Archive for March, 2008|Monthly archive page
I started writing a response to the panel, discussing the issues that were raised there, exploring the ideas it brought up. I still intend to write more on the subject. But really, the thing I came away from the panel with was a new sense of just how much it’s going to take for me to ever be open about my sexuality.
I went into the panel hoping that I’d be able to engage in conversation about BDSM in a public setting, to be able to be out and open and talk freely about my ideas and desires. But within the first few minutes after I’d sat down, one of the panelists asked the group, “How many people here would say they have a fairly large amount of knowledge about BDSM?” I started sweating as I tried not to look around me at all the people in the room; my hand stayed down.
I was really, really happy to see such open and non-judgemental discussion taking place about BDSM in an anarchist crowd, and was excited that the panelists as well as members of the audience were able to speak from a personal perspective, unafraid of anyone else’s reaction. But I wasn’t able to participate. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand the idea of people turning around to look at me as I asked a question or made a comment that would, I felt, mark me as someone who is, gasp, kinky. More than that, I think my fear was being seen as someone who is, gasp, sexual.
It’s only been over the last few years that I’ve started feeling comfortable with myself as a sexual being. Part of that is because I’d never before been able to explore my masochistic and submissive side with someone who truly reflected that desire back in his sadism and dominance. Other lovers had always expressed a desire for me, of course, but it wasn’t until I felt someone truly desire me as a submissive and as a masochist — because I loved to be at his feet, not in spite of it — that I felt sexy and attractive. But part of it, too, is just being with someone who is completely comfortable with talking about his own sexuality and his own desires, and who encourages me to open up without being forceful or judgmental about it.
Sometimes, I forget that this is a long process. I write openly on here, and then am shocked and ashamed that I can’t speak in quite the same way in front of a group of people, or freeze up and break down before going to a class at the Citadel. I feel upset and worthless when I see other people, especially people younger than me, who can speak so freely about things I often still find difficult to think about.
I need to stop feeling so bad about that. Yes, it sucks that I’m so inhibited and shy when it comes to talking about sex. I want that to change. But it isn’t just going to happen overnight — not with decades of heavy repression of my sexuality still weighing me down. I can’t look at others as a model of what I should be, how I should speak and act, how I should look. I think I need to take the word “should” out of my vocabulary for a while.
It’s been kind of an intense week.
A week ago, I found myself questioning everything I thought I’d come to terms with about my sexuality. Unsurprisingly, these thoughts first took the form of wanting to get rid of my sexuality altogether, a general purge, pushing all the dangerous, scary sex out of my life completely. It was, I thought, time to accept that I just couldn’t handle this, that I didn’t want it. Done. Finished.
Within 24 hours, I was back in bed with my partner, and everything felt good. Different, and still shaky, but good. A few days later, I broke down again when faced with the prospect of going to a play workshop I’d wanted to attend for months, terrified of being seen, not comfortable with exposing myself like that in public, even among others like me. And within a week, I got my nipples pierced while a half-dozen people watched.
About four months ago, I tried to get this piercing done, but couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. I wrote about some of the meaning it held for me, and why I was so hesitant to actually get it done. Re-reading it now, I realize there’s another level of meaning to my reluctance to get the piercings, why I was so focused on thoughts of how much aftercare they’d need, the fears of something going wrong, getting damaged. [Ahem. Aftercare. Fears of something going wrong.]
I knew that these piercings would have a very strong symbolic power for me, and that one of the reasons I wanted them so badly was that they were so connected to my image of myself as a sexual being. My nipples have always been very sensitive, and up until a few years ago, I couldn’t bear having them played with at all; the idea of having them pierced would have made me cringe. They’re also a part of my body that I’ve pretty much ignored for most of my life, along with my breasts in general. The piercings would be symbolic of how far I’ve come in both those departments: having pushed my boundaries on what I thought I could take, having expanded my vision of what activities I can find pleasure in, having accepted and learned to revel in the deep satisfaction I can find in pain; and learning to love my body as it is, finally believing that I can be considered attractive and sexy.
What I didn’t realize was that the aftercare, the thing I was so worried about, was symbolic, too. I finally understood this last night, after a sudden freak-out about how careful I was going to have to be, how much I was going to have to focus on taking care of myself, on keeping the piercings clean, on avoiding contact with body fluids, on how it was going to change my sex life. My partner calmed me down and assured me that I could handle it, that he knew I was ready for this commitment. And all of a sudden, I knew what I was afraid of. It is a commitment, and in more ways than one. It’s a physical representation of a lot of shit I’ve kept inside for so long, and of an awakened sexual identity that has forced me to become more aware of my body, my limits, and my needs. The symbolism of caring for my raw piercings, of treating them with care and helping the fresh wounds heal, is incredibly important, too. Seeing it in that way has made everything seem more manageable, and makes me even more sure that I made the right decision.
I got my piercings at the Fakir Piercing Intensive, taught by the “Father of the Modern Primitive Movement” Fakir Musafar. I found out very last minute that the class needed more people for students to practice on; my decision to get my piercings done there was somewhat spontaneous. I liked the idea that if I someday decided to take out the jewelry and let the piercings heal (whether because they got infected, made my nipples way too sensitive, or just were taking too long to heal), it wouldn’t feel like a complete wash to me, because the piercings would have also been a learning experience for someone else. I would feel free to change my mind later without feeling too disappointed about it. As it was, I was really happy that I decided to get pierced at the class rather than in a studio. It felt much more personal, and took much longer; one of my two piercers had never done nipples before, so there was a lot of instruction and advice being given as he marked me and got everything ready. I would have thought being pierced by novices would have made me more nervous, but I felt very safe throughout, and confident that my piercers knew what they were doing. The instructor sat next to me and had me focus on my breathing, grounding me and helping me “sink.” Another person came up to my feet and gently rested his hands on them, then on my shins. It seemed perfectly natural, and felt comforting, like someone holding my hand.
The actual piercings were simultaneous — one piercer on each nipple — and slightly unexpected. I wasn’t quite ready for the piercings when they happened, and was mid-breath. (I had hoped to be able to slowly exhale as the needles went through, the technique I’ve used in the past.) I gasped as they pierced me, and then started laughing at my reaction. Strangely, the pain in one nipple was sharper and more prominent (and felt better) than in the other, which felt duller and took longer to dissipate. The pain was somehow both more and less intense than I’d expected; at first, it felt stronger than I was ready for, but then, it also hurt for a shorter amount of time than, say, having clothespins taken off.
Afterwards, I talked to the piercer who’d never done a nipple piercing before. He told me about the endorphin rush he’d had, as well, which made the experience all the better; it was something that we had shared, not something that a detached professional had simply performed, not a service given. He took a picture with me, and both piercers gave me big (but gentle) hugs before I put my shirt on and headed home, lightheaded and blissed out. I couldn’t have imagined a better piercing experience.