Monday, February 07, 2005

By Request
Some of ya'll said, "Why don't you post a picture where you're facing the camera?" Okay - here's one. Self-portrait, early 2003.

Photographers info: I shot this on a Nikon Coolpix 950. I've done a lot of different shots involving this set of pocket doors, they're great. For this one, I put two cheap tungsten spots on the other side of the door, and taped white tissue paper all along the opening to diffuse the light. Then I shot through the glass panels of a French door. I intensified the grain slightly in Photoshop. It's one of the "Filtered Nudes" series.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Mistress's Saturday Night

Last night Max and I dropped by the SNM Underworld party for a little while. I didn't think I was really in the mood for a party – we came over right after working out at at the gym, and I was feeling rather low-energy. But Max, who is actually much more of a social butterfly than I am, insisted.

It turned out to be quite crowded – good news for Sam, the owner. The new shop looks great – from what one could see of it, given that it was stuffed with people. A lot of Goth kids in wild outfits, some kinksters I'm sort of slightly acquainted with, and a handful of what I think of as "my crowd" – Allena, Malixe, Lydia McLane, and few other folks.

I was hanging out by the food table stuffing grapes into my mouth – we hadn't gone to dinner yet – and being amused by the fact that I was one of the most non-fetishy looking people there, if you went purely on clothing. Many of the other guests had really pulled out the wardrobe stops – there was a lot of PVC, leather, rubber, corsets, you name it.

Now, I do own a fair amount of fetish gear like that - but you know, most of the time, it seems like a lot of bother to wear it. I dress up a bit for my clients because they deserve that, and I can enjoy getting all decked out for big-deal fetish occasions. But while Sam is great, and I wish her continued success, there's no way I was going to put on a rubber dress and thigh-high boots to come to the store opening party. Nine times out of ten if you see me at a local fetish event, I'll be wearing some skimpy, stretchy little cotton tank top, leather or PVC pants that are cut like jeans and are thus comfortable, and a pair of New Rock boots. Sexy, but comfy.

Last night I hadn't even bothered with that. I was wearing what I almost always wear when I need something slightly nicer than jeans: black slacks – from The Limited, no less - a plain black long-sleeved T-shirt, and boots. There was a time in my life – long ago and far away – when just wearing all black was a "statement", and people regarded nervously someone who was dressed so. That day is over. Soccer moms wear all black now. But I just haven't quite admitted that to myself, because I am so not a fashionista.

I noticed that almost all of my friends were also dressed down. Max was wearing jeans and a cotton shirt. (Though it was black.) Allena was wearing jeans and one of Monk's tank tops. And I'm pretty sure I remember Malixe wearing basic black jeans and shirt. So I was smiling to myself over the fact that three of the people who I knew to be quite advanced and ferocious BDSM players were really not dressing the part. Four, if you count me. (Lydia was the exception. She was dressed up in a very fetching little fetishy outfit, and she is a disturbingly creative sadist. Lydia has a way of laughing that makes even me a little uneasy.)

But I've observed this phenomenon more than once at Seattle fetish events over the years. I wouldn't exactly say that the newer/less truly kinky the person is, the more dressed up they are – that's not quite right, although sometimes it would be an easy conclusion to jump to.

But I do think that once you get to a certain place in BDSM, you realize that fetish clothes really don't matter so much. You no longer need to bolster up your sense of yourself as a kinkster, or to prove something to other people. If you just like them – and lots of good people do, including me occasionally - that's fine. But they become non-essential.

In spite of the fact that Max wasn't dressed up, he apparently got a bit toppy with one woman. A female acquaintance approached him, bringing with her a second woman, who promptly informed him that she was there to grovel to him. Max has no philosophical objections to strangers groveling to him, but as he said to me later, he likes to know why.

After some more conversation it became clear that she was groveling with the hopes of getting into the sold-out Bondage Intensive class he's teaching next weekend. (She wasn't actually down on the floor, in case you're wondering. This was apparently to be sort of a verbal groveling.)

Max kindly but firmly said no dice, the class is full and that's it. They had a discussion about some private lessons, which she seemed interested in. Max finished by saying, with a smile, "And by the way, I like the wrist cuffs you're wearing, and I'd be happy to take a rain check on the groveling."

Looking slightly startled, the woman allowed as how she was really more of a dominant than a submissive.

Max replied, "Well, if you're dominant, you should make eye contact with me when you have a conversation with me." Because she wasn't. Looking down and away while you talk to someone isn't exactly the best way to come across as all domly and shit. (Never mind the whole issue of groveling and wearing wrist cuffs.)

He was telling me this story over dinner afterwards, and I asked, "So? Did she make eye contact with you after that?"
"Yeah, she kinda did that slightly wide-eyed, I'm-not-looking-away thing."

Oh, that's not quite right either, although I'm not really sure what the truly domly thing to do what have been there. And Max has a way of putting one in a position where no matter which way you go, he's gotcha. Either way, her fetishy outfit didn't seem to be doing her much good.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Maybe I Should Get A Septum Piercing Or Something…

Because I must look too normal. I realized this last Wednesday evening when I was changing clothes in the locker room at Gold's on Broadway after my workout. A woman I'd not seen around before walked in, set down her bag on the next bench over from mine and started getting her gear out.

She was a very butch woman – I mean, so butch you might have mistaken her for a guy. Unless, of course you'd spent a lot of time around butch women, the way I have. Most of my female lovers have been pretty butchy. I've always enjoyed that feminine-blending-into-masculine energy. And then I married a transman, so I'm well-acquainted with all the shades of gender expression a female-bodied person can achieve.

I was struck by this particular woman because she very closely resembled an ex-lover of mine, whom I just saw last week for the first time in – god, it must be well over a year. Frankly, although I wish her well, it's always a little unsettling for me to see her. (Especially when she flirts with me, as she did last week.) This woman and I went through a couple of rather tumultuous cycles of breaking-up/getting-back-together, and while I wouldn't exactly say she broke my heart, she chipped it a bit. It was a highly emotional connection for me, and while it's been about eight years since we broke up the last time, seeing her still arouses in me an uncomfortable mix of affection and pain.

So I suppose this woman in the Gold's locker room must have seen me glance at her a couple of times, and maybe she caught an odd expression on my face, because she turned to me, and said in this half-defensive, half-condescending tone of voice, "Yes, I am a woman."

Christ, I thought, do you have me pegged wrong. Aloud I said, "Yes, I was just thinking you look kinda like my ex-girlfriend."

She had the grace to look somewhat embarrassed, muttered something vaguely apologetic and retreated to the bathroom stalls.

But I thought, God, do I look that straight? That's scary. Okay, I don't have a labrys tattooed on my ass, but still… And I know butch women get a lot of shit for walking around in the world looking and acting like they do. But for god's sake, we're on Broadway, in the queer Mecca – lighten up, sister. I hate to think how you'd have reacted if I'd been cruising you.

I related this story to Max over dinner, and then we recalled another women's locker room story of mine that's rather at the other end of the scale. We used to work out at Olympic Athletic Club in Ballard, and they have a big, sort of open shower/hot tub area in the women's locker room. Now, Ballard's not a big gay area, but one day when Max and I were working out, I spotted two cute women who were clearly queer, and lovers. One of them I'd describe as a tomboy-femme, and the other – well, let's call her butch-of-center. Nice, I thought, and then went on through my workout.

Later, I got undressed in the locker room and went down the tiled passage to the showers. As I walked, I saw the two cute lesbians sitting in the hot tub, facing me. Now, contrary to porn-video fantasy, women rarely cruise other women, and almost never jump each other in places like, say, gym showers. But still, these two women were most certainly…watching me walk towards them. I could almost hear the strains of "Standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by…"

I took in the fact that they were looking at me, and I happened to be in the mood to play along. So as I walked towards them, I let the towel I was sort of casually holding up to myself slip down a bit to see if I got any reaction.

Definitely watching me. That's nice. Now, the showers are arranged in a semi-circle around the hot tub, so when I got there, I stopped about three feet away from the tub and let the towel fall away from my nude body completely, as I paused to wrestle with the complex issue of just which shower stall I should go into.

Hmm, let's see – that one? (180 degree swivel, toss the hair, arch the back a little bit.) Or, no, maybe that one over there? (Turn back the other way, shoulders back, deep breath.)

I watched from the corner of my eye - they both had smiles well-laced with sensual appreciation, and the butchy one giggled slightly, which caused her girlfriend to jab her in the ribs with her elbow.

Without quite making eye contact, I let a slight smile hover around my lips. Then I hung up my towel on a hook and stepped into one of the stalls.

But - what's this? It looks like someone left a bottle of shampoo in here. Huh, imagine that. Gee, I wonder if it belongs to anyone…

I stepped back out of the stall and took a few steps towards the women in the hot tub, holding out the shampoo bottle. I made eye contact with them, smiled slowly, and then said, in my best magnolia-blossom drawl, I asked, "Is this ya'lls shampoo?"

The butch woman stared at me wordlessly for a moment like she'd been struck by lightning. It was charming. Then, as if reflexively, she shook her head and said, "No."

But the minute after she said it, she sort of squeezed her eyes closed and put her hand up over her face. You could see her mentally kicking herself and thinking, "Fuck! Why did I say that?"

The femme gave her an affectionate, pitying smile and said to me in velvety tones, "Oh – I'm not sure… Can I see it?" and held out her hand to me.

So I walked closer to her, letting my hips sway a trifle more than is my custom, bent over the tub slightly – barely audible intake of breath from the butch – and handed the femme the white plastic bottle. As I hung over the water, the steam rose gently from the tub, misting my face with warm, dewy beads. She turned the bottle over in her hands a few times, and then looked up at me.

"No, I don't think it's ours," she said. But she didn't hand it back to me. She just looked at me.

It's hard to say what would have happened if we’d been alone. Based on my experience of how non-casual-sex-oriented most women are, I can't really make myself believe these women would have seriously made a pass at me – but I suppose anything's possible.

However, we were not alone in the locker room, and at that moment, another woman walked into the shower area. I cocked an eyebrow and smiled at the femme, who gave the tiniest shrug and smile and handed me back the bottle. The butch woman sank a little lower in the water and grinned sheepishly at me from under her wet bangs. I went and took my shower, and when I came out, they were gone. A droll and gently erotic little exchange that left me smiling.

Friday, February 04, 2005

So, as promised, another video clip about the "The Weakest Kink" contest. Roman will be posting some text about it on his blog later this afternoon as well.
Now I'm off into my day - more later...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

From The Photo Gallery

Self-portrait, taken sometime late in 2000. That's a metal grate I picked up at The Re-store over in Ballard. I have no idea what it's original purpose was, but I just liked the shape of it.
It was shot on my old Nikon Coolpix 950, with a single tungsten spotlight, and a white paper backdrop.
This is one of the first prints I ever succeeded in selling online, and it's one of my favorite color pieces.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

From a recent email:

Mistress Matisse, you talk so much about where you're going and what you're doing – aren't you ever afraid that one of your clients will come and find you? What would you do if you ever ran into one of your clients in public?

This is what I call "a preconceived idea question". To do the issue justice, not only do I need to answer the question, I have to untangle the assumption that prompted it.

No, I'm not ever afraid that one of my clients will seek me out at a social event. It happens on a regular basis and I'm quite fine with it. Why shouldn't I be? I have nothing to hide. And I certainly don't mind having a few minutes of chat with a client I meet at a fetish event – if for no other reason than because it frequently means I'll get a phone call for an appointment soon after.

There have been a very few occasions when a client tried to take up a little too much of my time at a fetish party. It wasn't a malicious thing on their part – it was just a manifestation of their attraction to me and their general excitement at being there. A gentle verbal nudge has always taken care of the situation.

And I do run into my clients in non-fetish settings once in a while. It doesn't upset me. (Unless I look scruffy, in which case I'm mortified. Reason number thirty-seven never to leave the house without mascara.) Even if we're in the most vanilla of places, it's not like we have the words "Mistress" and "slave" tattooed on our foreheads. If, while we're browsing linens at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, a certain guy in a baseball cap and a polo shirt smiles and says hello to me, and I smile back at him, no one around us knows the precise nature of our acquaintance. No harm, no foul.

I once ran into a favored client while eating pizza at Piecora's on Capitol Hill. I happened to be with another woman who is an escort. He made eye contact with me and gave me a unmistakable "can I acknowledge you?" look. When I waved him over, he came and sat in our booth for ten minutes, while a table full of his basketball-buddies visibly seethed with curiosity about who the hot babes he was flirting with were. I'm told he took great pleasure in being mysterious about it.

That was entertaining. But since I do recognize that not everyone makes the same choices I do, my rule with clients is that in public – including fetish events – I will pretend not to know them, unless we've previously agreed that it's okay to do otherwise. If they want to approach me, that's fine. Based on what I'm doing at the moment, I may just give them a smile and a quick hello, or I may have time to chat a bit. But it's never a problem.

In fact, the only thing I worry about is bumping into a client when he's with his wife or girlfriend. You see, I'm told I have an expressive face, and my concern is that the significant other might be able to tell that I knew her guy. I'd hate to create a problem for one of my harem.

The thing about questions like this is that they presuppose an adversarial relationship with clients, and that's so not the case with me. I do not fear being stalked or harassed by my clients, and since everyone who knows me knows what I do, I don't fear being "exposed" by them in any way. I guess it's not the case with every woman in the industry, but my regular group of guys – well, they're just fabulous, that's all, and I'm quite happy with them.

Amusingly, the one "oh, shit" moment I can remember happened with a young woman. She'd been to a class I taught at Toys In Babeland, and then, a week or so later, I ran into her at the Broadway QFC. She looked across the produce department at me and cried out in a penetrating voice, "Hey, it's Mistress Matisse!"

Now, that's not the best plan under any circumstances. But I was extra jumpy because my mom was in town visiting me at the time. Luckily for me, she wasn't in the store with me. But it would have been a bit awkward if she had been, and so I spoke to girl and (politely, I hope) told her to please not call out my name like that.

So: discreet, but friendly – that's how I handle it...