Archive for the ‘Discourse’
I’ve recently begun leading classes and workshops on gender. I have a degree in Gender Studies and am a theory lover and this is something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time but only recently did I get in touch with the right people here in Seattle to make that dream a reality. The more I think about gender the more I realize there is no basis for gender, the more I try to grasp and understand gender the more I realize there is nothing there to hold.
Now, this is not a new concept both in general or to me. As I said, I’ve got a degree in this and I’ve read quite a lot of gender theory and I know the concepts of “gender is constructed” and “all gender is drag,” but for the longest time that didn’t stop me from trying to figure out what gender is. How can we figure out what something is when there is nothing there in the first place?
I’m sure some would say that it’s obvious, that masculinity has to do with maleness and femininity has to do with femaleness, because that’s what we’re told, and that’s supposedly how the world works, but I (and hopefully you) know that is just not true. If it were there would be no instance of female masculinity or male femininity or genderqueerness or third gendered identities or all the other options that we now have words for. If it were true there wouldn’t be examples of trans* people throughout the entirety of human history and pre-history (or at least people who we can put our label of “trans*” on even though they may or may not have had a similar concept).
In looking at, studying, teaching about, dissecting, and attempting to put my own gender back together like some sort of Frankenstein’s Monster creation I came to the only reasonable (in my mind) explanation of what gender is: self expression. But I mean the core of the self, in the same way that art is or can be self-expression. And therefore too, perhaps, is gender art.
Whether or not a gender preference is inherent in all of us could easily turn into some sort of nature vs. nurture debate, but really, since gender is a language and gender changes throughout cultures and time periods there may be activities that we all have some sort of draw to, but I can’t say where that originates.
All I know is that gender is tricky and complex. If we look at it as a language as Riki Wilchins says (“Gender is a language, a system of meanings and symbols, along with the rules, privileges, and punishments pertaining to their use—for power and sexuality (masculinity and femininity, strength and vulnerability, action and passivity, dominance and weakness). Since it is a system of meanings, gender can be applied to almost anything” – Queer Theory/Gender Theory p35) then I think hegemonic socialization only knows enough for us to scrape by, it knows enough to survive but it doesn’t know how to write poetry, and I want to write poetry.
There are new gendered words springing up all the time these days, which I think is wonderful, and anyone constructing their own gendered way of living in the world is doing the work of learning the language, no matter how that gender ends up looking. We are starting to create the rest of the language that we have been missing, or discover the bits of language that have been relegated to the shadows for years. Because of this it is becoming easier to learn how to create our own conscious gender presentations so there are more people doing just that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I call myself, the names I go by. Scarlet Lotus (St. Syr1) for some things, Scarlet Sophia for others, and Scarlet Tai elsewhere. When giving my name I usually say “I’m Scarlet” as opposed to “My name is Scarlet,” a subtle but notable difference. Scarlet is less of a name to me than a title these days, which may sound a little absurd, but that’s how I feel about it. That is a whole other post, however.
The more I think about it the more I wonder about having these different names. I’m beginning to think I just need one that I use for everything, but at the same time that thought makes me nervous. I’ve also begun thinking I need a name for my growing male side. At one point I started using Quyn, but I don’t feel it fits anymore.
In all this thinking I was reminded of a post by Aiden Fyre aka Mina Meow titled What’s in a Name? where they talk about having been born with a bi-gendered (or, other-gendered) name and wonder about that chicken and egg aspect of their gender journey. I was also born with an other-gendered name of which Tai is a nickname, a nickname I’ve been called most if not all of my life. Most people hear the name as Ty, but either way it is usually masculine-gendered. My full name is exceptionally unique easily searchable so I’m not yet comfortable disclosing it on here, perhaps one day that will not be the case.
Point being, however, that Tai feels like home, but now so does Scarlet. I don’t just use Scarlet online, either, most of the people I know here in Seattle know me by that name. At this point I kind of see myself as having a feminine-gendered name of Scarlet, an other-gendered name of Tai, and in need of a masculine-gendered name. Part of this desire for multiple names may be to act as a cue to aid others in understanding my gender at that moment, but at the same time I’m not confident that this is a good idea. It seems like too much work in some ways. At the same time, though, I like the idea of having different names.
I’ve also been feeling a lot more of my male side lately. With the rise in my sex dissonance I’ve come to realize my lack of masculinity. I’m not that interested in being butch or masculine, but I’m interested as presenting as a male, specifically a femme male. I’m feeling more like a femme trans man than I ever have before, and I want a name for that other than Scarlet or Tai. Though maybe I don’t need one.
This all is basically me thinking and analyzing through this post, it’s not any sort of conclusion, just musings. I don’t know how I feel about all of this yet. I don’t know how everything is going to play out yet. I don’t know where this gender journey will lead me. I do know that I have been binding more lately, I haven’t been feeling female but I’ve been exploring the femmeininity that comes up in me when I feel male, which is extremely different. I’m not interested in passing as a woman, in fact I’m sick of it. The problem is that I’m separating maleness from masculinity and that is difficult to present.
I don’t know what to call myself anymore, the name dilemma is only part of the problem. I have been fantasizing about so many new things lately, almost to the point of uncomfortability. I’m still trying to figure it all out.
- though I am moving away from using this as my last name [↩]
This is the eleventh of my 30 Days of Kink, coming after quite a long hiatus. I will be answering each of the thirty questions in different posts. I thought these would be interesting to answer and (hopefully) interesting for you to read. These will be posted in order, but not always back-to-back (as I have shown).
Day 11: What are your views on the ethics of kink?
I’ve been stuck on this question for a while now, partially because I don’t know where to begin there is so much that could be covered with this question so I’m just going to start anywhere and see where this goes.
First, I have to define ethics. Ethics are a type of moral philosophy. In the realm of kink/BDSM/WIITWD1 it can apply to a variety of things but mostly I’m going to talk about the moral philosophy of kinky activity in general. That is how we make sure that the play we engage in is itself ethical.
I’m a firm believer in RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) and SSC (Safe Sane and Consensual) which are both familiar terminology in the BDSM/kink world. They are slightly different but essentially mean the same thing. Some people say RACK is better because some activities–breath play, for example–are rarely if ever “safe” but they can be done in a “risk aware” manner or you can do things to make them “safer”2. Basically this means not engaging in anything without consent or thought. The more you know about what you are doing the less likely you are to make a mistake and actually cause damage.
Consent and intent are what separates bdsm & kink from abuse. Which is also why I have a difficult time playing with anyone who is angry or who has been drinking, as it is far more difficult for the intent to be acceptable to me when either of those have occurred. Mollena wrote an amazing post about intent: “The intention of the person in a Leather or BDSM interaction is mutual satisfaction, whatever form or means that takes. Sometimes it looks so much like an abusive interaction that our only signal is context.”
I agree with her assessment, also, that intent matters far more than consent since so many of us, myself included, love to play with consent and push that line between consent and non-consent. However, if mutual satisfaction is not the intent of the interaction then where is the line between play and abuse? When does it become taking advantage of the other person? It’s called power exchange for a reason. Just like everything there is an exchange: an exchange of enjoyment, energy, pleasure, pain, satisfaction, power, etc.
There are outsiders who think of kink as horrible, wrong, terrifying, and so on simply because they don’t understand this simple difference. They assume that all participants must either have been (sexually) abused when they were a child or victims of patriarchal socialization (especially for female submissives & male dominants), that in order to engage in such practices there must be something wrong with us. Little do they know, playing with power and pain can be a way to empower ourselves, to break away from the socialization, to make up our own minds about what we want, to use a “base” tool (sexuality/sexual interaction) for a “higher” type of liberation3. Of course, not everyone is engaged in kinky activity in search of personal enlightenment but I do think it’s a by-product of it, or at least it can be. This topic is getting away from me a little bit, though, so I will bring it back to ethics.
Part of the appeal of kinky activities is often walking that line between consent and non-consent, between acceptable and too much, testing our limits and finding out if we can handle as much or more than we thought we could. The thrill of it is just as fun as the taboo. In order to play with the edge without going over it requires skill, knowledge, and communication. If the intent is negative or one-sided that makes it far too easy to cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed or do negative damage.
I don’t think I’ve read a better description or example of sex positivity before. It’s clear and concise and isn’t hinged upon using “positive” speech despite the sex-positive name:
Although fewer people would say that “I think anal sex is amazing” is a sex-negative statement, I consider it to be just as problematic as “I think anal sex is gross.” What makes something like this sex-negative isn’t whether one uses a positive or negative adjective. It’s that saying these sorts of things neglects the diversity of sexual experiences and pleasures.
Simply put, these sorts of things aren’t true. Anal sex is gross for some people and amazing for some people and boring for some people and exciting for some people. No matter what word you use to finish the sentence, you’re leaving out many people’s experiences and that is what makes it sex-negative.
On the other hand, when you say something like “I enjoy/dislike/fill-in-the-blank anal sex,” you’re practicing mindful speech. You’re explicitly recognizing that your experience is your own. You’re not making a sweeping statement and you’re not claiming that anyone else should have the same response that you have. It doesn’t matter whether the word you use is positive or negative in this example, either.
Sex-positivity isn’t about enjoying every possible way to have sex. Sex-positivity isn’t about only using positive words when talking about sex.
Sex-positivity is about making room for different people to have wildly different experiences. And in order to do so, we can practice using language that makes room for that. One of the best (and most difficult) ways to do that is to own our experiences and try to not make sweeping statements. It’s simultaneously quite simple and incredibly difficult, which is why so many people seem to not understand it. Well, that and the fact that there aren’t a lot of examples of mindful speech in the media- it doesn’t make for good soundbites. [emphasis mine]
This is from a post by Charlie Glickman on Good Vibrations Magazine called Owning Your Words: Sex-Positivity, Mindful Speech, and Why Some People Don’t Get It. I highly encourage you to read the entire article to get all of it in context, though what I quoted above is the crux of it. He has other awesome points that are just as important, however, so go read. I’ll be here when you get back.
Why does this matter? I’ve considered myself sex-positive for quite some time and this distinction is an important one. I’ve heard people saying that “sex-positivity” is some sort of trend word, which in some ways I think is true. There seems to be a big trend in those who write about sex and sexuality1 to adopt the term “sex-positive” even when it’s clear they know nothing about what it means.
Of course, being sex-positive and confronting your own internalized sex-negativity2 is a continual process, it’s not something you earn like a merit badge that you can then flash at people to prove that you are sex-positive. Saying you’re sex-positive only gets you so far if you don’t walk the walk. I love his point that it’s not about always saying something positive either, despite “positive” being right in the term itself. I think this is something people get hung up on and a very important point to make.
It may be some sort of trendy word to some, but for others of us it is something we strive for.
I found this embedded in a post by maymay and loved it enough to want to share it while I’m working on many other posts. I’m working on some more kink-centered posts, as has been the theme lately, and should have some out soon especially my post about the re-collaring and a bit more on Owner/cuntpet. It’s wicked long, but worth it, if nothing else watch the last five minutes or so, but you should really listen to all of it.
Her conclusions are ideas that have been popping up for me over and over recently. I believe the idea that vulnerability is a strength in and of itself, that vulnerability and being completely autonomous and open and honest is something to strive for. Enjoy.
A couple of my favorite quotes:
“I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthyness but it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love”
“This is what I have found:
to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen;
to love with our whole hearts even though there’s no guarantee, and that’s really hard, I can tell you as a parent that is excruciatingly difficult;
to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror when we’re wondering “can I love you this much? can I believe in this this passionately? can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and instead of catastrophizing what might happen to just say “I/m just so greateful because to feel this vulnerable means I am alive”;
and the last, which I think is the most important is to believe that we’re enough, because when we work from a place that says “I’m enough” then we stop screaming and start listening and we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
I seem to have gotten past the point of trying to nitpick my identities and settled into a space of simply sitting back and enjoying them. That’s not to say that I’m not still analyzing and overanalyzing my identities at the same time, but I’ve gotten out of the “but what does it all mean?” funk that I seemed to be in for the better part of the last year or more. Instead of being obsessed with being seen by others as whatever given identity I want them to see me as I’ve settled into the realization that it’s not a failure on my part if I’m not seen a certain way.
Gender was a great source of questioning and anxiety last year in particular, before that it was my power/bdsm identity, and it seems as with my switch identity I have settled happily into a fluctuating identity. My genders seem to fluctuate greatly, there are times when I feel extremely compelled to present femme, which has been recently, and other times when femme just doesn’t fit as well and I lean toward the boi and fagette. I’m coming to feel like fagette is my home planet and femme and boi are the two I take frequent jaunts to on my spaceship (see: Gender Galaxy), which kind of makes sense in that fagette feels to me to be more androgynous, something else entirely, and closer to my core genderfluid identity than the presentation of femme or boi.
Overall I’m genderfluid, genderqueer, or any of the other words used to describe a non-fixed-in-the-ever-pervasive-binary and non-fixed-in-general gender. I enjoy playing with all types of gender expression. My gender is play. My gender is drag. While gender is definitely more than the clothes we wear that is a huge identifier and I do tend to dress femme most of the time, mostly because skirts are just damned comfortable (especially when you have long labia and multiple labia piercings). I also find it easier to find plus size feminine clothes that I like than plus size masculine clothes that I like. I have these damned hips to thank for that.
Instead of looking at presentation as a way of limiting myself by being unable to present the multiplicity or fluidity of my being I’m simply letting go of those worries about what others might possibly think of me and contenting myself in the knowledge that no one can have a whole idea of who and what I am because that is constantly in motion and constantly changing. If someone chooses to latch on to the idea of me as a fixed identity that is their problem and not mine.
I can content myself in the knowledge that I can be the inspiration for new and ever changing thought processes in others and in myself simply by being myself and allowing myself to be at every moment. I allow myself to simply embrace my identity at any given moment without the hangup of what I felt the last moment or what I might feel a moment from now. It’s truly freeing and inspiring.
I found this via twitter the other day and it struck me, so I wanted to share it and my thoughts on it. This isn’t a new video, it was posted in February of 2009, but it’s new to me and may be new to you. It’s Dan Savage talking about his idea of “The Price of Admission” for long-term relationships and how the best types of relationships are ones that make you better. Watch, enjoy, and see my thoughts under.
This is something Onyx and I have talked about quite a lot, and it’s not a new concept in many ways, but I do think that he is telling it in a way that is just well thought out and excellent. This idea of The Price of Admission really makes sense. With all our happily ever afters we grow up believing that there is some sort of perfect person out there who will fill a piece of ourselves we didn’t know we were missing. Those who grew up cynics like me never really had that fantasy, but I know plenty of people who did. I can’t say I was completely above it either, but being polyamorous definitely helps in that regard as well.
I think it’s part of my poly outlook that compensates partially for this one perfect person trope, since that’s part of the reason I am poly. I don’t believe that one person can complete another, I believe we are complete beings already but that we are all also intertwined and need each other for other reasons, but not in order to be complete. On that line, I do believe that any individual needs more than one interaction, whether or not that is sexual or romantic is another story, but I’m open to the possibility of sexual and romantic partnerships other than the one I have with Onyx, though I’m not actively seeking one right now.
Poly tangent aside and back to The Price of Admission. The PoA is really something everyone does in every kind of long-term relationship, friendships included. We ignore the little things that bug us (as much as we can) and focus on the things we love about the other person. If you are constantly looking for perfection in everyone else most likely you won’t have any friends and you will be a hypocrite. No one is perfect, but I do think that two people can be perfect for each other and fit together well.
I love his theory about the growth that can be inspired by long-term relationships, as I think it is really true and has definitely been proven true in my relationship with Onyx. Through encouraging the person/people you are with to be that lie they wish they were, the person they present in the beginning of courtship when they are trying to woo you as best they can you are then encouraging them to growth and to become that better person. Everyone does this, not just lovers but also friends, and it doesn’t always have to be a lie necessarily, we all have different personae that are still us even if they are ones ignoring the flaws.
It comes out similar to many cliches I’m sure we’ve all heard, such as real friends know everything about you but still like you anyway or there’s no perfect person only those perfect for you. Like Dan says, the most successful long-term relationships are ones in which you don’t just put up with the things that irritate you about your partner, but you actually accept them and make room for them in your relationship.
I was sitting at his feet as we watched a show, the most normal of circumstances, my head resting on his thigh and his hand in my hair, and I came to a micro revelation. This isn’t really new, I’ve written about this same thing before and it’s how Onyx and I have operated for quite a while, but I had not really put the pieces together as to why I’m considered a “bad” submissive by some and why I had such trouble accepting some of the submissive tropes I had heard in the past.
I used to have more trouble submitting than I do now. I was told constantly that in order to submit I must think of my Top/Owner/WhatHaveYou as someone better than myself, higher than myself, someone to look up to not just literally. I was told that in order to be a submissive I must think of myself as less than or inferior.
While I will admit there are things which Onyx is better than me at there are just as many things which I am better than him at. We’re pretty fairly balanced as far as skills and intelligence goes, I believe. For a long while I had trouble with this concept because I was trying to fit our equality, or equity, along lines of a differentiated power dynamic.
It was from me sitting at his feet, my hair being stroked as I laid my head upon his thigh and we both watched the screen before us, that I understood this difference. For me it’s never been about being less than someone else that makes me want to submit, it’s about relinquishing control to another and trusting someone else completely enough to do that. Enjoying being treated like Onyx’s pet or prized possession, has nothing to do with being less than him or inferior to him, but is simply the dynamic we choose to enact.
The power dynamic between Onyx and myself comes from a place of equality. We are equals and because we are equals I can choose to be his property, because I have power I can choose to give that power over to him. If I had no power, if I had no choice, then there would be less enjoyment for both of us. It’s never been about inferiority for us, although there is nothing wrong with playing with that dynamic as well, but it’s just not where either of us live.
When I was having trouble submitting, when we were having trouble with our dynamic, I was told to think of him as better than me, to trust that he knows better than I do or that he is more capable than I am so that he could lead me. I had trouble with this. The real issue that was happening was I didn’t trust him and he didn’t trust himself, so we both were sabotaging the dynamic we both wanted but also feared. What I needed to do was trust that he knew what I wanted and needed and would choose what to give me, not to hold him up as greater than myself as I was told.
Although we play with power and pain there is no inequality in our relationship dynamic, which may sound like an oxymoron. I put my trust in him to take care of me and give me what I need and he puts his trust in me that I will take care of him and give him what he needs. We’re each giving and taking in different ways, but we’re both equally valued and appreciated and both getting and giving.
Perhaps equity is a better term for it than equality. Unfortunately equality comes along with all sorts of connotations that are not necessarily all good. Equality does not mean identicality or sameness, although a lot of people seem to think that is true. Equality doesn’t mean abolishing differences but it’s about celebrating sameness and differences. Really the way I use equality is the same as equity, but for the sake of minimizing confusion I think equity makes more sense in this instance.
Obviously by imposing a power dynamic on our relationship we are not equal in some senses of the word, but our contributions to each other and the relationship are equitable. They are valued the same and we are valued the same because of it. We are equals although we do not always interact in ways typically thought of as equal. We play with inequality in our actions because we are equals in every other way.
My life seems to be shifting in new directions all over the place, and with that comes the need for change in other areas. I have far too many things on my docket and I’ve mentioned before about needing to get organized, unfortunately I can’t seem to do that. It’s a common scenario, and I can blame the last week of non-accomplishment on my mother visiting and doing things with her, but even before that I wasn’t getting everything done that I wanted to.
It would be less of a big deal if I didn’t actually want to change. I’m trying to learn to focus with joy but I seem to not be prioritizing the way I would like to be. How does one get on top of this sort of thing?
On the flip side, I’m thinking about a new name for this blog. Something more androgynous, maybe, or something less identity based. I kind of like the idea of going back to The Feminist Fucktoy, except I’m having some weird feelings about the term feminist lately, mostly it’s connotations. While I think it’s important to reclaim a word I also don’t like the things carried out in the name of feminism that seem overtly non-feminist (in the way I understand it). There’s a longer post in there somewhere, and one I plan on writing… eventually.
What does that mean? The header might change, I might add another URL to the long list of ones that point to this blog, you’ll still be able to find me. My RSS feed will be the same. I just don’t know what I want to change it to. Cuntpet also has it’s draws, not to mention the added bonus of already having the domain, but I’m also currently and often in the mood to have someone call me Daddy, so that would be too limiting and narrow of a title. I want something that is all of me while also being flexible enough to incorporate new aspects as they develop, is that too much to ask? Well, yes.
In other words, don’t be surprised if you come to this blog one day only to discover it has moved to another domain, another phase in the blog complete, shifting in a new-yet-still-the-same direction, letting this blog evolve as I do. In some ways I’m tempted to start over, something new and different, shed this persona that is not separated from me in any way and do something more anonymous, more free. In others, I embrace the brand I’ve built up around myself and want to continue it. I just need a new phrase for this period.