Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Question For The Kinky Neurologists

Yes, it's a letters sort of week. But on this letter, I am putting out a call for suggestions. It's a tricky one, and I'd like to help this reader if I can.
Dear Mistress Matisse,

(Edited a bit for length. She said some very sweet things about my writing that made me smile.)

Thank you for helping to lay the groundwork that allowed me to come to a more fully actualized possession of myself as a masochist.

...I developed epilepsy due to a small laundry list of complications that occurred during my pregnancy. I have grand mal seizures and intense migraines now both of which are brought on primarily by too much stress; mentally, emotionally, or physically. I am being treated by a neurologist and I am medicated. My seizures have limited what I am able to do or the extent to which I am able to engage in a range of activities - I am contacting you in regards to what is perhaps the most viscerally frustrating.

My appetite for pain (bloodplay, floggings) and psychologically intense scenes (like rape fantasies) now far exceeds what I know I should really be putting myself through. Watered down scenes leave me restless and unfulfilled and while I can occasionally find satisfaction in primarily submissive play, in my heart I will always be a painslut. I enjoy being physically overpowered and it is nearly impossible for me to find my own pleasure without pain.

I suppose my question is simple yet infuriatingly vague - what should I do? My primary partner is new to BDSM (not that I'm exactly a veteran myself) so while he is wonderfully attentive and willing to learn, he doesn't have the experience or the intuition to be overly helpful. I'm almost always sexually frustrated now, and I'm at a loss as to how to reconcile my new limitations with the deliciously cruel treatment I crave.

Wow, this is a tough one. I get a lot of questions like this, from people who want to do BDSM, but who are challenged by various medical conditions. Usually I can come up with some suggestion. If you can't be hit with anything, if you can't have your skin broken, if you're not very strong, if your hearing or your vision or your speech or your balance are compromised - there are ways around most things. I've done BDSM with people in wheelchairs. You have to be creative, and it may not look just like the porn movies, but there's usually a way.

This one, though? I'm rather stumped. If you just flat can't be in any sort of pain or stress, regardless of how it's induced, then - my dear girl, you have my profound sympathy, but I don't know what to tell you.

Have you talked to your doctor about this? I think that's important, although I think you should go very carefully with that conversation. I would not use words like painslut and masochist. But you could certainly talk about how you and your partner like very vigorous sex, very intense sex.

But here's the one thing I can do for you: I can ask everyone else who's reading this: what do you know about this? Medical people in this field, and and other kinky people who have epilepsy - talk to me. What can this woman do? My email is MistressMatisse at, or at

I'll post replies here, and/or cut out the text and send it to her. Either way, everyone's anonymity will be preserved. Help me come up with some suggestions for this girl!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

From a Letter...

...I find myself 9 years into a triad with myself (male) and my original partner of 17 years and our other partner of 9 years and I'm struggling with a terrible bout of jealousy. It's one of those watershed times in our lives. We're opening an art gallery and I just got done with the total renovation of it myself and am exhausted, at least 2 of us are in the midst of an in-depth re-evaluation of our lives and choices, my original partner and I..... wait. ..... blah blah blah..... that has nothing to do with jealousy.

To the point and question, since I know you have a very busy life and don't know me at all.... do you have a way to deal with jealousy when it comes up? I'm 49 and have never really felt it but am having crazy, unsupportable jealousy with one of my partners. I'm asking about everyone I know how they deal with it in the hopes of finding a method that works well with me.

First let me say: you’ve been in a triad for nine years? You, dear man, should be proud of yourself. I think triads are the most difficult of all polyamory structures to sustain long term. So that speaks well for your ability to create solutions to your current issue.

Jealousy is an unpleasant emotion – you know that already. The thing about jealousy, though, is that it’s chameleon-like. It’s a symptom of a problem, but what exactly the problem is varies greatly.

This letter is fairly brief. I think you meant to be respectful of my time, which I do appreciate. But without having a hunch about why you’re feeling this way, it’s hard for me to offer solutions.

Does the partner you’re feeling jealous about have a new partner? If that is so, then I’d give you advice about handling a new person in your partner’s life. A lot of poly people have written about that, though, so perhaps you’ve already read up on the usual solutions.

However, I have seen people become jealous even when their partners do not have a new love interest. You allude to a lot of big life-changes, and then you dismiss them. Not so fast. Those can be very stressful, and they might be causing some generalized anxiety that is manifesting itself in jealousy. Our brains are odd – if we’re feeling anxious about something and we’re not clearly in touch with that, sometimes we unconsciously re-route the anxiety to, shall we say, a different exit. Especially if, to our unconscious mind, that problem seems like one that can be more easily fixed.

For example, someone who recently suffered the death of a loved one might have a flare-up of jealousy. The mind says, “I feel the pain of a loss, and there’s nothing I can do to make that pain stop. I’m afraid of feeling this again. Thus, I’ll attempt to control the behavior of my partner, so that I don’t lose them as well. That will distract me from my pain and soothe my anxiety.”

If you have had some loss, or you think that you might soon have one, then that might be causing this jealousy.

The other thing that occurs to me is: if this is really an unprecedented problem, it's very strong, and it seems to have no very definite cue, then this could be a brain-chemistry issue. Now, I don’t think that every emotional problem must have a pharmaceutical solution. And I am not attempting to diagnose you. But jealousy is just another word for fear. Or, as the medical profession would put it, anxiety. So when I hear “crazy, unsupportable jealousy” one of the possible interpretations I can put on that is: “I’m having intense anxiety, I can’t manage it easily, and it’s negatively impacting my life.”

If the usual methods of handling jealousy are not working, it’s not getting better with time, and the jealousy is really impacting your daily functioning, then my next suggestion is: go to your doctor and tell her/him that you are having trouble with anxiety and you’re wondering about medication.

If you can afford it, I would also suggest you find a good counselor. Finding one who is open-minded enough to not try to push you towards monogamy as the solution to your problem is the challenge here. If you want to see a talk-therapist and you can’t find anyone who seems poly-friendly where you are, drop me a note and tell where you live, and I’ll see if I know anyone. Alternately, you might find a poly-friendly therapist who would do phone sessions with you.

I hope that’s helpful to you.

Links to writings about managing jealousy in polyamorous relations. One, two, three, four and five.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Letters That Fail
M. Matisse,

I couldn't help notice you mentioned Jae in your blog the other day. You haven't mentioned her in quite some time. Couldn't help wondering if you two had a falling-out. I know it's none of my business but you, at one time, talked about her often. I imagine your readers are curious too. Might make a interesting post, "When A Domme And Sub Part."

Recently you talked about the passing of your cat but you never mentioned if you'd get another one. Again readers might like to know.

I get a lot of perfectly nice, appropriate letters from people.

This would not be one of them.

I think I know who wrote this letter. There’s a certain man in Seattle who has approached me several times, first electronically and then in-person, to ask me about the exact status of my relationship with Jae. And - even more annoyingly - where she is and how she can be contacted. This is, I believe, the 4th time he’s done this.

His behavior is so astoundingly inappropriate that it leaves me almost speechless. A complete stranger thinks it is okay to walk up to me at a public event and demand information about my intimate relationships? Uh, no. That’s a really big no.

I don’t think he’s dangerous. I just think he’s unbelievably rude. No, if there’s someone likely to be dangerous in this situation, it’s me. Because I do not lose my temper easily, but if I do – oh, it won’t be pretty.

I gave him a civil non-response the first time he emailed me, and ignored him thereafter, and when he caught me in person and asked again, I spoke to him rather sharply. There were other people present, though, and one of them had the wit to draw him away before the conversation devolved too far. And then someone else had a talk with him, so I though we’d dealt with this problem. It seems not.

It is possible that the writer of this letter is not the same man who cornered me in public. But it would be a striking coincidence if they weren’t. I’d prefer not to believe in multiple people being so insensitive. "When A Domme And Sub Part." Good lord, that is really offensive. Obviously you are not even a frequent reader, because if you were, you’d know I loathe the abbreviation “sub”.

But regardless of vocabulary, prying for juicy details about what you think is happening in my private life is tacky. Had it occurred to you that if someone was estranged from an intimate partner, that having strangers demand details of that rift might be, oh, upsetting to them?

And in the same breath, you’re bringing up the death of my cat and asking if I’ve gotten another one? Are you serious?

Let me be clear: It’s fine to ask me advice about something intimate that’s happening in your life, if you wish to. It’s fine to ask me things like what public events I’m attending, where I like to go for dinner, where I got such-and-such a dress. It’s fine to ask me if I’ve ever tried a particular BDSM technique or a particular polyamory structure.

But there are questions one does not ask a stranger. At the very least, one pauses and ponders, “Does this question have the potential to be painful or distressing? And do I have any pressing need for the information - or am I just being nosy?”

At some level, this person knows he’s being inappropriate. Notice the repetition of the phrase “I couldn’t help”, and the attempt to deflect responsibility and distance himself from what he’s asking by saying he thinks my readers would want to know.

No, Mr. Writer-Of-This-Letter, you want to know. And you could indeed have “helped yourself” from writing this email. But you asked, so here’s the answer: you are not entitled to any information about the precise status and nature of my relationship with Jae – or anyone else in the world.

You see, my private life is, by definition, private. If I write about something, then that’s carefully-chosen information I’ve decided I’m willing to share. But the fact that I’ve shared some information does not mean that I am obligated to offer up anything you want to know, just to satisfy your prurient curiosity. That's like saying that if I wear a short skirt in public, you’re entitled to come flip it up and look underneath it. I’d deliver a swift kick to anyone who did that in person. You should not be surprised to find yourself on this end of a written one.

So in the future, don’t just say “Oh, I know this is none of my business, but..." and then proceed to try and make it your business. Stop and tell yourself: "No. This is none of my business."