Friday, September 12, 2008

This is a long letter, even after I trimmed it down a bit. But it’s so sad, and yet so sweet, that I’m running it so other people like this boy will read and hopefully be reassured.

I am a 22 year old senior college student. I am trying to find some help and support… I made a conscious realization that exploring BDSM is something that I would like to do. Since then I have been able to think about little else.

I have been reading your column in The Stranger for five years now. I can remember that your articles and the Babeland ads were my favorite parts of the paper and why I would pick up issues. I used to hide old copies in my closet so my parents wouldn't recycle them. The tone of your writing has always been understanding and empathetic. Reading your articles has encouraged me over these years and I want to thank you; I'm not sure I would have made it this far toward accepting this part of myself without them. You were the first person that I thought of to contact when this happened two days ago but I was not sure about the etiquette of how to contact someone in the BDSM community.

It is hard for me to write this. Part of me is still very scared of my desire. My family has not been supportive of me exploring my sexuality and I have always had to hide what I do. I have never had sex before, although I have had the desire to have sex many times. I have not ever been in a serious relationship with someone. When talking with my parents about thoughts that I might be homosexual, which I don't think is the case, their reactions were the most hurtful things I have ever experienced; they implied conditions on our relationship and placed me in a double bind situation where I could not even explore the possibility. Last spring I finally tried to talk with my parents about my watching pornography. Their reaction was so negative that I had a serious panic attack while at school. This year I have been trying to explore my sexuality on my own. My family situation has made me so nervous that this summer it took me a week of psyching myself up and three walks past the door before I could go into the Babeland store on Pike. It was the first time that I ever went into a place where I needed to be 18.

I have been interested in BDSM for the past ten years. It is the erotic material that I most enjoy reading or watching. I never actively realized that doing this might be something that I would want to try until I read Kate Bornstein's "Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws." (When I had my panic attack last spring I had repeated intruding thoughts about suicide. I bought this book in a period of depression this summer.) I think I have had this desire unconsciously for a long time and it has surfaced itself in a number of ways until I actively found it two days ago. I believe that I have made it to the point where I can tell myself that my desire is okay. Being able to think that is very exciting and freeing, for once.

I am struggling because my desire is competing with the part of me that is still afraid. My family would be shocked beyond belief if they found out that I was interested in BDSM. I think it would shatter them. On the other hand, I can't deny that I have this desire any more: I've been extremely distracted for the past two days and my heart rate has been galloping just trying to think things through. I am trying to look for some help and support, even if it is just to talk with someone about BDSM. I would welcome any advice you could give me.

I'm sorry that this is so long. I wanted to tell someone.

Oh, sweet boy. If I were there, I would hug you and tell you that everything is going to be all right. Because it is.

But you’ve got a few steps to take. I see that you’re letting your fears about what your family will think – reasonable fears, based on what you say – affect your sexual growth. But you’re 22. You’re a grown-up. It’s time to cut the apron strings. Frankly, I know very, very, very few parents who really want to know the details about their (adult) children's sexuality. Especially any type of non-traditional sexuality! (Yes, I’m sure they exist. But I think it's rare.)

I hear that you’d like to be open about your feelings with your family, but that’s a luxury we don’t always get in life. They’re making it clear they don’t want to know. So don’t tell them about kink, or about perhaps not being heterosexual, and sweet Jesus, darlin', do not tell your family about what kind of porn you’re looking at! Talk to your family about nice, non-threatening family things. If they ask you about your sexuality, lie. That’s a perfectly okay thing to do, under the circumstances.

In time, I hope you get to a place where you can know that your family’s reaction to your sexuality is their problem, not yours. I think that’s an understanding that's going to take some work for you to really reach. And that’s okay. First things first – stop telling them about it.

I have a sense that you’re telling your family things they don’t want to hear because you lack peers/friends who you can talk to about sex. If that's true, ask yourself: why is that? And in a related thought: it’s not hugely unusual for a guy to be a virgin at 22, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But when you say you’ve never had "a serious relationship", I wonder what you mean by relationship? Because BDSM is graduate-school sexuality. You take all the usual complications and confusions of a non-kinky romantic connection and overlay it with this intense and still rather taboo way of relating and being sexual. Creating and maintaining a kinky relationship is tricky, and it requires skill, persistence, and work. Dating in one’s teens and early twenties is often the boot camp where we get basic training in how to interact with the objects of our desire. Clearly that’s easier if one is heterosexual, monogamous and not kinky. But even the most dismal and banal of dating encounters – like, say, my high school dates – teach you things. Thus, I think if you aren’t going on dates with people, you should. Don’t have sex with anyone – unless you really want to. Just get some practice in the rituals of beginning a relationship. There will be hideously embarrassing blunders that will make you writhe to think of afterwards. We all have those, I assure you. Me included. But you don’t get good at something without some trial and error.

Your talk about panic attacks and suicide ideation means I must ask: are you seeing a therapist? Because you need to be. There is no shame in that, lots of people do, I have myself when I was going through stressful times in my life. I wish I had a long list of fully-vetted kink-friendly therapists to give you. But here’s a place to start looking. I hope a good therapist can help you work towards a self-image that’s unfettered by what other people want you to be.

In the longer version of this letter you asked about the Wet Spot. (Now called The Center For Sex Positive Culture.) That's a place to start, and Babeland also offers sex-ed classes. This seems to be the hot new place to hang out online: FetLife. There’s also If you don’t think you’re ready for that, the ostensibly-vanilla personals site OKCupid seems pretty kink-friendly.

Now, you aroused my sympathy, so I did some Googling for you and spoon-fed you a bit. But I need you to make this not a waste of my time. You have to make this happen. You need to take action about making your life be what you want. I have given you some places to start. Every single day from now on, I want you to do something that moves you closer to your goals. It can be something small, but you need to move, and keep on moving. You will never be in a better position than right now to shape your life into what you say you want. This is your starting gun: Go!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Dear Mainstream Media,

Well, Salon, I'll give you points for not Photoshopping a cat's-eye mask onto her. Thank God for small favors.’s article on how Sarah Palin is just like a dominatrix! Wow, what a fresh take on a female politician, huh? Sigh.

All right, Mr. Gary Kamiya, you come right here and kneel down in front of me, and we're going to talk about using words you don’t really understand. Sarah Palin is not a dominatrix. Do you understand that? I'm going to put my foot right there - yes, there, don't you pull away from me - and now I want you to repeat after me: You're right, Mistress, Sarah Palin is not a dominatrix.

Do you know how I know that? Because if she was, we'd have a safeword to get out of this scene.

I know, I know – the kink thing is a metaphor. But it’s a bad metaphor. It’s an overused, hackneyed, trite, hasn’t-been-edgy-since-about-1987 metaphor. It's a metaphor that would be suitable for, say, an in-flight magazine. On the late and unlamented Hooters Air.

Plus, a metaphor should be like perfume. It should be subtle. It should suggest. It should imply. But you have loaded this piece up with more kinky keywords than a cheap porn affiliate page, spreading them around like a wet, sticky glue to try and hold your premise together. The trouble is I’m not sure what your premise is. Your close states, “But in the end, I suspect most Americans will be driven by their pocketbooks, not their pocket rockets.” I agree that people vote with their big head, and not the one I have my spike-heeled foot on right this minute. So why then this masturbatory re-casting of the political scene?

I’m not one to slam an opinion columnist for trying - and failing - to write something fun and different. I myself have written columns that I now cringe to look at. We all flop now and then. But Mr. Kamiya – and I say this with all due respect, as one writer to another - you clearly don’t know a flogger from a Fuckzall when it comes to dominatrixes, kinky sex, or the BDSM community. Thus, you should stick to literary flights of fancy that, while perhaps not as titillating for you to type, are more within your realm of expertise. Leave the kinky parsing to the experts.


An Actual Dominatrix

Monday, September 08, 2008

Mistress Matisse,

I hope you'll give me some advice about a topic my partner and I have been discussing, namely consensual use of date-rape drugs for sex play. I'm sure we're not the first ones to think up such a thing, but I haven't had any luck asking Mistress Google. Do you know of a population who does this, or resources we could look at?

To give you a bit of personal background: I am a 23-year old woman and my partner is a 27-year old man. We are both in good health and have been in a monogamous relationship for five months. We are open-minded about kink, and are exploring different fantasies together as our comfort levels evolve. This "roofie fantasy" is something he mentioned, and I brought up the conversation again recently because I would like to learn more about what it would entail.

The "pros" of trying this experiment would be that my partner is very loving and protective, and I know I would be safe in his hands. He has used roofies on himself before, and knows what it's like. I fantasize about submission and we have fun experimenting with D/s roleplay. I enjoyed being on Vicodin after a surgery a year ago, and maybe roofies are a little like Vicodin? And it's not a foreign concept; sometimes I use alcohol (the most common date-rape drug of all!) and nicotine to "loosen myself up", because I like the wild, uninhibited sex we enjoy when I've had a couple strong drinks.

The "cons" of this experiment would be that, I would be sad to not remember or be able to enjoy the experience. Also, I haven't used many drugs and have D.A.R.E.-induced fear of them. I can't find any info on the web to allay my trepidation. It would help me to know that it's safe from a chemical standpoint, that I would have some recollection of the experience, what to expect, etc.

Have you any advice for us?

I read this letter through once and said to myself, “Sweet Jesus Christ, why does this woman think I’m an expert on using frickin’ date-rape drugs?"

Now, just in case it needs to be said: I don’t know anything about roofies. I've read some stories in the media, naturally. But I had to google the term to find out that the word roofies is a corruption of the brand name Rohypnol, and that the name of actual chemical is flunitrazepam. Wikipedia says its use as a recreational drug is widespread. Huh. I had no idea. It sounds like your boyfriend has considerably more knowledge of it than I do.

I read the email again and thought, “Okay, she’s not saying that, exactly.” But still, I had to wind myself down from being a bit offended. I mean, I’m not the Straight Edge type, by any means. But BDSM people, as a group, tend not to be frequent drug users. The official party line is very much “Drugs and BDSM do not mix.”

Why? Because doing BDSM requires a higher level of awareness than normal interaction. If something goes wrong, it needs to be handled promptly and appropriately. It’s the same rationale as not driving while high, or not being responsible for children. Drug use in scenes is generally frowned upon by BDSM people. I’m not saying it never happens, because I’m sure it does. But not openly.

Thus, I definitely do not have any resources for information about combining BDSM with drugs. I strongly doubt such a thing exists.

And frankly, even people who have played while high would probably tell you that you shouldn’t. It’s not like you two are long-term partners, with a lot of BDSM experience, who just want to take a bong hit before you do a little spanking and fucking. From what I have read, flunitrazepam is a strong drug. You two are newly in a relationship, and you don’t have much kink experience. I’m unclear on what exactly you want to do, physically. I suppose if you had some experience of a drug and knew how to minimize your risks and do your self-care around it, and you just wanted to add verbal roleplay to conventional sex, well - that might be more or less okay. (But that is all absent the inherent danger of taking that particular drug to begin with. I'm not a medical person, so I can't speak to that.)

However, doing any sort of bondage or intense sensation play while experimenting with a powerful new chemical? Whoa, that seems like a seriously, seriously bad idea. The number of ways for that to go wrong are legion.

I know there are websites that offer information about drug use in the name of harm-reduction. You should study them very, very closely. Not all fantasies can or should come true. If you’re not finding any information that allays your trepidation, then I think you should pay attention to that.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A few weekend notes...

It was a big birthday weekend around here. So, happy birthday wishes go out to my Frisbee-playing pal MC!

And it was also Puck's birthday. She gathered a few friends together for an intimate dinner, which was much enjoyed. Happy birthday to her, and many more...

I seem to have named to a list of Top 100 Sex Bloggers of 2008, which is very nice. So thank you to whomever nominated me, and thanks to the blog "Between My Sheets" for creating the list! Be sure and check out the other cool sex bloggers listed along with me, they look great.