Friday, May 13, 2005

Today is Friday, and as usual, that means the new column and the Kink Calendar are up. And if, after reading the column, you'd like a link to Griffin's profile on Bondage.com , let me know.

Some kink in the news lately: this ABC story quotes our own lovely Allena Gabosch, director of the Wet Spot, and old pal of mine.

And another ABC story about sex research. (Hmmn, maybe Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner should talk to these folks before they publish another book, just in case they want to reference some more titillating examples.)

Interesting combination of art and confessional: "PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard."

This reads a bit like Mil Millington's humor, only poly: Why having two girlfriends is a really BAD idea...

A mathematical error: Apparently 666 is NOT the number of the beast. Everyone with those "665: Neighbor of the Beast" t-shirts? Sorry, you will now have to move.

Everyone please wish Max a Happy Birthday - it's tomorrow, the 14th. Yes, there will be a celebration. But no, he won't be getting spanked.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


My Precious Time


I talked to six people on the phone yesterday. Five of them were very smart, perfectly appropriate guys that I look forward to meeting. The sixth, however…

Ring Ring!

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hi.

There's a pause while I wait for him to say something like, "hey, it's me, Jim!" or "um, yeah, I saw your ad – what are your rates?" But he doesn't say anything. Guys do this sometimes. I think they think they're being all cool but it's really just silly and annoying. You called me, dude, so tell me who you are and what you want.

After a ten second pause I say:

Me: Can I help you?
Caller: Is this your picture?

Hey, Einstein, you may have noticed that we're actually not having a video-conference. That means I have no earthly idea what picture you're looking at.

Me: I don't know what picture you're looking at.
Caller: It's in your ad.
Me: Then, yes, that's my picture.

Long pause.

Me: Can I help you with something?
Caller: Yeah. Are you special?
Me: Am I special? Why are you asking me that?
Caller: I want to see someone special.

Well, I can recommend some athletic events you could attend. You know, it's one thing to call me up and ask me if I'm, say, very tall (no, sorta medium), or very busty (no, sorta medium there, too) or anything else that's a relatively fixed and easily demonstrable trait. But it's completely absurd to call me up and demand, apropos of nothing at all, to know whether I'm special or not.

It also makes me think he doesn't know who he's talking to.

Me: I'm a dominatrix, is that what you're looking for?
Caller: Yeah.
Me: Okay, what are you looking for in a session?
Caller: Are you happy? I want to see someone happy.
Me: I'm usually happy, but I'm not happy with this conversation. You're asking me weird questions and I don't like it. I'm going to hang up now.
Caller: No, don't hang up.
Me: Goodbye.
Click.

Two minutes later.

Ring Ring!

It's the same number, so I know it's the same guy. See, this is what happens when you hang up on them. They just call right back.

Me: Look, don't call me, I don't want to talk to you.
Caller: But –
Me: I'm programming you into my phone. Do not call me again.
Click.

I was so not in the mood for time-wasters yesterday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sloppy Scholarship

In my most recent booklist, I mentioned the book Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, which I have since read, and it's very interesting. I have also discovered that Mr. Levitt has a blog, which is also home to some thought-provoking discussions why we do the things we do.

However... I have one major beef with the authors, and it lies in a paragraph on page 106 of the book. The discussion is about why certain jobs command certain wages, and the authors decide to explain why prostitutes earn more money per hour than architects...


"It may not seem as though she should. The architect would appear to be more skilled (as the word is usually defined) and better educated, (again, as the word is usually defined). But little girls don't grow up dreaming of being prostitutes, so the supply of prostitutes is relatively small. Their skills, while not necessarily "specialized" are practiced in a very specialized context. The job is unpleasant and forbidding in at least two significant ways: the likelihood of violence and the loss of opportunity of having a stable family life. As for demand? Let's just say that an architect is more likely to hire a prostitute than vice versa."

Uh, Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner? You two gentlemen did a nice job with the rest of the book, but you both have your heads way up your butts here. Did you do your research on prostitutes by watching old TV cop shows or something? Let me break this down for you.

Incorrect assumption number one: "...little girls don't grow up dreaming of being prostitutes..."
Actually, I did know I was going to be a sex worker when I grew up. I mentioned in it a column once, here. I don't know about "dreaming" since I wasn't a "dreaming" kind of kid. But I definitely thought it was cool idea.

Incorrect assumption number two: "The supply of prostitutes is relatively small."
Guys, have ya been on Craig's List lately? The supply is not small. It's huge. Compare: The on-line version of the Seattle Yellow Pages tells me that there are about one hundred and fifty architects in Seattle. On just one Seattle escort-review board, I counted listings for almost sixty independent call girls, and five major agencies, with between seven and fifteen ladies each. I feel quite sure that there are more prostitutes than architects in Seattle.

We'll pass over the skills remarks, because to some degree, that is a matter of taste. (But I do know some call girls with skills so "specialized" they could make John Ashcroft do the lambada.)

Incorrect assumption number three: The job is unpleasant and forbidding in at least two significant ways: the likelihood of violence and the loss of opportunity of having a stable family life.
Oh wow, you really annoyed me here, boys. As brainy as you are, Mr. Levitt, I expected better from you than this. This is such a sloppy assumption, the kind you seem so dedicated to breaking up in other parts of the book, that it's quite jarring here. Yes, some prostitutes get hurt and killed. So do some high school students. But lots of them don't, and it's either careless or deliberately manipulative to throw out that kind of statement like it's just so much a given that it needs no questioning. I've never been harmed by a client. None of my sex-working friends have been harmed by clients. Your assumptions don't tab up with my real-life experience.

And what the hell is this about not having a stable family life? You're so far off base here, and I have no idea where you gleaned such a notion, unless, as I suspect, you researched this by watching episodes of Jerry Springer.

You don't specify what you mean by "family", and I'm going to generously assume that you don't hold heterosexual-monogomy+ children to be the only model of family life, because that in itself is such an egregiously offensive idea that I prefer to ignore it. Let's assume you mean, "happily partnered in a generally functional relationship". (Although we could pick apart what that looks like, too.)

Working from this model, I would argue that, once again, some prostitutes have unstable lives. But I'd argue that just as many (or more) have what I would consider happy and stable lives, and aside from my real-life experiences, I bet I've done a lot more reading and research about this than you have. If you two gentlemen think you know something about this topic that I don't, then I'd really like to see you back up your scholarship, because I checked the endnotes in your book and you didn't cite any sources.

Okay, school's out - but as your homework, I think you both should read these two excellent books on the sex industry:
Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry by Frederique Delacoste (Editor), and Priscilla Alexander (Editor)
and
Whores and Other Feminists by Jill Nagle (Editor)

Neither of them sugar-coat the ups and down of working in the industry, but they will open your eyes a great deal about the false assumptions that you're making. Since you claim to be challenging conventional wisdom and exploring the hidden sides of life, you'd better be consistent about it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Monday, May 09, 2005


I keep an ongoing list of topics I should write about, and for some time now I've had a "ethics of BDSM" entry there. But it's a big subject, and I've been slow to engage it. That's why I'm very pleased to see that kink activist David Stein has done something great with it. (Note: if you'd like to read some interesting essays and articles about the art of consensual slavery, Google "slave david stein". He's written some good stuff .)

Now, without further ado...

SOME PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL BDSM

Copyright is hereby waived to the following, which may be reprinted or reposted without charge or permission, but please give credit where due! Anyone may adapt and build on this starting point -- including the author. Thanks to the many participants in the workshop at Leather Leadership Conference IX in Phoenix, AZ, where these principles made their debut and received some much-needed qualifications, corrections, and additions.
slave david stein, gorgik@aol.com, ward of Master Steve Sampson 4/20/05

AIM AT EXCELLENCE IN ALL THAT YOU DO. Otherwise, why bother? There are much easier ways to get off. Everyone who comes under your hand, or whom you submit to or serve, should be better off for the experience. Does this mean humiliation or degradation have no place in ethical BDSM? As training tools, they do; as ends in themselves, no.

BE HONEST. Don't tell lies. Don't be complicit in lies by others. Withhold no necessary information. Never promise what you can't deliver. Acknowledged roles and fantasies aside, don't pretend to be what or who you're not. As far as possible, know your own limits and make them clear to your partner -- but also realize, if you're a bottom, sub, or slave, that these may be farther out than you imagine they are.

DO NO HARM. Giving or accepting pain is okay. Marks may be okay, even permanent ones. Temporary disabilities may be okay if complete healing is to be expected. Even helping someone die who's irreparably damaged and ready to go might be okay. But inflicting permanent harm that diminishes the quality of life or the ability to function in society and to earn a living is not okay. If you break your toys, you can't play with them anymore. And if you're a bottom, submissive, or slave, demoralizing your tops or Masters will mean that no one will want to play with, control, or own you anymore.

NEITHER INFLICT NOR ACCEPT PAIN UNINTENTIONALLY. Causing indiscriminate, unintentional pain is the mark of a bully or a dolt, while accepting pain as simply one's lot in life is a victim mentality. Sadism and Mastery are about control, and the ethical dimension requires control of the sadist or Master's own impulsive behavior. But the same goes for bottoms, submissives, and slaves, who can inflict enormous pain on their partners without meaning to, simply by acting without thinking first. And they should also take care not to accept pain they don't want, especially without a context that makes it meaningful (such as serving a beloved Dominant or Master). Pain in BDSM ought to be a deliberate transaction, not an accident or a byproduct.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ASSESSING AND MANAGING YOUR OWN RISKS. Whether you get off on risk or not, risk-management is not the exclusive responsibility of the top or Master. Everyone involved needs to become informed about the risks involved in whatever kind of scene is in the offing and decide whether they're worth running, as well as how to reduce or eliminate unnecessary risks. Being careless or stupid isn't "hot" -- it's just careless or stupid.

DON'T USE BDSM FOR THERAPY COVERTLY. Don't trap an s/m partner, let alone a D/s partner, into filling a therapist's role for you. A BDSM session can bring up deep issues and have a therapeutic effect, but unless you discuss this intention or possibility with your partner ahead of time, try to keep your personal shit out of the dungeon. The same goes double for a D/s relationship. While we should all seek whatever healing we need, whether through BDSM or otherwise, no one wants to feel, afterward, that you were just using her or him to work out your issues. If you have specific psychic or emotional trigger points, make sure your partner knows about them beforehand -- and can be trusted to avoid triggering them.

EVERYONE SHOULD FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT WHEN IT'S OVER. And this "no regrets" reaction shouldn't be limited to just five minutes later, but persist through the next day, the next week, the next month, and longer -- the more intense the session, the more time someone may need to process the feelings it brought up. With few exceptions, unless you leave your partner(s) wanting to do it again, the session wasn't right. Ideally, the same should be true of a relationship when it's over (this is much harder, but even more important).

KINKY PEOPLE ARE STILL PEOPLE. Even when we're puppies or ponies, Masters or Goddesses, slaves or toys, no one is invulnerable, unfeeling, or unworthy of the presumption of respect.

RIGHT IS BETTER THAN "RIGHT NOW." Patience is essential. Learn to wait for the right moment, the right partner, the right time to present itself. Don't be afraid to say, "Thank you, no," or "Not now." Learn to listen to your gut the right way -- not the part that screams, "Feed me!" but the part that whispers, "No, there's something wrong here" or "Yes, this is it. Go for it!"

TREAT OTHERS BETTER THAN YOURSELF. Don't shortchange them the way you often do yourself. Treat others the way you'd treat yourself if you had time for it . . . if you weren't feeling so guilty . . . if you didn't have all these deadline pressures . . . if you didn't have higher priorities . . . if you weren't a closet masochist . . .

FINISH WHAT YOU START. Don't take control of a bottom's mind unless you know how to return it again when you're finished. Don't break a bottom or a slave you're not prepared to put back together again. Don't enter training without intending to complete it, come what may (barring only the most extreme circumstances). Don't walk out of a scene partway through; if there's provocation that can't be ignored, walk away and calm down, then come back and finish it. If you enter a contractual D/s or M/s relationship, fulfill your end of the bargain no matter what; even though you can walk away without legal consequences, you forfeit your honor. Caveat: Don't enter such a contract unless there are provisions for honorable release if either party comes to find the terms intolerable. "Honorable" means due responsibility is accepted, but there's no shame, no blame, and no drama. Both parties walk away with a clean reputation and no animus toward the other.

DON'T MESS WITH SOMEONE'S LIVELIHOOD OR FAMILY. Unless someone explicitly invites you into the parts of her or his life that concern family or making a living, it's best to assume these are off limits. Therefore, nothing should occur during a session that might threaten those areas unless consent is secured in advance, before any action starts. For instance: shaving the head or eyebrows, piercings, tattooing, preventing someone from reporting in to work or calling family members . . . . The same goes for a bottom, sub, or slave encroaching on a partner's private space, like calling a number you were told not to use or interacting with his/her work colleagues or family members even though you haven't been introduced.

DON'T TAKE YOUR PARTNER(S) FOR GRANTED. Depend on them, count on them, lean on them as needed and appropriate, but never, ever lose the awareness that their presence in your life is a gift and a grace, not an entitlement, not even a quid pro quo. This is so whether you are a top or a bottom, a Master or a slave, a Dominant or a submissive, or even a switch. Having one or more partners you can count on, whether for a scene or a lifetime, is an incalculable gift. Don't devalue it by taking it for granted.

RESPECT DIVERSITY. Not everyone is turned on, or off, by the same things, or to the same degree, and that's okay. Not everyone does things the same way either, and that's okay, too. There's more than one way to swing a cat, to process pain, to wrap a mummy, to train a slave, to serve a Mistress, to scare an adrenaline junkie out of his skin, or to bring the biggest smile ever to a hard-working top's face. Be very grateful if you can master one of these ways, and don't use your achievement to put down someone who's taken a different route to the same goal.