What I’ve Learned So Far: A Reflective Epistle

In the past few days, I’ve had this odd hankering to reflect on the past year in writing. I don’t yet know how my finals will turn out, and perhaps I should be working on them. But I love to procrastinate work with other work. So, here are a few things I’ve learned since I got involved as a switch in the kink community about a year-and-a-half ago:

  • I’ve learned that munches are pretty great, especially if you can tell people apart. 
  • I’ve learned how to spank, flog, strap, paddle, cane, finger-fuck, peg, and edge. I’m learning how to communicate, ask good questions, listen, maintain boundaries, process difficult feelings, and not use dominance or submission as a security blanket. I haven’t yet learned how to get anything satisfying out of the riding crop. 
  • I’ve learned to face fears and take care of myself (I even went to the gynecologist and got treatment for chronic pain). I also started this blog, and I’m proud of myself for not giving up on it–it feels good to recognize that I’m building resilience. 
  • I’ve learned that playing with lazy, unmotivated play partners is not part of ‘paying my dues‘. I used to think that I had to deal with a few blah play partners in order to ‘hone my craft,’ a bit like an apprentice doing grunt work. In real life, that translated into bending over backwards to educate and accommodate flaky, lazy men who hadn’t taken the time to educate themselves. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten more experience, this type of man has largely disappeared from my DMs. 
  • Through my D/s dynamics, play experiences, and conversations with friends in the local community over the past several months, I’ve learned that a lot of kink isn’t sexual. Thus, I now tend to describe BDSM simply as “One of the ways grownups play.” For example, my dynamic with my Dominant isn’t really sexual so far, and my submission to her isn’t sexually motivated. Our play and D/s interaction centers around sensuality, service, and mutual growth. If you’d told me this last year, I would have been shocked. It just goes to show that even when discussing ‘alternative lifestyles,’ we often don’t recognize the kaleidoscope of healthy, loving ways for human beings to interact. 
  • On the other hand, some of my kinky play is quite sexual! In my dynamic with my submissive, a major element of my holistic dominance is my ownership of his sexual life (long-term, encompassing control that I wouldn’t have expected to want at the start of my kink journey). I’ve learned that (consensually) stepping into someone’s personal space in a dominant frame of mind can be a strong sexual trigger. Perhaps it sends a signal to my body, paradoxically, that I can ‘let go’ and be sexual (Emily Nagoski’s “gas pedal and brakes” framework makes sense to me here).
  • I’ve discovered that I have an inner sadist (which I’ll talk about more at another time). I like to watch people grow, to assign homework, to ask probing questions that confront assumptions. To an extent, it’s satisfying to watch people struggle, knowing that they will come out of the difficult experience wiser, kinder, and more resilient. A while back, my Dominant shared some concerns she had about being in a process of growth. I said, “This may sound strange, but as your submissive, I’m still sadistic. I derive joy from your discomfort.” She wasn’t offended–that tells me that I’ve chosen a good Domme. Do I have an inner masochist? I think so. Stay tuned.
  • I’ve learned that I’m not immune to pettiness, jealousy, and consent accidents. And while we’re at it, I’m not immune to ye olde frenzy. I’ve made many mistakes and will make more (see Fetish Foibles for a couple of examples from my dominant life). 
  • I’ve had a complicated journey with submission. There’s a reason I’ve been calling it #Subpocalypse2019. Being confronted with a serious opportunity to submit frightened me, even made me feel ashamed. Frankly, it embarrasses me to think of the monsters that came out of my mental closet. I’ve learned a lot about my fears and insecurities. 
  • I’ve been learning how to manage multiple dynamics, friendships, etc. that require care and attention. I honestly believe that I’ve become more of a stickler for planning and scheduling because of my kink exploration. Planning is one way to show care for people, even if that just means planning a little extra sleep into your schedule so you can be fully alert during negotiation and play. While we’re at it, I’ve learned that gratitude is more precious than gold. 
  • In making the leap from kinky fantasy into kinky reality, I’ve learned to fantasize more responsibly. That is, I think more deeply about my fantasies and how they relate to my needs. Fantasy has been a lifelong coping mechanism for me; I’ve always been imaginative, and as a child, that’s how I spun straw into gold. I used to eroticize the feeling of being left-out and marginalized in social groups, in situations where my tender young mind saw no alternative. It went something like this: “Oh, I’ve been left out. I shall now be Cinderella.” And I would revel in the degradation of my imagined servitude. Nowadays, I try to think through my options before spinning a fantasy. For example, if I’m feeling bad, I might think, “Is this a situation that I can work through in the ‘real world’? Am I using this fantasy to make my shame feel sweeter instead of confronting it?” That doesn’t mean I restrict my imagination (or, for that matter, that fantasies are ‘good’ or ‘bad’) but that I try not to use fantasy to avoid the hard work of reflecting, communicating my needs, and following through in reality. 
  • Maybe you’re wondering whether I, a queer, kinky Christian divinity student, have any reflections on faith here. First, my journey has taught me that Dominants are not deities, though we can certainly play with those roles and language. We don’t ever ‘deserve’ anybody’s submission (we don’t even deserve the capital ‘D’ at the beginning of ‘Dominant’). Now, what about God, whom some people choose to conceptualize as the ultimate Dominant? I don’t know what to make of God, to be quite honest. God is a mystery, and I’m leaving it at that for now. I haven’t truly ‘worshipped’ in a traditional sense in quite a while, but I think God can understand that. 
  • I’m pretty sure my Christology (my sense of the divinity of Jesus) has come down a few notches–I used to really like the idea that God, through Jesus, could understand the spectrum of human suffering, but I’m not so sure anymore. Overall, I feel as stubbornly rooted in my Christianity as ever, but, to quote transgender pastor Allyson Dylan Robinson, I’ve “sacrificed my certainty” many times. 
  • I’m just beginning to explore the connection between kink and spirituality (read a bit about my frustration with traditional ‘spiritual practices’ here). But I’m finding kinky activity to be intensely connective and intimate, a time when I can be completely focused on my partners. Regardless of my role, kink requires me to be vulnerable, showing up as myself. I learned how to show up with vulnerability in part through my Christian faith and nurturing community. Yet, I find that I usually can’t show up that way when I try to pray–I have too many complicated thoughts and feelings, confusion and anger, sometimes blankness where I would once have imagined God to be. It’s hard to talk to a mystery. People are slightly easier. So perhaps kink is a way that I can commune with the Divinity in myself and others. I hope to explore this idea further. 

I honestly have more to say, but I think that’s enough for now. I am grateful for the people, the discoveries, and the opportunities to learn that I’ve had so far in the kink community. I look forward to learning more as I continue my journey.

Be of good courage!

Masturbation Monday

My First Munch

[Image description: Photo is of a gray tee-shirt with a red raised fist design and white block lettering that says “Introverts Unite…Occasionally in small groups for very limited periods of time”]

I attended my first munch in August of 2018, right after divinity school orientation ended. #Priorities. A munch is a public get-together of kinky people, usually at a restaurant. No whips or chains there, just people chatting over food. Especially for new people, munches are a great way to connect with the local kink community, make friends, and find safe play partners. 

I was quite nervous before I went, changing clothes three times–it was a true Lizzie McGuire montage–before settling on a skinny jean-combat boot-jacket ensemble. I had read that I should “dress for success.” 

Fortunately, my Uber driver didn’t ask why I was taking a twenty-minute drive to this particular IHOP when another IHOP was much closer. Feeling like a detective, I told the restaurant manager that I was looking for “the group in the back.” I found them, a merry bunch with black clothes and colorful hair. 

They made room for me but didn’t engage much at first. Starting to feel like a statue, I mustered the courage to say “I’m an introvert; please talk to me!” Miraculously, they did. We chatted about kink and ate pancakes. I felt a thrill as I told them I was in divinity school and wanted to work on the issue of sexual shame in Christianity. Everyone was friendly. 

After the munch, we carpooled to the local sex-positive dungeon. On the way, I learned that for some people, the appeal of kink isn’t sexual at all–some just like the rush of impact or the opportunity to relax into a different role for a while. 

In the play space, I met three or four white guys with scruff and glasses over the course of the night. It’s a little embarrassing to say, but in the dark, they looked so similar that I didn’t realize they were all different people at first. To this day, I’m still not sure exactly how many dudes I talked with as I sat on that leather sofa, though one of them eventually became a friend and play partner. 

Of course, even in the low light, the house bootblack noticed how scuffed my boots were. A little sheepishly, I climbed into the bootblack chair. I chatted with her shyly while she cleaned and conditioned my boots–they were too dry at that point to be polished! I have since learned how to take better care of my boots. It is now one of my sub’s tasks. 

I watched the play with scientific interest, somewhat overwhelmed by the effort to watch multiple scenes unfold simultaneously. It was easier to focus on one at a time. In one memorable scene with two women, the top (the sensation-giver) kicked and hit the bottom (the player receiving the sensation) with wooden spoons and spatulas. They both smiled and giggled the whole time. At the end of the scene, the bottom slid down the wall, laughing uncontrollably as the experience washed over her.

Watching their joyful play reminded me that I didn’t have to play a certain way to be kinky (nor did I need to act like a movie dominatrix). I’ve been back to the play space and to munches several times since then. When I’m feeling awkward, I remember that I can always wave the introvert flag, and someone will welcome me.

A Note on CBT and Penises as “Weapons”

[Image description: Photo is of a butter knife and a small metal candle holder lying on top of a red cloth napkin.]

Note: This epistle is explicit, with description of some of my sexual interests and activities (also, mention of outdated beliefs about virginity and biology/yucky societal attitudes about sexual violence and what people with vulvas can expect during sex). Get educated by a reputable source like Kink Academy before you participate in the kind of play that I describe in order to avoid injury and other undesired suffering. 

When people compare penises to weapons, it makes me want to do CBT. There are two major kinds of CBT, of course. One is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is pretty great in general. The other is cock and ball torture, which can be a lovely form of consensual kinky play. During cock and ball torture, the penis and testicles (the cock and balls) are squeezed, bound, hit, kicked, pinched, tickled, shocked, or otherwise treated to painful or intense sensations. The experience of CBT, which should always be consensual, might range from a pleasant low-grade hum of sensation to something acutely painful. My sub finds it intense but rarely painful. I enjoy messing with his junk.  

What does that have to do with penises as weapons? Well, weapons are inert, unfeeling, and potentially dangerous tools (I imagine the cold metal of a blade). But the penis and testicles are living, fleshy, and sensitive (as even the thought of a kick to the balls demonstrates). While I understand the easy comparison between a penis and a weapon–both can, in a way, “penetrate” or “shoot”–I don’t like the way that description fits into a broader societal narrative that casts the penis-owner (usually a cisgender man) as a weapon-carrier. 

Vulva-owners, well…many people assume we’re supposed to hurt and bleed when we “lose our virginity,” as if the act of intercourse punctures us (or “pops our cherries”). That notion, while it would conveniently fit in with the penis-weapon analogy, is not based on what we actually know about the biology of the vulva (Heather Corinna of Scarleteen explains it well in “Seriously, Enough With the Fruit Already”). Treating the penis like a dangerous weapon teaches vulva-owners that intercourse inevitably hurts, and it teaches penis-owners that they should expect to hurt or wound partners during vaginal intercourse (and I don’t mean in a consensual, erotic way). The language of weaponry matters. 

Now, I won’t resolve that broad societal issue through kinky play, but I believe that such play can help willing folks with penises to lay down the weapon idea and see themselves as regular human beings. When I dominate cis guys in play, even if I’m not doing CBT specifically, I want to remind them that they are not weapon-carriers. I want them to know that the penis, like the vulva, is a fleshy organ, capable of feeling great vulnerability and pleasure. Intense touch that focuses on the genitals, like CBT, is one way to bring awareness. 

Mostly, I spank and lightly tug my sub’s balls, listening out for the delightful little whimpers and groans he makes. I like to slap his cock like a bobo doll and watch it spring back into place. Sometimes, I grab his whole package in one hand and just squeeze, letting him know both that I’m in charge of his balls and that he can trust me with them. 

If I received vaginal penetration, maybe I’d squeeze him that way too. I once played sexually with a vulva-owner who had an extraordinarily strong pelvic floor. I double-fisted her–both of my hands were inside her vagina at once, balled up together). I, the penetrator, thought, “Wow, it’s like she could snap my wrists like twigs.” She was powerful. 

With kinky play like CBT, we can gain perspective, and people with penises can remember their vulnerability and capacity for pleasure. Instead of thinking of penises as weapons and vulvas as…things to be wounded…let’s let our junk be our junk, part of our feeling bodies. Let’s study our bodies and try new things. Let’s learn not to weaponize or victimize body parts. And let’s have some fun along the way.