This thought was already rattling around in my brain before I saw that this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt is “Authentic,” but reading that word clarified why the thought needles me. I will illustrate through anecdotes (note: some overthinking and self-deprecation here).
I have an unusual skill, which is that I’m very good at “Simon Says” (that childhood game where you have to follow “Simon’s” orders, but only if they specify “Simon says”–I could see this going in a smutty direction some time, but not today). I once won a Simon Says competition, beating over a hundred people (I knew not to stop spinning when the next command was given).
My skills had been honed by theatre camp. My first director was a champion Simon; she would call out commands at lightning speed, sometimes tacking “Simon says” onto the end to catch us off-guard or making the wrong motion. The only way one “Simon” was able to best me was by tricking me (“Simon says do this,” he said, while my eyes were closed; I opened my eyes, of course). I wasn’t just good at Simon Says; I also fared well as a statue when we played “Museum guard.” The object of that game was to be the last statue standing while the guards walked through, trying to get you to unfreeze (usually by making you laugh).
As I look back on that time, I find it interesting that while I struggled with improv games, I was unusually good at games that required me to be focused, still, silent, and obedient, a blank slate. I didn’t even particularly like them, but I liked the simplicity they fostered and the success of winning.
Very occasionally, I wonder, “Is that my authentic self?” It unsettles me. I don’t want to feel trapped in one mode, which those games required. I don’t want to be shamed by an inability to act decisively when I need to. I’m not clay waiting to be molded; I have my own base characteristics and agency (right?). I want to be authentic, but when I overthink, I worry that my authentic self isn’t someone that I want to be.
What I believe to be true most of the time is that I actually have many authentic selves, and I don’t have to stick with just one. I can enjoy entering that flow state of obedience without worry, as long as I feel ethical (as when I devote hours playing techie, helping a friend to edit a musical piece to her exact specifications). I can greatly enjoy being a focused, vigilant presence–I carry basic first aid supplies around for a reason. Today, I gave two classmates Neosporin. One compared me to Mary Poppins. #Goals. I also like to be mischievous and silly. I drew enormous eyeballs on the common room white board this afternoon (and got others to join in drawing!) just for the amusing thought that someone will discover them later. I sing to myself when I can. Last night, it was some mixture of “Heaven on Their Minds” and “Elendil’s Oath.”
For me, the key to true authenticity is a system of ethics that I choose to live by–love, justice, compassion, and curiosity, to name a few. I am allowed to express those values in obedient, fierce, dramatic, quiet, aggressive, wise, and silly ways, without jeopardizing the core of who I want to be. I am many things, but as long as I strive to live out my values, I am authentic. For the moment, that means I get to draw all the eyeballs, sing all the songs, and follow to my heart’s content, but I will not be roped into another game of Simon Says any time soon.
*Some time ago, in the olden days, two new friends sit by the fire, furtively passing notes to each other on a single piece of parchment…*
Cloris (she/her/hers): “It was lovely to make your acquaintance yesterday.” *Attempts to sketch a marigold*
Beau (he/him/his): “Likewise.” *Squints at page* *Sketches an apple tree*
Cloris: “There’s a nice tree on the edge of the property. Perhaps we could take a turn about it?”
Beau: “I’ve got two nice apples.”
Cloris: “Oh, wonderful!’ *Sketches a rose*
Beau: *Sketches what he believes to be an anatomically correct image of his own member*
Cloris: *Crumples up the paper* *Throws paper on the fire* *Storms off to complain to Agatha*
-To be continued-
Oof. Poor dears. They weren’t exactly ‘on the same page’ (hehe).
Thus begins a series on sexting etiquette! Sexting is “sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images, primarily between mobile phones, of oneself to others. It may also include the use of a computer or any digital device” (thanks, Wikipedia).
Like any other form of communication, sexting is a social behavior. In social settings, we use ‘etiquette,’ a system of often unspoken rules, to guide our behavior and expectations, ideally to show consideration for others and make communication smoother. Etiquette varies from place to place and should change with people’s needs. It doesn’t cover every issue, and it’s not inherently ‘good’ on its own.
For example, I like to open doors for people, a common part of social etiquette whose meaning changes with circumstance. To me, it says “I care.” To others, however, it might say “I don’t think you can handle this yourself” or even “I want to hold power over you.” Thus, my door-holding behavior isn’t always appropriate. I have a habit of almost always holding the door for specific friends. They know what I mean by it because…we’ve talked about it. The same caveat applies to sexting etiquette; there’s no universal language, and it will have to change over time.
That said, we often don’t apply basic rules of consideration to sexting situations in the first place, which is partly why I think that intentionally using the lens of etiquette can help. Sometimes, we’re so embarrassed by the prospect of sexting that we don’t know how to think of it as a social situation with another human–we spend so much time seeing sex as this scandalous, unspeakable thing that when we actually get to be sexy, we don’t know how. We may not know how to initiate, how to say what we want (or what to say at all!), and how to stand up for ourselves and set boundaries if sexting feels uncomfortable. So, let’s start with some basic rules and guidelines for ‘initiating’.
First, decide whether it’s ethical and appropriate for you to sext. If there’s a major power difference or professional boundary between you and the other person/people (Ex: you’re their employer, they’re your pastor, etc.), it’s not advisable. As a rule of thumb, if one of you might be afraid to say no to the other, don’t do it. A general note on power: All kinds of power differences affect our interactions with others–wealth, age, gender, race, and citizenship status, to name a few. As a man, Beau has social (and even legal) power that Cloris may not have as a woman, but if Cloris is much wealthier, she may leverage that wealth against him. There are few easy answers when it comes to power difference, but it’s important to recognize where they exist.
If the playing field is relatively even, you may ask for consent to start sexting. We’re not always good at asking for consent before diving into something sexually explicit–it’s easy to forget that there’s a real person behind the screen, not a fantasy-fulfiller.
Even if think you’re ‘flirting,’ don’t introduce an explicit sexual element without checking in. Make sure that the other person wants to participate. This is especially important with new partners. In that vein, sending a picture of your anatomy without asking, like Beau did, is not a good way to obtain consent. It’s the texting equivalent of flashing someone in the street.
I wonder how differently Beau and Cloris’ conversation might have gone if Beau had taken more time to understand what Cloris’ messages meant, gotten to know her better, and then asked what she wanted.
He might have said “I am sexually interested in you” and waited for an encouraging reply from Cloris that wasn’t just a flower. Then, he could say “I would like to write about my desire with you and hear your desire” and later, perhaps, “May I offer you a portrait of my member?” Then, Cloris could be like “I’d like to see the real thing. There’s an apple tree at the edge of the property…” (Of course, she might just be like “What’s a member?”)
Note: In this situation, you might be thinking, “Well, Cloris might feel like she shouldn’t say yes because she’s a proper lady.” Very true! Her refusal is valid regardless.
If you’re not sure what something means, ask! (For Cloris, marigolds symbolize happiness. She was schooled in the language of flowers. Beau is not.) If you think something would be really sexy to talk about, ask if you can talk about it. We can’t take our own standards for granted when interacting with new people.
A partner might be comfortable with text but not pictures. Maybe they’re at work and don’t want to risk others seeing. Maybe they only feel comfortable talking about sex with you in a theoretical way. (This is a common issue for people who work in the sexuality field; people assume that because they talk about sex professionally, it’s okay to sext the professional without asking.)
Say what you want and ask them what they want. Does that sound awkward and vulnerable? It is, especially if you’re new at it. That’s okay! It’ll get smoother, and if you keep talking to the same person, you may gain enough familiarity after a while to sext them without negotiating each time beforehand. Ask, and (maybe) you shall receive.
In short, treat your potential sexting partner as a human being who is creating an experience with you. No need to be as formal as Beau and Cloris.
Here are a few ways to gauge comfort levels and ask for consent in different contexts (your mileage may vary):
“I’m pretty sure we’re flirting. Are we? *wink face*”
“I love your FetLife photos! Can I send one of mine (it’s a nude)?”
“I’m feeling really turned on right now. Can I tell you about it?”
*sends devil emoji* (Their response will give me an idea of how to proceed.)
“OMG I just had a hot sex dream. *blush face* Want to hear about it?”
“How do you feel about anal?”
“My hand is on your thigh. Tell me where you want it to go.”
“(Are you okay with using pet names when we sext?)”
As you get more familiar with your sexting partner, you may be able to use the shorthand of the dynamic you’ve fostered to gauge some things without asking. You might give blanket consent for sexting after a while, with the understanding that it can be withdrawn. For example, I am currently comfortable with my sub sending explicit messages to my phone most of the time, though there are specific times during the day when I don’t want to be messaged (namely, when I’m asleep). If I don’t want to receive sexts at any point or don’t like something, I just tell him. Those boundaries don’t work for everyone, but they work well for our dynamic right now. Pro-tip: If you have a smartphone, modify your settings so that message contents don’t show up on your lock screen.
This epistle has focused mainly on what happens before or when you’re just starting to sext. In future installments, I’ll talk more about ongoing negotiation when the sexting gets hot and heavy, how to state boundaries and protect privacy, sexting in kink-specific contexts (like power exchange dynamics), and using sex-positive sites like FetLife.
We’ll also find out whether Cloris and Beau kiss and make up. #Boris?What’s your “sexting etiquette”? Let me know in the comments!
Read the first series installment of this semi-fantasy flash erotica series here. I anticipate this’ll be a slow-burning series, gentle readers. 😉 This fiction explores some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance.” It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. This installment is a response to the Wicked Wednesday blog meme. For some of my more realistic short erotica, see “Stay Like This.”
His mouth runs dry, stomach twisting. Penance. They? Vague memories of workplace sensitivity trainings ooze through his molasses mind. She–they–shake out their umbrella and sling a black messenger bag off their shoulder.
He stutters “Are these–”
Now, they grin outright, nodding. “The implements of correction.” Their voice is soft and low, cello-like.
“Uh,” he replies eloquently, still stuck in place. So much for his plan to fall dramatically to his knees in greeting. That idea seemed so much more intuitive in theory. He looks down at her–their–shoes. No stilettos here, just chunky black boots like his teenage nieces wear. Or like the sisters in his parish growing up used to wear. Or army boots. What a weird overlap.
“Look up, please,” they say. He does.
“Let’s have a little chat. Let me get these wet things off, and we’ll sit at the island, alright?”
“Alright…Miss?” He winces as it comes out.
“Actually, I prefer Sir,” they reply, dark eyes gleaming. “But we don’t need to worry about that right now.”
But I’m not attracted to… he thinks as he juggles their belongings to the closet.
He turns back to them, already perched on a stool and unlacing their boots to reveal socks marked “Ineffable.” Their movements are purposeful and contained, not at all like the whip-slinger he expected. This Dominant wipes rain off their steel-rimmed glasses.
What on Earth. He must have stood there a little too long, as the Dominant–or interrogator?–raps the island’s granite top with their glasses case.
He feels himself step forward, blushing. It’s a move he’s used on subordinates before, summoning. Whatever, he thinks, in a fit of pride. His steps sound loud on the wooden floor, even louder when he arranges himself on the stool that’s really too small for him.
They watch him quietly. Like a lightning rod that deflects noise.
He tries for board room-level confidence, pasting a dime-toothed smile onto his face. “Well, you found me,” he says with a lame little chuckle.
They smile. “Yes, I did,” they say, pulling some papers out of their bag. Instead of passing them over to him, they adjust their glasses and start to read silently to themself, annotating with a red gel pen.
For what feels like a long time, they leave him with nothing but the sound of the rain. He crosses his arms. What does this person expect from me? Shouldn’t I be tied up by now? Won’t this ‘Dominant’ do his-her-their job? He feels the words build up inside him, rushing to the surface like hot magma.
“I’ll have a glass of water, please,” the Dominant says, oblivious. That knocks the wind right out of his sails. He gets up robotically to fill a glass with ice. And then he gets one for himself.
[Image description: Photo is an abstract close-up of a black leather boot on pink satin.]
This post was written for the Wicked Wednesday erotica blogging meme, heavily based on a real play experience I had with my sub. This one’s explicit, folks! Content: D/s, hand spanking, sexual play, ‘public’ nudity, and consensual boundary-pushing
We’re slightly mellow already when we arrive at the dungeon–at home, I worked him up to two prostate orgasms as he lay on his back, panting.
The red light casts a velvety glow over everyone in the play space. Tonight’s guests seek a more sensual energy than usual–our low-key sensual spanking scene will fit right in. We forego the shiny padded spanking benches for a utilitarian play mat against the wall.
I order him to strip. He’s still a bit sheepish about public nudity, so I remove my shirt and bra in solidarity. I think it will feel awkward, but it doesn’t; it just feels like a fact of life. My sub sets himself up on all fours, presenting himself for my touch, my ‘handling’.
It always takes me a couple of minutes to settle into a scene, especially in a communal space; I smile and shrug at my friend across the room as I sit down on the mat, as if to say “Yep, here it is…spanking. *Jazz hands.*”
My sub waits. I let my hands wander over his back, tracing delicately over his ass, which he has shaved for me (when in doubt, I get handsy). And then, I swing back and hit. And hit again, cupping my palm. I wait. He hums. This is one of his favorite activities. I feel him warming as I rub his cheeks rosy. Another smack, harder. I need more sound, leaning over his body to get closer to his face. I want to hear his moans mingle with the hypnotic dungeon music.
I wrap an arm around him as I reel back for another slap, leveraging his body to crash back into my spanking hand. We find a rhythm. He looks up sometimes, making eye contact with the person getting fucked on the swinging bed several feet away.
Sometimes, I catch his balls, sending him lurching forward. He always puts himself back in my palm, whimpering when I pause my onslaught to play with his hard cock. When I think he’s had enough, I stop. He eases himself up in a daze of pleasure, sitting for a moment with his legs splayed out. He reaches for his clothes. “No,” I say, pinning him to my side as I put one hand on his thigh. “Stay like this a little longer.” Suddenly embarrassed again, he obeys, hands at his sides on the mat and legs open to reveal his still half-hard cock to any onlookers.
There’s a reason this feels so vulnerable for my sub; it’s rare for a cis man to get fully nude in this space. I could reach over, stroke him hard, wipe out his excruciating awareness with the sweet oblivion of touch. But I don’t. Instead, we sit like that for a few minutes while I tell him how proud I am of his bravery, my protective arm around his shoulder. We make a pocket of stillness amid a riot of play.
Back at my place later that night, he will practically leap onto my bed, moaning when I start hitting him with my belt, rutting back against my hips as I press him forward. He’ll look back in wordless arousal and spread himself for me. I’ll slam him into the mattress with enough force to make the bed squeak, the simulation of fucking just as arousing as the real thing. I will claim him with murmurs and growls of ownership. But nothing proves my ownership more, and nothing makes my pride in him burn as brightly as those naked minutes we spend just sitting there on the dungeon floor.