Tag Archives: kink

Review: Show Yourself to Me

show yourself to me by xan west coverI can honestly say that I’ve never read an erotica collection like this before. To me, this book is to other pieces of BDSM erotica as the full, messy, grown-up experience of BDSM play and practice is to the overblown kinky erotica fairytales I read at thirteen in the early days of the Internet, about ravishment as romance and mysterious silent doms who could somehow know everything about their submissives without asking and effortlessly make them fly. As Annabeth Leong writes in the book’s introduction, “[Show Yourself to Me] is about knowing that BDSM really can make you fly, but remembering how sore your muscles may be afterward from the effort of pumping your wings.”

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The Kinky Side of Twine

I was first introduced to Twine games only last year, when I sat down to review Merritt Kopas’s Consensual Torture Simulator. While this is that review, I’ve also in the long time between playing that game and getting a chance to write this come upon several other games in the fairly specific genre of kinky interactive fiction. Interactive fiction games, generally written using a platform called Twine, fall into a niche that seems to appeal especially to queer audiences and others exploring “alternative” modes of sexuality through writing games. This is a genre that plenty of us nerdy queers are hungry for, but it takes a moment to get used to the conventions of Twine and understand what you’re doing, exactly, when you play a Twine game.

On the plus side, Twine games are typically under $5 and easy to play on any computer. They’re also (or at least seem, from a consumer point-of-view) fairly simple to create in a technical sense, which makes them accessible to those looking to tell a story outside the mainstream without a ton of resources to do so. If you’re looking for more on Twine in general, Kopas has curated a book on the subject, Videogames for Humans. The basic idea, though, is that the game itself is a series of screens with text, hyperlinks, and sometimes images. Like a choose your own adventure novel, you follow the often-branching path the author has created for you by clicking on the links and seeing where the creator’s imagination takes you. Here, I’m particularly interested in how game creators are helping their readers to engage with kink through the medium.

[talk of NSFW content behind the cut]

Continue reading The Kinky Side of Twine

I’m Doing a Thing! Submissive Playground Starting Soon

banner reading Submissive Playground: Your Subby Summer School Starts in July...Come Play With Us!So I’ve been reviewing sexuality and erotica books for a while now, and I’m also looking into opportunities to review toys. But to be perfectly honest, books and toys aren’t where my most amazing sexuality and relationship-related experiences come from, and the same is probably true for you. To add to this part of the site, I’ve been wanting to write about sexuality and relationship experiences: things I can review that are interactive, interesting, and available for you to find out there when you’re looking to go a little deeper in your sexuality and relationship exploration.

The good news is that just such an experience showed up in my inbox recently, and so I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reviewing friend and fellow educator Sinclair Sexsmith’s Submissive Playground, an 8-week e-course that stars in July. Here’s how Sinclair describes the course:

Submissive Playground is an online course with five live calls, eight weeks of creative, sexy explorations, and four learning modules—Bondage, Discipline, Service, and Masochism—all with the goal to take your submission deeper. And, you’ll get to explore it in community, making friends with other s-types through the course, and learning from each other. The entire course is online, and done within your own levels of comfort. Registration is open at www.submissiveplayground.com.

If you’d like to participate alongside me, registration is still open until June 30th (that’s this coming Monday), and there’s a sliding scale that includes a package as low as $150 for the eight weeks. I look forward to letting you know what this new-to-me journey is like!

Can Kinky Play and Fantasies Be a Healthy Place to Play Out Identity-Based Fears?

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop on extreme play and playing with fear. The audience was entirely queer, and when we were were asked to list some fantasy scenarios in the realm of the class, participants eventually moved beyond more general fantasies such as rape, torture, and playing with phobias and into fantasies involving homophobia, transphobia, bashing, and rape scenes with a specific queer-shaming component.

Perhaps this is surprising in a room full of mostly healthy, sex-positive, self-actualized queers, but I actually find it to be a fairly predictable direction for fantasies to go. When relieved of the need to be okay with something actually happening, it seems fairly normal for fantasies to tend towards the taboo, and perhaps especially towards the directly personal taboo. After all, those of us who are marginalized in some way spend much of our days dealing with people being jerks about our identities or simply exercising privilege, explaining our identities to others, setting boundaries, commiserating with similarly-identified friends, etc. For many of us, one or more identities are constantly on our minds, whether that’s our preference or not, and we spend a lot of time policing what’s okay with reference to our identities. We may also spend a lot of time being policed by those in and out of our identity group–“are you just going to let that slide?” “You need to spend more time on activism!” “Before you have sex, be sure to negotiate language around your body, or they’ll walk right over you.”

Continue reading Can Kinky Play and Fantasies Be a Healthy Place to Play Out Identity-Based Fears?

De-Centering Orgasm and Talking About Erotic Pleasure

I had an interesting conversation recently with an older cis male friend about orgasms and difficulty achieving orgasm. I was explaining how my difficulties with goal-oriented partner sex have changed the way I think about sex—placing a lot of value, for example, on finding erotic pleasure through kink or non-genital sensation or other experiences. I also explained that though I’ve had these paradigm shifts around orgasm, I still find physical limitations frustrating when it comes to negotiating with a new partner or trying to have a fulfilling sexual experience. In turn, my friend told me a little about some of the difficulties he’s been experiencing with orgasm, and I realized that I had made a fundamentally flawed assumption—namely, that a cis male sexual partner would necessarily expect orgasm to be involved, or expect certain types of sexual touch, and that an encounter without these involved would be less satisfying for him.
Though in the case of my friend, there was a factor that might mediate that assumption (age), even in the case of a younger man my assumption wouldn’t necessarily be true. Yet I find that no matter how much we talk in sex-positive communities about revolutionary sex and untangling sexual scripts, it’s still easy to make the assumption that everyone else (or in this case, cis men, a particular subset of “everyone else”) is “normal” and we are “abnormal.” This can be a difficult lesson to absorb when we’re feeling shy about discussing our experiences, ashamed of our body’s performance, guilty that we’re not willing to perform certain sexual acts with a partner, etc. And in the kinky context, I think we sometimes lump “sex” into a particular box—while we may be willing to negotiate other practices with few assumptions, asking questions about what a particular partner likes and to what degree and in what context, sex is a bit different. We might be more likely jump to apologetic language when talking about sexual boundaries, as if that category of things is something that we’re expected to like as a unit, rather than being just as nuanced as any other set of activities. Of course, this comes from expectations that carry over from mainstream society. Everyone is supposed to like sex, and so there can be a lot of internalized shame around not liking it, or not finding certain acts erotic or something to aspire to, or finding other acts more erotic than those categorized as “sex.”
I’m thinking now about the language of pleasure and eroticism, and how those of us who might have particularly high walls around acts categorized generally as “sex” can negotiate erotic encounters using that language rather than the language of sexuality. For example, “pain is erotic for me, more so than genital touch.” Or “I find that the connection and energy exchange in a scene brings me a lot of pleasure, and I’d like to experience that with you—a lot of kissing and firm sensation will really get me there.” It’s still a good idea to mention sexual limits, as it is any limit, but a good exercise for those who’ve experienced these issues might be to practice using this kind of neutral language to describe them.  “I feel most comfortable if we both keep our [clothes/underwear/pants] on, and I’d like to experience a cathartic release through pain if we can get there. That’s not erotic for me, but more about the flow of energy and letting out some of the stress I’m experiencing. How does that sound for you?”  Or: “I’m thinking that I’d really like to get some erotic energy out giving you a massage tonight. Massage can be really erotic for me, more so than playing with my genitals. I’ll need to be physically close to you afterwards, and I’m comfortable helping you get off if that’s something that you want. Would you be comfortable with that?”
This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.

Coming Out Kinky

Recently on Fearless Press, Viola wrote a post called Pissing on the Oyster about the idea that kinky people should come out as kinky to increase acceptance of kinky sexualities.  Viola does a great job in that post of covering the legal and lifestyle ramifications of coming out as kinky, and I wanted to add a voice to the chorus and talk a little bit about why I have a problem with the idea of “coming out” in the first place.

Coming out can be an empowering experience.  I know many queer people for whom coming out was a blessing, a way to find community, and a way to feel more comfortable in their own skin.  Throughout my own teenage years and early twenties, I found coming out (as bisexual, then as lesbian, as feminist, as queer) to be important because my gender and sexuality were huge parts of how I identified as well as huge parts of my activism.

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Does Sexual Identity Make Physical Attractiveness Less Important?

I’ve been asking myself this question, because I’ve been thinking about the difference in how I’ve seen people relate, and go about dating, in the “vanilla” world versus those who claim a queer or alternative sexuality.  My theory is limited at best, I know, but I think that the more of those badges you put on yourself, and the more corresponding requirements you ascribe to a future relationship or sexual partner, the less of a role physical attractiveness plays (at least, some of the time and for some people).

The thing is, belonging to a subculture does limit your dating pool quite a bit.  When I look for a partner, sexual or otherwise, I’m looking for someone who is queer, interested in genderqueer folk and those who have the vulva-and-breasts combination of body parts, kinky and dominant, poly or open to someone who is non-monogamous, and willing to practice safe sex even in the absence of a penis.  I very rarely meet anyone fitting this description in my day-to-day encounters, and it does mean that a certain amount of talk is required before any sex–but also that I can pretty clearly enumerate at least the basics of what I’m looking for in a sexual partner.

If I contrast this to my experience in the heterosexual, vanilla dating world, I’m struck by how much more physical attraction seemed to enter into the picture there.  Currently, it’s low on the totem pole because the people I’m most physically attracted to are unlikely to line up with the above list of essentials.  Before I had this list in hand, physical attraction was a big part of narrowing down the dating field.  If 50% or so of the population is theoretically available to you (narrowed somewhat due to who’s available for dating/sex, but you’re still probably looking at 5-10% of the population, which is a lot of people), then you need something other than labels or identities to go by.  Of course, you can easily end up with a very attractive person that you’re not compatible with in bed, and this is why I actually kind of like my list, even though I’m not a huge fan of labels.  I’ve had enough sex where I was just mentally hoping and praying to have my hands held above my head, my queerness accepted, any little fragment of sexual desire met.  I think it would be helpful if “vanilla” and “straight” people interrogated their sexual desires and then figured out frank, shorthand ways to find sexual partners based on whatever desires are most important to them.  Maybe if this was the norm–if sex positivity and frank discussion about sex were also the norm–physical attractiveness would be phased out as the assumed method of identifying a potential partner in our society.  And I think that would be a step in the right direction.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.

Are Some Sexual Positions Inherently Demeaning?

There was a mention in the book I’m reading about Greek vase paintings, and a particular image of a woman performing fellatio on a man while another man penetrates her from behind, possibly anally, with a hand on her hair.  In the book, this is used as an illustration of how particular demeaning sexual positions were available only with particular classes of women in Ancient Greece.  I don’t doubt that this was the case in Greece, as everything I’ve come across in my studies of Greek and Roman sexuality (admittedly, that was a while ago) suggested that sexual relationships were heavily regimented based on the positions of the partners.  However, it got me thinking about that particular position in modern parlance, and the meanings ascribed to it.

I’ve seen a moderate amount of pornography in my lifetime, so I’m no expert, but what I have seen of this configuration (one partner fucking from the rear, another receiving fellatio) in porn tends to fall under a particular formula that does suggest at least some level of shame inherent to the position.  In heterosexual porn, I’ve seen it used with two men and a woman where either the men are using explicitly humiliating language to demean the woman during the act, or alternatively the men seem to be using the woman as a vessel for their desire for each other (basically ignoring her).  In gay male porn, I’ve seen it mostly in a gang-bang situation, where the bottom is portrayed as particularly eager but there’s still an implication that he’s a slut and there’s some inherent meaning to the position.

Continue reading Are Some Sexual Positions Inherently Demeaning?

Sexuality Is Not a Linear Progression

I’ve written before about the coming out model and how it falls flat, especially in the developing world, because it’s very much based on Western notions on gender and sexuality (and specifically American/European, white, middle class notions).  But it’s also a pretty shitty model in the US, and I think it leads to a lot of problems because queer people end up with the expectation that there should be one formative moment, the “coming out” moment, and then they should know their sexuality, and if they change identifiers, or deviate in terms of who they date or have sex with, it’s a bad thing.  Words like “confused,” and more harshly, “betrayal,” come to mind.

The same is true, I think, in kinky communities.  I’ve come across this idea a number of times that a kinky person is supposed to go through a certain progression in terms of sexual awareness.  First there are inklings that one might like some type of kinky sex, whether very early on or later.  Then there’s the research phase, these days probably mostly online.  Then, at some point, there’s an expectation that you go out into that kinky community, meet people, possibly at sex-free social events, but at some point there is a critical threshold that leads to Comfort at Play Parties.

Of course, not everyone falls into this model.  If you don’t it can be frustrating, for example, to mention that you haven’t actually had very kinky sex before and then have recommendations for 101 resources thrown at you.  Well-meaning, certainly, and the resources may be great, but I always find it kind of funny.  Kinky awareness is not the same thing as kinky activity.

It’s also a bad idea to suggest to someone that public scening is a natural point in the kinky progression, and that if they aren’t comfortable with this sort of space, they just haven’t “arrived” in their kinky evolution.  Not everyone is comfortable with public sex or scening.  Even very sex-positive, sex-aware people can prefer to engage in sex only in private, or only in relationships, or both.  There are many, many ways to skin a cat.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.