Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fans of the silly communications will enjoy this week’s column…

Want to shop? Monk is eBaying off TM memorabilia and some of his now-too-big personal wardrobe. I saw him in this coat, and in this one, and they’re hot. Get them before they're gone.

A reader who misses the comments feature has begun a message board for ya’ll to talk about whatever gems of wisdom have lately fallen from my lips. (Fallen from my keyboard? Doesn’t have quite same ring, does it?)

If you want to communicate with me, email is the way to do that. But if you want to talk to each other, here you go. It’s very sweet of Van to have set this up and offer his time to moderate it, so I hope ya’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hello mistress,

i want to send you my diploma from the university. and you wipe your ass with my diploma. I want you use my diploma like toilet paper. can you do that?

Goodness, someone doesn’t think highly of their old alma mater, do they?

Would I do it? Well, I’m mildly concerned that the gold foil seal that one often sees on college diplomas might be scratchy, but that seems like a manageable risk.

I myself do not have a college degree. My relationship with academia has always been uneven, to put it mildly. I went to a private (Catholic) high school, and the good things about that was that students got a lot of attention, but the downside is that the classes were rigorous. (Plus there was that stupid religion thing they were always nattering on about.) I always did well enough in English and humanities-type classes, but math and science? Forget it. I barely scraped through. I was a pretty well-behaved teenager, but school simply bored me, and I didn’t take it seriously.

I wasn’t much good at being a kid, if that makes any sense. I always had a feeling, when I was small, that I was someone who would prefer life as a grown-up, and that I was just marking time until I got taller. I meet kids now who give me that impression, like they’re twenty-seven-year olds trapped in a fifth-grader’s body. I always try to talk to them very seriously about adult-seeming topics, and not do stupid things like rumple their hair and ask them what they want to be for Halloween.

I was right. I had a pretty Leave-It-To-Beaver childhood, and I’m grateful for that, but I never, ever wish I was a kid again. And I don’t ever want to go back to college, either, although I suppose I may have to, someday. I’ve been to - oh, let me think – four different colleges. Yeah, four. And no, I don’t have a degree.

The first one I went to right out of high school, like one is supposed to. It was an expensive women's college, and I spent much more time partying with the boys from the neighboring co-ed school than I did studying. You can skate by with a really low GPA when your Daddy is paying big bucks for tuition, but there is a limit, and after 3 years the college and I agreed that I should leave. I felt sort of bad for wasting my father’s money like that, and once I dropped out, I never took any money from my parents ever again, for school or any other purpose. I was twenty.

Over the next couple of years, I enrolled in two different state colleges, paid the tuition with money I made as a sex worker, took classes for a quarter or three, and then dropped out again. I just – didn’t want to be there. I would look at the people around me and think, “I don’t want what they want. And I don’t want to keep pretending that what I’m doing here is meaningful to me, because it’s not, and it’s actually pissing me off.”

Then a few years ago, I enrolled at Antioch here in Seattle, in the BA completion program. That was certainly different from a state college, and it was…interesting. I think the people at Antioch are very committed to what they’re doing. But wow, the hippie/New-Age/let-me-give-you-a-hug thing really got on my nerves. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was in a class or a group therapy meeting. As you may well imagine, instructors who invited me to share personal information in a college classroom got either a pack of lies or some responses they really had not bargained for. In such circumstances, I usually give vague answers to too-personal questions. But some instructors and classmates persisted in asking, so I told them who I was and what I did, and I think a lot of them wished I hadn’t. I had one teacher who was so disturbed by my various outlaw identities that she could hardly even talk to me for last few weeks of the quarter. And once again, I thought, “Why am I here dealing with this? What am I going to do with this really expensive piece of paper?” And I didn’t have an answer. So I left.

I like to learn things. But sitting in college classes has, for me, been much like a visit to the dentist: expensive, time-consuming, and extremely uncomfortable. I would do it, if there was a job I wanted that required one, but so far, there isn't. So I am a self-educated person, and I like it that way. I am pleased to see the growing respectability of online-learning. I’m guessing that by the time I’m ready to try that college thing again, I will at least be able to do it alone.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wow, this is unusual: I have nothing booked for Wednesday. I suspect some of ya’ll are a bit depressed about the latest financial news. Hey, I’m not even going to open my brokerage statement this month. However, if you come see me, I’ll pretend you’re a subprime mortgage lender and do bad, bad things to you….


I am publishing this either in spite of, or because, it’s slightly embarrassing. It’s part of my struggle to accept my identity as a musically un-hip person.

Thus, here are the Top Eleven Most Played Songs in my desk-top iTunes:

11. Sugarless, Caviar

10. Come Out And Play, The Offspring

9. Going Back To Cali, LL Cool J

8. Somebody Told Me, The Killers

7. Black Snake Voodoo Hiss, by Chemlab

6. Dream Police, Cheap Trick

5. Gold Digger, Kayne West

4. I Want You So Hard, Eagles Of Death Metal

3. Rock And Roll Nigger, Patti Smith

2. U + Ur Hand, Pink

1. Twilight Zone, Golden Earring

Interestingly, the Most Played list on the iPod proper is totally different. I guess I like different music for sitting at my desk than I do moving around in the world.

So speaking of iPod, I’m shopping for iPod related stuff…. Does anyone have this? (Bose Sound Dock.) Drop me a note if you do and you have an opinion about it.

I also need a cradle or a wire or something that will let me play my 3rd Generation iPod Nano in the car. I have a wireless sled, but it’s for my older, narrower Nano. And frankly, it was always a little problematic. The connection would wiggle loose, and the sound would cut out. But the choices on the Apple website are limited and unencouraging. Is there really not a good wire-based system? I guess I’d take another wireless sled, if that’s a better bet. Email me suggestions...

Monday, January 21, 2008

A patient man am I, down to my fingertips,
the sort who never could, ever would,
let an insulting remark escape his lips,
A very gentle man...
~ I'm An Ordinary Man,
My Fair Lady Soundtrack

That’s right, me and Rex Harrison, we are the gentlest and most patient of creatures. Mostly.

However, there are certain things about my own beloved kinky culture that annoy me. One of them is the phrase, “Total Power Exchange”, commonly shortened to “TPE”.

What does that mean? Well, “power exchange” is another of way of referring to a dominant/submissive interaction, either a scene or a whole relationship. It’s not a term I’ve ever taken to, although I have no problem with it.

But TPE? Well, I looked around for the origin of the exact phrase “Total Power Exchange” and here’s (an edited-down version of) what I found.

Total Power Exchange, or TPE for short, is a derivative of the concept of power exchange in a D/s relationship. The term refers to a relationship where the dominant has complete authority and influence over the submissive's life, making the majority of decisions….

The phrase Total Power Exchange was coined by Steven S. Davis in the newsgroup during his debates with Jon Jacobs in the mid 1990's.

In 1997, Davis gave this definition:"A TPE (Total Power Exchange) relationship, sometimes described as an absolute lifestyle D/s relationship. That such relationships can actually be neither "total" or "absolute" is agreed; these are ideal states to be worked towards but which will not be achieved….TPE a relationship in which no impediment to the exercise of the owner's power is accepted…Such things as safewords, contracts, negotiated limits, and anything else which recognizes / acknowledges / formalizes limits on the owner's power are inimical to TPE."

Full thread here, if you want it.

My general understanding of a TPE relationship, gathered from people who say they practice this, is that it’s a relationship in which the submissive has no right of refusal to anything the dominant commands. Anything. At all. Anytime. Ever.

Now, let’s be clear. I am very much in favor of dominant/submissive relationships. But this TPE business? I don’t like it.

I think TPE is positioned on the idea that the submissive having any limits whatsoever is bad, and something to be overcome. I don’t agree with that idea. I have seen people who claim to practice it compare it to a parent/child relationship. They mean that in a positive way, but the logic is flawed. The role of a parent is to grow this little person into a big one and eventually send them out into the world. TPE seems like the precise opposite, in that the goal is to shrink a grown-up functional person down into someone who feels that they no power. TPE people usually insinuate - if they don't just say outright - that they feel TPE is superior to other expressions of d/s. I think putting forth the idea that the best and highest example of consensual, affection-based slavery is one that most closely mirrors real, non-consensual slavery is a mistake.

(Yes, I’m aware that TPE people always say that the slave should never be told to do anything really wrong, like killing their children or suchlike. I believe them. That still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.)

Interestingly, I can’t ever recall talking to someone in real life who used that exact expression, TPE, to describe their own relationship. I am sure that people do, but there can’t be that many of them, or I would have encountered them. Thus, my impression of TPE is that it’s mainly a concept that you run into online. And that’s not something that’s going to increase my respect for the phrase.

On one level, it’s just words. Part of me thinks: If it makes you happy to create important-sounding acronyms for your kink, then fine, enjoy yourself. It’s not going to affect my life.

But especially in a shadow world like kink, language can shape the culture. It’s important that we examine them and provide appropriate community feedback to concepts. And as a writer, I think words are important in themselves. In this context, the word “total” is an intensifier, like the words “really”, “truly”, or “very”. Any writing teacher will tell you that overuse of intensifiers waters down your message. It's like saying "extreme", or "hardcore". Advertising-speak has invaded the kink language. I expect to see TOTAL POWER EXCHANGE on a can of energy drink any day now. It bothers me.

And psychologically, it conveys a whiff of desperation. When I read “I’m into TOTAL power exchange”, what I see is someone jockeying for credibility and status that at some level, he’s not sure he deserves. It’s a one-up statement. It's a way of saying "my special brand of dominance and submission is better than everyone else’s.” If you have to say that, to yourself or anyone else, then you have issues.

Everything BDSM people do, we construct in our heads. Once you get past the safe/sane/consensual part, there is no rulebook anywhere on how to do this, and no one gets to decide what kink means to the people doing it. Having limits in a relationship – in any relationship – is normal and healthy. This “Total Power Exchange” concept is silly and a bit pretentious at best, and I think it has the potential to be a negative force in a relationship. You have a dominant/submissive relationship? That’s dandy. The exact parameters of that are up to the two of you. Shape them however you want. But when random people start setting out rules for that, like they were carved on stone tablets, then you lose me. “In a TPE relationship, the slave must always wear purple shirts on Wednesday. The slave can never ever wear green shirts on Wednesday. Otherwise it’s not a true TPE.” Right. Whatever. If I wanted someone else setting out rules for how my intimate relationships must look, I’d could have stayed in the vanilla world, married some nice boy, voted Republican, and gone to church every Sunday.