Thursday, June 18, 2009

My take on David Carradine's death, in a new column on The Stranger.

For your listening pleasure, Monk does a podcast with Dr. Dick!

Meanwhile, I'm spending the afternoon at the Little Red Day Spa. I haven't visited there before, so I'm interested to see what it's like. (I've been to LRS for parties and performances, naturally. But not for spa experiences.) Armani and I are going to get nice, relaxing massages - and enjoy a few other indulgences as well. And then I am sure we'll do a lovely dinner somewhere...


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recent Reading List

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, by Frank Schaeffer.
From Publishers Weekly: "Part autobiography, part parental tribute and part examination of how American evangelism got to where it is, Schaeffer tells a moving story… Raised in Switzerland in the utopian community his evangelical parents founded, Schaeffer was restless and aware even at a young age that "my life was being defined by my parent's choices." Still, he took to "the family business", following his dad as he became one of the "best-known evangelical leaders in the U.S." While rubbing shoulders with Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, Schaeffer witnessed the birth of the Christian anti-abortion movement. His disillusionment, when it came, hit hard; while he would eventually achieve modest fame as a filmmaker and author, the initial stages of Schaeffer's post-religious life were anything but glamorous. Schaeffer does not mince words, making his narrative honest, inflammatory and at times quite funny; despite its excess length and some confusing chronological leaps, this story of faith, fame and family in modern America is a worthy read."

The portrayals of the different famous evangelists are fascinating. Schaeffer has the filmmaker's eye for small detail, and he writes in a leisurely, unhurried fashion that I admire because it’s utterly unlike the way I write. I would not say this was a riveting read. But if you’re willing to let him tell the story at his pace, it’s definitely got points of interest.

The Language of Bees (A Mary Russell Novel), by Laurie R. King.
From Booklist: “…the absorbing stories King has written about the young theology scholar and American feminist Mary Russell, who is married to the great detective Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and Russell return to England in August 1924 to find that Holmes’ bees are inexplicably dying and that Holmes had a son by Irene Adler. Damian, the son, suffered as a soldier in the Great War, is a famed surrealist artist, and has a wife and child, both of whom disappear, prompting Holmes to take a case with the most personal of connections. Along the way, we are treated to a great deal about ancient sites in England; a major supporting role from Holmes’ brother, Mycroft; information on an occult set of beliefs possibly related to Aleister Crowley; a terrifying set piece on the horrors of early air travel; and discourse on the queasy pleasures of surrealist art—all in Mary Russell’s wry, brilliant, and occasionally utterly deluded voice. We also see both Sherlock and Mycroft reveal human depths to themselves and to us. Although the novel does have an end, nothing is resolved: “To be continued,” King tells us, in the most frustrating of finales. Readers will want the rest right now, but even without a satisfying ending, they will realize that this is one of the best of a uniformly superlative series."

I love Sherlock Holmes stories - even those not written by Arthur Conan Doyle - and I especially love Laurie King's novels. If you haven’t read this series, you should go back and start at the beginning (The Beekeeper's Apprentice), you’ll enjoy it much more. She's always great reading.

Monday, June 15, 2009

From the Mailbag

Mistress Matisse,

I was wondering if you could help me…I had a really bad encounter with a guy, and was wondering if I should warn the really cool girl I met through him.

See, I used to bottom to this guy every now and again, but I stopped seeing him since he seemed to have trouble with both emotional and physical boundaries. We started talking again and decided that it might be fun for me to try tying him up, spanking him, etc. So we had a nice encounter, but as I was putting away the rope he pushed me down on the bed. I got up, told him it was late and I needed to go, but he pushed me down again. I didn't struggle, but when he started spanking me I told him to stop (in my "I am completely serious" voice.) He said no and the spanking got harder. I said “stop” again and screamed (I was ridiculously freaked out), which got him off me, but pissed him off. He wound up leaving in a huff, and I wound up promising myself not to see him again.

Ok, so here’s where the question comes in. About a week ago he introduced me on AIM to a really sweet girl who I have a lot in common with. I'm pretty sure they met off an internet personals site, so I'm wondering if I should tell her about this incident. I don't think the guy is dangerous, but he plays in a way that promotes miscommunication. I know part of the problem lies with me, but on the other hand if I don't say anything to this girl and she hooks up with him and has a bad experience she might get upset that I didn't mention anything (and I really want to sleep with her.) So should I say anything? If so, how much?

I scold people sometimes about not taking responsibility for their behavior, because I’m very big on that. However, sometimes I have to scold people for the opposite – taking responsibility for something that isn’t theirs.

So let’s deal with the important part first: if a man pushes you down and spanks you and won’t stop when you say stop, then you are not “part of the problem”. No way. What he did is unacceptable behavior. Not okay, no matter what, ever. He fucked up, and he needs to cop to it, apologize, and never do it again.

Now that we've established that... I am not saying that this guy is doomed past any redemption, a kinky outcast for all eternity. I know a couple of guys who did similarly stupid things when they were new to kink. They got confronted about the behavior, they got straightened out about how BDSM works – like, you have to get consent, you idiot - and they’ve not made those mistakes again.

But here’s the key: these guys got confronted. Someone told them what they did was wrong. If no one tells this guy, he won’t change his behavior. (He may not anyway, but we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt here.)

I assume, because you don’t say so, that he hasn’t either acknowledged or apologized for his bad behavior. If that is the case, here’s what you need to do: you have to tell him that what he did wasn’t okay. And unless he does acknowledge it or apologize, you need to stop having contact with him.

If you didn’t have this out with him immediately after the incident – and I would not be surprised if you didn’t - that makes it more difficult to bring up again now. I understand that. But I think you need to say something to him before you can ethically say anything whatsoever to anything else.

So tell him. Don’t talk about this girl or anyone else, don’t make threats about ruining him in the community, don’t say things like “you’re a terrible awful person!” Stick to statements about what actually happened. “I said stop and you didn’t stop. That’s not okay. I didn’t consent to that. I was really scared and upset by it.” A fundamentally decent guy will say, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”

If he doesn’t… well, I’d give him, say, 24 hours after the conversation to come back and say it. No apology? No further contact from you, period. You said that he has a problem with boundaries. If you keep talking to him, then you will also be demonstrating a problem with boundaries. Why are you even talking to this guy now? You are tacitly admitting to him and to yourself that he can behave badly towards you and suffer no repercussions. Don’t do that. It’s bad for your own self-esteem.

Should you tell this other girl? That’s hard to say. I’m usually inclined to say that a reasonable expectation of confidentiality in the bedroom trumps the notion of “warning” people. I have not seen very many truly dangerous people roaming free in the BDSM community because no one talked about their bad experiences. I have personally seen a lot of angry exes using the “I-had-to-warn-the-community” line as an excuse for viciously bad-mouthing a former partner. It’s really not cool.

But my exception to that rule is: cases of physical assault. That's where one's reasonable expectation of confidentiality ends, in my book. And what you described to me skirts the edges of what I’d call an assault. Legally, of course, any unwanted touching is assault. But once again, we are giving this man the benefit of the doubt: he may have genuinely thought you wanted him to do that. He may have really thought it was part of the scene. That might be stupid of him, but based on what you said, I would not quite label the incident felonious.

If this was me, I might try to walk a line here. If he does not apologize, then I would say, “So, CuteGirl, I’m not communicating with ThatGuy anymore. He did something that wasn’t all right with me and I don’t want to be around him or talk to him.”

Don’t look for a way to work this into a conversation, that’s beneath you. Wait until it occurs naturally. Don’t consciously try to be mysterious about it to pique her curiosity. Don’t play guessing games with her about it. Seek to keep the conversation about it brief and calm. If she asks questions, decline to say any more. “I’m sorry, I think it would be unethical of me to say anything else. He did something that wasn’t okay with me and I’m not communicating with him anymore.” You have made no accusations; you have simply stated a fact. Any reasonable person is going to draw a conclusion from that fact. What she does with her conclusion is up to her.