We Are Human First

This article is about consent and negotiation and mistakes and hindsight. It’s about personal responsibility and compassion.

There are reasons I don’t do pick up play and why I like to be at least friends with someone before I do a scene with them. When you play as a bottom you are trusting someone with your physical, mental, and emotional well-being for a certain amount of time. When you play as a Top you are trusting another person to be honest with you up front and not vilify you if you make a mistake. Notice the running theme? TRUST. Now, if you are just starting to play and have just met that person or have only known them a short time, then a whole lot of trust isn’t necessarily there yet. This is why it’s not recommended that you do heavy scenes or attempt to push boundaries and limits with someone in the beginning. You should be developing more trust first.

So what should you trust about a new play partner? Well, as a bottom you should hopefully be able to trust that your Top has good intentions and is looking to play with you in a safe way while adhering to the limits that you have stated during negotiation. That they are not looking to take advantage of you or do things that weren’t discussed just because “well you didn’t say I couldn’t”. (This is also why I teach newbies to negotiate from an “I want to start with just doing x, y, and z” position rather than trying to think of all the things they don’t want to do.) As a Top you should be able to trust that the bottom has disclosed whatever medical issues, triggers, etc that they are aware of, along with things that may be unique to them as a player. For example, bottoms – if when you go into subspace you are barely aware of your surroundings or what year it is, this is something the Top should be made aware of!

However, guess what? Even after all that things can go wrong. The bottom may have forgotten to disclose something. The Top may have briefly had a brain fart regarding one of the bottom’s limits. The bottom may have been triggered by something they didn’t realize they would be triggered by. The Top may have done something that wasn’t spelled out in negotiations (not talking about major stuff). But remember, scenes are supposed to be fun. Especially with a new partner who is likely not to go too “deep” or too far in play the first time. Not everything will be spelled out in the negotiation – it’s not possible. Or, if possible, it would probably be a very boring, predictable scene.

So what do you do about that? Well, for starters, choose to play with people you can have a conversation with. I’m talking about a conversation beyond the negotiation. If these things happen (which they will) don’t jump to anger and blaming the other person. Start with personal responsibility. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what part of that do you hold accountability for? Acknowledge this to your partner. Hopefully they will acknowledge their part of whatever happened as well. TALK about the little things that happened and assume it was not born from manipulation or ill intent. Are some people douche-nozzles? Absolutely. However, most people aren’t looking to hurt you or create a bad reputation for themselves. Most people are doing the best they can or the best they know how to do. So talk about the scene. Make adjustments in your future negotiations if need be.

Just remember when you strip away the titles and the power exchange – we are all just human first.

My First Play Party

I get asked by friends all the time, “Jenn, don’t you get tired of teaching the same basic stuff over and over?”

To that I say no. The reason I don’t get tired of what I do is for many reasons. I am giving info and providing opportunities that I wished I’d had when I was new, seeing people discover new things makes my heart super happy, and staying in touch with new folks week after week keeps me in touch with when I was new. I think it’s important to remember what that was like – otherwise it’s easy to become jaded, frustrated and even judgmental. What becomes second nature or common knowledge to us is often foreign to a new person. There is a learning curve here.

So having said all that I wanted to go back to my first ever public play party.

When I started in the scene I went to classes and munches and spent much of my time in the rope world and the spanko world. I got involved with a spanko group (which still exists) that, at that time, consisted of private parties in the group leader’s residence. Then one of the members of that group hosted a spanko party at a dungeon. I decided this would be a safe entry into the dungeon play party world because at least I would know a few people. This party happened to be held at a well-known dungeon in North Orange County here in SoCal.

I pulled into the parking lot in my family size SUV and I just sat there for a while. The address I punched into my Garmin took me to an industrial business type building so I had to double check my GPS like 25 times to make sure I wasn’t in the wrong place. Then I noticed people starting to arrive. I scoured their clothing and noticed that most of the women were wearing things like sundresses or flowy knee length skirts! I panicked. I looked down at my tight denim mini skirt and 6 inch stilettos and I immediately doubted my choice of outfit! Would I stand out like a sore thumb? Had I worn the wrong thing? Before I let myself give in to the panic and just drive home, I decided to text the one person who I knew was at the party and that I actually had a number for. (It happened to be the leader of the group at the time.) I told him I was parked outside and afraid I’d dressed inappropriately. I asked him to please come out to my car and tell me if I was right. (yes, he was nice enough to leave the party and come out to calm my fears) He laughed on his way to the car, shaking his head, and once he saw my outfit he assured me I would be completely ok. He walked me in and we went inside to where the party was happening.

The first thing I did was make a friend – a cute girl in pigtails and a cheerleading outfit – because at least she was another person not in a casual sundress! She and I sat and hung out and I realized that there was a reason for all those sundresses and flowy skirts. This was a spanko party and they were easy to flip up!! Lol Oh was I relieved! It wasn’t about a dress code or what outfit was appropriate, it was just easier access for what they were there to do!

After that realization I relaxed, met more people, including some from a class I’d been in a couple weeks before, and had a good time. There is more to the story but I covered the point of this article. Your first public play party can be scary and overwhelming. It’s ok to admit that and to reach out to a friendly face. It’s also good for veterans of the scene to remember this if you are the one they reach out to!

 

So many closets, so little time.  Well, ok, only two closets, however, I’ve had to come out of them again and again.

When you hear that someone “came out of the closet” you may think, “Good for them, it’s a big step and now they don’t have to worry about it anymore.”  What people may not realize is that once you come out – that’s just the FIRST time.  Essentially you have to come out every time you meet someone new or run into an old friend or family member who perhaps wasn’t around when you made the big announcement.  (That’s how everyone comes out by the way – big loudspeaker type pronouncement over the radio or in a stadium.)

Every time you tell someone new, you run the same risk you did the first time.  Will they react positively or with criticism?  Will your relationship with them change after this conversation?

When I came out the first time it was at the age of 17 and I came out to my friends as bisexual.  (FYI – this is still how I identify – I know – SHOCKER – it wasn’t just a phase…..)  I am proud to say I have wonderful friends who totally accepted me and had no issue.  I got involved with my LGBT group on my college campus and dated the only other bisexual girl in the group because the lesbians wanted nothing to do with us.  (That’s a topic for another day)  Fortunately she was just my type and we had a nice time together.  It was, however, a short romance and pretty soon after we broke up I started dating the man I would eventually marry.

Fast forward 15 years, marriage, two kids and one divorce later.  Time to get back out into the dating pool.  I cast out my net to any and all on the typical dating sites.  Met a few great people – not great matches however.  Then I met a woman – an amazing woman.  We dated for a couple years with some bumps in the road.  However, it was a serious relationship and I felt that it was time to come out to my parents.  Until this point I was “relatively out” – meaning I was out to everyone except my relatives!

So there I was, in my 30’s, coming out to my parents.  Thankfully they are both totally supportive.  My dad thought perhaps it was a post-divorce phase until I explained that she was not my first female partner.

So then there was the kink/BDSM closet that I had newly discovered as I was going thru my divorce.  For many people kink is something they do in the bedroom and they never feel the need to “come out” about it.  However, for me it wasn’t only my lifestyle, it was also my job.  Only a couple years into the scene I worked as a pro-sub and then a pro-Switch.  I eventually felt the pressure to open up to my mom because she kept asking so many questions about my new job in “customer service”.  Nice cover, right?  Fortunately it coincided with the 50 Shades trilogy and my mom happened to be reading the first one.  I used that to come out to her.  Her biggest concern was my safety and my happiness.  I assured her that I was both safe and happy.  She was supportive.  She has even attended one of my classes to try and gain more of an understanding – which I thought was super awesome of her!

Shortly thereafter I told my dad and he was accepting as well.  All of my friends know and I’m not shy talking about it with new friends I meet.  I am a bit more cautious with friends connected to my kids.  However, if you read my article titled The Outsider, you will see I didn’t have much to worry about.

I know that many people don’t feel they can come out about their orientation, their BDSM lifestyle, or perhaps both.  They may fear family shame, ridicule, or job loss.  As for me I feel extremely fortunate to be able to live my life openly.

I am at the point now in my life (perhaps some of it just comes with age) where I figure if you don’t accept me (and all that I am) then I don’t need you in my life.  If you want to know more, however, just ask and I will answer any question you have!

I come out of two closets again and again….and I’m proud of both!

“Consent is key.”  People in the scene say this all the time.  This is because it’s true.  Consent is what separates responsible BDSM and abuse.  I can, unfortunately, give several examples of consent violation that I’ve witnessed or experienced personally.  I’d be willing to bet that anyone in the scene longer than a week can say the same. (ok that may be a bit of an exaggeration – but not by much)  Someone walking over and picking up someone else’s toy without asking – better yet picking it up and then using it.  A D-type grabbing an s-type by their hair who doesn’t belong to them.  Someone being asked to help in a scene by holding the s-types leg, then they proceed to let their fingers wander to places they had no right to touch.  An s-type starting to worship a D-type’s boots when the D-type is in the middle of play and has not been asked to join.

Those were all examples that I witnessed or was connected to in some way.  That was by no means a complete list.  These things are simply not ok.  Period.  Ever.  It seems as if this type of behavior has increased a bit recently.  I have a couple theories as to why.  Now, my theories don’t explain all incidences obviously.  Heck, my theories may be totally off.  They come from my own observations and experiences.  Also, some people are just asshats – that has been, and will probably always account for, some percentage of the problem.

Theory number 1: It’s a new generation of kinksters.  Rules, protocol, old tradition, etc. have been watered down.  The next gen is doing it differently.  This is fine and, regardless of my opinion about it, is the way life goes.  Yet with that has also come a more “casual kink” mentality. We’ve also had many new people arrive into the community after being exposed to pop culture representations of how they think things are – which is not even close to reality.

Theory number 2: It used to be that the kink and swinger communities were fairly separate from one another – with very little overlap.  However, with the further acceptance of kink and the growing curiosities about it, it seems that overlap is growing quickly.  I am going to make a generalization here – so please don’t jump down my throat telling me this doesn’t apply to all swingers.  Disclaimer: I realize that this theory does NOT speak to ALL swingers – or perhaps even most.  However, based on, again, my observations and personal experiences it would seem that consent is dealt with very differently in these two communities.  From my perspective in the swinger scene, consent is assumed until it is removed – while in the kink scene, consent is not assumed until given.  This difference can, and does, easily contribute to at least a portion of the rise in consent violation. (Again, in my opinion.)

Then there are the aforementioned asshats.

In all cases I think education is the key.  Whether that means suggesting people go to classes or if one-by-one we find “teachable moments” to pass down the knowledge we possess if we are more seasoned kinksters.  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially if they’re new, that they don’t know any better.  However, if they continue to cross boundaries and ignore consent expectations then that’s where behavior is no longer tolerated.

So, if you’re new – educate yourself.  Go to classes, ask questions.  If you’re not new, try to find ways to kindly pass down the knowledge you have.  Consent is key.