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Finding Hope within the Shadows: Reclaiming Authenticity

This isn’t like my other posts, but I hope you’ll stick with me as I put together the pieces of the puzzle that has been my life for the past 40 years. This will be a very long post, but one that I hope brings some hope in the wake of current events.

Targeted because of truth

I have always been an expressive woman. I tend to dominate conversations because I can usually find some connection to the topic, the person or the theme. I make my point of view known by weaving in the threads of my life with the topics at hand. I’m a classic ENFP and love connecting individuals to the bigger picture through narrative.

As such, I had an online journal where I attempted to do just that. And of course, because I’m me, I focused on sexuality, politics and real-life storytelling. It was a display of sexual confidence, but also sexual healing.

Eleven years ago that blog was exposed by a republican website seeking to make its bones with political gossip. They effectively outed me as bisexual, kinky and poly. Friday the 13 of October 2006.

It was my own damn fault I told myself. I got careless with the security settings. I was revealing too much about my own life, family. I put everything and everyone at risk. For what?! for sex? For authenticity? For my truth? My truth was dangerous to my family, my career and my psyche.

The blog that outed me had no problem using my journal and photos to speculate wildly about my sex life, so within two hours, I became a liability to my employer and I resigned. I could no longer do my job because my credibility had been ruined, not because I was honest and transparent about my life, but because I was a slut and proud of it.  I didn’t speak up.  I felt such shame, such repugnant regret for my hubris that I hid out, taking low-level jobs, deliberately staying off of anyone’s radar, feeling undeserving of anything more.

I acquiesced, sacrificing authenticity for security.

The poison well of toxic masculinity

As I took time away, getting progressively more isolated, alone and depressed, my anxiety flourished. We couldn’t watch the news. I screened every call. I got used to never having enough, never being enough, never feeling deserving. And when I would take one triumphant step forward another obstacle would hurtle toward me. It was kind of like a brutal game of dodgeball where I was also taking friendly fire from trusted friends, family, and partners. My perimeter of safety contracted and filled with a toxic dose of self-doubt resulting in a few suicide attempts that I don’t discuss. I knew my view was distorted, but I was so deflated, so traumatized, I could no longer even trust myself.

This darkness has led me down several different paths of healing. But there was a recurring theme in that healing: my sexuality never fully came back to the voracious lust that it had once been. It’s not that I don’t have an exciting or fulfilling sex life, but that I felt like that previous life had all been a dream. My consent had been violated in a deeper way than I had ever identified now was in a constant state of hypervigilance.

I had no choice but to illuminate the patterns that were starting to emerge. The influence of an early childhood sexual assault, continual pressure for Much of the sexual history and identity I had been so anxious to get back to had been heavily influenced by some distinct experiences with men who had taken their lack of power out on me. A poisoned well of pride.

While a handful of men from my childhood and adolescence infected me with poison from that well, far more benefitted from the impact it had on me. They didn’t care that it would poison my thoughts about myself. They didn’t care that they were inflicting sexual assault, harassment, and exploitation that would carry a current of trauma in my life. They didn’t care that their actions were wrong and criminal. They felt desire and they felt entitled to have their shot, no matter what price I would personally pay. They normalized the abuse and dismissal of my consent with the constancy of it. What might my life had been without that?

I adapted to survive

Shining the light on this part of my life has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Tearing apart my sexual experience and examining my lopsided relationship with consent has thrown everything I believe about myself into question. Where I once thought I was sexually liberated and commanded respect for how I approached sexuality, I realized how often my consent had been coerced, how often I succumbed to the intimidation or perceived threats of harm. It wasn’t the whole of my history or even the majority of it, but those distinct moments shaped me and what I should expect from men.

But in examining this, I had to also acknowledge that I survived. Not because anyone else came to my rescue. I survived because of me.

After I was raped, I developed abilities that I used to protect myself.  I used limited acquiescence for reconnaissance. I learned how to read them before they could read me. I learned how to touch a raw nerve to get them to back off or show their true colors sooner.  I developed closer female friendships and learned how to use our stories as examples so that other survivors would know they weren’t alone. I was able to speak up, safeword if needed and fight back.

Ten years later (last year – October 2016), my life was finally starting to shift for the better. I was ready to start emerging from the cocoon. Trusting others was still a minefield, but I’m better at trusting my knowledge, my intuition, my sacredness, my value. I’ve faced a lot of the scariest parts of myself, some of the scariest situations and have emerged stronger than I expected. By walking through my own darkness, allowing myself to recover threads of resilience, I started to love this new wholeness of me.

The personal is political

Around the same time I chose to cast aside my self-doubt and shame, the infamous “Grab ‘em by the pussy” comment came out.  Despite my political expertise, I was struck that Donald Trump had the audacity to defend it. The people around him had the audacity to defend it. The news became a too real personalization of rape culture.

I wasn’t alone in recognizing that this event retriggered most survivors of sexual assault. All the work I had done to regain my strength, confidence and sexual joy was smashed right back down with a deluge from that poisoned well of toxic masculinity. This sudden onslaught of smug entitlement, fueled by open victim blaming and lame justifications for criminal behavior has brought back all of the memories of every other lonely, angry man who decided he was entitled to whatever he wanted from my body.

The personal is political now. This Presidency has been an eerie real-life example of the abuse many of us have suffered in our personal lives.

Abuse relies on an insidious spiral of control and power. It starts as small boundary-pushing, floating test balloons to see where we’re willing to tolerate their foolishness (questioning Obama’s citizenship, Mexicans are rapists and murderers). If they can get close enough, they can start to condition us (“lock her up”), feed us lies (“fake news”) so that we don’t believe what previously trusted sources would have told us. They continue the isolation and they prevent us from asking for help (pissing off our allies), screen our visitors (ICE raids and travel ban), control our money (health care costs will rise). They openly mock us (disabled reporter impression), they make a big personal issue out of an innocent gesture (Take a Knee), control our bodies (birth control), they make us dependent on their help (Puerto Rico vs Houston vs California), they expect to receive better treatment than us (unjustified costs of protection and travel for administration). And when they know they’ve gone too far, they give the hearts and flowers usually with the delivery of a backhanded compliment (“very fine people”).

Alone, powerless, you endure it the best you can because you’re just hoping someone will notice and come save the day. 

This entitlement and power hungry structure are not just confined to Trump. Much like the poison that infected my own sense of self, it permeates our culture. Harvey Weinstein exposes just how poisonous our culture is. How truth is stifled through intimidation. How mind-boggling common it is for this behavior to persist, not just in Hollywood, but everywhere. The courage that I have seen this week has been extraordinary. The more we speak our truth, the closer we come to freedom and justice for us all.

Freedom is Found in Authenticity.

This weekend Professor Marston and the Wonder Women was released on the same day as the anniversary of when I was outed. What was so remarkable and inspiring for me in this movie is that it celebrated all of the things that I was outed for: bisexuality, polyamory, and kink. The problem is not that we are different, it is that others feel entitled to project their vulgar interpretations on us, to taint authenticity with judgment, fear, and shame.

To see this triad fight through prophecies and internalized shame was a beautiful affirmation of what I have fought to regain for myself. To watch them submit to the authenticity of their love and prioritize their intimate connection over the compliance society expected is exactly the message we need right now. Living a lie just won’t work, not when those lies are used to subdue others into compliance. We must take the plunge into authenticity with our whole heart and soul, despite what the outside world convinces us to believe.

This especially is true when faced with harmful patterns of abuse and control.

Owning our own story, declaring ourselves to the world matters in the current environment. Being visible matters. Representation matters. Your truth matters. Your consent to live and experience life on your terms also matters. And in the reckless, power hungry, abusive patterns of men like Trump and Weinstein and the unfathomable number of other powerful men like them, speaking your truth matters. Because living authentically gives others permission to do so as well.

Wonder Woman was the hero I looked up to as a young girl. In seeing some of the origins of her creator and the inspiring women who inspired her, I am more and more convinced that she is the symbol of the power that we need right now in our national narrative. So many women share a common experience, have found our truth stifled for too long, that we are speaking up, speaking louder and refusing to drink the poison fed to us by toxic masculinity. She stands for relentless truth, compassionate justice and an unwavering alignment with her authentic self.

And what is encouraging isn’t just that women are speaking up, but men too. We’re making room for more of us to be heard and to hold more people accountable as we wake up to admitting our own truth. A truth that cascades into our selves and starts to wash out the poison, healing the toxicity left behind in the wake of our too common traumas.

The golden lasso of awareness is starting to wrap itself around the body of the American politic – accountability demanded by those whose power has been most stifled and stunted: Women and marginalized communities. The powers that be are scared, lashing out and doubling down on their abuses.

But we are reaching the tipping point where the cost of silence is no longer a price we’re willing to pay. Putting pressure on America to confront itself: its racism, misogyny, rape culture, violence worship, cycles of poverty and inequality, and devastating patterns of environmental abuse and injustice. We are shining a light on the monsters the lurk deep within the American psyche.

It’s time for us to face our collective shadow, to recover the threads of our connective community that have been torn apart by hatred and oppression. To find inspiration in the collective light of our resilience and strength. Only in confronting the deepest truths within, pulling forth the authentic power of our true selves, will we realize the freedom, equality, and respect we each deserve.

Fight on, my friends. We are in this together.

Dear Hot Guy

Dear Hot Guy, (insert name here)

Thanks so much for messaging me. It’s nice to hear from you. Before we get started, let me establish a few things first just to make sure we’re on the same page…

I’m not an easy target

I’m sure that if you’re messaging me that you’ve noticed that I’m fat.  Let me establish right away that fat girls are not the low hanging fruit ripe for a hot guy’s selective desire. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I lack standards. Your presence in my feed or in my life isn’t a gift. And I can easily sniff out when your tone is tinged with a smug “You’re lucky that I came along to save you from a life of loneliness” when I enforce my standards and set my boundaries.

I remember back in middle school, when I had braces and frizzy hair, I would get these men, these boys, these hot guys who would come on to me. Whooo, I was so flattered. They liked me? They really liked goofy looking me? It didn’t take long to figure out that not only did those guys, not like me, that they publicly made fun of me for believing that they could ever like me at all.

I grew my first layer of armor soon after.

I have since learned my own value. I don’t admit (nor ever want to admit) my own beauty. I’ll accept that others might find me attractive, but that isn’t my true value in me. I want them to see me as a  woman who has the strength to withstand darkness, the wisdom to share compassion and the courage to prioritize my own self-worth more than any singular man’s attention toward me.

So, if you’re assuming I’ll be an easy lay because, you know, fatness (or age, or presumed cougar-ness or MILF or whatever). I promise, I have plenty of partners who keep me happy and I’m not salivating at the sight of your nude body. It takes more than the mere suggestion of sex with a hot guy to turn my head. That’s because…..

You are not the first; nor shall you be the last

Trust me, there will never be a drought of hot men who like thicker, curvier women. There will never be a drought of hot men who get turned on by older women. There will never a lack of hot men who love going down on a woman. There will always be hot guys with big cocks (and retailers that sell good approximations) And there will always be the hot men who secretly desire women like us but can’t get past their own self-loathing to declare it openly.

Likewise, there will never be a drought of hot men who are attracted to passion and soul. Those who respond to wit and intellect. Those who share openly with their hearts and who cherish what they see in mine. Ultimately, those men remain in my orbit, connected to a shared moment or purpose together that surpasses more than just their mere hotness.

Show me what makes you shine

I admit I’m a greedy bitch. I’m not driven by lust for a body alone.  Offer me more.  I want the men who have deep passions, generous souls and are pursuing their heart’s purpose. And I also want those who care deeply for others, accept their own vulnerability and take responsibility for their presence in the world, including their fears and biases.  Having that kind of wholeness offered is intoxicating. To have those qualities likewise come in an aesthetically pleasing …ahem…package is downright decadent and luxurious.

But once you’ve tasted the richness of someone’s soul, you’re not as thirsty for basic, low-effort dick. It will never matter how big you are or how you plan to “treat me like a queen” until I see more of who you are. Your hotness isn’t all that you can or should offer to me.  Your dick’s length or girth will never make up for a lack of personality or casual cruelty. Why would I waste my time on someone who thinks I only want his surface-level offerings?  Baby, I want so much more than that.

I want to be on your mind first thing in the morning, searching for messages I left for you overnight. I want you to crave my words and to respond to my touch. I want to see that flash of opportunity in your eyes. I want to explore deep into the chasms of your desire. I want to feel the tremulous waves of anticipation and share the inevitable surrender to pleasure and joy. I want to see the real you.

Allow yourself to be more than just another hot guy in my life. Supply more than lustful promises for my satisfaction.  Offer more than just your dick. Surely, we both deserve better than that. Allow yourself to actually shine from within, beyond the glossy surface you’ve been told that women want. Worship at the font of authenticity and humble yourself before your own depths. I crave connection to the wholeness and am waiting to see you trust yourself enough to let it shine.

Only then will I truly know how attractive you really are.

Reflections of Resilience: Origin Story

It’s an ambitious title up there.

Intimidating.

I feel like I should have something profound to say to live up to that title.

Instead all I have are distant observations that are colored by the more vivid memories that I deliberately want to block out.

TW:  Descriptions of sexual assault, rape 

SilencingTwenty years ago today, I was raped.

I was raped in a college dorm room. Right before Thanksgiving break in 1996, my freshman year. It was less than a month until my 19th birthday.  I was 900 miles away from home, there alone, without any of my familiar friends or family nearby.

I was an A student, sorority girl and up and coming leader when I was raped. I had just been initiated into Alpha Chi Omega. Within a few weeks I elected to be Vice President of Intellectual Development, unprecedented in our chapter to have someone so young on the Exec Board. I was chosen in part because of my academic credentials, which i admit now were pretty decent. It helped that I was mostly articulate and could flirt easily with the men in the fraternities on campus.

I was raped by someone I knew. I was in the room of my current fuck-buddy at the time. His friend was visiting from out of town for his last hurrah before getting married. We sat and watched the Fly while drinking beers. I left for a bit to sit and talk with the Indian guy down the hall whose name escapes me.

I was raped after a lot of alcohol had been consumed. But I had two beers that night. Two over the course of maybe three hours. They had the rest of the case to themselves. I’d say they had at least four or six on me each.

I was raped after I had previously consented to a sexual activity. When I returned to the room I was caught in a three way kiss between the fuck buddy and his friend (not the bachelor) that I had previously fucked with. This kind of threesome had happened a few times before and we always had a good time with each other. They invited Bachelor to join in and I consented to that–three pairs of hands on me at once is so magnificent.

I was raped after someone had drunk so much that they passed out: At one point in this 10 minute group grope session (which, if I’m not mistaken may have hinted at some man-on-man action too), fuck buddy had to get up and take a piss, so we all stopped. We turned another movie back on and pretended to watch it. Fuck-buddy’s friend noticed that fuck buddy had been gone for a while, so he got up and left to go find him, leaving me alone with Bachelor (and a creepy dude in the opposite corner of the room trying to go unnoticed).

I was raped by someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He suggested that we make out while we waited for Fuck Buddy to return. I consented to making out. When he tried to grope under my clothes, I didn’t feel comfortable and told him to stop. He didn’t.

I was raped by someone despite trying to fight back. He continued to undress himself and me. I struggled as he was trying to get my jeans off. I told him no repeatedly. He was able to get my pants and underwear off while keeping me pinned down with his knee. He had slithered a hand between my naked thighs and I was squeezing them hard to try to get him to stop. I didn’t want to be touched anymore and I gave every signal both verbal and non verbal that would be recognized.

I was raped by threat and force. As I struggled, he had flipped me over onto my stomach, his hand holding me down into the pillow by the neck. I could only look to the side–I couldn’t even tell you which side. We were on the top bunk and my head was smashed into a pillow. Tears and drool on the pillowcase, blacking out for a moment because I couldn’t breathe. I remember being outside my body at that point, ready to make due with whatever happened so long as I didn’t die. That was my bargain. If I don’t die, God, I promise I will deal with this. Even our bargains with deities are soured by internalized misogyny.

I was raped anally. I had never done anal play of any kind. I had a boyfriend ask for it once and it just never came to anything. While still holding me down he first tried my vagina.  Then when I was still blocking him with my thighs and movements, he raped me anally. No lube, no prepping, no asking.

I was raped as a demonstration of dominance over me.  Rape is and always will be a crime of power. This is about power and control over another human being–sex is just the vehicle for that exertion of control. It’s pathological, angry and destructive by intent. It is not impulse or a force of nature. It is a deliberate choice. I was his promised Bachelor’s gift (I would later find out) and fuck this bitch for daring to say no to me. Entitlement. projection and blame is the environment where our rapists dwell.

I feared for my life. I screamed into the pillow the minute I felt him enter me, his grip became tighter around my neck.  I was worried my neck would snap. I froze. In shock. I still don’t know where my head was looking. I was out of body again. Maybe blacked out.All I know is how much all of my senses were on overload. The only thing I felt besides life-threatening fear was the white-hot, searing pain from my ass.

I was raped in front of a silent accomplice. Remember creepy dude in the corner? He was still there, watching the whole thing. When my rapist was done, all i could hear was the fapping sound of his hand on his skinny, shitty prick. He was getting off on this.  I was doubly humiliated. I call him an accomplice because he was complicit in what was happening. He would have been clearly witnessed me saying no. He would have clearly seen me struggling. He would have clearly known that I didn’t want it. And what’s worse is that he got off on witnessing that.

 


Other facts:

  • Fuck Buddy had passed out in the bathroom. Friend was blocking people from getting into the room I was in.
  • Fuck Buddy’s roommate heard me screaming and the Friend told him to not worry about it that we were all role playing.
  • Another guy who was just getting back in that night, heard banging against the wall and faint sounds, but the music in the hallway was too loud for him to know what was going on.
  • At least 5 other guys on the floor heard me that night; not one of them intervened. Two others (in addition to the in-room witness) had gotten off to it.
  • I found out he had used a condom. I heard him snap it off when he was done.
  • It took me more than 10 minutes to get back to my room, from getting over the shock to getting my clothes back on, to drying my tears, to breaking through the guys who were trying to block me in and make me go for round 2.I stumbled down the flight of stairs to my floor
  • I was bleeding and in a lot of pain. I already had a bad back and it had completely seized up.
  • I called one of my major crushes who was in school in Detroit. He was an architecture student, so I knew he would be up. I cried on the phone with him for 2 hours without being able to say much.
  • I skipped all my classes the next day.
  • I skipped my date that night with a man who I’m pretty sure would have taken me straight to the police to report it to distract me while he would have been getting his mob friends to dispense justice.
  • I did eventually shower, but only because I couldn’t sleep.

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By the end of that weekend, I had taken myself down to the lake at 4 am. I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours at a time. I decided to take a walk to the lake, halfway torn between suicide and victorious resistance. One of the guys from that night who had been just getting home from a date, saw me leaving. We didn’t really talk much as we walked. I confirmed his suspicions: that I was really saying no and crying out for help. His feeling of guilt and shame was evident.  We found a bench outside the library, looking out at the lake.

Right now, I’m reminiscing about Lake Michigan. All the healing that happened in that spot over the years. Not just from this, but other things too. Remembering one of my most stable and stalwart lovers during my years there. A Navy Man who still provides me comfort and protection from my overthinking and strict need for control even after years and many miles apart. Texting with him right now. 

As we sat there, he just held my hand. He was present for me as I channeled whatever strength I had left into the words that tumbled out of my mouth. It was just a stream of consciousness. Acceptance that what happened to me was real. Resolve that it would never happen again in the future. A commitment to dictate the terms of any sexual encounter I had from there on out. From now on I was in control of my body, my voice, my actions, my motives. And if a sexual encounter didn’t align with what I waned then it wasn’t going to happen.

But there was one glaring absence in my bold speech of recovery:

I didn’t call it rape.

 

 

 

 

 

Scared to date

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So, it is says anything about the gravity of this topic, this subject line has been sitting here since October of 2011.

Hello. My name is Bella. I’m polyamorous and I’m afraid to date.

Hello Bella

Is there a support group for people like me? I have been polyamorous for almost 9 years now and for the past 4 years I have been afraid to date. I have been avoiding discussing why for a very long time, but like most things if I don’t just delve in and say it publicly, it will never get parsed out and thus never truly change.

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Call of the Darkness

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees; but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.

–Friedrich Nietzsche

I have always responded to the call of darkness.  The lure.  The fact that so many others are frightened of it pushes me deeper into the woods, into the caves of humanity to witness and share in the deeper parts of the psyche. But not just to witness, to stand guard, to lend strength, to share and participate and give the wounds salve until they heal.  It’s not the draw of the macabre.  It is the draw of desire and spirit.  Pure and hallowed to delve deeper than the normal person would.

ImageI serve the darker edges of humanity but specifically the wounds we carry.  Wounds…be they physical, psychic or emotional tend to cause us the greatest amount of fear in our lives.  And we guard our deepest, darkest fears more than anything in the world.  Sure, you think about people who seem to wear their woundedness on their sleeve…almost boasting that they’ve suffered through life and are here to prove to humanity their strength.  But what I’ve found is that they don’t put the greatest wounds on display…only the ones that they can wear without harm, without exposing the deeper ones that lay underneath.  Those….those they guard fiercely and fight anyone who tries to disturb them.

The only superpower I really have is I am the person people trust with the greatest of their wounds.  Their sorrows, their intense pain, their embarrassments, their sense of not-good-enough…these fears of divine dis-love that they try to keep secret from the rest of the world.  They tell no one.  Not their spouses.  Not their lovers.  Not their parents.  But they tell me.

They tell me or rather….they show me.  They creep slowly through the recesses of their psyche, the part they are barely aware of normally.  The instinctual and immediate part of themselves that they can’t access unless someone trespasses against that territory.  They invite me in.  Grasping my hand for strength,clutching at the light that I bring with me for fear.  Fear of the monsters laying in wait to overcome them and take control.  Maybe if I’m there the monsters won’t attack.  Won’t hurt them.  Won’t try to take over their world.

And even now as I write this, I’m flooded with the memories of when this has happened.  When I’ve seen all of someone, even the big, bad monster they thought they were holding at bay.  The anger, the greed, the resentment, the frustration, the hurt, the deception…I’ve seen so much of it.  And it is beautiful.  It is beautiful because each person’s big, bad monster is an accumulation of humanity.  It is a creation of our selves…and it is a part of ourselves.  It is the part of ourselves that we’ve discarded, hoping that it will never return.  Hoping that it will never find a way back into the light.

And I am overwhelmed with emotion because these people I have encountered have trusted me with it.  With something so precious, so grotesque and fearsome…something that resembles them far more than they want to know.

Because at the end of that journey, I show them.  I bring a light to the mirror and stand them next to their monster figure and show them…this is you….and I love you both.  I love the monster and who you’ve tried to become in order to hide it.  I love you both.

It is almost too much for them to bear.  To feel that something so ugly within themselves can be loved and cherished.  “Aren’t you afraid?” they inevitably ask me.  How can I possibly be afraid?  I can’t pretend to love someone without loving the fullness of who they are.  And by embracing the beast I can now finally love the full person.  Does the beast lash out?  Yes.  But only because it has been relegated to the darkness for so long it can no longer recognize how it feels to have light surround it and hold it safe.

But more than anything, I embrace the fullness of someone.  Their light and dark…and I show that it is possible to melt the divide between light and dark within our own lives.  That by embracing your own darkness and treating it with kindness and love that we heal the fears that placed it in the darkness to begin with…and that itself is love.  True, abiding love for our own self.

This kind of healing isn’t a wound to be worn on the shoulder as evidence of your own bravery, to prove that you’ve suffered…it is one that glows from within and is embodied in your full presence and countenance.  It is not a braggart’s courage,but a wounded soul who is now radiant with the joy of life.  Nothing more needs to be said.  No words are needed.

In an instant  I can tell the difference between those who have walked through their darkness and embraced what they have found….and those who are still hiding it, protecting it and projecting the lesser wounds as their evidence of their “confidence”.  I can tell…and the more one brags about their wounds, their victimization, their suffering, the more those words are just really big, giant “Keep OUT!” signs to loved ones and others that they will do everything in their power to keep their secret monsters safe and in the dark. They don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust their partners and they surely will never trust a professional to lead them to true healing.  I don’t bother with them.  They will continue to live a false life soaked in duality, an alchemy that falls flat and leaves them sour and needy.

No…I praise those who have done “the heavy lifting” and I await them at their next crossroads…when a new dark corner threatens to swallow them whole. I stand alone and wait for them to see me and invite me in when either everyone else has abandoned them or are too shallow to see the transformation, the little death, that must occur for them to heal and move forward.

And I am rewarded…like in the quote above…with roses and riches.  Such beauty and such abundance of soul.  I alone have been entrusted with their stories for I saw their darkness and did not run away or avoid it…I stood by them and loved them to the very end.

So….much….beautyImage

Solar Return

Today is my birthday. Birthdays aren’t normally about celebrations for me…or at least my own aren’t. It would take too long to explain how my birthday ritual came to be…or how it grew into what it was last night/this morning. But I take advantage of my seasonal affect disorder (SAD) to willingly enter into a dark night of the soul each and every year just before my birthday. I reflect on the past year, atone for my mistakes and open myself to divine presence in order to set the goals and path for the coming year. It is a ritual that developed naturally over the years and now is a yearly vigil I choose to keep.

This year was harder than most. I turned 35 today and I have had myself convinced since the age of 7 that I would not ever make it past 35. So if that intuition is to be believed then I’ve set up a situation where I’ve put a great deal of pressure on myself to make this year and hence this birthday really count.

So I decided I would actually walk people through the ritual from start to finish and share a few of the guiding messages I received.

December 15, 2012 1:40 am

(terribly sorry for the small pictures.  I uploaded this from my ipad and didn’t think they’d turn out this small–Maybe I’ll edit with larger photos)
Tonight is not a short ritual. Tonight I feel the power pour through me, tonight I shall bless myself with each element: earth, air, fire, water.
Earth: crystals and sacred sand from Chimayo. Herbs: mint, balm & Irish moss
Air: incense
Water: water in a pitcher, holy water from Medjugorje and wine (although just as much earth there)
Fire: candles of every variety

Tonight I start from chaos:
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Reid Mihalko: Make a Joyful Noise

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For someone, like me who has long been a sex-positive advocate (although not really an educator), I was super geeked to attend one of Reid Mihalko‘s talks in Denver. I had seen his keynote address at Beyond the Bedroom back in October, but unfortunately was unable to make his other classes that Weekend. So this was a real treat for me.

It was only about 2 years ago that I really discovered my own personal trick to my orgasms. See, while I’ve been experiencing great orgasms by myself since I was 11, I was very reluctant to share those with others. I was happy to be on the receiving end of someone’s orgasm, but I wasn’t going to share mine.

Part of the reluctance came from the fact that I had worked with several older men in my adolescence, and for better or for worse, I learned quite a bit from them. And each day for almost 4 years I heard them complaining about how selfish the female orgasm was. How they had to “waste” their time trying to get a woman to cum. They hated giving a woman oral and often complained about the taste or smell. It left a clear impression on 15 year old me, so that by the time I finally gave my virginity to a high school senior a year later, I treated the whole experience as an experiment in -being the opposite of all these selfish women I had heard about.

Now, with the caveat in mind that I have known very few men to ever complain about a blow-job in general, I do consider myself rather adept at that particular skill. That has been my sure-fire claim to fame for almost all of my sexual life. Hell, I was coached by my first boyfriend, who is now gay. I listened to my male co-workers describe what they liked and what they didn’t. I am a quick learner and proud of the way I take time to learn a man’s body well enough to tease and please quite well.

By it wasn’t until I met Warrior that I found a cock that I couldn’t use those same tricks on. Hence, why I think classes like Reid’s are quite necessary. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know about sex, because there is always something new you can learn and a new way to approach each person’s individual likes and dislikes. And at the very least a new way to frame how you decide to look at your own abilities.

But more important than just learning technique is the breaking down of the shame and guilt we experience about sex. For a while after meeting Warrior I felt I was losing my touch and thus unenjoyable as a partner because i couldn’t make him cum from a blowjob. It took months before I realized that he needs a lot of sensuous build-up, because while his body is “online” and ready, his mind is in twelve different directions. And now I hold the honor of being the person (male or female) who has given him the most orgasms from oral ever. Why? because his orgasm isn’t about me. I could use the best technique in the world and it still might not happen. I could be the hottest woman on earth and it might not happen. But I can create an environment and experience where if it is going to happen it can and we will both be happy simply because we are together.

So, what does this have to do with my own realization two years ago or the class last night? We pick up some fucked up ideas about sex. I mean, here I was growing up to grown men moaning about how tedious the female orgasm is. I already had a lot off self-judgment around selfishness in general and wasn’t about to become the type of lover who was selfish and wouldn’t give the same level attention being given to me. In fact, I was the type of person who was determined to give and pamper, but never fully receive.

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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/

A Note on Empathy

Original Post:

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

More to follow.

So when I posted this, I got a question on twitter from someone who snarkily wanted to know what this had to do with sex.  Frankly, it has everything to do with relationships and therefore in my mind has more than plenty to do with sex.  This is about simple relating.  Replace the word “enemies” with “neighbors” or “lovers” or an form of human relationship and it still fits.

I’ve been somewhat preachy lately in my personal and professional life about the needless competitions we get into, usually around “my pain is worse than your pain” sorts of scenarios.  You know the ones.  You’re pouring your heart out about the latest drama or dilemma you have encountered in your life.  Your friend seems like they are paying attention until suddenly they say, “Oh that’s nothing.  Listen to what happened to me the other day”.    Your heart is still bleeding and you’re still looking for some amount of comfort for the ass-hattery that has hit your life while your friend drones on and on about their latest problem.  It hurts and it sucks.

I’ve done it.  I completely admit it.  I’ve even interrupted people while they were crying to do this.  I’ve upped the ante on the emotional pain on the table so much that by the time we’re done, we both feel like the biggest losers in the world and are even worse off than before.  No one was heard, no one has been comforted and we both feel resentful to our “narcissistic” friend who stole our pitiful squeak of thunder. I have been this shitty friend, been called self-absorbed, self-centered, narcissistic and desperate before and it really sucks.  (and for the record, I believe “narcissistic” is tossed around a little too liberally, usually by the very people are exhibiting the exact same behavior and whining about others’ narcissism for not paying attention to their pain and suffering).

But you’ve done it too.  It’s okay to admit it.  It’s okay to say that you’ve been a giant ass about someone else’s pain and played the “no, look at how much more my life sucks” game.  I could go into the psychological reasons why we do this to each other, but that would miss the point of what I’m aiming for here.

Being a good lover depends quite a bit on emotional intelligence.  And a cornerstone of emotional intelligence is empathy.  Empathy is described as “the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being.”.  But in order to do that we have to know a bit about that person’s story.  We have to understand a bit more about their journey…and we have to be interested enough to care to listen to it.  And most of the time, I think we are.  I think we do care.  But in an effort and perhaps even an impatience to connect with that person, we interrupt or supersede with our own story and our own journey.  We want acknowledgment too.  We want recognition for our pain and suffering too.

The fact is, we’ve all suffered.  We’ve all experienced pain.  I may not have lost a sibling or parent, but I’ve been hurt.  I know what those experiences did to me and how i am different because of them.  And with a partner or a lover, my pain, particularly those I’ve experienced with former partners and lover (particularly D/s relationships) is kind of relevant.  Knowing where I’ve come from is an important part of understanding me.  It influences how I connect with others physically, emotionally, sexually and what of myself I choose to reveal to them as time progresses.  It is a major reason why I don’t really consider NSA (no-strings attached) sex to be truly without connection, feeling or bonds.  But that is another topic for another day.

Sharing ourselves with our partners is essential I believe, at least if you don’t want to surprise them with landmines and booby traps.  It creates empathy and awareness for our personal journey.  It also allows them to see more of us and therefore create a better bond that can shine all the brighter.  It helps to melt away some of our own insecurities and overcome minor resentments before they become giant issues.

The problem is when we allow these personal narratives of our past to overtake and drown out the present.  The person we are sharing with typically is not the person that caused us this harm and/or trauma in our lives.  We’re sharing it as a warning sometimes.  Other times are simply trying to get the acknowledgment and yes, sometimes pity that we didn’t originally get.

And that’s not to discourage that sharing at all, just be aware that in giving that story that we are not shifting the burden of our care and healing onto them.  It still our story.  That person didn’t create that trauma and no matter what level of their sympathy and empathy, they cannot fix it for us.  We are still responsible for our own selves and our own lives and ultimately our own healing.  My hope is that in sharing your story with others that the burden becomes easier and we open ourselves up the therapeutic magic that is possible and therfore we bring about our own healing by letting go of the pain and allowing ourselves to see a better life.  And if everything goes well, we do the same for others.  We listen, we empathize, we allow them the safety to share of themselves fully…

and sharing is quite sexy.

The Real Pueblo Pride

..Going home was a huge thing for me.  And even though I’ve been struggling with my sexuality for the past few weeks/months/years, it was a weekend that held significance and gravity for me.

Some people have their fun making jokes of how small the town is (it’s really not) and how they think it’s not racially diverse (48% of Pueblo is Hispanic).  It is also overwhelmingly Democratic and so the town cares about issues like gay rights, worker’s rights and equality, but like most cities has struggled to enact policies and laws that truly reflect these values and predictably the rest of its citizens still have a lot of catching up to do in their interpersonal dealings.

It is because of those values that I felt I needed to go home and attend Pride.  The parade wasn’t long.  Only 4 blocks.  It wasn’t well attended…most of the people who want to be seen supporting gay pride were in the parade itself.  But the fact that there was a pride parade at all, an afternoon festival, performances and an organization behind it all is remarkable in and of itself.  Walking down the street in front of the building where my husband proposed to me, nearby my old workplace and close to my friends and family was significant.  So much history.  So much of myself there. Read the rest of this entry

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