taiWelcome! I’m Tai Scarlet Kulystin, the creatrix of Purveyor of Pleasure. I am a somatic sexuality educator, occultist, professional harlot, and gender & relationships coach. This blog is my personal exploration of gender, sexuality, spirituality, kink, and the pitfalls of an overanalytical nature.

I identify as a queer fat genderqueer polyamorous switch and prefer the pronouns ne/nem/nir or they/them. I spend a lot of my time thinking about sacred sexuality, sacred kink, relationships, the body, queer theory, depth psychology, erotic psychology, sexological bodywork, and so much more. I'm in a long-term live-in relationship with my partner Onyx, and I also have a few other relationships and lovers.
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Archive for the ‘Theory’


11.29

2010

Vulnerability

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”

The end:

“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.”

There Is No Settling Down Without Settling For

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.

11.19

2008

The Only Thing Constant

I have this saying: people never change, they only get more defined over time. I remember coming up with it, though I was sure at the time that someone else had probably said it already, though I haven’t looked it up. It’s part of my belief in the stuff personality psychology spouts, I suppose, though at the time I came up with it I hadn’t yet started my Psychology studies. This was quite a few years ago.

This quote isn’t to say that change doesn’t happen. I have this other phrase I like to quote, this one I lifted from someone, I think my sister said it to me originally: the only thing constant is change. I like the slight paradox of it, as well as how it rings true. I do believe people change all the time too, though in different ways than the first saying implies.

The second quote has to do with the general transitive stuff: thoughts, ideas, appearance, situations, all the stuff that always changes. The first saying is all about the core of the individual, not the outer ideas. I believe as life goes on the core of us doesn’t change dramatically, it just gets better and better defined.

Like a sculpture, we start off as a large piece of whatever rock may hold appeal to each of us: granite, marble, etc. We always have a sculpture inside of us ready to be chipped away at. The image is always there, but perhaps we have the ability to decide on what pose or position the sculpture will be in, though the form will be the same. There is some kernel, some idea of the sculpture inside of the block of stone, only one thing that the sculpture will end up being, but the exact shape and form of the sculpture is dependent on all those around us who help chip away at that block, including ourselves. And the first chips are always the biggest.

I remember being told once about a sculptor who would spend days and days just sitting looking at his giant slab of rock that would once become a beautiful sculpture. When asked what he was doing he would always reply that he was sculpting, even though there were no tools in his hand. He was envisioning the possibilities and figuring out what it was that rock wanted to become before he even started chipping away at it to form it into a new whole. I don’t remember who that sculptor was, so if you know/can find out I’d be appreciative, but the message remains the same.

Change is inevitable, but there is some sort of wonderful mesh of nature and nurture that helps us continuously evolve into what it is that we become, and I’m not sure we ever get to become in this lifetime. Maybe.

Kinky vs. Queer vs. Straight Sex

Something I’ve been thinking of a lot lately has been the differences between “types” of sex and sexual intimacy and encounters. It’s something that both The Leather Daddy and the Femme and PoMoSexuals made me think about a lot, because they both talked about male-female sexual interaction in a non-straight or non-hetero way. They recognized that males and females can interact sexually with each other in a queer way.

One of the main purposes of queer theory is actually to highlight and embrace the fact that no sex is normal/vanilla/straight, or, really, the opposite is emphasized: that all sex is queer. Very little aside from heterosexual missionary for-procreation-only sex is considered acceptable by our fucked up society, while the majority of people have sex that could not be categorized within that extremely narrow social definition.

Granted, ideas of acceptable sexuality have been evolving lately, but I wouldn’t say other types of sex have become any more acceptable, they’re just recognized as “what everyone does” which isn’t exactly an endorsement, though I’ll admit that my vision on this may be skewed by the last two years living in Utah. However, I really don’t think it’s just Utah talking.

So what’s the big difference between queer sex and straight sex? Aside from the usual definition of the sex of the partners (but that also brings into question is it the sex or the gender that matters?) it’s subtle, and may have a lot to do with intention. Can queer hetero sex include missionary sex? I say of course! The wonderful thing about the orbit(/label) queer is that it is very open to interpretation.

Most often the participants of queer sex are queer people, but that brings into the question of what makes someone a queer person. I’d argue that anyone outside of the norm of society is queer in some way, although not everyone would see it that same way. Queer is an important label for same-sex/gender-loving people to embrace, definitely, but I also think queer moves beyond that label as well.

If we define queer as what it’s not, meaning not normal, just about everyone would be able to be labeled queer. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met a normal person in my life, society perpetuates this idea of normalcy, but that doesn’t mean it exists anywhere, and usually those who think they are normal would not be considered normal by others, so where does that leave us?

Personally I dislike the term ‘normal’ for a variety of reasons, including the fact I have a degree in Psychology, but also because I have never believed that normal exists. People are just too damn individualistic for anyone to fit into a stereotypically cookie cutter image of what we are told we should be. Granted, this is a very western concept.

Back to queer sex vs. straight sex: personally I believe there is a different feeling to queer sex than there is to straight sex (though I try not to have straight sex at all, but every once in a while my sex slips into the realm of less-queer). Queer sex just feels a little, well, queer. It feels subversive and non-normal, even if it is normal to us and our bodies and desires. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with non-normal, quite the contrary, I think it’s necessary.

Queer sex, to me, can happen between people of any sex or gender. The times I feel my sex is slipping into less-queer territory are those instances when Onyx and I have had quickie sex in nearly missionary position (I say nearly because my legs are up and not flat) with little foreplay and sometimes little attention paid to me. This has only happened infrequently, and usually when we’re both tired but wanting sex. I consider it far from the queerer sex we have which includes toys, various positions, or me fucking him rather than him fucking me.

That’s not to say that just anyone who doesn’t have missionary sex is having queer sex, although that is one possible definition. As I mentioned above I believe there has to be some sort of queer intent, though that is a very broad topic and definition. Also, I think queer sex must also occur between queer people, though that definition is also very broad and open to interpretation.

Now to throw kinky sex into the mix. Kinky sex can be defined in a similar way to queer sex in that it can be defined by what it isn’t, and what it isn’t is vanilla, or normal, but see my dialogue about normalcy? Is there really any such thing? What do we consider to be not kinky?

Perhaps I should define kinky in a way other than exclusion, though I’m not sure how to do that because it is also subtle and it depends entirely on perspective and personal definition. I posit that just as most people could be deemed queer due to having anything other than narrowly-defined non-queer sex that most people could be deemed kinky for having anything other than narrowly-defined non-kinky sex.

That, or we just need to get rid of these labels all together, but that brings me to another theory on labels: that we must define them then broaden them in order to be able to abolish them, so perhaps that’s what I’m working on doing right now!

And what about the quote in the image above? Is anything you do really only kinky the first time, because after you do it that desensitizes you to it, making you think less of the kink factor of it and more of the enjoyment of it? That makes sense in some ways, and it’s been my experience that people tend to measure others against their own experiences rather than the so-called “normal” experience expectation.

However, what constitutes kinky sex? For some it would be using toys and props such as dildos, vibrators, restraints, or blindfolds; for others it would be engaging in “extreme” activities such as S&m, D/s, watersports, or enemas; for others threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes are kinky. Just like queer sex, there is a wide range of what could be considered kinky sex, and it all depends on the person putting that label on it. I do believe that kinky sex has an intention behind it, just like queer sex does, but it is also just as difficult to pin down.

What I’m trying to say is that there are definitely differences between these three “types” of sexual interaction, and none of them are better or worse than others as long as you are interacting the way you enjoy and desire to interact. I’m not saying that straight sex is bad, though I do wonder how many people actually have it. I am saying that more people have queer sex than most people may think, but I’m also saying that labels and definitions such as queer and kinky are difficult to pin-down, and perhaps shouldn’t be pinned down.

07.08

2008

Labels: Useful but Often Problematic

I posted much of this (though not all of it) on my BDSM Theory group on FetLife last night. The post is here though I believe you have to be logged in to read it. On to the ideas.

I believe that labels are like nearly everything else: they have a purpose, but they are often used incorrectly. When thought of as finite and static they lose their purpose. The purpose of labels is to define someone at one particular moment in time.

We are ever-changing and ever-growing creatures. As is said: the only thing constant is change. Most contemporary psychological personality theory centers around the fact that personality changes over time and through different experiences and situations. There may or may not be some basic tenets to the personality and there may or may not be a biological component (as is debated often ad nauseam). However, just about everyone agrees that there are significant changes which happen over time in personality.

So, why would we want to think of ourselves in static finite terms? We wouldn’t! What fun would that be, to box ourselves in to one term or another, and yet we do it all the time. What are labels but nouns and adjectives? What are roles that we subscribe to but labels? The trap of labels is to believe that they are finite and never-changing, this is true of nearly any label.

The idea that we so often miss is that labels are a category, but not a be all and end all of what one person is or is not.

An example: you order a burger at a restaurant. While this is a burger, it could be made of beef, turkey, chicken, soy, vegetables, black beans, or something else entirely. It could come with: lettuce, tomato, onion, mushrooms, pickles, garlic, pastrami, bacon, swiss cheese, cheddar, pepper jack, provolone, smoked gouda, or any number of toppings. It could also have: mayo, mustard, ketchup, ranch, hummus, barbecue sauce, or any number of sauces. It could be served on: whole wheat, white, sesame seed, rosetta… I think you get my point. These combinations create an almost infinite number of variations under the common label of “burger.” So it is with any label.

Just because someone adopts the label of “queer,” for instance, or “slave” it does not mean that anyone else who inhabits these labels looks at all like this person. This queer slave could be male, female, transgendered, transsexual, masculine, feminine, genderqueer, etc. and may be a service slave, a sexual slave, both service and sexual, a brat, part-time, 24/7, a pro slave, live-in, or some combination thereof. This person could have various fetishes such as humiliation, force, objectification, boots, heels, non-sexual service, rope bondage, metal bondage, pain, or anything else. This person in other aspects of life could be a CEO, an artist, an auto mechanic, a teacher, a writer, a sys admin, a starship captain, or anything else.

I think you see my point with that as well. Labels are good for describing generic categories which someone is part of or embraces, but are not good for getting a specific idea of what the person is like, or even what they think, do, or feel. They give a general idea about one general area of a person, but everything else is up for grabs.

While I think we all know this to an extent, it is hard to get away from automatic categorization and stereotyping. I will be the first to admit that I often fall prey to stereotypes, though I have been working to train myself to ignore them, they are so ingrained in us that it is nearly impossible to get out of them. If we were to see someone was a 20 year old straight female slave, for example, I’m sure just from those four descriptors most everyone who read them formed an idea of the person. Even I did.

I think that labels are useful and necessary, and I definitely have a sort of OCD tendency to nitpick my own labels (so far as I have created my own label for myself as well) in order to best explain and express myself to the world, just as you said.

My point is that labels are often attached to other labels, when that may not always be the case, such as the thinking that if someone is x, y, and z, therefore they must also be a, b, and c.

03.09

2008

Degradation

Foucault, in an interview in Salmagundi, said “Men think that women can only experience pleasure in recognizing men as masters”(1) (talking about cisgendered regular men who buy into the compulsory misogynist hegemonic paradigm, of course). He also, in the same interview, “praises sado-masochistic practices for helping homosexual men (many of whom share heterosexual men’s fear of losing their authority by “being under another man in the act of love”) to “alleviate” the “problem” of feeling “that the passive role is in some way demeaning”(2). The article this was in, by Leo Bersani, was one I had to read for my Queer Theory class. Bersani basically says that Foucault is wrong, and that the point of the “passive” or bottom or powerless role is that it is degrading and it should be valued as degrading. I think they’re both right.

In some ways, the point of submission, the point of putting oneself in the powerless role, is the ability to feel that loss of control, the ability to not have to think, but it also is a way to grow. Though experiencing degradation (and I don’t mean specifically degradation play, I mean degradation in the sense of being “reduced in rank, position, reputation, etc.” (3), which is, the way Bersani used it as well) one is able to find out what is truly valued as well as truths about the self which may not be known any other way. When one is reduced to a state of powerlessness, that is when one is degraded, there is a vast amount which one can learn about oneself. In this way it should be valued as degrading, as Bersani said, but viewing it in that light can also take away from the fact that it is degrading and demeaning, as Foucault said.

There is great power in submission and powerlessness, and great value in it. However, I wonder if it is the ability to be powerful or powerless at will that makes this more valuable. That is, if one is always powerless, constantly powerless, and unable to change their power for some reason or another would the worth of powerlessness be able to be seen, or since it is simply the way that one has to be would it not have the same kind of value? I’m honestly not sure. I’m also not sure if there is a situation where power could never change, never being so absolute. I think this is a catch in/emphasis of my power drag theory as well.

Since bdsm is power drag, and power drag is emphasizing the non-essential nature of power dynamics, that power dynamics are ever present, and that power is fluid and changeable, what would it mean if there were situations where power was never able to change? Like I said, I’m not sure if there are instances of this, but there probably are. Though, looking at gender drag and mirroring it, I’m sure there are situations where people feel like there is no way they would want to or could change their gender, so this might not be much of a snag after all.

(1) “Sexual Choice, Sexual Act: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” Salmagundi, nos. 58-59 (Fall 1982-Winter 1983), p. 21.
(2) Bersani, Leo. “Is the Rectum a Grave?” The MIT Press October, 1987 p.212-213.
(3) “degraded – Definitions from Dictionary.com

12.04

2007

Rhetorical Gymnastics

Postmodernism is “ultimately meaningless rhetorical gymnastics” according to some.

Yes, yes it is. And I love it.

This was posted on another site, apparently this is what it used to say before a rewrite?
“Postmodernism’s proponents are often criticised for a tendency to indulge in exhausting, verbose stretches of rhetorical gymnastics, which critics feel sound important but are ultimately meaningless. (Some postmodernists may argue that this is precisely the point). calum, from wikepedia, Feb 19,2005″

Lovely.

11.29

2007

Power Drag

This is just a draft, I’m working on organizing my ideas of this, once I get it down perfectly I’m going to post it to communities and such.

This concept was actually the idea of Lisa Diamond, Ph.D, a professor of mine here at the University of Utah. We were talking about BDSM in my Gender and Sexual Orientation class yesterday, and this is a concept which she came up with.

What does it mean?
The term “power drag” is playing on the same idea as gender drag is, most notably Judith Butler’s idea of performativity, that all gender is drag, all gender is constructed “woman is to drag not as original is to copy, but as copy is to copy. all gender is drag” (paraphrased). This does this by showing that gender is simply a performance, and regardless of the body that masculinity or femininity is placed upon it is still masculinity and femininity.
What power within BDSM and specifically D/s or M/s relations does is emphasize the power dynamics between the two people, going to one extreme of power, with absolute power and absolute submission, it is showing that power is a performance, and without an exchange of power no power can be gained or lost. Power drag shows that there is no natural power dynamic between people just as there is no natural gender.
However, just as one cannot escape gender, one cannot escape power dynamics either, but power drag brings awareness to the power dynamics between all people, not just people within BDSM relationships. It shows the constructedness of “natural” power, such as white dominance or male dominance, even when it is a white male dominating a non-white female there is still a choice being made as opposed to blindly accepting the dominance of the white male. Most obviously this constructedness or non-naturalness is shown when a female dominates a male or when a non-white person dominates a white person, or any other inequalites (age, class, ability, etc.).

Why is it important?
By exposing the non-naturalness of power dynamics between people we can begin to play with power (though we in BDSM have been doing that for a long time now already) and we show how power is fluid, and power dynamics can change from moment to moment. The realization of power drag could help both with keeping roles within relationships strict or being able to relax the usually strict roles within our relationships.

Gender drag is to Gender as Power drag is to Power?

What else? I’m sure there’s more I can/should talk about. What kinds of questions do you all have about this? What else should be included in a conceptualization of power drag? What else do I need to discuss?
This is so huge and I’m so excited by it that I don’t quite know how to cover everything or what I’m missing.