - instead of giving the cold shoulder for three days- a person would just say something. Anything. A "that was really hurtful" at the time it happened, would have gone a long way. Spending three days mad at someone and not telling them why sounds a lot like one of the reasons I got divorced.

I learned that in that milieu, it's still about star fucking. I spent a lot of time that weekend watching people. Were there cliques? Absolutely. Were people discussing lofty topics and having intellectual discussions about the sessions they attended? No. What I saw for the most part was people hanging with their peer groups, with people they already knew, and talking about how awful it was that one of the sponsor tables was empty, that there was no coffee, and where the orgy room was located.  People were talking about sex alright- but not in the way that one might think.

I learned that none of the "rockstars" has a single minute to discuss something about their class with you without looking right the fuck through you searching for someone "more rockstarish" to talk with. I get it's also about networking, but hey- a moment to discuss something with someone you don't know? Isn't that what "teaching" is about?

I learned that once you reach a certain level of "rockstardom" in any field, including this one, you get a free pass to act like a total douchenozzle. Rules, personal space, self-control and accountability for actions all don't really matter when one is a presenter. I watched one person time and time and time and time again all weekend long, flaunt the rules, invade personal space, and ignore expressed no's.  And the resulting silence from the rest of the people made it worse.  I've no doubt this particular douchenozzle will continue on as before. But as a representative of your chosen field- he's a poor ambassador.

I learned that I should NEVER be in a situation where I say "I'll talk to someone" about something that happened and find out what's going on. There's no possible way that one won't bite me in the ass. I think next time I'll practice saying "if you can't talk about it yourself, then it's obviously not a problem".

But what I really learned is that despite my lack of savvy with this whole "sex positive" scene, despite my desire to be there for my friend, and despite my own best intentions to help her, my voice was ignored by someone I really cared for. I did not attend these conferences for me. But for the fact that she was my friend, I wouldn't have attended any but the very first. I wanted to help her. Be supportive of her, and hug her when things got nuts. Had I known that I'd be on the shit end of whatever stick was up everyone's ass that weekend, I'd have stayed home and read about the highlights on twitter.

After all, that's where I learned about the end of a really lovely friendship.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Part of NO do you NOT Understand Reid Mihalko?

To say I'm livid is an understatement. I'm so incredibly angry that my hands are shaking.

If you follow me on twitter (since my account is now locked, if you don't already, don't bother to look), you'll get some idea of what happened this weekend when I attended a sexuality conference.  

One of the things I rely on as a kinkster is my ability to keep the parts of my life separate. I do not appear in public with my kids as SilverDreams, and I do not appear at kink/sex events under my real name. I have a scene name for a reason. It's my decision and even if you don't agree, you don't have to. I don't ask that you like it, I only ask that you respect my wishes.  

Because this particular conference was a very definite educational setting, and included others who absolutely cannot attend those events under their real names, and because the event had a clear, published and several times-reiterated photo policy, I felt pretty comfortable attending. Was there a chance my photo would be taken? Sure. With cell phones, you can't ever guarantee that someone won't take your photo. But it was a small risk, given that I was with some of the "elite" in sex education.  

To be perfectly clear, there was not one moment I was at the conference out of my room where I did not have my "NO PHOTOS" button on. Not a single moment. 

Reid Mihalko is a self-described "Sex Geek".  To me, he's more of a self-absorbed juvenile asshat, but that's just my opinion. Hey- you have yours, I have mine.  When I attended a conference on the West Coast last year, Reid took my picture in a crowd shot (also wearing a NO PHOTO button) and posted it to twitter. I started getting my twitter friends, who were following the conference tweets, asking me if I knew my photo was on the internet.  I saw the picture, and asked Reid to take it down. That he did so immediately made me feel at least he was responsive to my concerns and that it was just an honest mistake.

But this past weekend, Reid was taking pictures of everything (and by everything I mean, as long as he was in the shot). This time, among several other pictures of crowd shots (many people whom also had no photo buttons), he posted a picture of three people working the conference, ALL OF WHOM WERE CLEARLY WEARING NO PHOTOS BUTTONS. I was one of those people.

Reading comprehension should really be taught in school.  NO MEANS NO.

No means no whether it's in a bar, in a conference, or on the street. No means do not. Don't do it. Stop. Cut it out, and well, just plain NO. (if you're unclear on this concept, I really suggest that you not be around people until you can figure that out).

A couple of things are tweaking my ass right now. The first is that he, a self-professed Sex Educator (but really, read his CV sometime- cuddle parties? Tae Kwan Do? Speed Flirting?) disregarded my explicit NO.  That's right folks, he couldn't figure out consent if it bit him in the ass. And what happens in return? He posts to FaceBook in such a way to garner sympathy from his readers. (read this as "poor me, I fucked up", please cuddle with me?).  He apologizes to me on twitter, using a page from Charlie Glickman's "learn how to apologize" blog post and tells me that he'll give me space unless I tell him to contact me. That's right. A twitter apology. It's almost as bad as breaking up with someone via email.

Fat fucking chance. You deserve every ounce of venom I feel right now. Twice.

One of his readers even go so far on that post to imply that it's the "universe's way of saying EVERYONE should be outed".  (victim blame much?)

Yeah, well fuck you.

Which brings me to my second tweak right now.  You might imagine, I was wondering how the rest of the sex educators at the conference might be all over his ass for his appallingly bad judgment and taking him to task for his continual juvenile behavior when it comes to his definite lack of self-control.

The silence is deafening.

I'm done. There truly is no safe space to discuss ideas. I wish you all well with each other because by your silence, you're all condoning Mr. Mihalko's behavior this past weekend.

And I won't be part of it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A View From My Side

I'm frustrated. Although many people know that I'm involved in a local BDSM group (one of the longest running in our part of the country in fact), few know that I'm the education chair for that group.

As education chair, it's my mission to find qualified, interesting, and exciting people to present for our monthly class. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to book presenters for my group. I'm not really sure what all of the reasons for this are, but I think much of it has to do with something I call the "Mollena Effect" (ME).

ME happened several months ago when Mollena Williams (a national presenter at kink events) wrote a post about how she was pretty annoyed at event organizers who appear to be making shit tons of money off her appearing, while at the same time not paying her what she was worth. She talked about how presenting at kink events was her job; and that by insulting her by offering comped admission to the event in lieu of payment devalued her time, effort and skills. She talked about event organizers finding "sponsors" to cover the costs of her appearances, and she made a lot of todo about how it was wrong of people to ask her to present for free.

I'm not disagreeing with her point of view. If she wishes to be paid, then she should be. And she shouldn't accept those engagements which don't offer her exactly the remuneration she wishes, under the terms which are acceptable to her. I wouldn't take a job personally where I felt unvalued.

But the fallout from her post about this subject has hit smaller groups especially hard. The local groups who have under 200 members (many with less than 100); whose market won't support ticket prices of $50 or more for a few hour presentation. The local groups who have many kinksters who have to find babysitters, make travel arrangements, and travel for an hour or more, just to attend a presentation.  The local groups who have many more new members who have never heard of a Mollena Williams. The local groups with people whose first and sometimes only foray into kinkydom is that group. The people coming into the scene who have never heard of Dark Odyssey, Floating World or Shibaricon. The people finding their own version of the Fifty Shades of whatever floats them and need to learn to do this safely.

What the ME has done has created an "us vs. them" scenario. "Us" being the presenters; while "Them" being the event organizers.  The downside, is that even small event organizers are being lumped in with the national events, while every presenter now believes that he or she is "worth it".

My frustation comes from the short-sightedness of this attitude. And the fallout from it.

Every single presenter I've booked in the last several months has increased their fee to present almost beyond the point where we can afford to pay it. They're pricing themselves out of the small local markets, with the hope that they'll be able to translate their skills to a national market. The obvious problem is that even with the dozens of really large events that the kink world has going on in a year, there is still a pretty small market for those events.  Even local presenters, who would have happily presented for our group in the past for gas money, dinner and perhaps a membership to our group, now demand an ever increasing fee. Or worse- percentage of the door. Before expenses.

As a result, I've had to find other ways to fulfill my goal of providing a monthly class. I've tried to do it with sponsorships but I've run into two problems with this: first, there's not enough money to be had from kink-friendly companies to go around; and second, the presenters are more "well known" in their own small corner of kinkdom than they are to many of the companies.

I've tried to book local presenters. But these same people have read the threads on Fetlife and follow all of those top presenters, and instead of earning their chops by learning to present, they too have started asking for more.

And lest you think I'm a cheap bitch, I'll disclose here and say that we do pay our presenters. I'll also disclose here and tell you that I also have presented for various groups over the past few years. I've been on both sides now, and while I'm still very willing to present for any local group who might want me to, I don't expect to make my living from doing it.

I'll also tell you that every single class I booked last year, lost money. That's right. Every. Single. Class.  Even with those top presenters who assured us that they "would put butts in the chairs". Not a single one did. Top tier, brand new, it didn't matter. We lost money on every single class. Although I will say that the loss was much easier to take when the presenter was delivering what he/she promised.  Not many do. In fact, one presenter we'd lost a shit ton of money bringing in recently was bemoaning the fact that nobody was hiring him anymore.

My guess is here's why:

The cost for my venue at a local hotel willing to host our class is roughly $350.  My average attendee pays $10.00 per class. We've tried $20, but that dropped attendance too far. $10 for a two hour class, away from public transportation, is about what  this market will bear.  So, in order for me to break even, I have to fill 35 seats. Not unrealistic for the most part, right? We do that pretty regularly.

That presenter who complained about nobody hiring him anymore? Well he charged us 50% of the door. Before expenses. He assured us that he would bring in people, that he'd advertise for us. However, when the reality of the class came, he filled 36 seats. That's right. He brought one more person in. For that one person extra, we paid him $180.00 (1/2 of the door). We took in $360.00. We therefore netted minus $90.00.  That one extra person cost us $90.00.

Now, let's see about the presenter who presented last month for us. She cost us nothing. She did it for the price of her membership in our group for the year ($30). She is a relative no-name. She had 36 people in the class. We still technically lost money, but it wasn't nearly so hard losing $20 on a membership for the night as it was the $90 in cash. The other difference is is that she didn't make promises of putting butts in the chairs and she did advertise the class.

Who do you think I want to book the next time?

So why do we still do this you might ask.

Well, despite all of the aggravation we go through every single month to find a presenter, (notice I didn't say "educator"- that's another whole can of worms) I still think what we provide to the community is important.

We provide the gateway for all of those new people who will eventually find their way to the Floating Worlds, Shibaricons and Dark Odysseys.

We provide the means for people new to kink to "dip their toes" into the water without it becoming overwhelming at a three day conference with dozens and dozens of classes.

We provide the social, non-play, environment for people to get to know each other while learning something fun.

I would dearly love to bring many of the "name" presenters in to speak to our group. But I can't afford them, so I no longer ask. We've tried partnering with other groups to share the costs- but all that really does is increase the costs and therefore the loss (a class for each group costs more money- and really, there's few presenters people want to hear twice in a weekend, so attendance is split rather than doubled).  I no longer ask these people to present. I've found my way around that. I'm taking chances on brand new people. People who have energy, passion, and an interest in sharing a subject. People who are happy to cut their chops on a new group; people who want to try out new material; people who just want to share what they love. Instead of worrying that I'm losing money on top names, I'm grooming the next group of top names.

If there's one thing I can be absolutely sure about, it's that there's always someone else.

For another point of view- Sarah Sloane has written a great post here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You're Not Listening

To paraphrase what I read this morning:

I was so in love with this man, I let him do anything he wanted, not taking the time to realize that he was an asshole. And when shit went wrong, I blamed everyone else because they didn't warn me, or support me in my pain.

I'm really sorry honey, but you were warned. You just didn't listen. You just chose to ignore all those things that people had been telling you because you found something that resembled BDSM. You found a guy who liked to beat the hell out of you. You found an asshole who convinced you that he was some sort of god. You found a douchenozzle who took advantage of your ignorance, your naivete and your refusal to use your goddamned brain.  Did you deserve to be treated like that? Of course not. But did you listen?

 Did you listen when more experienced people who were NOT looking to play with you, fuck you or master you told you to slow down, get to know these guys before giving everything up?  Or did you listen to your desire, put blinders on, and hope for the best?

Did you listen when people told you that BDSM wasn't about losing your voice and power? Did you listen when we told you it was about FINDING your voice and power first? Or did you listen to those who said that a good submissive doesn't SAY anything?

Did you listen to the people who have done this for many years without harm? Or were your examples others who didn't listen?  Did you learn to walk by first running?

Did you listen to all those other people who wondered every goddamned day for the past three years why the hell trust seems to be given so easily to people whose last name you don't even know?

Did you listen when we said that whatever it is that you think you were doing, it isn't BDSM?

Its OK. I'm firmly under the belief that for most people, you can show them a brick wall, tell them not to run into it because it'll hurt, and they still won't believe you. They have to experience the wall first hand to know that it'll hurt.  What I find pretty annoying though is being told that we didn't tell you about that wall. We did. You just weren't listening.

So I doubt you'll listen now. But here goes.

BDSM isn't what you think you're doing.  Whatever it is you're doing, if you keep getting hurt, it's not BDSM. You're playing at sexy games, without much in the way of common sense. Your version of BDSM feels good. It alleviates your responsibility for your own dark sexy desires. It is exciting. It is dark. Dangerous.

But BDSM isn't for the foolish. It doesn't work when you aren't able to tell the difference between a "good guy" and one just looking to get into your pants (and we all have made those mistakes). It isn't about giving up everything to the first guy in leather and it certainly isn't about blaming everyone else who didn't "protect you" from harm. Look in the mirror, sweetheart. See that girl there? She is the only one who needs to stop and think before letting Mr. Domly Dom tie her up and take away her power. Nobody can think for her. And nobody will rush into save her when the shit goes wrong. So she'd better have a backup plan for her own protection. And if she can't do that, then join a fucking book club instead. But remember- paper cuts aren't fun and do try not to blame the tree for it, okay?

As a good friend said once, "this is like playing with a table saw. There are guides and safety procedures to follow, but yet- people still cut off their fingers".

But I'm guessing that whatever it is you think you're doing, you're still not listening.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Can We Talk?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “what makes a good sub” or “how to be a good dom”. While reading a lot of these posts, I was struck by the thought that changing either of them to “how to be a good human being” would be more appropriate.

With the current interest in all things kinky, I’m appalled at the number of people who try to fob off their own version of what works for them off as the epitome of submission or dominance. The very nature of BDSM is that it is all about choice and the freedom to explore in any way that gets your rocks off. There's a lot more than Fifty Shades of Grey when you're talking about BDSM.

Let’s talk some basics here, okay?

First, one is not either a sub or a dom. People tend to have both traits in their personalities. I’ve met very few submissives who couldn’t find a way to walk out the door in the morning, find their own car, get to work, and kick ass as a corporate executive, police officer, shopclerk or whatever their job may be. Conversely, I’ve also met very few dominants who are totally as bad-assed as their internet personalities would have you believe when faced with an IRS audit or a traffic stop.While people tend to take on certain roles in a D/s relationship, you can't assume that a submissive is always submissive or a dominant is always dominant. And, at times, it's absolutely necessary for submissives to "pull on the big girl panties". The point is, people cannot be pigeonholed into one category. Trying to make people live up to epitomes in anything is going to set yourself up for a pre-planned disappointment.

Second, let’s make sure you understand that D/s or M/s is not S&M. I know, it gets confusing with all the letters rolling around in BDSM, but it is entirely possible to have a D/s or M/s relationship and not engage in any form whatsoever of S&M. And vice versa. D/s and M/s are relationship models. S&M is an activity. While many people DO mix the two in their relationships, let’s be perfectly clear that there is no requirement that someone getting their ass beat must be a submissive, nor is someone who identifies as a submissive required to “prove it” by getting their ass beat. Yes, I’ve even known a few dominants in my time who enjoy getting their own asses beat. The point to this is- just because someone is engaging in an activity that they may enjoy- you can’t assume relationship roles from it.

Third, the most important thing one can realize when exploring any kind of relationship- even a D/s or S&M one- is that D/s is only and solely about what works for each of us. There are no other truths. Do what works for you, what gets your rocks off, and what you enjoy. There are no rewards for putting up with bad behavior from anyone under the guise of “submissiveness”, nor is there any badge of honor from treating people badly no matter what your relationship role may be. 

Anyone telling you anything else is just someone saying what works for them. It might work for you, but odds are- you’ll be very disappointed trying to model your own relationships after theirs. You’ll do far better and have far fewer problems if you remember that.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fill 'r Up

Once you move in with each other, the sexy has a hard time of keeping up with things. What was once planned and scheduled and anticipated, has suddenly become non-existent. While each of you may have had “life issues” to deal with separately before, somehow when they’re combined under one roof, things seem to more than double in size.

Where once you could go home to get away from calls from the ex wife, where once you could tell someone you had to “work late and needed to take the night off” for some quiet time, such escapes don’t really exist when you’re living with someone. The small untruths we tell to avoid conflict don't really work when you're living with someone. It’s also really easy to overlook bad habits, snoring partners, idiosyncratic sleep and work habits and thousands of other little details of any relationship- when you’re dealing with it only a few hours or days at a time.

But I think everyone recognizes that it’s really important in a relationship to maintain rituals you had when you were both trying so much harder to be impressive. (I’m kidding- but you know how everyone is on their best behavior while dating). To that end, we have a regularly scheduled date night. Most of you can probably figure out it is also our regularly scheduled martini night! The point is, on that night, we date each other again. We talk about all the same things as we would at home, but in a far different tone. We smile at each other more often in public. We listen more. We have that couple of hours to reconnect as people who really like each other- without worrying about kids, jobs or dirty socks.

I think that it’s just as important to schedule playtime. Especially if your play is of a S&M variety. I know it sounds rather silly, and oftentimes feels foolish to schedule a time for this (trust me, the first few times we did this I felt rather stupid for planning it). Did I really want to make this part of our lives into just another “chore” for us to get through?. Isn’t part of the attraction of kink the uncertainty? the spontaneity? When I think back to when we first started seeing each other- we didn’t plan scenes. They just sort of happened when we were together. I was a little miffed that this didn’t remain the case.

At first, I let things go too long. A large part of me said we were in a D/s relationship for fucks sake! If he didn’t “feel like beating me”, was it really all submissive-like for me to ask for it? Who am I kidding- I didn’t ask. I pouted like a stupid bitch and expected him to “know better”. Fat lot of good that does. It just made me cranky and him less likely to want to me around at all. Which started another of those evil going around in circles that always seems to clutter my life.

I think it is not only a good idea to absolutely expect that your own needs are met, it is unrealistic to believe that your partner is consciously unwilling to meet them. The key is to compromise.

You see, when my own needs aren’t being met, I can be a cranky little bitch. And I really don’t care to be all that submissive. I’d just as soon drop everything to do with any part of our D/s relationship, if the alternative was to have our S&M pieces doled out to me in little dribbles. But what happens is that exactly when he most needs me to be pleasant and helpful, without regular beatings, the odds of me being anything other than a bitch aren’t in his favor.

You can think of this another way. If you own a car, it needs regular maintenance. New tires, an oil change every so often and even simple washing and waxing. Without maintenance, the car gets run down, doesn’t look it’s best, and will often quit on you when you’re late for work. Owning a submissive is like this. For some submissives, the chance to DO something is what they crave. For others it’s the “taking one for the team” in a beating. And for masochistic submissives, maintenance is more like filling up the gas tank or recharging the battery. Taking care of the needs of each other is an investment in your relationship. Go too long without filling the tank or maintaining the relationship and you might as well take public transportation.

There have been long stretches of time when he just can’t work up the energy to concentrate on my needs. It takes a lot of energy for a sadist to concentrate on doling out a significant beating for his masochistic partner. They certainly don’t want to be in the middle of beating your ass and have their mind wandering all over the ex wife, the principal of the kids’ school or the work problem that’s bugging the shit out of him. The one thing I constantly hear from sadists is that the time when they’re most angry with anything, is the time when they least want to let that part of themselves have free reign. So, understanding this, it can be difficult to work up the heart to beg for a beating, to convince him to play. Nobody likes to be another “problem” for their partner to deal with. And rarely do people really like the sadism/masochism relationship that evolves from anger.

So this is why it’s important to schedule a time- and it doesn’t have to be long- 15 minutes, a half hour- to maintain your S&M relationship with each other. That small time, regularly scheduled, seems rather aggravating and very much like another chore at first. And, at first, it probably won’t be anywhere nearly as enjoyable as all those other scenes you’ve had together. But it is an important thing. By keeping that line open, by refiling the tank, by meeting enough of your partner’s needs to keep them, if not happy, at least content, a strange thing tends to happen. That 15 minutes turns into a 1/2 hour. And that 1/2 hour turns into a full one. You forget the time when you’re doing something you’d forgotten that you really liked. The chemicals that masochists rely on for focus and clarity come back and the connection between the two of you gets stronger. You start out with intending to just wash your car, and you end up waxing it as well.

It basically comes down to reminding the person you love that there are things that only he can do for you. That you know it’s difficult to put the day’s crap out of his head. But remind him that you will be in a much better place of helping him if only he is able to fill up the tank.

But don’t expect the premium grade every time, and don’t hold him over the coals for a car wash with the fill up. Besides, we get better mileage out of repeated fill ups than with running the tank to empty.