Archive for the ‘Communication and Consent’ Category

Sexual Compatibility

Ranat recently wrote a few posts dealing with her struggle to find a sexually compatible partner. And it made me start thinking about how sexual compatibility is so much more than labels like “straight/gay,” “kinky/vanilla,” or even “sub/dom” can cover.

Ranat wrote specifically of her frustration at how easy it is for vanilla people to find compatible sexual partners:

I am profoundly jealous that these men [her vanilla friends] can walk into a room at any given establishment, and have a good chance of meeting someone who is sexually compatible. I am jealous that it is as simple as attraction > desire > pursuit > yea or nay.

I know it’s not actually that simple. I know people with mainstream sexualities have just as many issues finding sexual relationships. But I think about how many sexually compatible people one of these men has met in his life. Probably hundreds. I’ve met three. And I am so. Terribly. Jealous.

I wonder, sometimes, what I would be doing had I never met my current partner, or were we to suddenly break up. How would I go about meeting someone? What would my qualifications be — what would go to the top of the list? Would it be “must be a male dom who likes women?” Or would it be “must be vegan,” or “must have politics that are at least somewhat similar to my own,” or “must not be a sexist jerk”? What would I be willing to compromise on?

Now, granted, I have some advantages — being at least somewhat sexually dominant is a trait that has been taught to a *lot* of men in our culture, so finding this quality would be a lot easier than it would be for a dom woman, like Ranat, to find a submissive man. That is: even if I couldn’t find a guy who’s interested in torturing me, collaring me, or forcing me to lick his boots, I could probably find one who’s totally okay with “rough sex,” pushing me down, and taking control. I could get at least some of my needs filled.

And then I wonder — just how much more compatible would a random dom or switch man be for me, even just speaking in terms of sexual compatibility? What if random “vanilla” guy A is not interested in whips and chains, but completely overlaps with my desires when it comes to favorite positions for fucking and has a really passionate, intense energy; and random “kinky” guy B loves to do all manner of painful things to me but is a terrible kisser and only likes to fuck in one weird position that does nothing for me? What if guy A wants to have sex 3-4 times a week and guy B wants to have sex once a week at most? What if guy B fits my criteria as a male dom who likes women, but his kinks are all completely different from mine — say he only likes daddy-daughter or “punishment” scenes with lots of roleplaying, which I really can’t get into. Does that make him any more sexually compatible than the man who isn’t interested in any kind of kink? And again, once we’re out of the bedroom (or dungeon…whatever), what are the chances that random kinky guy is going to be someone I can actually have a conversation with, as opposed to the vanilla guy that I’ve met because we have shared interests beyond sex? Yes, maybe it’s not that easy to meet someone who’s into BDSM at an anarchist convergence or a vegan potluck (though, actually…that is where my partner and I met). But it’s probably even harder to walk into a play party and meet someone in the mainstream BDSM scene who shares my gender politics, or who’s vegan, or who understands that “anarchy” is not synonymous with “chaos.”

All of this makes me feel extraordinarily lucky to be with someone who connects with me on so many levels, who is passionate and cruel and shares my kinks and is pretty much on the same page with me politically. But I think it’s really important to recognize that even though he’s way more compatible with me (sexually and otherwise) than most other men would be, nothing is perfect, and there are definite gaps where we don’t meet. Some of them are kink-specific, like the fact that he’s more interested in forced submission than I am, or that I’d like to have more frequent play sessions that just involved pain and/or bondage. Others are differences that you’d find in vanilla relationships, too — differences in favorite sexual positions, occasional differences in libido, differences in what we each need in order to have a good orgasm.

Sometimes I get really frustrated when my partner and I encounter one of these differences, and I have a sense of despair — does this mean we’re just not sexually compatible? What I need to remember is that true compatibility has more to do with how you work out differences than it does with never having any differences in the first place. I think this is especially important to remember as my partner and I begin to talk again about non-monogamy. There’s a danger of looking only superficially at compatibility as a simple overlap of interests, and thinking, “My partner and I are both vegan and kinky, but this other person he’s dating is vegan, kinky, and straightedge. She must be a better match for him than I am.” Or, “This other person loves anal sex, which I know my partner really likes and which I am not that into most of the time. That means he’s more sexually compatible with her than with me.” This sort of thinking leaves no room for important things like how we communicate, how we take care of each other, how we work through disagreements without getting into horrible fights that drag on for days. In the long run, I think it’s these things that matter the most.

Learning How to Fight

I take it back. I do know why I keep doing this. I do it because it challenges me, and because in the process of defending my sexuality, I become more secure in and at home with who I am and what I desire. Participating in those comments threads gets me reading other bloggers and gets us starting our own conversations. I participate because it makes me happy to support other kinky folks when they are being ridiculed or condemned, and it makes me happy to hear the voices of other kinky folk who have *my* back as well.

I also do it because sometimes, I need to remember why the anti-kink folks see BDSM the way they do, and to better understand their position so that when I find myself under attack, I can better defend myself in a way that might actually get through to them. On the Internet, I pretty much think it’s always a waste of time to try and change someone’s mind about this stuff. But I feel I can use these online skirmishes to practice my own defense for the inevitable battles I will have to fight with friends and loved ones. I’m not particularly out, at the moment, but someday, the time will come when a family member finds this blog, or a friend asks me about the o-rings secured to my loft bed frame, or a roommate comes home early and hears whipping noises coming from my room. And I realize that the more secure I feel in my ability to verbally defend myself, the less scared I’ll be of someone finding out about my sex life and the more open I’ll be able to feel with my friends.

One thing that I’ve come to realize is that simply shrugging off demands to “examine my desires” isn’t the best way to deal with things. Oh, don’t get me wrong — it’s what I want to do, of course. My gut reaction to those who suggest that I haven’t “examined my desires” is a resounding “fuck you,” because let’s face it: most of us have done a hell of a lot of self-examination (and often a lot of self-hating) when it comes to our sexuality, and to suggest that we haven’t done so really trivializes the process we have all had to undergo in order to be able to speak openly about our desires in the first place.

But as right and justified as I might be to respond in this way, it doesn’t really get me anywhere if I’m earnestly trying to argue about this issue with someone.

So. First of all, I want to look at some of the responses that I most frequently hear from kinky folks when attacked by anti-kink people: consent, choice, and pleasure. (To be discussed in my next post…)

Rape Play / Forced Submission

(This is something I wrote months and months ago, and forgot about…)

I’ve never really been a fan of the term “rape play.” To me, it’s a self-contradicting term; “rape” describes a non-consensual sexual encounter, while “play” describes a consensual one. In the past, I was also averse to the term because I didn’t feel that it really described the sort of play that my partner and I have talked about and engaged in. As he’s described them to me, my partner’s fantasies of “rape” have always included the knowledge that the other person actually wants it and is really turned on by it, or rather that he’s making the person want it. It’s the “no…no….YES!” fantasy.

In a sense, yes, this is quite similar to a lot of real-life rape scenarios. The rapist’s idea that “aw, c’mon, she really wanted it, even if she said ‘no'” is a cliché at this point, and quite a lot of rape starts out looking like seduction, especially when the person being raped is confused about what she wants and what she SHOULD want. But in a “rape play” scene, of course, the person being “raped” knows what she wants beforehand, and knows, on some level, what’s going to happen in the scene. Is it really appropriate to use a word like “rape,” then, to describe something that’s negotiated, consensual, and (hopefully) mutually enjoyable?

I usually prefer the term “forced submission” to describe the sort of rough sex that usually takes place between me and my partner, a submission that he has to win from me. It’s a fight, a struggle, and a defiant attitude throughout; I swear and bite and curse him. Or, alternately, it’s “seduced submission,” a shyness, with him teasing me and slowly forcing himself upon me, my protests growing weaker as he shows me that I’m really enjoying myself.

On the other hand, some of my experiences with this kind of play has really pushed my boundaries of consent, because such scenes can drop me into a headspace in which I really don’t know what I want. In those times, the play can sometimes seem very real. I start to struggle in earnest, as if I really didn’t want to be touched. It’s when I reach that space, that just-a-little-too-real space, that I get the most turned on. But it’s also when I come dangerously close to breaking down, to getting hurt. I have reached the point, a few times, when I’ve felt for a second like I was actually being forced against my will, like I actually had no choice. Those are the times when I think that “rape play” might actually be a very accurate term. When I think about it, it’s probably more “edge” than anything else we do.

…yet I’m still not comfortable with the term. There’s a nagging feeling I have that using it somehow lessens the meaning of the word; that it belittles the experiences of those who have been raped to say that what I do for pleasure is somehow similar enough to someone else’s traumatic experience to use the same word for it. It creeps me out, a little.