Category Archives: Kink

Fiction and essays involving kinks and D/s particularly as regards their sexy psychological aspects.

A Few Thoughts on Bellies

Shot of woman's bare torso with glimpse of red heart panties for Sinful Sunday: Girly Thing by Malin James

Photograph by Malin James

This post isn’t really about naval fetishism, but it is the written, real time version of my realization that my relationship to my belly is far less ambivalent than I previously thought. 

I don’t really have a thing with bellies…actually, that’s a lie. I didn’t think I had a thing for bellies until I wrote this post. Hands? Yes. Nape of the neck? Obviously. Collarbones and shoulder? Fizzy, little sigh.

But tummies are different. Unlike napes and collarbones, I don’t sexualize them…at least, not beyond the fact that they’re a lovely expanse of sexy, touchy potential. Round, flat, muscled, soft – if my partner has a tummy, I’m going to want to touch it because it’s part of that person’s body. Odds are that if I’m having sex with someone I want to touch their body, belly included.

My apparently long-standing but newly discovered thing with bellies has less to do with other people’s and more to do with my own. When I was young, I trained at the SF Ballet. Even as a little person, emphasis was placed on how fit and strong and flexible our bodies were, and I was taught that my stomach muscles had a great deal to do with that. When I was dancing, I developed an intuitive awareness of my core muscles and how they engaged. They were my tools and I took care of them. They made me feel strong and capable, but that had nothing to do with sex.

When I got older and more aware and, as a result, more consciously guarded, I became protective of my belly in a largely symbolic way. Traditionally speaking, it’s a vulnerable place and “showing your belly” has never come naturally to me (massive understatement). The fact that getting people to “show their bellies” was one of my ex’s favorite pastimes probably didn’t help. In fact, my hyperawareness of it as an emotionally vulnerable place (and the protectiveness that came with it) may be why I’ve never thought of my belly as an especially sexual part of my body until I actually sat down to think about it.

Much to my surprise, it is.

After years of habitual maintenance, my core muscles are literally and figuratively the center of my strength. I engage those muscles when I run, when I pick up my daughter, and oh, damn do I engage them during sex. A really good kiss is enough to make them tighten up for go-time. I bend and flex and stretch from my belly. I use it for leverage. I sit and stay grounded from there too. Without getting too sentimental or spiritual about it, my belly has become my seat of strength in both body and mind.

While I might be naturally attracted to certain body types, a person’s belly doesn’t register when you compare it to any number of other things, but my relationship to my own belly is surprisingly less generic. My belly is strong, and that makes me feel strong, and yeah, that actually is sexy.

Stretching out long, like a cat, in bed; curling up beneath someone, anchoring myself on top of them, bending this way and that. My belly lets me do all of those things. Even better, it helps me feel present with my partner when I do them. I had no conscious awareness of that before now. It’s kind of lovely that writing this helped me figure that out.

For more thoughts on bellies and naval fetishism, check out Kink of the Week or click the lips. 

Technicolor Sex

Marilyn Monroe in a read dress against a green floral background for Technicolor Sex by Malin James

Marilyn Monroe, circa 1952. Image courtesy Getty Images.

You know how sometimes, every now and then, sex can light you up? It’s the kind of sex that squeezes your heart and gobbles it whole. Sublime, intense, shattering sex that leaves you wrecked and soaked and scratched and bruised and so happy you could cry?

Yeah. I love sex like that.

I used to associate catastrophically good, mind-altering sex with kink because, when I was younger, the only time I experienced it was in kinky situations. The impact it made on me drove me to experiment with all sorts of sexual deviance, which was great and profound in its own way, but it also kept me from understanding my natural sexual wiring until much later.

Recently, I’ve come around to realizing that, while I am definitely a kinky person, kink isn’t actually what drives my sexuality. Intensity does, and kink is one possible way for me to get a hit of that drug.

Note: When I say “kink”, I’m referring to all of the kinks I enjoy, plus the million other kinks that fall under the term’s umbrella. Unless I specify a particular kink by name, just figure I mean it as a placeholder for anything that falls outside the sexual mainstream, whatever that is….

Some people have a central kink around which other kinks play out, like the sub who loves spanking but isn’t into service. I don’t have a central, identifying kink. I have a spectrum of equally weighted, kinky options. That’s because, for me, the turn-on isn’t the kink itself, but the intensity that comes from engaging it.

I’ve written before about how I don’t identify as a Domme because it comes with a set of expectations that don’t consistently apply. While I enjoy playing that role, I slide in and out of sexual dominance depending on what I’m doing and who I’m with. For me, sexual dominance is an impulse—awesome when it’s instinctive with a partner, but not necessarily something I pursue for its own sake.

Unlike someone whose sexual identity is fairly set, my sexuality is fundamentally intuitive. I’m kind of like a tuning fork—I ring at different frequencies with different lovers because different people tap different aspects of my sexuality. This isn’t to say that I don’t have my own preferences and boundaries. It’s no secret that submission isn’t my thing. Masochism, however, is. I like pain – both dishing it out and taking it – but only if it’s part of my natural dynamic with a partner.

And that’s really the thing for me—my dynamic with my partner. It doesn’t matter if it’s a one-time thing or a long-term relationship, more than anything, I respond to connection – that humming recognition that you both want to fuck. While I really enjoy a lot of different kinks, the intensity I crave has more to do with a feedback loop than with the kink itself, and what creates that delicious feedback loop changes from partner to partner and moment to moment.

So, when I say that my sexuality is intuitive rather than definitive, I really mean that my sexual response cues off a feedback loop. Kink can, and often does, form the basis of that connection, but sometimes it just happens out of the blue. It’s a lot like dancing – you move with each other’s impulses and improvise, so dancing with one partner is nothing like dancing with someone else. I’m hyperaware of my partners’ impulses, and that awareness shapes my response. It creates a sort of bespoke sexual experience, but what fits one partner in one moment, won’t necessarily fit another.

That’s why, while I love rough sex, I’m only going to want it with certain people because it’s not about rough sex, per se. It’s about rough sex with someone I want to have rough sex with. So, as much as I enjoy restraint and watching and being watched and group sex and fucking in places you shouldn’t be fucking, I love vanilla too. For me, it’s not about what we’re doing; it’s about how it feels while we’re doing it.

If I get that intensity through missionary with unbroken eye contact, fine. If I get it through edge play, voyeurism, or trusting a partner enough to push my own boundaries, fine. In the end, it’s all just a gateway to the kind of intensity that makes for the kind of sex that dismantles your brain and turns you into a cock or a cunt and the basic need to fuck.

That isn’t to say that I can’t enjoy kink or have amazing sex without that brain-dismantling intensity because I can and have and will. In the end, I love sex—kinky sex, or sex that’s as vanilla as it gets. The kind of sex that I’m talking about here is just one variation in a million. I just happen to love it because it’s as context dependent as I am.

For me, at its best, sex is a function of impulses and variables and kink is just one of those variables. While I genuinely enjoy kinky, filthy filth, the intensity I want is a product of dynamic and connection, informed by, but not dependent on kink. It’s just as likely to happen with eye contact as it is with anything else.

I like it when sex is the unpredictable product of impulse and instinct. I like it when sex surprises me. Within the boundary of certain hard limits, my sexuality is fluid enough that it doesn’t hold a definitive shape, which means that sex is always something of an adventure. Even if I’ve been with someone for years, something – an emotional quirk, a request, whatever – can hit me in a way I didn’t expect. That sudden change in frequency is the shot of sexual adrenaline that starts the rest of the feedback loop.

It’s like alchemy and it’s different with everyone. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it reminds me what having a body is all about. That’s when you get sex that’s shattering and cathartic; sex that’s so intense and so fucking good you have to check for a heartbeat after. That’s sex in blazing Technicolor. Kink or no kink, I love Technicolor sex.

On Submission, Strong Women & The High Alpha Male

Black and white of a woman wearing black boots and ball and chain by Ellen von Unswerth for On Submission, Strong Women and The High Alpha by Malin James

Ellen von Unwerth, from Revenge

I had a brief conversation the other day that got me thinking. I’m going to paraphrase chunks of the exchange rather than quote directly (because consent), but I’ll stick as close to the original as I ethically can.

So, here’s the opener:

Hi Malin. As a high-alpha male, I appreciate strong women. Dominant women are a rare challenge. I love your work – it gives me a lot of insight into how strong women tick. 

Given my initial response, the smart thing to do would’ve been to ignore it and move on. Unfortunately, those three sentences annoyed the fuck out of me so I responded with this:

A rare challenge…interesting. Care to unpack that?

Here’s his response:

Sure! For alpha males there’s nothing as exciting as an alpha female. Alpha females handle themselves, which is great (and rare with women in my experience, IMHO), but even more exciting is the challenge I mentioned. When a strong woman breaks and submits to you, that’s the biggest high you can get as a Dom. All women, alpha or not, want to submit to a strong man and being the only man that an alpha female submits to is a fucking high.

So…setting my visceral response aside, what he’s essentially talking about is a fetish for strong women. That, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Strong women rock in all kinds of ways because there are all kinds of ways in which women are strong. Where it goes wrong for me is in why he appears to fetishize a particular kind of female strength.

He doesn’t love strong women because he thinks strong women are interesting. He doesn’t love strong women because he wants to submit to a worthy Domme. He doesn’t even love strong women because he thinks an alpha female is the only kind of woman who can match his “high alpha” self. He loves strong women because they’re a challenge.

Let me rephrase that. He loves strong women because making a strong woman “break and submit” to him is a challenge.

The attraction isn’t in the woman. It’s in a narcissistic fetish for a certain kind of power. He wants to be the very special, uber-alpha male who breaks an unbreakable woman and makes her submit. He’s not fetishizing her strength, he’s fetishizing the idea of being the only one who can strip her of it.

Needless to say, I’ve got a few issues with this. The first is that it devalues the actual submission of actual female subs (many of whom are fucking bad-asses). The second is that it makes the “strong woman” in question a challenge (ie: a thing to surmount) rather than a person, and any view that reflexively turns a person into something other than a person is pretty much a no-go for me. The third is that this appreciation for strong women is entirely ego driven. Here’s what I mean….

If you work from the stated assumption that “all women, alpha or not, want to submit to a strong man” (*eye roll*), you get the implication underlying the attraction –  that any guy can make a submissive woman submit because women are, by nature, submissive. It takes a “high alpha male” to break the “rare” dominant woman.

That particular appreciation for female strength has nothing to do with respect or actual, you know, appreciation. It’s a purely reflective thing – the value of her strength is in how brightly it highlights his.

Full disclosure: I have a button here. Though I’m not a Domme, I am naturally dominant with a wide streak of  don’t-tell-me-what-to-fucking-do. I’ve written about how my natural dominance attracted an ex who was, to put it bluntly, a diagnosed sociopath who loved me best when I was needy (“but only for him”) and who wanted to “crush me and break me and make me his”. (Direct quote. Fuck it).

That’s not to say that this gentleman is a sociopath. To be honest, I don’t think he really understood what he was saying. It just rubbed my fur backwards and, once I got over my initial annoyance, I didn’t like how it unpacked.

Essentially, this kind of attraction turns a very specific form of female strength into fetishized commodity while dismissing all the other ways in which women are strong. In other words, it turns female dominance into a kind of drug that makes a certain kind of man feel special. It has nothing to do with the woman or her dynamic with that man. It has to do with the ego boost that comes from fucking her in a particular way.

It also turns the “rare” alpha-female one of two things:

  1. a disposable experience, or
  2. a possession to groom and keep.

Either way, it’s no good. Every woman does not crave submission, and those that do should have autonomy within their submission. Anything else falls back on a cultural mode that normalized a husband’s right to spank his wife for failing to make the perfect pot roast.

In the end, there’s a fundamental difference between spanking Lara Croft and spanking Lara Croft’s alpha female glory to the breaking point. The spanking isn’t the issue – it’s the motives behind it that makes the difference between awesome and toxic. If a dominant woman (or man) trusts you enough to submit to you, even if only for a night, that should speak to the connection and trust between you, not to your prowess as an alpha.

Fetishize power in a partner. Revel in it. Love strong women. Love strong men. Just don’t turn whatever happens into proof of your Domminess. Don’t fetishize the ego boost that comes with “breaking” someone you perceive to be strong. Sex and submission aren’t about how alpha you are. They’re about feeding off each other’s strengths – that’s the real fucking high.

NB: I realized after I posted this that I should clarify some terminology as usage in that conversation got fairly muddy.

“Alpha male” and “alpha female” don’t equate to Dom and Domme (or sadist or top). All alpha means it that someone has what might be called a dominant personality. Some alphas have personalities that are more dominant than others, as do some betas, etc. All dominant people are not alpha, nor are all alphas dominant.

Alpha, dominant and Dom are often equated in casual conversation, which is fine insofar as it goes. It’s just important to acknowledge that a person’s alignment in social hierarchies may differ than their (natural or chosen) position in sexual power dynamics.

As for the term “strong women”, it most definitely does not apply exclusively to dominant women or alpha females. Some of the strongest women I know are subs. Sexual wiring has little, if any, bearing on a woman’s integrity, resilience or strength.

Unbearably Sexy

Black and white photograph of Michael Fassbender for Vogue issue April 2012 for Unbearably Sexy post by Malin James

Michael Fassbender & Natalia Vodianova for Vogue, April 2012

I should preface this by saying that this isn’t what I’d call a proper post. It’s more of a message from my id…. Carry on.

Yesterday, I stumbled over this photograph of Michael Fassbender and Natalia Vodianova from the April 2012 issue of Vogue. It’s gorgeous, dramatic and ambiguous – just the sort of thing I love. But “gorgeous, dramatic and ambiguous” makes it sound like my response to it was  dreamy and appreciative in a purely aesthetic way.

It wasn’t.

My response was an immediate shot of violent arousal. It’s the sort of feral jolt I don’t usually get unless the source of my arousal is either very personal or touchably in front of me.

In the wake of this fantastically primal response, I tweeted the photo with the caption “This is unbearably sexy” because that’s exactly how it felt – unbearably sexy. This image is so sexy that it was literally difficult for me to bear. For some reason, it taps into every dark, delicious, predatory instinct I have. Even as I type this, I feel sharp and edgy.

I ended up DM’ing a bit later with a couple of women who had similar reactions – similar, but not quite the same. While we all got that holy hell, FUCK ME shot of arousal, the women I chatted with were pretty open about the fact that it was because they identified with, or wanted to be, Natalia Vodianova.

This is very much in keeping with what I assume to be the intention of the image given that it’s part of that issue’s cover feature on Michael Fassbender. Of course, the female reader is meant to identify with Vodianova. Who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of Fassbender’s sleek concentration?

That’s what underpins the image’s visible cues – his control and her softness, the way he’s holding her still, her pretty glove on his sleeve, the precision of his hand vs. the carelessness of his writing…. I see all of those things and feel the pull of the same response – the one I should be having:

Let it be my hand on his sleeve and my temple he’s writing on. 

But it’s not. I’m reacting to something else – something I’ve manufactured in response to the image. Yes, it’s fed by his apparent control but it’s not because I want to be the lovely, pliant recipient of that attention. I don’t want to be the woman he’s doing it to, I want to be the woman he’s doing it for. I want to watch him while he does it and know that I’m under his skin.

Despite how that probably sounds, that desire doesn’t come from a place of dominance. It comes from the fact that I love power and confidence and force of will. I love prowess, and I love watching my partners exercise their prowess. It’s intensely exciting to me because equality is exciting to me – there is nothing as intimately hot as knowing that I am with someone whose will is as strong as mine, someone who can meet me step for step wherever we happen to go, especially when he trusts me to take the lead.

This photograph is not an image of that equality – it’s of a magnetic man exercising his prowess. Fassbender’s control, his focus, intensity and aloofness, the way he makes an object of her…it’s beautiful in the way a painting is beautiful. And so is the softness of her compliance. They are the picture of a dynamic that I would love to watch unfold…and, more importantly, that I would love to control.

So, where would I be in this picture?

Under his skin and in the back of his mind. In the pressure of the quill and his furrowed brow. In the drop of his shoulder and his barely parted lips.

He would bring me the taste of her perfume, like a token or a gift. He would bring me smudges of India ink, and I would lick the ink from his fingers and the perfume from his skin. I don’t own him. I wouldn’t want to. I love that he can’t be owned. But I’m in him; and in the ink; and in his impulse to write – by choice as much as will. And were I in his place, he would be in me too.

Woman in Repose

Woman with arched back lying on a dark bed

Woman in Repose by Steve Harris

The past few months have been challenging. A series of difficult things destabilized what had been a very stable foundation. It was a bit like playing Jenga. Each thing that happened removed a pin from my tower, until I was leaning and listing everywhere – nowhere near falling, but structurally unsound.

As a result, it’s  fair to say that I haven’t been myself. The people in my life have had to deal with me being unusually emotional and term bound while I struggled with a limited sense of perspective. I’ve been anxious, reactionary and far more taxed (and taxing) than I ever want to be. It’s a state of mind that made me want to unzip my skin and divorce my body from my brain until I got a handle on things. And that’s essentially, what I did. The result was a general disinterest in sex and, to a greater degree, D/s.

There are labels I use for myself, and others that I don’t even though they could superficially apply. The primary example of this is “Domme”. I never refer to myself as a Domme even though I am sexually dominant. (To be honest, I’m dominant in general though I try to keep that checked. I’d rather be accessible than in control…unless there’s a reason to be in control).

I make the distinction between dominant and Domme because, while I enjoy playing with power, I can just as easily not and be very satisfied. The label “Domme” comes with implications that I feel don’t quite apply because my dominance isn’t formalized, nor do I want it to be. My recent situational reticence with D/s underscored that distinction for me in a very concrete way.

Side note: Drawing this distinction deserves its own post, so forgive the broad brush I’m using now.

While I love playing games, I’m equally happy to meet my partners without a power dynamic in play. What keeps me from being even remotely switchy is the fact that I won’t submit sexually to anyone. Ever. My aversion to sexual submission is serious enough that I couldn’t do it for love or money. There are reasons for this, but I’m going to save those for a separate post.

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy gentle cruelties or imposing my will on consenting partners. I’d be lying if I said that there isn’t a carnivorous part of me that gets off on taking control. But I’d also be lying if I said that that particular kind of assertion is an integral part of who I am. It’s something that I do, not something that I am (unlike my resistance to submission, which is a fundamental part of my personality). That’s why I love sex with an equally dominant partner just as much (and often even more) as D/s play. 

The result of dealing with what I’ve been dealing with is that I haven’t really wanted to play in a D/s sense. I haven’t wanted to control, create or weave scenarios. So much of my energy was going to keeping myself under control, that the idea of taking external control in a play context was exhausting. Unfortunately, I didn’t consciously realize any of this at the time, though I wish I had. I was pushing myself in ways that I shouldn’t have.

In hindsight, I can see that what I needed was something else – good sex, balanced dynamics and, perhaps most lowering, a sense of safety so that I could get out of my head and back into my body. I’ve been sexually reticent and, though not passive (because I’m almost never passive), I’ve definitely been more cautious and reserved – what a friend of mine would call a woman in repose.

While I was in London, Exhibit A and I went for a short run. Afterwards we talked about how, after you’ve been injured, you tend to go more carefully and not push yourself as hard. It’s an understandable thing but, at a certain point, that self-protective instinct can get in your way. Then again, sometimes it’s what you need, even if only for a short time…the hope is always that you’ll return to running at speed.

To circle back to where I started, certain facets of my sexuality and personality have been feeling fairly injured of late – facets that are tied to my relationship with sexual dominance. In a sense, I needed to rest those muscles – the ones I use in D/s – because D/s is not my home base. Sex is. I needed to get re-grounded in sex while those other parts of me rested. I needed to feel, not think or plan. I needed to be spontaneous and basic, so I didn’t go out on available limbs or explore interesting possibilities. I played it safe because, as with running after an injury, I needed to respect my boundaries and get the lay of my land again.

I didn’t realize it until I wrote this, but sex was, and is, the key to that for me. Good, connected, uninhibited, back-to-basics sex with someone I trust.  And now, on the tail end of what turned out to be a pretty difficult patch, I’m happy to say that I’m in better shape than I thought I was. The muscles that needed resting are stretching and waking up. I’m feeling like myself again, and it feels awfully good. I really am happiest on my feet.

I’ve Got What You Want

How far do you think he'd go for that pie?

How far do you think he’d go for that pie?

I’m hypersensitive to power dynamics. I intuit hierarchies the way a cook intuits whether or not a soup needs more salt. It’s one of the reasons I’m drawn instinctively to D/s, and why I love Secretary so much. But more on that in a bit….

Interestingly, power doesn’t have nearly so much to do with position and title as one might think. Boss / employee, parent / child, even Dom / sub – these relationships are vertical in theory, but in practice situational power is fluid and highly dependent on external factors. An influential title is not enough to guarantee that a power dynamic remain static. That’s because situational power has little do with rank, and everything to do with having what someone wants.

Take the boss who is caught embezzling by an employee. He wants to avoid jail, so suddenly the person who relied on his good will at review time has the power. It shifted with context, leaving the boss who once had control at the mercy of his subordinate.

This kind of power simmers beneath the surface of any situation in which people interact. Generally speaking, contextual power goes to whichever party has what the other person wants – love, approval, sex, money, security, respect, whatever. This form of power is leveraged by the honey pot, not by the person who wants a taste.

But there is another kind of power, one that is far less fluid. This other kind of power is defined not by the situation, but by self-possession and control. You can see it when the context shifts, and the honey pot changes hands but the person who should be pursuing it doesn’t.

Let’s go back to the example of the boss who was caught embezzling. What if his employee comes to him demanding blackmail? What if, rather than pay the blackmail, Mr. Embezzler weighs his options and chooses to make a deal with the authorities? While he would still be subject to the institutional power of the law, he will have preserved his autonomous power of choice because he exercised his will and addressed the situation on his terms, and not the blackmailer’s.

That is personal power, which supersedes context. This is the kind of natural authority that claims situational power. While someone who exercises personal power can still be affected by changes in context, their response is entirely their own. It is not determined by the pursuit of what they want. Unlike contextual power, personal power is dictated not by desire, but by choice.

The sort of decision I described Mr. Embezzler making requires incredible personal power. Rather than reacting on impulse to the change in his fortunes, he exercised control over his response and defied his employee’s bid at taking control of the situation – not to spite the employee but, rather, because addressing his crimes on his terms would likely lead to more leniency than he might otherwise get.

That is not easy – the impulse to follow a knee-jerk response is strong. But that’s what personal power comes down to – defying that first, knee-jerk impulse. Do you react immediately or measure your response? Do you take the high road or jump in, guns blazing? Are you ruled by your reactions or do you weigh your options and pursue the one that most aligns with the preservation of your terms? Are you aware of what your terms* are?

*Quick note: I’ve used the word “terms” here a few times, and it occurred to me that I should explain what I mean. When I say “terms” in the context of interpersonal relationships, I mean those things that are most important to you. Terms can be anything from your principles and values, to your needs. Knowing what your terms are in any given situation makes it easier to ensure that you keep them.

Movie poster for The SecretaryOutside of corporate crimes, where can you see this sort of power exchange play out – hopefully in a completely legal way? While power dynamics underlie even the most mundane interactions, there are few places in which both forms of power are played with quite so explicitly as in D/s and BDSM.

In D/s (and other forms of kink) the dynamic of a scene is controlled by one person. Ostensibly, that person is the top, but only if he exercises his will successfully over the sub. In other words, the top has to inspire the bottom’s submission – holding the title of “Dom” isn’t enough. As Laura Antoniou wrote, to dominate is a verb, which means topping requires taking active control of the scene though the assertion of personal power.

This doesn’t always look like what we read in fiction. Take the scenario of the recalcitrant sub. I’ve read many stories in which the top snarls and makes a great cock swinging show of his dominance while the plot put him back in control. It’s much rarer to see a fictional Dom portrayed as possessing, let alone asserting, genuine power. That’s why I love Secretary so much.

Edward Grey is subtle and tremendously considered. He watches Lee and maintains control over their dynamic not through grand displays of dominance, but through the nuanced manipulation of their shared context. He ensures that situational power stays with him by exercising patience and control – the opposite of responding to impulse. But what makes Secretary so wonderful is that it also chronicles Lee, the submissive in the relationship, as she develops her self-possession and gradually asserts power over other aspects of her life, including, at the end, successfully managing contextual control over her relationship with Grey. It’s a well-rounded portrayal of a nuanced power dynamic, one that capitalizes on the complexities of contextual power and personal will.

Power is a lovely game, one whose stakes are defined by the players. Personally, I love to play the game almost as much as I love to watch it play out. It’s endlessly interesting because it’s as varied and dynamic as the people involved. But in a far more serious sense, being aware of power dynamics can help you keep your footing when the going gets rough (and it will always get rough, if only for a bit). Knowing your position in a power dynamic can help you navigate a situation without letting context steer you into a wall. The key is knowing what you want, and whether or not you want it badly enough to compromise your place on the curve.

On Watchers & Watching

Black cat watching fish bowl. Source: Creative Commons / WikiCommons

Black Cat Watching Fish at the Bowl by Theophile Steinlen, (1898). Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A while ago, I wrote a post called On Prowess. As I did, I found myself having to rein in on a number of other tangents, most notably two – my love of dominant partners, (though I myself am dominant) and, far more central to this post, voyeurism, or watching people and how it relates to control and domination and curiosity and sexual interest.

Voyeurism operates differently for everyone, I suspect, but for me, it feeds into why I love to write. You see, I create these characters and then let them work on each other while I record and watch. It’s an immensely satisfying arrangement – one that I’ll admit I enjoy in real life as much as I do on the page.

But then I listened to a podcast that made me realize that my relationship to voyeurism and, conversely, exhibitionism, is a bit more complicated than I’d originally thought. On the (It Girl. Rag Doll) episode titled, “Flashers and Peeping Toms,” Molly Moore and Harper Eliot spent an hour examining exhibitionism and voyeurism from a variety of different angles. After listening to that conversation, I realized that, while I don’t consider myself to be an exhibitionist, I do like knowing that I’m being watched, but only under certain conditions. So what the hell does that mean?

Before I could even begin to try to figure that out, I had to take a closer look at what it is that I love about voyeurism. That wasn’t terribly difficult – I’m a people watcher in all aspects of my life, whether I’m waiting in line for coffee or telling a partner to strip for me. I love fleeting moments and human detail. I love watching an old gentleman put his hand on his obviously adored wife’s back as he guides her through a door just as much as I love watching my partner come…okay, maybe not quite as much. But you know what I mean. The point is that I love those fleeting moments; those moments take you beyond what a person is doing to how they feel about it, even when they aren’t consciously aware of it themselves. Those moments make an experience singular and distinct.

There’s a cause and effect element to voyeurism, as well. My presence has an effect on the people being watched, because my presence, (or the presence of any audience), creates a heightened circumstance for the observed. It turns up the volume on their experience, which, in turn, makes it all the more vibrant, dynamic and sexy to watch. I think it’s that element of cause and effect that ties into my own conditional enjoyment of being watched.

One of my oldest sexual fantasies was of my partner being hidden away, watching, while I fucked someone else. In the fantasy, I knew my partner was there, but he didn’t know that I was aware of his presence. What always, always got me off was the knowledge that watching me get off with someone else was driving my partner mad – that he was desperate to join us but couldn’t do so without giving himself away. It was the fact of his desire, (ie: my effect), that turned me on, rather than the fact of being watched.

Looking back on it now, that fantasy is packed with my psychology and my relationship to power, dominance and sex. In other words, my need to cause an effect. As with that fantasy, being watched has never turned me on in and of itself. It’s the fact that watching me is turning the watcher on that makes me smile like the cat that got the cream. It’s the feedback loop that I want – he, (or she), watches and desires, I know this and want more, and so forth….

Does this make me an exhibitionist as well as a voyeur? I’ve no idea. All I know is that the idea of being watched by strangers does nothing for me, just as watching strangers engage sexually is never as intimate or powerful as watching people that I know. Being watched is, for me, an incredibly contextual thing, dependent entirely on who is watching and why, and always on whether or not I want them to want me. I have to want, very specifically, their desire.

It might be tied to the fact that I’m not generally concerned about being “caught” having sex. Aside from feeling a bit smug and pleased with myself, being caught or watched by someone I don’t know doesn’t ruffle me…but if I were to get caught by someone I do know and find out that they liked it? Well, now that’s fucking hot.

So, what does all that mean? I’m honestly not sure. The bottom line is that I want to be desired and I want to have an impact. As Harper Eliot and Molly Moore pointed out, there is something incredibly powerful about being desired, and my enjoyment of being watched is, to some level, proof of how true that is for me. I’m not entirely sure how comfortable I am with that, but there it is.

In the end, it’s far cleaner to set characters in motion so I can watch and record what they do, just as it’s a much simpler pleasure to watch people I care about sink deep into a sexual experience… Life for me as a voyeur is a fairly peaceful, comfortable, black and white affair. If I claim the title of voyeur and ignore the rest, I don’t have to confront my own massively ambiguous relationship with being watched. And yet it’s still there, teetering on the edge of my sexuality. That’s not the most comfortable thing, but then, the ambiguous, shadowy parts of ourselves rarely are. I’m  just going to have to get used to the fact that I am, apparently, both the goldfish in the bowl and the cat that’s watching it.

The Slap, or The Intimacy of Violence

four image screen capture from Max Landis's short, The Slap

Screen captures, YouTube. From Max Landis’s “The Slap”

This post has been amended ever-so-slightly because I can’t leave anything alone. Enjoy! xx.M

Earlier in the year, a video called “First Kiss” went viral. It featured people who had never met before sharing a kiss on camera. “First Kiss” generated some controversy because, as it turned out, the strangers in the video weren’t “normal people,” but were, in fact, actors. Apparently, this turned a lot of people off. Personally, I didn’t care. Actors or not, the people in the video were still kissing strangers and, as a former actor myself, I can tell you that it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re getting paid – kissing someone you don’t know is legitimately awkward, no matter how many times you’ve done it, (particularly when you’re going in cold).

Anyway, another video came out several months later in the wake of “First Kiss.” Filmed by a different director, this one was called, “The Slap,” and featured, unsurprisingly, randomly paired strangers slapping each other. I was intrigued so I watched it, expecting a tongue-in-cheek parody. What I got surprised me instead. Here – take a look:

Important Note 1: This may be stating the obvious, but this video shows a whole lot of people slapping each other in the face. If that makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to skip it, and just read on.

So, here’s why I like this video – “The Slap” shows a form of visceral intimacy that we rarely talk about in civilized culture. Just as kissing is widely acknowledged to be an intimate act, so to is hitting someone, (as well as getting hit).

Important Note 2: Allow me state up front that consent is everything. The people in this video agreed to slap and be slapped. It is never all right to haul off and hit someone without their consent – unless they’re trying to hurt you. If they’re trying to hurt you, please, by all means, go to town.

Now, back to my point. The violence in “The Slap” is entirely egalitarian. Everyone’s on board. Everyone knows what they’re about to do. And yet, they all hesitate before doing it. There’s a breathless moment right before they each strike that I absolutely love. It’s like that silent negotiation right before a first kiss, when your lips are almost touching, but you’re still not sure it’s going to happen. That is intimate. And just as with a kiss, once they’ve gotten a taste for it, they want more. They laugh, they hug, they kiss, they scrunch their shoulders in that oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this way that happens when a person is super giddy and getting away with something.

The thing is, they are getting away with something in a way. They’re getting away with feeling good about hitting someone and getting hit. That right there is a modern taboo. We tell children not to hit each other. We raise ourselves to avoid violence, and for the most part, this is a very good thing – abuse is real. Harm is real, and so is victimization. These things are fucking abhorrent. But between two consenting adults, moderate violence can be shockingly sweet. It can be the foundation of a bond, a friendship, a brief connection or a life-long affair. It is, very legitimately, an intimate act, and intimate acts are powerful.

We are animals, after all. Regardless of how civilized we are, our impulses are not always civilized. There’s something about a slap that can send us back to our primal selves just as quickly as a kiss can – sometimes playfully, sometimes not. This is why, when people talk about how satisfying martial arts can be, I completely understand. Sparring is the epitome of consensual, controlled, disciplined violence, and that’s a powerful thing. The same goes for spanking and other forms of BDSM play, which involves forms of what many people call violence. And yet, hitting and being hit, in consensual BDSM contexts, is the height of intimacy – the exchange of power, trust and, at times, deep emotion. Between two people who agree to the exchange, violence can be many things, including sexy, delightful, charming and sweet.

It’s the sweetness that I see in “The Slap.” I can understand it making a person uncomfortable. I’ve been hit and I’ve hit back. Sometimes it can be lovely. Sometimes it definitely is not. But when it is lovely, it can be a powerfully intimate thing. Moreover, it’s an intimately human thing, and that, if nothing else, makes it worthy of consideration and, in my opinion, respect.

On Prowess

Leopard Staring by Nick Brandt. 2010. Image courtesy www.faheykleingallery.com

Leopard Staring by Nick Brandt. 2010. Image courtesy www.faheykleingallery.com

This is a much more confessional piece than I normally write, but I feel that, as with most of my writing, my sexuality is inherently tied to my work, so I’m calling this fair game. Consider yourself warned, (she said, cautioning her cagey self far more than you).

Every now and then, I realize I’m wired a bit differently, (though I am, by no means, unique). Occasionally I see myself from the outside and literally think, huh. That’s kind of weird. Those moments don’t happen often, but when they do, they make me think. Recently, I had one of those realizations.

You see, I love prowess. I love prowess in all things–athletics, the arts, intellectual pursuits–but I love sexual prowess most of all. I love it so much, I’ll say it again. I LOVE sexual prowess.

Well, of course, you might be thinking–who doesn’t love sexual prowess? Sexual prowess is great, especially when you’re on the receiving end. This is where my realization comes in. While I do love being on the receiving end of sexual prowess, (because really, who the doesn’t?), I also love watching someone I’m involved with exercise their prowess. In other words, I love watching a lover successfully seduce someone else.

I suspect this goes back to one relationship in particular. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was involved with a man who owned his prowess. He owned himself, and that gave him a magnetism that was difficult to ignore. We used to sit bars, sip Johnny Walker Black, and play a game…well, not really a game. It was more of a wink and a nod, fueled by the fact that we each loved watching each other seduce a pretty someone. Sometimes we’d bring that someone else home with us, but more often than not, we didn’t. The point was to see if we could. The end result was secondary, because regardless of who did, (or did not), end up in the bed, we would go back to his place and fuck, fueled by the charge we both got from watching each other in action.

Side Note: This is the answer to the question, how do two dominants make sex work? (Aside from very well, thanks). The answer is, they hunt together. There are many other answers, of course. This is just one of the answers that has always worked for me. But back to the issue….

My relationship with this man was unlike anything I’d experienced up to that point, and it seeded in me a love of something that, in many people, results in jealousy. I’m a voyeur to begin with, but when you add to that watching a man I’m involved with exert his dominance over someone else–whether in a purely top/bottom situation, or in a far more openly sexual way–it’s like catnip to me. He will have my attention and keep it as surely as ice cubes melt in gin. And the converse is also true. I love it when my partner responds to and appreciates my predatory instincts not with jealousy but with insatiability*. That response is, in and of itself, a turn on.

Since that first relationship, I’ve had a handful of partners who shared my love of prowess, but whether it’s watching my partner exercise his dominance over another, (“how many clothespins is she wearing?”) or my partner acting as an extension of my will, (“that pretty girl there. See how far you can get.”), it’s the shared experience–the mutual enjoyment–that creates the turn-on. In a way, it’s the acknowledgment of an affinity more than anything else that keeps that craving alive.

Which is why my head was turned by a lovely recounting of sexual prowess that in no way involved me. I like knowing that my partner can make a woman, (or man), want him, (or her), to distraction. I like witnessing it, even if only after the fact. It’s an entirely different sort of pleasure than being with that person myself. It’s the pleasure of the watcher, and while that isn’t to everyone’s taste, it’s tailor made to mine.

*NB 9/21/15: While I still agree with myself, something in my perspective has shifted on this point, or rather, I’m aware of a nuance that I wasn’t aware of before. Will very likely follow this up with another post.

The KMQ: Bound / Unbound

KMQ Bound-Unbound I’ve been listening to The Kiss Me Quick’s erotica podcast for roughly five months, and in that time, I’ve heard Rose Caraway read everything from the dark and unsettling to the most joyfully pornographic smut you could ever hope to come across. It’s a wonderful podcast, both in content and execution, which is why I was honored when Ms. Caraway asked me if I wanted to write a piece for an episode. The answer was an immediate hell yes.

The piece I ended up writing, a dark bondage fantasy called Bound / Unbound surprised me. I’d been toying with the idea for about 9 years but it never went anywhere. I even had an extremely shitty, ancient first draft, but I gave it up shortly after writing it because I felt unequal to the task, (I was a newbie then and in desperate need of skill and confidence). Even as a concept, it was unruly and stubborn, but when the KMQ came up, something made me dig it out.

Writing a piece to be read is different than writing a piece to be performed – it has to be a little tighter, a little leaner. It has to have a certain efficiency and punch because the ear can only process so much at one time. These limitations ended up imposing an additional structure on the work – one based on practical concerns like pacing, (there’s kick-ass interstitial music), and tension. Those limitations, plus having a specific audience, (KMQ’s Lurid Listeners), were the key.

You can listen to Rose Caraway’s reading of Bound / Unbound here. There’s even a fabulous short, “The Massage” by Lady Cheeky” from The Big Book of Orgasms to sweeten the deal, so check it out.

And finally, on a personal note, I just want to say thank you to Rose Caraway and the KMQ. I would never have guessed that 9 years later, my first rough, unformed little bit of erotica would be performed as an episode of one of the classiest productions there is. And if you aren’t already heard the KMQ, get on over there and have a listen. You’ll be happy you did.