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Internal Disappointment Processing

Self-awareness is a grand thing that cannot be over-emphasized as we interact with the world around us.  However, some people, including myself, who make this a priority, tend to skew the viewpoint a little toward whatever story they want the world to know about them.  Inevitably, with all of us, we end up with blind spots that trip us up and end up impacting others.  That blind spot is usually obvious once we recognize it for what it is: a struggle within to reconcile and identify the source emotion.

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So let’s just attack my blind spot emotion: Disappointment.  Disappointment is a close friend with regret.  However, regret is the disappointment that we apply to our own actions  and disappointment is what we apply to others’ actions.  Disappointment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s often the result of creating and sustaining expectations that another will act the way that we thought they should or would.  In order to identify a feeling as disappointment you have to:

a) recognize that you had expectations;

b) believe you deserved or had good reason to have those expectations;

c) placed trust in someone else to meet those expectations;

d) relied on that person’s implied, express or assumed promise to fulfill those expectations; and

e) experienced a failure of someone to meet those expectations.

Disappointment can be general (“I’m disappointed I didn’t get any email today”) or specific (“I’m disappointed that my husband forgot our anniversary”).  Disappointment carries a deeper attachment to the result or even the process than ordinary breaches of social protocol.  It is personal and yet sometimes we judge ourselves for reacting to something so seemingly simple.

Disappointment is a blind spot for me because I rarely believe (b), that I deserve or have good reasons to expect anything.  I feel that undeservinginess so deeply that I have adjusted my whole life around that basic concept so I never have to feel disappointment in another human being. And like most things it was influenced by some distinct event at an impressionable time.

ImageTake my birthday for example.  I typically don’t celebrate my birthday and instead have replaced it with a spiritual ritual practiced in solitude.

Yet, I remember making a distinct choice to stop any public celebration of my birthday on my 16th birthday.  This was the birthday where my boyfriend ditched me to have a drugged-out one night stand with a co-worker. I swallowed the disappointment, the heartbreak because I felt so unworthy of the expectation of fidelity or honesty or to be special on my 16th birthday. And I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to be hurt like that again so i prohibited any celebration by family and friends from that time forward.

What is the old saying? If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. Right?

(SIDE NOTE: I made an exception for my 21st birthday which ended up in that boyfriend dumping me just minutes after I turned 21 and was waiting for him to show up so we could go to the bar for my first legal drink.)

So here I am almost twenty years later. I can say with some certainty that I was completely reasonable to expect my boyfriend to spend my birthday with me as he promised instead of cheating on me. But that realization doesn’t change the new traditions I have created around this day for me.  Disappointment was the fuel to that fire; but denial and avoidance of disappointment has ensured that there are no birthday parties, no presents, no cards, no celebratory drinks or revelry of any kind.   Avoid disappointment,? Check.  Avoid any chance to feel special and included? Fail.

Expectations are a bitch, because it’s entirely out of your control whether people meet them. And people give you excuses that seem reasonable at the time.  But instead of owning up to the fact that I feel hurt or let down, I swallow it down where I plot my next attempt to circumvent any future disappointment

So how to fix it?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Admit to yourself that the icky mix of anger and sadness you feel is disappointment. Write it down and burn it if you’re afraid of letting anyone know you feel this. But say or write the words at least.
  • Practice telling the other person when you feel disappointed for small things.  Like when they text to tell you that they won’t be able to make it to dinner tonight because they’re sick, text back  “aww…I’m disappointed I won’t see you tonight.  Take good care of yourself”
  • Recognize and relate to their own humanity.  Trust me, as a human being you’ve done something, big or small, to disappoint another human being. Remember what caused that person’s disappointment and apply it to your own now.  Was it a miscommunication?  An assumption?  A crooked sense of priorities?  Stress? Excuses or not, these play into all of our interactions.
  • Express your disappointment. It doesn’t have to be a drag out fight.  But instead find an opportunity soon after the event in question to tell the person you were disappointed by something they did or didn’t do and how things can be better in the future.  Make it an honest exchange of information.  Yes, you will hear excuses or rationale, some of which are totally understandable, but just as importantly they will hear it from you directly how you feel and what you’d like them to do differently in the future.
  • Check but don’t eliminate all of your own expectations. There are times that our expectations can be pretty unweildy and can set everyone on edge (think Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada). If you’re noticing an increase in agitation or stress with the people you rely on, you may want to double check that you’re not asking the impossible and scale it back just a little bit.
  • Arrange regular time to check in about promises, rules, expectations in a relationship. Having a regular check-in with a partner, loved one or even co-worker about what expectations are on the table, what’s working and what’s not can be enormously helpful.  Don’t wait until there is a history of consistent fuck-ups, instead check in early and often (like every 2-3 months) to make sure each party knows what is expected of them.
  • Trust again. Maybe not the same people as before, but trust that your needs and desires are worthy.  It is amazing how less disappointment haunts me and hurts me now that I’ve started trusting that the world isn’t out to get me.  .

And the biggest show of that trust in my life? After twenty years of solitary suffering, I am actually going to celebrate my birthday!  Bring it on!

A Non-Con Weiner: The Bigger Danger

There are a 1001 posts rolling around in my head right now ranging from a critical assessment of the pejorative “self-indulgence” to the Pope’s recent statements about homosexuality.  But since I’m running a facilitated conversation about consent practices in the kink community within the next week, issues about consent are more prominent for me.  And where have consent issues been most irksome and public is with the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal.

Carlos Danger isn’t the big problem  

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In almost everything that I’ve read reporters and media treat this as yet another scandal.  They cover the texts and explicit images that were traded with women and his brazen defiance to prevailing political wisdom’s call for him to step down from the NYC mayor’s race with equal amounts shock and consternation. And while I agree with the political analysis of this, most commentators focus on the sex 

addiction (which is questionable) or the Carlos Danger = bad decision-making aspects.  Yet, they continue to miss the dangerous and pervasive cultural point that has a greater impact on his qualifications as a leader: Weiner is the equivalent of the creepy trench coat guy who got caught and expects us to give him a free ride.  And this troubling predatory behavior that has become all too commonplace and excusable.

The Stranger Danger

Do not think for a moment I’m referring to two sex partners, romantic partners or even occasional fuck buddies who consensually

exchange explicit texts or pictures.  And at least some of the women Weiner has texted with over the years were certainly consensual.  See, my issue isn’t with the “terrible decision-making” that would make his run for mayor questionable.  Nor is it the fact that he’s unapologetic about the impact on his wife or family.

It’s the fact that on at least one of those occasions and possibly more, he has sent those pictures and sexually explicit messages unsolicited. And it’s this level of aggressive and needy boundary pushing that makes it scary that he would be in a position of real power over New York City (or any agency for that matter) much less the obvious disrespect he has for the women he was doing this to after only a few messages sometimes.

And right now, the people who are raising this important consent issue are bloggers at Shakesville and Yes Means Yes blog but not the reporters, the politicos or the public who will get to ignore him at the polls.  And ever since I encountered another post from Yes Means Yes blog about the unsolicited cock photo is really about pushing boundaries, I have been starting to look at online behavior in a much different way.   And that level of boundary pushing nags at my mind throughout this latest scandal.

I agree with the bloggers and and tend disagree with the media and most of the opinion gurus, who come close without ever delving into the troubling behavior:

Weiner, who seems to have sent at least one illicit photo to a woman without any encouragement whatsoever, seems to have a thing for exhibitionism. Some might see in his behavior the online equivalent to donning a raincoat in an alleyway and flashing women who walk by, but others suggest he represents something else: A man whose deviance could only exist in the online world, which makes spontaneous flashing possible without the effort involved in the more traditional variety. “I’d bet my whole Ph.D. that he wouldn’t be standing on a corner doing that,” notes Barry McCarthy, a sex and marital therapist, and professor of psychology at American University.  – Bianca Bosker, Huffington Post

And yet doing it online relieves him of facing the immediate reaction where he otherwise would likely face inevitable punch in the face or the audible horror screams at his deflating schlong. For me this goes beyond mere thrill seeking or “exhibitionist” behavior.  It’s still non-consensual.

But more than that, I think Melissa McEwan at Shakesville really hits the nail on the head with this piece of wisdom :

He has repeatedly used his position, privilege, power, and access to solicit the sexual attentions of young women who do not have anything like the kind of position, privilege, power, and access he has. He isn’t interested in an equal. He is, when necessary, indifferent to consent.

Let’s be real about what sexual predators are about.  This isn’t about sex.  This isn’t about getting off.  This isn’t about pursuing a relationship.  This is about establishing an imbalance of power and control.  In this situation, Weiner was the guy in charge.  Making promises and pushing the boundaries of women online, escalating the pressure and pleading for acceptance of his wildly inappropriate behavior.

Flasher in Trench CoatThe Real Danger
But this wildly inappropriate behavior is so commonplace that it’s become cliche to pretty much any woman who uses an online dating site.  It’s not just the Weiners of the world who have engaged in this type of behavior.  I’d say about 60% of the men who contact me on dating sites do to varying degrees whether it be sending me the unsolicited cock shot or being so blatant as to make it their profile pic (quite common on FetLife).  I love Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel for putting together this nifty little guide to when a man should send a woman a picture of his dick.  But this tidbit is priceless:  And yet, he’s asking the people of NY to trust him making decisions for their welfare and enforcing the laws.  I dunno, do you want to give the creepy trenchcoat flasher that level of power? Over one of the most visible cities on the globe?  The fact that he refuses to take public accountability for his actions, accept criticism from political powers much more forbidible than he is (not to mention his wife’s boss), and of course the constant lying and covering up to the now blatant “fuck off” sort of attitude he is carrying around with him is dangerous in a policy maker.  (Oh and his staff calling a former intern who likewise critiqued him as a “slutbag” takes the whole campaign down the toilet of sexist rhetoric.)

Scenario 8: You are a Congressman and your ambitious, beautiful, and pregnant wife is never around and she’s like no fun at all and you just want to feel LOVED and ADORED and your ego is hungry, hungry for approval. Tons of hot chicks follow you on Twitter and Facebook, because you are a Famous Politician, and you just know they want to see your junk. Your perfect, unimpeachable junk.

Should you send the lady a dick pic? No, you fucking creepy dumbass. No you should not.

The fact Weiner is still standing isn’t a testament to what a big New Yorker he is.  It’s a testament to the powerful influence of predatory behavior.  Habitual, unrepentent and predatory non-consent is given a free pass if Weiner continues into the election.  Yes, the voters will likely give him the boot (I would hope so), but by then the damage will have been done.

The fact that he has a political career at all in this moment legitimizes every creepy guy who thinks an appropriate introduction into sexual contact is a virtual flash of his penis in a woman’s face whether she wanted it or not.  Staying in the race puts the mayor’s personal seal of approval on this all too commonplace violation of consent* in a digital age.

*Note I have no research on how common this is in a more LGBTQ context.  Do men send unsolicited pics to other men?  Do women send unsolicited pussy shots to other women?  i’d be interested to find out.

Fix the Fucking Stair (*trigger warning*)

*I posted this late last week on FetLife. I was asked to publish this in a larger forum where they could more easily link to the content for people who might have FetLife blocked or just aren’t members. With over 300 “loves” and 100+ comments and countless personal emails and messages I agree that this is worth sharing with a much wider audience.

I’ve also added a trigger warning on the title for those who are survivors of sexual assault whether in or out of the scene. However, there is no cut to protect against the triggers.*

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I’ve been part of the BDSM community for 8 years and the Denver community for 6 years. There was a time when I was new. And when you’re new you do some pretty stupid things.

When I was new I agreed to play with someone who told me he’d listen to and respect my boundaries, even though every conversation seemed to revolve around how great he thought he was. When I sent him my personal narrative about the “whys” of my limits, he told me “well, that was more than I ever needed to know”. But you know, I made a commitment to be there and I didn’t want to back out since absolutely no one else expressed an interest in playing with me (before the days of FetLife). When we played I safeworded, calling Red, three times only to have him to continue the exact thing that I said I didn’t want on the spot that was already sore, the very thing I negotiated as off-limits and for the DMs to walk by or watch oblivious even when in earshot of “Red”. He ended the scene by shoving three fingers up my cunt as my face is covered in snot and tears and asking me if I liked it, expecting to be able to start on my front-side since it was clear he wasn’t done.

I told him I was done and was non-verbal the rest of the night. I didn’t confront him because it was clear that he enjoyed himself, chiding me for not being able to take more…that more would be expected of me next time. And the gall that he thought there would even be a next time combined with the passive aggressive insult that I wasn’t a good submissive, that I didn’t give my all, that I was lacking in some respect told me that he would only try to justify his poor choices and blame me if I confronted him head-on or publicly about what he did. I was a nobody in Denver at the time nor did I feel strong enough in myself to not only endure having been outed but to also be unwelcome in a community I wanted to be a part of. Who would ever listen to me?
But the fact is, I wasn’t wrong to trust and communicate when things were going badly. I wasn’t wrong to trust someone who was in such a position of authority. I wasn’t wrong to communicate when there was a problem (screaming Red counts!). The only thing I really did wrong was wait so long to really talk about this.The parallels between that and my rape are too sad when you think about it. Much like when I had been raped 16 years ago while hanging out with my friends in their dorm room, I didn’t tell others until much later (although I did make a post about it on LJ back then–but no locals were on there at the time). Much like the people who witnessed my rape and heard my “No” (and who jacked off as it was happening), no one stepped in to stop it, even when they had a duty to do so. And like 16 years ago I didn’t confront him, but just made sure to avoid him or anyone closely connected with him. As a person I tend to always put blame on myself and I definitely did for this.

What prompted this? It isn’t to publicize his mistakes. It’s to share an experience that, much like the date rape I survived, is far more common and one where I see a lot of others wrestling with whether they should say something or just keep quiet. What’s worse is I see others who continue to act badly, who take no responsibility for their actions or the impact they might have on others (particularly in a public space) and continue to act as if they are the ones who are victimized whenever anyone wants to address their behavior. I’ve had enough. It is precisely the pattern of consume-destroy-silence-shame- Repeat that is hurting members of our community and I’ve had enough. Particularly with the influx of people coming to BDSM from 50 Shades I am quite concerned about the model we are setting for those who have unrealistic expectations to start–but who genuinely feel a draw to practice what we do. What responsibility are we going to take as a community?

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Hell, we wouldn’t have had to have hosted a FuK Yes! party if everything was working smoothly and people weren’t getting hurt by the same limited few who continue on this path of consumption and destruction. We needed the community conversation and we need a LOT more of them. That conversation needs to continue but more than anything it needs to be followed by action.

The do-nothing or the no-drama response is cowardly, irresponsible and does not actually fix anything. Nor does crying foul when someone is told they are no longer welcome at a particular venue or event. Nor does retaliation when you or a friend has been asked to stop a particular behavior such as touching things and people who aren’t yours or the obvious stalking. Nor does shaming or silencing someone who decides to speak out about their experience whether privately or publicly.

For those on the “we just don’t know what really happened” or “we don’t have enough evidence yet” fence let me clarify how utterly insulting and insidious that response really is. First of all, there are very few of us in the community who have a law degree even fewer of us who are trained to be third-party neutrals. So to suggest that our community is even qualified to hear or evaluate evidence in any sort of neutral, balanced way is fucking ridiculous. And to sluff it off as if there is some magic organization that we created or even trust to sort out the problems in our community is invincibly ignorant. Then to imply that it is the survivor’s burden to bring forth that evidence in sufficient quantity (judged by whom?) suggests that justice basically consists of victim-shaming, silencing and outright dismissal until some superior (that we haven’t actually designated) finally decides that the complaint is “worthy” of listening to. And in those rare cases where the perpetrator was you know, -really, really bad- then we won’t say anything about it publicly, but we’ll have some agreement (not always involving the actual stake-holders) on how we will deal with that person. Probation? Supervised by whom? Suspension? Outing?

At the risk of repeating the obvious, here is another link to the article “The Missing Stair”. Pretending you are dealing with the problem by ignoring the problem or rationalizing why it’s not a problem is akin to denial. And it’s what many families who are confronted with an allegation of sex abuse from within do as well. Denial, shaming and victim-blaming is anything but healthy because abuse is abuse. We as a family, we as a community are in denial and people will continue to be hurt until we wake the fuck up.

Yet when people who have woken up, who are doing something about the problem such a party host, a bystander or community leader who confronts someone either privately or publicly with an issue, the backlash is extraordinary. Whether it was the person who was confronted or their merry band of misfits who do the retaliation, it actively discourages others who felt the same from speaking up and standing up. But more than that it affirms the original perpetrator’s lack of remorse or empathy and allows the wrong behavior to continue as a pattern harming more people along the way. Tell me how that is called responsible, much less safe or sane?? And yet, we continue to invite them or at least tolerate them in public spaces despite their alarming lack of concern for the consequences of their own actions. We have acquiesced and turned a blind eye and yet we have no problem judging other institutions such as churches who do the exact same thing.

The minute they are called out on it, they are on the attack instead of taking any amount of energy to determine whether these people might actually be right and to embark on a journey of self-awareness and knowledge. Much like the man who violated my safeword, they become oppositional the moment they are confronted with wrong-doing and use every tool in their rationalization tool box to assert themselves as the actual victim. But that blame-shifting in order to avoid actually confronting themselves and looking within. It’s a defense mechanism, a wobbly, crooked, and sharp one that has been honed by years of people stepping out of its way instead of stopping it. And the more we allow these behaviors to continue the more we are the ones perpetuating the problem instead of solving it.

Lack of self-awareness in a partner is a deal-breaker for me. A non-starter. And I had stopped playing publicly (even though I really love it) because I continued to encounter people, including the man I spoke of, whose shocking lack of basic remorse, empathy or cognizance makes them a danger. I do not trust their judgment and want them nowhere near my personal space. I have survived too many violations to my very reasonable boundaries and limits to simply “tolerate” those who have violated others. Nor am I the only one who feels this way.

Look, I deal with conflict. It’s my job. It’s a job I chose. And it’s not that I don’t encourage us to deal with our problems peacefully in private with education or healing conversations. What I’m saying is that the people who are actually doing this have been confronted privately and they continue to engage in this behavior and worse yet, they try to lean on those who were trying to be understanding and compassionate about lapses in judgment by wrongly assuming we are on their side.

I know confrontation is scary to everyone. Everyone has their hackles raised. It’s uncomfortable and it’s hard. And those, like me, who normally are more willing to accommodate and accept blame rather than make anyone feel bad about themselves are the least likely to do it. So we take the passive way out…we remove ourselves from the community, we throw up our hands and wait for someone else to take care of it. We limit ourselves waiting for someone to step up to fix the broken stair.

Not anymore.

I am no longer willing to wait for everyone else to wake up to this problem. And I support those who tell problem players that they are not welcome. I’m happy to shut doors of opportunity, pulling away welcome mats to those who continue to violate others and act without regard to the consequences of their actions. No more skipping over that stair for me.

Personal responsibility, integrity and awareness are everything.

(Other articles for useful reading:

http://www.petting-zoo.org/2012/06/05/cops/
http://tacit.livejournal.com/359244.html

http://inthemiddleofthewhirlwind.wordpress.com/philly%E2%80%99s-pissed-philly-stands-up-collected-materials/

Hiding in plain sight

When a friend showed me this article today, it was creepy how similar it was to my own experience starting out in the BDSM community.  I’ll excerpt a bit of it here for with my own commentary.

“I Never Called It Rape: Addressing Abuse in BDSM Communities” – by Kitty Stryker

When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into “the BDSM community”, I can’t actually count them. And I never came out about it before, not publicly, for a variety of reasons- I blamed myself for not negotiating enough, or clearly, or for not sticking to my guns, or I  didn’t want to be seen as being a drama queen or kicking up a fuss. Plus, the fact is, these things didn’t traumatize me, and I didn’t call it sexual assault or rape, because I felt ok afterwards. There was no trauma, no processing that I needed.
This was my experience too.  How horrible is it to be a new in this environment and have to just accept blame for actions that were never truly consensual and in any other context would have qualified as sexual assault?  But just like the vanilla world…we end up carrying that guilt and that burden because safewords weren’t honored, because scenes went too far, because my safety was not of the utmost concern to the dominant in the situation.  Somehow it’s my fault.  I wasn’t more clear when negotiating (stupid me, I thought “no paddles” meant no paddles would be used).  It’s my fault if I expose someone who treated me poorly because everyone else thinks he or she is an “expert” or Master of the craft. 
I had physical wounds.  But more importantly I had emotional and spiritual wounds caused by this type of disregard.  Submission by its very nature exposes a person’s vulnerability.  And the bad and dirty players exploited that vulnerability, betrayed my trust and worse blamed me for the results because I wasn’t “submissive enough”. 
This was traumatizing.  Make no mistake about it.  It would ruin my experience with the next dominant or top I met and make me leery of trusting myself much less ever trusting others.    As for the physical wounds, I had them.  But how do I identify the wounds I consented to and those I didn’t?  Unless it was a clear matter of “I didn’t consent to marks of any kind” how do you distinguish between a literal and unintentional “oops” and the more reckless “don’t give a fuck”? Read the rest of this entry

Boundaries

At some point I’ll talk more about why I feel called to a life as a sexual healer, a sacred prostitute, but it’s almost too close to talk about right now.  Today has seen me providing healing to more than a few people in my life today.  And while normally it is not a draining experience, I think because I’ve been feeling off for the past week or so, it does get to me a little more than it normally would.

Over the past few months I’ve been doing a much better job of enforcing boundaries.  One of the people I responded to today was someone who was literally seeking my skills and expertise as a sacred prostitute/healer. This is probably the first time that’s happened for me.  Normally, I’ve encountered people in my life and made an offer.  No strings attached.  No pressure…but a way for them to encounter themselves in a safe and supportive way.  But today it was someone asking whether I can provide that healing to them.  I’ll be honest, I was tempted.  Incredibly tempted to say, “Sure! I can help you.”  I stopped myself though.  While the ego blast was certainly nice to have, it wasn’t the right situation for me.  What this person needed was a little more…vanilla…than I’m able to provide. I didn’t trust my own ability to hold back the kind of intensity that I bring to a situation, much less a healing situation.  This situation just wasn’t right for that.  I was proud of holding tight to my boundaries.

Boundaries tend to serve both parties.  And today it helped this person find the resources and healers they need.  And today it helped me from spending more energy than I had and overcommitting myself.  Small victories.

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