Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

A Harsh Lesson

Just when I felt like I had finally gained some degree of self-confidence regarding my sexuality…

Tonight, I learned that there’s a world of difference between “coming out” to other kinky folks and to vanilla friends. While talking to a group of friends, one of them began describing a documentary on fetishes he’d recently watched, and how uncomfortable it made him feel. He was specifically talking about a section of the documentary about people who enjoy being degraded, and expressed his shock and horror upon learning that people actually did this, that this existed. What freaks.

Immediately, I felt my stomach churning, and I became terrified to respond in any way — I was afraid that any reaction, however slight, would either “give me away,” or be a lie; I was afraid to say something like, “Of course people do that, and there’s nothing wrong with it,” but I also wasn’t about to nod in agreement or act like I didn’t know anything about it.

Then, the two other women in the group — both self-identified feminists — began to discuss whether or not such activities were “okay.” As in, “I guess it’s okay if the woman wants to….” (Me, in my head: “Why do you get to decide what is or isn’t an acceptable sexual practice for a woman to engage in?”)

I just walked away. Because, well, what could I say? I felt ashamed, afterward, for not being brave enough to speak out, for not saying a word to refute them. Because any word would mark me, I was afraid, as one of those freaks — or worse, as a bad feminist, as a self-hating woman, as a masochist.

I’m not really sure how I could have better dealt with the situation. They weren’t close enough friends for me to really talk about my sex life with them, or for me to approach them afterward to tell them how they’d made me feel uncomfortable, or anything like that. More than anything, it was simply a rude awakening to remember that even within a so-called radical community, even among those I consider friends, even among those who are sexually marginalized in other ways (several in the group identified as queer), BDSM beyond “tee hee, I tied my boyfriend’s hands to the bed with a silk scarf, how kinky!” is seen as sick, shocking, and potentially (if not inherently) abusive. I know that my friends would never mean to intentionally insult me, and I’m sure that they wouldn’t continue to say such things in my presence if I had told them that I was a submissive, that I liked that sort of thing, and that if they had a problem with that we could discuss it some other time. But to do that would be to step out in a way that I’m just not ready for.

First Rope Bondage Workshop

“Do you switch, or do you just bottom?”

It took me a second before I could respond. “I just bottom,” I said, the words feeling heavy and difficult in my mouth. I had never said them before; I had never said anything of the sort to anyone who wasn’t my partner.

Tonight, he and I went to the Rope Bondage Peer Workshop in San Francisco. I was incredibly nervous before going into the Citadel, where the workshop was being hosted — mostly because I was about to “go public” with an aspect of my life that, until now, had been intensely private.

At first, we stood around awkwardly while some of the regulars set up their equipment for suspension bondage, and for a minute, I was afraid that we were going to be expected to know what to do, or that I was going to say or do something that would be “wrong” or mark me as a total newbie. But everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful, and a few of the regulars (including the hosts, Madame Butterfly and Lane) instructed a few of us in some basics. By the end of the night, I was in a full harness, stretching into “stockings” running to my ankles, and tied by one wrist to a cross. It felt pretty awesome.

I was surprised by how casual everything seemed, how normal. But then, I’m not sure why that was so surprising — after all, any hobbyists’ club is designed to give people a place where their interests or obsessions are completely normal. It’s like a sci fi convention or a birdwatchers’ meeting. I suppose the real shock, then, was that kink is no different — that sex can be a hobby.