Can I allow my body nurture and reward while being submissive?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the things that I ask of my body. Life, like I’m sure it is for many of you, is hectic at the moment; it’s the middle of winter, we’re on a deployment cycle, parenting a teenager, I’m in my last 2 months of collage & I’m working on establishing my own private practice. It’s like I’m jumping from busy to busy; with little in the middle to nurture and reward my body for all the things I’m asking it to do right now.

And I’ve started to notice a similar pattern in what I’m asking of my body sexually too. I ask it to settle into the intentional and very directed distress that is kink and beyond a shower and sleep I don’t do very much to nurture and reward it for the immense pleasure it affords me (and my husband).

Is it even acceptable to see your body as being deserving of nurture and reward? It’s seems so like the over used idea of ‘me time” (something I’ll admit I do indulge in) and yet so unlike the common theme of “after care” in kink spaces, it’s indulgent – like me time, but not something that I’ve ever thought about negotiating within my dynamic. On the one hand, I feel like this is something that I need to start doing – after all I’m choosing to engage with the intense sexual behaviours that we use, those which I know distress, through bruises and marks as well as exhaustion and mental “fog” while, almost immediately asking my body to perform normally and without hesitation those things I need to be adulting (as my teenager would say). But on the other I feel that this would add another layer to the erroneous idea that submission cannot coexist seamlessly alongside everything else that makes up the whole of my life. That I’d be somehow buying into the narrative that one must clearly divide their “kink” self from their “normal self.

But I think my apprehension towards this comes from one of the most prolific problems that I have with the way we depict surrender and submission. The idea that we are, inherently and by virtue of some personality architype, altruistic. Selflessly giving of our bodies and our sexual labour; without need of return or recompense. I have many “shame stories” that frame the way I experience myself and my body and I think that this “not enough because I need reward for my surrender” would be in my top three! I feel, somewhat, less than, simply because I cannot and will not abdicate my need to feel as if the surrender I offer him and the ways that I allow my body to be used in our erotic space are worth more than a pat on the head and a “good girl” and more than the just knowing that he is satisfied.

I wonder what it would be like to raise this at the submissive munch I often attend. I’m picturing the faces of those regulars; the ones who are seen as the knowledge base of submission, and I’m wondering how they would react to the idea of nurturing and rewarding their bodies for what they ask of it. And I’m not seeing anything I like! And that doesn’t surprise me.

I exist within a community that, seem to me, to have little time for anything that doesn’t foster strength in submission. It feels like anything or anyone who meanders into thoughts that force them to question the choices and needs will soon be brought back into line. That the status quo and the kumbaya singing must be preserved; at the expense of the individual; be it something self-centred as this or something with wider ramifications like speaking of the sexual violence you have experienced. The slightest hint of weakness and you are cast aside, with your ability to “play with the big kids” debated and judgment soon rendered. See, to be, confidently and consciously within the submissive space may be seen and sold as an empowered step by some, but the truth seems to be it is something quite different.

Are our bodies deserving of reward and nurture; considering what it is that we are asking of it?

Can we still claim entitlement to play with the big kids if we recognise that our bodies might need more than the satisfaction of knowing that he got what he wanted?

And are we allowed to admit that we might not all be the submissive superhero’ capable of all sorts of kink indulgences without corrupting the submission is strength message?

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Sex advice is abhorrent and why it’s not okay.

It doesn’t take much for me to find fault with a lot of what is considered sex education/advice these days. There is still a lot of retrograde male bodied entitlement and rejection of female autonomy and pleasure underlying our common understandings of sex. This is so common, so expected that, even in something as left of centre and progressive as The Guardian it can still be found.

From the headline alone of this advice column one could assume that the realm of sex is dictated to us by our male counterparts and, us poor female folk are relegated to the world of fantasy and unrequited romance. Which is bad enough. Until you get to the actual advice that is being dished out.

Our 20 something protagonist is dissatisfied with her boyfriend. She doesn’t enjoy sex with her boyfriend at all and can mealy fantasie about intimacy and romance because he “doesn’t like vanilla sex”. The only other piece of information we are offered is her medical diagnosis of vaginismus now classified as genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (DSM5) which is characterised as significant distress (75 to 100% of the time and for a period of time exceeding 6 moths) due to the “difficulty in vaginal penetration, marked vulvovaginal or pelvic pain during penetration or attempt at penetration, fear or anxiety about pain in anticipation of, during, or after penetration, and tightening or tensing of pelvic floor muscles during attempted penetration.”[1].I’m not going to broach the issue of female sexual dysfunction. It’s something that deserves a piece all of its own.

We all have our own unique sexual peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. That’s what makes us unique in the ways that we humans experience sex. It is an act for pleasure more so than one for procreation. The spectrum and diversity of the array of desires and behaviours that come together to form the umbrella of sex is, as far as I’m concerned, immeasurable. Chances are if you have thought of it someone, somewhere has or is doing it.

The irregularity is the distribution of sexual pleasure within heterosexual intimate relationships is just another way in which ingrained sexism manifests in the lives of women in 2016. And Pamela Stephenson Connolly; our in resident sex guru at The Guardian has given a fantastic example of just this.

She writes “female notions of intimacy and romance are commonly alien and mysterious to men. One should never expect a man to automatically know what those fantasies of yours are, or even to consider them important” Now we don’t actually know what these particular fantasies are of the woman posing the question here, beyond that they are centered in romance and intimacy.

Are the ideas of romance and intimacy truly alien to men? Are we women who desire romance and intimacy truly that mysterious to those who we (as heterosexual women) actively desire and seek out as sexual partners?

Connolly makes reference to two specific actions that she considers to be romance/intimacy – holding hands and kissing at the cinema and (supposedly the more challenging notion) looking into the eyes of the person you are with while having sex. Physical touch and eye contact – alien and mysterious!

A woman writes in asking for help, a woman who cannot enjoy the sex that her boyfriend is expecting of her, and the only advice that is available to her is to, essentially beg, for him to kiss her, outside of the bedroom and to look at her when having sex. I just cannot imagine how “help me bring intimacy into my sex life” became “hold hands at the cinema”.

This has really frustrated me, and going by the comments that have been left on the piece itself and the conversations about the piece I’ve seen on social media I am not the only one frustrated for what has been considered appropriate sex/relationship advice here!

My first frustration is this continuation myth that being into kink is an automatic aversion to romance or intimacy. We’re not talking Hollywood or viral marriage proposal so called romance here. We are talking about affection and intimacy. You can be in a mutually satisfying romantic relationship in which kinky sex happens.

Kink – which is what I am assuming is being referred to as non-vanilla/rough sex, is not synonymous with not being able or willing to satisfy your sexual partner. It just isn’t! Kink is a means to mutual sexual satisfaction between two people who both want what is occurring. Ignoring the way that your partner is experiencing sex with you isn’t kink, it’s being a selfish prat who is choosing to not satisfy the person you are in a sexual relationship with.

What kink is NOT is heterosexual men using the ideas and behaviours commonly associated with it as a means of justifying their adversity or inability to satisfy their sexual partners.

The first time I read through the advice given here I was instantly hit with this idea that there is something inherently wrong with the “female” need for intimacy. That expecting intimacy is so far out of the realm of normal within heterosexual relationships that A, we cannot expect it without explicitly educating the other person as to how romance is to be and B, that “when he gets it right, reward him with something he especially likes”. Now I do agree that we do need to fill or sexual partners in when it comes to the more peculiarities of what we do in our boudoir. Communication is the only way that we can ensure that we are able to get what it is we want from our intimate lives. And maybe I’ve just gotten lucky when it comes to my sexual partners that sex and intimacy just have always gone hand in hand. But I really cannot accept that in 2016 I would have to tell my boyfriend (not a random one-night stand) that looking me in the eyes when having sex with me would be a good thing and rewarding him for it when he does.

Which brings me to my biggest problem with this advice. It treats sex as transactional – that in order to get what I want (intimacy) I have to do what you want – even though it is clearly stated that there is no sexual pleasure for her.

Giving of sexual pleasure to our partner without the expectation of something in return can be a really healthy act. If, and only if, it is not the constant way of having sex. Same goes with expecting a reward for the giving of sexual pleasure. We have sex with our partners to have sex with them, the whole of them. Be it a quick fuck in the shower before work in the morning or a romantic weekend away with lots of sex happening. Sex is something we do with another person, that’s why it’s not masturbation.

There is zero mutuality in either the relationship in the original question or within the advice given. That is there is no empathy for her sexual needs nor any attempt to understand let alone meet her needs. Clearly it is assumed that women are not only the gatekeepers of sex but also carry the entire burden of adjusting our sexual behaviours and expectations to align with men.

“I do not enjoy sex at all and my boyfriend is quite rough with me as he doesn’t like “vanilla sex”. I fantasise about intimacy and romance every day, but it always stays as a fantasy” (emphasis mine) says our letter writer. And all she can do is consider her fantasies so alien that she must reward her sexual partner for his effort in trying to understand them.

When did sex become all about one partner taking what they want while ignoring the entirety of their partner’s sexual pleasure? And when did “non-vanilla” sex become another term for not being able to satisfy your girlfriend?

[1]IsHak, W. W., & Tobia, G. (2013). DSM-5 changes in diagnostic criteria of sexual dysfunctions. Reproductive System & Sexual Disorders, 2013.

 

 

Questioning authenticity .

When I sat down to write this I thought I’d be able to sit at the computer Google a few words, get a meaning and just write. I mean, there are thousands of us who use the internet as their medium to write about sex; some of them had to come up with a genuine definition of the authentic sexual self right? But no. Although if someone can find something about living an authentic sexual self for the self I’d love to read it.

Realising this wasn’t going to be as easy as I first thought (I’m learning this lesson a lot lately) I decided to go to the master of authentic self Abraham Maslow.

“Whereas the average individuals “often have not the slightest idea of what they are, of what they want, of what their own opinions are,” self-actualizing individuals have “superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general”

Maslow tells us that we are all capable of wanting more. That when our most human of needs are meet we are motivated to go after what it is that will satisfy us more. As with every psychological theory (theory being the why of human not the what is human) there are supporters and detractors. I can see both sides and as I continue my psychology education I can rationalise the strengths and weaknesses of Maslow’s hierarchy.

But the one thing I can both subjectively and objectively agree with is the theory that to be fully human rather than to exist as a human we need to allow ourselves to become in tune with our bodies. This is something that a lot of us will never be able to achieve; our social and culture realities and lived experiences will always deny us this space. But for some it is a possibility – maybe not a complete one; again we cannot distance ourselves from the culture we exist in.

Sexually; I see this as the end point of my sexuality. Sometimes I think I’m going to reach it & then my body tells me otherwise. Sometimes I feel that super awareness of my desires and then I realise there is more to it than I first thought. I have an evolving sexuality. It’s something that has high peaks and deep deep troughs. My sexuality is messy, confusing, confronting and sometimes I want to run from it. But it’s mine. It’s taken me 30 something years to get to where I am with my body and to a place where I am comfortable with using my body as a means of taking sexual pleasure. I became somewhat of an expert in using my body to give, but using it to take took me a little longer to master.  I choose to use my body in a way that I know works for me. I’ve taken time to explore various sensations and responses to listen to my body and to adjust what I’m doing to give it what it needs. I trust my body to tell me when it’s had enough or when it needs more. I trust myself unconditionally and without hesitation.

Does this mean I don’t trust the man I am with? No. I respect and trust him. I respect and trust the empathetic, mutually respectful and satisfying erotic space we’ve created, that we use to satisfy ourselves and each other. I just trust myself too.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading lately; blogs and personal accounts written by women. These pieces centre around their sexuality and sexual performance, and while not wanting to dismiss their words and experiences entirely I am getting bored of them. There seems to be this dominant theme running through a great number of them whereby they were somehow incapable or unwilling to understand their reality as a sexual being until their knight in shining armour stepped into their picture. It was the other persona and not themselves who awoken this waiting inner “slut” in them. But someone who actually defines their sexual self as this inner slut often centres it as theirs/his (I mostly see this in hetero couples). It’s not hers it’s his. It is only through him and by aligning their sense of self with him that this inner slut can exist. Not thrive but merely exist.

I get the desire to satisfy your partner. It’s a unique experience to know that you hold the power and knowledge to bring about such intense, satisfying and wanted pleasure in another. But can one genuinely sustain their entire sexuality through abdicating everything about their body and desires to another? It is an authentic space to exist in when everything about it is about one out of the two persons involved? Is it safe when the only way you can be with and/or satisfy your partner is by removing everything about you?