Archive for July, 2010

Boy

Posted: July 31, 2010 in Desire, Identity, Masculinities

I have wished I were a boy, at various times in my life, secretly, furtively. The thrill I got from watching Orlando, when I was in my early twenties, was visceral. I felt myself transform with her/him. I stared at that new body in delight and fear. I left the cinema feeling different from when I walked in.

But if I were a boy, I don’t know how happy I would have been. Some women go on about the pressures on girls, to fit certain roles, look a particular way, be just sexy enough but not too much. I’ve had those pressures. But I think the pressures on boys are just as bad. Growing up as I did, in a feminist household, I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling my maleness might have been more problematic than my sometimes tomboy, sometimes uber-feminine, girlhood. I sometimes wonder if, as a boy, I would have been gay.

Is it that I just can’t imagine desiring anyone else other than men? I don’t know. I used to fancy Annie Lennox and Debbie Harry. Or am I romanticising gay men’s rights of passage with all that alienation, self-analysis, Smiths’ Records and suffering? Maybe. Though I had my fare share of all of those myself. William, it was really nothing.

One of the first writers to strike a chord in my adolescent girl’s heart was E.M. Forster.

I know he wrote ostensibly of heterosexual romance and relationships, in the books I loved most such as A Room With A View, A Passage To India and Howard’s End, but the homosexual subtext wasn’t difficult to uncover. I didn’t read his more overtly gay novels such as The Longest Journey and Maurice till later. But I knew what was going on. I identified with those introverted, floppy-haired men, and their solemn friendships. I wanted their story to be my story. And then, when I was 24, it suddenly was.

My floppy-haired blue-eyed boy might have walked straight out of one of those turn of the century tomes. His earnestness, his passionate loyalty to his male friends, their evenings spent in intense conversation about James Baldwin, Mean Streets, William Blake. I was a girl, sat quiet in the corner of the room, suddenly finding I’d made it into the inner sanctum of masculine, ‘homosocial’ life.  When I remember my love for him, I recall it as  a love for them. A recollection of being one of the boys. Even if they didn’t think of me as such.

It was a double-edged sword of course. On one hand I adored the feeling I got when I was with him, of our differences disappearing, of the fact of our contrasting bodies evaporating, as our minds met and our pints were drunk. I have never felt so close to another human, or as similar.

I even felt some kind of belonging, via the right of passage of buggery. I never spoke to my female friends about it, but I knew they probably didn’t take it up the arse, definitely not with the willingness and awe that I did.  As I went down on all fours and felt his cock pounding into me, it was as if I was no longer a woman at all. I didn’t need those parts of my body which had appeared as if from nowhere when I was a teenager. I had my anus and he had his dick and we were joined, welded together. I felt like I was earning my stripes.

On the other hand, I wasn’t a boy at all. And very often I’d be reminded of my exclusion from the group, based solely on the fact of my genetic make-up. It didn’t matter how well I learned my Foucault, how patiently I sat through their lectures on the vital importance of Springsteen’s Nebraska in the contemporary male working class American psyche (even though they were all middle -class nerdy English lads).  I was a girl and didn’t quite belong.

I also became more isolated from my own, straight, female friends. They’d ask me how it was going, and I would struggle for the words to describe the situation I was in. My boy got buggered himself you see. And sadly not by me. There was this  authoritative figure that lurked in the background of his, his brother and their friends’ lives. An intelligent, inspirational man, who had taught some of them at sixth form. He buggered them all, with, or without their consent. What is consent anyway, when you meet someone in a position of power, when you are only 15?  And how could I tell that story when my girlfriends asked innocently about our relationship? In the end they stopped asking.

So I learned that being a boy, surrounded by boys and men, wasn’t always quite so romantic as I had imagined it could be. It didn’t matter how intellectual they all were, how much they loved to smoke and drink, and quote Derrida in loud voices, or watch Hud, for the tenth time. They knew that at the end of the night, one of them was bound to be fucked, for no other reason, than that the man who’d seduced them with all this amazing cerebral stimulation, needed his own stimulants. And knew how to get them.

So when I wasn’t walking hand in hand with my boy, talking about poetry, and wanting him to throw me into the bushes and hold me down. I was wandering round in a deep rage, hating myself for staying in this stupid, fuck-ed up situation, hating him. And most of all hating that bastard buggering bully. And all the while I knew deep down my hatred was a result of this man’s allure. I was as enthralled by him as they were: I just didn’t have to prove it by bending over by their side. I even felt guilty about that. I may even have felt ‘left out’.

I have a lasting memory, of a couple of years after I’d finally walked away, at seven in the morning, (after a night of sobbing and holding onto him, tears streaking down my face) stumbling, blind. It is me, sat on my therapist’s couch. The tears and the sobs heaving through my body again. And I’m saying to her, that if there was a God, as my boy believed with all his heart to be the case, he must be some kind of sick fuck. That brought me so close to someone, who enabled me to learn what it means to love and be loved, and to have my mind expanded and challenged, my brains and my body blown. But who did so on the condition that I lived a secret life, scared and jealous of my boy’s weird connection to a horrible old parasite. That if I was to be buggered, then so was he, until none of us knew if it was what we wanted anymore. That’s quite a clever, nasty joke, if it was God’s joke.

I don’t know how my boy is. I know he is a man now. I know we are still linked somehow, by our inability to be anything other than who we are. I have inherited his way of seeing. And I think he inherited mine.

This is never far from my consciousness. But someone’s words I have been reading, recently, (just a little  more intently than other girls  might read them), have brought my boy back into sharp focus again. They have found me wishing I was ‘one of the boys’ again, even though I know the trouble that desire can lead to.  I suppose my own words show that I am a boy in some ways, and that I probably always was.

Hate On Me

Posted: July 31, 2010 in Feminism, Masculinities

Bidisha sees hatred wherever she goes. I would not want to walk in her shoes. Her latest article in Guardian CIF describes a world full of casual sexism, fuelled by men’s hatred of women. The anecdotes she recounts, of misogynist language, sexual harassment and gender imbalance at work and in the home, I am sure are all true. But to place all gender inequality at the hands of women-hating men, makes me really angry.

I spoke online to a few men about the article and their general response was a resounding: ‘meh’.  Maybe they didn’t take her (not very well expressed) argument seriously. Maybe they couldn’t be bothered to read the piece at all. Maybe they didn’t know how to react to such bile. Maybe one or two of them were reluctant to challenge such an accusation, as it could lead to further accusations against them and cries of ‘misogynist’! Sometimes some men say they can’t win. In this instance I think they would be right.

Look at this paragraph about the domestic division of labour in the home:

‘Any man who thinks it’s OK to live in a household where the woman does the overwhelming majority of all the housework, childcare and family admin is a woman-hater’.

All families are affected by gender inequality to some degree, both from within and beyond the domestic sphere. But to say categorically that this inequality is always the result of the hatred of men for the women they are supposed to love, I find quite astounding and insulting to everyone concerned.

I don’t hate Bidisha. I am no fan of her analysis of gender, though.  She seems to hold a very low opinion of men, women and everyone that does not identify as either man or woman (who she completely ignores in her analysis by the way). When she hates on people, she hates on me. And I don’t like haterz.

Rebel Grrrls

Posted: July 28, 2010 in Desire, Feminism, Freedom of Speech

The inspirational @footstepszine has written a sequel to her post on feminism, sex work and pleasure . It places her position in the context of her own experience, which I think is a brave and in her case,  also a very  insightful thing to do. I am linking to it here, and also to my own, not quite as brave or insightful post about my experience of becoming a ‘sex-positive’ feminist. Though I don’t use either term much anymore. Here is footstepszine’s post:

http://footstepsinthedarkzine.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/part-2-why-i-believe-in-the-radical-possibilities-of-pleasure/

And here is mine (ah, my old blogspot blog looks so quaint! Also I no longer agree with everything it says as my knowledge of porn and the sex industry has developed. But I am leaving it as a record)

http://quietriotgirlelly.blogspot.com/2010/03/this-is-hardcore-feminists-journey-into.html

One observation I have of this stand-off in feminism between ‘sex-positive’ and ‘anti-sex industry’ feminists is that the willingness of ‘pro-sex’ feminists to talk about their own, often painful experiences of sex, power, gender, body image, sex work, is much more apparent than those who take the ‘anti-sex industry’ stance. They may wheel out accounts from ‘exited’ sex workers to add a personal element to their writing. But to actually sit down and confront your own past, and your own reasons for becoming the person you are, and taking the position you take, involves some soul-searching, and some attention to detail. And some compassion for other people. I recommend it I really do.

I also recommend this:

I would like to introduce you to  @footstepszine (as she is known on twitter). She is an inspiring, creative, zine maker, writer, arts enthusiast and feminist activist. This is a post she has written, after being angered by Kira Cochrane’s recent Guardian article, on the ‘rejuvenation’ of feminism, and the success of organisations such as OBJECT, who campaign against the sex industry. I think her piece is brave and excellent. And she, like me, has started to get some flak for it, from those lovely anti-sex industry feminists. So give her some support either here or over at her blog.

http://footstepsinthedarkzine.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/i-believe-in-the-radical-possibilities-of-pleasure/

Narcissus

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Desire, Masculinities, Porn

I loved his body and so did he.

The perfect squareness of his shoulders as I viewed him from the back.  The muscles at the tops of his arms that would not yield when I squeezed with all my strength. The smooth and yet contoured surface of his torso: from neck to groin, from clavicle to hips.  His hard thighs, long legs, firm buttocks.  I’d not looked so long and intently at a man before, not one stood there before me, all flesh, and sinew and bone.

He never tired of talking about his body, and for a while at least I was equally rapt. He’d explain things I had not even considered until I met him, about muscle groups, and the best kind of stretches to do before a run. When I watched Casino Royale one evening at home alone, I kept on replacing Daniel Craig with him in my mind. Both specimens were equally beautiful to me.  Of course I told him, and even over the phone, at long-distance, I could feel his ego swell and grow. It only made me think of his cock, hardening and expanding in my hand. But I didn’t tell him that.

It is not that he was without his flaws. But they seemed to add to his allure. He had a tattoo on his left upper arm, a snake-like, wavering line, that might have been drawn and coloured in with turquoise felt pen. A botched job, obviously.  I wondered when and how (and why) he’d had it done. Was he drunk one night on holiday? Was there a woman involved? But for some reason I never mentioned it all the time we were seeing each other. It was as if it would break the spell his body had cast. I didn’t want realism.  I was living a fantasy and so was he.

The sex was good. I want to say it was mind-blowing, but my skills at creating a fantasy world are not as highly developed as I’d like them to be. The fact he was so tall and strong gave him an immediate advantage. As soon as I was in his arms I could bury myself in his chest and feel him overpowering me, on a primal, physical level. I loved it when we were fucking, in quite a traditional pose, with him on top of me, his weight pushing me into the mattress. He would grab my arms and push them behind my head. I could not have stopped him if I’d tried. I told myself he was doing this as an act of dominance, enjoying the hold he had over me. But really he was just moving my arms out of the way, to get better access to my tits, my face, my cunt.

Once I asked him to give me a fireman’s lift. I’d never experienced a man before who I knew for sure was strong and bullish enough to want to try. He chucked me over his shoulder as effortlessly as if I was his gym bag. But instead of hauling me upstairs and throwing me onto the bed, to manfully take what was his, he just put me down on the kitchen floor. We probably had a beer and discussed his plans for climbing on Stanege Edge the next day. If it had been a battle between me and the rock, the rock would have won hands down.

The final frame came as it inevitably would. We were in bed, in our favoured missionary pose (I had introduced him to anal, on a weekend away in Snowdonia. It was a bit DH Lawrence in atmosphere. He liked it but I think he felt scared of the intensity, the way it made him face up to how animalistic all this is. He never tried to repeat it and I was too proud to ask).  So I lay back and enjoyed the crush of his bulk on me. I got into a rhythm. My breath started to shorten, quicken. I held on tight.

And then I sensed something a little odd. It was as if his attention had lapsed. Like he’d seen a fly on the wall or something. Or an ex had flitted through his mind, just at the wrong moment. I turned and saw him, looking in the full-length mirror at the side of my bed. Staring at… himself.  I could lie and  say it was an erotically-charged moment, when we both suddenly realised the potential for getting off on watching ourselves in the act of having sex. But I won’t. He was definitely checking himself out in the mirror. I just happened to be the context in which he was admiring his mighty physique. I can still see his expression now, as he examined the sight of himself, straddling me. ‘Looking good’ it seemed to say.  ‘Nice work’. And then he turned back and finished what he was doing.

And I finished doing him very soon after.  I liked fucking a narcissus. But I wanted him to pretend, at least, that he was fucking me, not making love to his own reflection, the real object of his desire.

The notebook is still locked away. I am there with it, locked up, unread, hiding.

I started this project for the sake of writing, and bringing to life something I mainly do online. Not that I don’t write in longhand. The bringing to life bit is the interactive, human aspect of sharing my words with other, real, live writers. Meeting someone in a pub for the first time, and thrusting the notebook into his unsuspecting hands. Sending it over the sea to a lovely woman in France. Returning to my thing I’ve had for so long about Canada. I drew a map of Canada, oh Canada, with your face sketched on it twice.

But the sexual aspect has crept in inevitably. I say ‘crept’. It was always there, stamped blatantly (if invisibly) on the cover of the notebook. The people whose words I have most wanted to read have been men. Men whose minds I have wanted to unravel, whose bodies I have imagined, in sections, pieces. Cock. Shoulders. Feet.  Though slightly narcissistically I have wondered more about their reaction to my body. One or two of them, our bodies have come into contact, cushioned and protected by clothes, and etiquette.

Maybe I should have just fucked you.

We all have sexual fantasies right? I remember fantasising before I even started masturbating.  I might have been nine or ten. Or eleven. It doesn’t really matter does it?  Our sexuality starts in childhood and carries on from there.

Recently I spotted a link to this piece by sex educator and therapist, Dr Castellanos, on the role of 
fantasy in our sex lives. I was pleased someone was tackling the subject and sharing her knowledge. Then I read it.

The article starts off ok.  ‘Learning  a little about sexual fantasies may help you become more comfortable with your own fantasies’ writes Dr Castellanos. Unless you learn that your fantasies are wrong, or signs of psychological problems, maybe?

She then goes on to look at ‘rape’ fantasies, saying ‘a fairly common fantasy for some women is that might [sic] be ravished or raped. For many women, this fantasy represents the desire to be so attractive and desirable that their partner (or others in the fantasy) would not be able to resist them. It does not automatically mean that a woman would want to be raped or would enjoy being raped’.

The problem I have with this ‘analysis’ is that it totally ignores the role of violence in many people’s  fantasies, from an S and M, or kink, point of view. Castellanos tiptoes over the fact that some of us fantasise about being ‘ravaged’ or ‘raped’, not because we want to be ‘irresistible’ but because we like the idea of being taken by force, beaten, hurt and violated, against our will. We like the idea. We may even re-enact this idea in a role-play scenario. We might write stories about it.  The Doctor is right. It doesn’t mean we want to be raped, or to rape.  But it does mean we are prepared to entertain the idea of forced, violent, non-consensual sex. This is not a crime, unless you are the thought police.

I originally intended to write this post in a friendly, accessible, non-violent manner, so that other sex educators might read it and learn from a practioner of kink, and writer of kink pornography, how violent fantasies are perfectly natural and can form part of a ‘healthy’, BDSM role-play sex life. But I found Dr Castellanos’ version of kinky fantasy so inaccurate, patronising and pathologising of my and many other people’s sexuality that I don’t think I am going to be able to achieve my original aim.

Later in her piece Dr Castellanos writes:

‘There are many things that people fantasise about that they would not look to carry out in real life. But that  does not mean you cannot use your fantasies to heighten your experience for you or your partner. Fantasy is just that, fantasy-not reality, it is a creative space in your mind that you can use to pretend and to create exciting stories, and have fun’.

(‘This article refers to fantasies that do not involve harm towards yourself or another person, or fantasies that involve inappropriate partners, such as children or animals. If you are having such fantasies, they should be discussed with a therapist to prevent any dangerous or harmful behaviour or any anxiety or depression that result from them)’.

Thankfully the article ended there, because I think if it had have carried on it would have tied itself into even more convoluted and confusing knots. And I might have committed an act of violence against my computer.

I have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I can only conclude that Dr Castellanos is saying that S and M fantasy, if not done ‘properly’, and if translated into ‘reality’, is wrong, harmful and requires the fantasiser to seek medical and psychological assistance. If that isn’t pathologising people’s sexuality I don’t know what is.

Kink does involve turning our fantasies into ‘reality’ to a degree. Not literally of course. But in role-play such as ‘rape play’ , ‘kidnapping’, ‘interrogation scenes’ etc sadists ‘harm’ masochists. A key point is that they do so with full consent of the person on the other end of the violence.  But still, it is worth noting that it is this very ‘real’ violence that the masochist desires. Try hitting a masochist with an ‘imaginary’ cane/flogger/crop and s/he won’t be very happy!

I know sex educators have a responsibility to advocate awareness of danger, risk and safety in all matters of sex and sexuality. But in my view, the most dangerous thing in our sex lives is ignorance, and Dr Castellanos’ ignorance of kink and BDSM sexuality screams out from her article. Also the fact is that when it comes to awareness of ‘harm’ and the potential for S and M sex to do physical, and psychological damage, it tends to be practitioners of kink who know the most about this and how to minimise adverse effects. Just as sex workers are often the most expert of groups in contraception and STI prevention, so are kinky people often the most knowledgeable about the potential dangers involved in S and M. Not all of them. But there are many responsible, articulate kink practioners and bloggers who could have dealt with this subject much more informatively than Dr Castellanos. Maybe she should have asked them for some advice?

As for her assertion that we should not fantasise about sex with ‘inappropriate partners’ such as children or animals. This is a highly controversial subject. But I retain the position that even if we try to police our thoughts and our imaginations, we cannot, and should not prohibit or denigrate anything that goes through our minds. Novelists, artists, musicians, all deal with the darker sides of our imaginations. Are they to be told they shouldn’t have such ‘inappropriate’ thoughts as well? What about the  Murder Ballads ?  Or Lolita? Or the work of Mat Collishaw ? Or is the doctor saying that ‘art’ and ‘pornography’ ‘imagination’ and ‘fantasy’ are completely separate distinct things? I don’t see how they can be, as they all stem from the same source.

I wanted this post to be educational. I am worried it has turned into a rant. But after reading Dr Castellanos piece, I felt a degree of ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ myself. I had a brief flash of doubt about the ‘appropriateness’ of my own fantasies and my sexuality. I did seek counsel as well, but luckily not from Dr C. I spoke to someone who writes about kink sexuality who I knew would not tell me I needed ‘help’ with my ‘problem’. I am a confident and aware person but I haven’t always been so, especially not in relation to my interest in S and M. If someone new to this kind of sexual expression read Dr C’s article, I think s/he could feel very unnerved about the kinds of things s/he thought about, desired, and wished to do.

Here, then, for anyone that is interested, is a list of sources of information about kink, S and M, BDSM sexuality. The sex educators could benefit from some education from those who know what they are talking about!

Clarisse Thorn: http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/

Remittance Girl: http://remittancegirl.com/

Informed Consent: http://www.informedconsent.co.uk/settings/sign-in/

Let The Eat: Pro S and M Feminist Safe Spaces: http://sm-feminist.blogspot.com/

Pandora Blake: Spanked, not Silenced http://pandorablake.blogspot.com/

Thinking About My Kink http://thinkingaboutmykink.blogspot.com/

Oh, and if you have any queries about S and M/Kink you can always talk to me. I may not know the answer to your questions; I will know someone who does!