Why the man I married isn’t my soulmate, but the man who nearly destroyed me is.

Soulmate; it sounds just so perfect doesn’t it? This ideal mirror of us. They just see you and, as if by some magical instinct brought from some other realm, they know you, understand you and get everything about you. The chemistry is hot and powerful. They shake you up, make you think about the world in ways you’d never thought of before. Your soulmate reaches down to the very core of who you are, and brings you into lessons you needed to learn and, will often, drag us out of the storm clouds and into the other side of the rainbow.

I’ve felt that once in my life. He was someone who I thought was my happily ever after. People would tell us all the time that we were just made for each other, that our chemistry was perfect and we just made each other. And for a while; it really was all of that and more. That was until real life smacked us square in the face. Where you have to come up for oxygen and start being a little more reactive to the world that still existed outside of our little nest.

For a while I was able to convince myself that the flattery and the attention, the packed lunches with sweet little notes and the orgasms were enough to see me through. That all he was doing was protecting me from the world and making everything okay again.

What happened between us, the facts, they’re not important. It’s the story around the what that matters when we’re talking about soulmates.

Because the connection and the chemistry they weren’t enough. And when we needed more, when we need to find the real enough to get through life, the facade fell apart. Fast. Almost as fast as the chemistry and the connection jumped up did it all jump off.

And both the jumping up and the jumping off happened in ways that, even now more than a decade later, I still can’t explain.

But my husband, this imperfect, sometimes infuriating man, I can tell you every detail about us. From the first words in his first email. I can describe the literal “foot pop” the first time he kissed me. And I can tell you the exact moment I knew that I’d fallen in love with this man. I can explain exactly how I came to choose him as the man I wanted to spend my happily ever after with.

There was never a moment like with my soulmate. Never anything more than that chemistry filled love that swept me away from life into a turbulent and overwhelming existence.

What I have, and what I think is the difference between a soulmate and a partner, is safety. Not just a physical or sexual safety ( I had that with the soulmate too) but a deeper, dare I say it a more spiritual safety. I have this vulnerability; coming from within the both of us, that brings out the best of us. We can be two very flawed individuals, but the relationship we have, I don’t know? It’s like it nurtures and holds the both of us, so that we can come together in the way that we do.

I was never d/s with my soulmate; I can’t say that I even knew what any of this was! But I’m starting to learn; and this is obviously quite contrary from the dominant narrative of d/s, that it’s not the d/s that fosters this intensity of partnership we’ve created. Rather what we have, in terms of our dynamic, comes alongside the partnership we build. Whereas my soulmate was gorgeous chaos and licentious lust; It really was so superficial! I’m grateful that I had him as my soulmate. He and our relationship really broke me as a woman, and so it is, in part (I’ve had some beautiful therapeutic spaces created in which I was able to challenge, craft and comfort myself into who I am today) something which I’ve learned through. A means to an end.

But my partnership, my dynamic, my marriage; it’s not a means to an end. More the means and the end.

It’s the means of cultivation and reflection. Of learning and being, and it’s the end. The reason for choosing him. He is my safety.

And maybe that’s the thing with our soulmates. I’m not saying that our partners cannot be our soulmates, but maybe our soulmates; that person, in my case, or those people who are lucky enough to find multiple soulmates in life, are here for us to use as a step into the person we’re needing to be and needing to be with.

I think of my soulmate often. Wondering where he is in his life. Who he is now compared to the man I walked away from. We have a mutual friend and I often find myself hovering over a Facebook message wanting to casually mention his name. He is a part of me, for better or worse. He is my history and has a place within me. But that’s all he is, and I think that is all he ever was meant to be. Something which, when I got through my brokenness, just sits in some small corner of my psyche reminding me of what was and how amazing, needed and safe what is really is for me.

Advertisements

Shades of sidelining inconvenient voices

The last few weeks have had me thinking about the release of Fifty Shades Darker. I had originally decided to ignore the pseudo outrage, the paternalistic narratives and the absolute infantilising of women doing nothing more than enjoying a movie. It infuriates me, and to be brutally honest, I have internalised a lot of the shame thrown at women who actually enjoy the franchise. I have found myself questioning my connection to the storylines, my contribution to some of the conversations around the movie and whether or not I am actually eligible to call myself a submissive woman when I’m clearly crossing a boundary that is intended to reject those like me from the words submissive and woman.

But this release is a bit different for me. Not that the positions of those who intentionally choose to negate the enjoyment, the community and the permission to explore their bodies that this has given us has changed. The articles written and the boycott advocated for are still connected to vile anti woman, pro censorship, sex negative advocacy. Who reject all forms of female sexual agency and couldn’t engage with a critical interrogation of BDSM and pop culture without resorting to policing the choices women make.

But this time around, as a submissive woman, I am encountering a huge blind stop in the conversations around FSD. Maybe I just didn’t notice it in 2015. I was relatively new to my curiosity about sex outside of my own body. What I’m noticing is a deliberate move away from the voices of women who are both the intended audience and consumers of this movie.

Maybe the movie and the controversy surrounding its release isn’t enough to warrant the media saturation it held 2 years ago. And so there are less words afforded to ‘the real submissive lives’ of ordinary women. But I have to wonder where, in all of these words being written by so called women activists calling for boycotts and attention to the glamorisation of harmful behaviours are the words by women, like me. Women who are going to watch this movie. Women who enjoyed watching the first movie. And women who will go and watch and enjoy the third movie. Where are our voices?

I can warrant a guess!

We are sidelined, intentionally so, because we choose, through our consumer choices and our sexual behaviours to exist between two worlds. See, as a woman who owns the submissive space within her marriage I am expected to play by the rules. And yet I don’t. I don’t play by the rules that say I should trash a story that I actually enjoy. A character that I can recognise a lot of myself in. And I do want to add a dissenting voice beyond that which is expected of me. But at the same time I am expected to be the victim. The victim of domestic violence, of a culture that has conditioned me to believe my sexual desires are real. And of a culture that would have me believe that I am unable to make informed decisions.

Because, from what I’ve read about myself, I am all of the above. I am not a 30 something woman who can decide whether or not I want to go and see a particular move. I am not a woman who can understand that there is a difference between fiction on screen and the reality in my bedroom. I am not a woman who is able to gain genuine enjoyment from a movie and genuine pleasure from kinky fuckery.

Go see the movie.

Don’t go see the movie.

Write a piece telling your audience how awful the storyline is, how inaccurate the portrayal of dominance and submission is to you.

Write a piece telling your audience how you feel about the character development, the direction Christian and Ana’s relationship is taking or how much you hate the idea of women saving their man from themselves.

Write a piece about how dysfunctional Christian is in his relationships – no please, someone really write a piece about how Christian exhibits all the common traits of an attachment disorder associated with childhood abuse. And how his attachment to Mrs Robertson and his succession of short term relationships were no more than a consequence of his childhood. Because we need more conversations about how childhood abuse does affect our ability to form effective intimate relationships; especially in men!

Write a piece to inform women wanting to take their fiction from fantasy to their boudoir how to make the best and most informed decisions for them.

Write a piece exploring the diversity of sexual behaviours that human beings engage with, and how to ensure that these behaviours are to healthiest for your readers.

But do not, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, write a piece that actively dissuades women from seeking out pop culture or intimate relationships that they tell you they want and enjoy.

But at the same time. Don’t choose to ridicule, minimise or ignore voices like mine. Women’s voices that are discussing their interactions with the franchise. Discussing how the franchise has allowed them to open up their sexual selves in ways they never would have dreamed of doing. Discussing how they experience the culture around the franchise; good and bad.

The spectrum of desire amongst women is as vast as it is diverse. The spectrum of voices amongst women is just as vast and just as diverse. Our sexual behaviours and our choice of movie, should not be used as ‘clickbait’ to prop up a worrying political and social agenda, carried out by those who are repulsed by the idea of genuine female sexual autonomy. Nor should not be used by those who seek to contain the idioms and cultural norms of BDSM to one that, effectively removes any hint of active sexual desire and safety for submissive women.

But more importantly, or voices and our sexual behaviours should not be sidelined because they are inconvenient, or because they are not conforming to your rules.

Because when you sideline women’s voices, even those of us who are inconvenient, dissenting, angry, and laden with shame, you are choosing to engage with pseudo outrage, paternalistic narratives and the absolute infantilising of women – all because some of us are going to go and watch a 118-minute chick flick!

 

 

Remember why I started this journey.

I’m going to update and rename my “about” page  with this piece.

I started the other normal because I was frustrated. Frustrated and fed up of the ways in which we were allocated space to talk about sex. More specifically the ways in which we talk about female sexuality.

The other normal intends to build a space for positive and passionate representation and exploration of female sexuality, desire, pleasure, experience and need. I wanted to create a new platform to talk about sex. One that centres the female body, pleasure and needs. To explore and understand the complexity of female sexuality. Not only to better understand the needs and experiences of female sexuality but to encourage new, more radical approaches to female sexuality it order to create meaningful change.

I want to create a space within which we can come to a better understanding of our sexual behaviours. Behaviours that are a complex interplay of internal and external factors. I am not a biological essentialist. While I understand that genetics, biology, hormones and drives are key to all of our behaviours, I see human sexuality as infinitely plastic, centred in our emotions, behaviours, desires and relationships, rather than eternally fixed, biologically determined and unchangeable. I see our sexual selves created within relationship but best understood in the complex social and cultural forms and organisations.

I believe wholeheartedly that by combining who (we are as individuals) with what (the environments we live within) we can gain a better understanding of why of our sex lives. And I believe it is the why rather than the who or how of our sexual experiences that are crucial to any gaining any genuine and significant change to the way we, as females, experience sex.

In particular, I wanted to explore the ways in which the concept of submission within women’s sexual identity is thought of and discussed. I am a sexually submissive woman in a satisfying relationship with my husband. More and more I was encountering the same messages: that submissive as a sexual identity of women can be one of two things perfection or dysfunction. Neither of which is representative of me or my experiences. And I soon came to realise that, at least for me, these narrow and black and while assumptions are limiting and dangerous.

I started the other normal as a project to add another voice to the social conversations about sex, kink and feminism. The other normal is all about challenging the dominant understanding of what it is to be a woman who identifies as submissive while respecting the diversity of human sexual identity and performance. While I make no apologies for my words and approach to sex, I am, at least I generally strive to be, mindful and respective of the nuances within our sexual experiences.

With the mainstreaming and increasing fashionableness of all things out of the ordinary and kinky we have been given an opportunity to have very some real and needed conversations about women’s sexuality. To really understand the complexity and diversity of need and experience and yet, once again, it seems as if we are still stuck in the same perfection/dysfunction good/bad/ right/wrong for/against dichotomy and going nowhere anytime soon; and this is nowhere more obvious that in conversation about submission and domination.

There are many questions about the authenticity and the permissibility of the submissive sexual identity. These questions and assumptions are valid but, in my opinion, lack the answers necessary to add something constructive to the wider conversation about sex and sexual identity. Women who are coming into submission are doing so from varying life circumstances and are doing so for many reasons. Submissive women are not a homogenised group that are clearly identifiable; nor is the concept of submission one that is easy to provide objective and critical analysis of. The dominant representations of submissive women are more often than not imagined through what is now being called the ‘male gaze’; that is a representation that is obtained through the perspective of the heterosexual male. Even in porn (erotica) written for women by women the objectification of the submissive woman by her creator is still that which is written by the heteronormative assumptions of what a woman needs to be to be sexually pleasing for men; not her man, but heterosexual men in general.

The other normal wants to move away from this dominant representation and look deeper into this idea that; within the context of her sexual/intimate relationship women can and do see themselves as submissive to their partners dominance in a way that is not oppressive or damaging – to herself or the wider concept of women’s sexuality. To focus on the importance of normalisation and validation of sexual behaviours by actively removing the pathology of genuine and mutually satisfying kink and replacing it with expectation. The expectation of great sex. Isn’t that why we have sex

The other normal is just as it says; things that may be considered ‘the other’ but is merely a drop in the ocean that is the fluidity of sexual identity and performance. Different but normal.

But beyond this I needed a place to explore how consent fits into the idea of kink. I am a passionate advocate for consent and make no apologies for this. I will not acknowledge ‘grey areas’ or concede that consent isn’t necessary at the core of all sexual encounters; even the most kinky of them.

 

 

 

 

Are you someone new to this thing we call submission? Four things I wish I’d read.

Have you found something, doesn’t matter where, that has piped your interest? Turned you on? Inspired a masturbation fantasy that blew your mind? Make you jump onto Goggle to see what you could find?

WELCOME. You are officially submissive and have all the permission you need to jump in and have fun exploring some new and wild ways to spice up, begin, rework, build up or redo your sex life.

I was so lost when I took my first, hesitant, step into all of this. There was just so much information, so many ideas and depictions of what it is that people did or how they configure this submissive thing that I quickly lost sight of who I was and what I wanted. I became fixated on fitting into an ideal that someone else, or a group of someone else’s created around submission. I forgot the reasons I wanted this. I stopped being me and starting being this weird mishmash of other people’s ideas.

Submission is complicated. There is no doubting that navigating a new-found sexual need can bring about some tricky questions, situations and some pretty deep self-reflection. While there is some commonality in submission the shared presentation as this monolithic idea and expression, in which everyone who is doing it is the same. And yet the reality is so far from that.

Finding these new desire can be confusing, confronting and even scary! I remember when I first starting thinking about them I was so overwhelmed that I was initially put off entirely! I was so shocked that I could want what I was fantasising about that I thought there had to have been something seriously wrong with me.

Feeling overwhelmed and, yes, even frightened, is okay!

You can feel whatever you feel. You can work through those feeling in whatever, healthy ways you need to. Some of the behaviours and assumptions, the language and the overall vibe that some give off, commonly associated with kink can seem down and out strange! It’s tough trying to navigate your own mind/body shift at the same time as bringing in new ideas and things that others do.

So I wanted to share with you four things that I wish I’d known at the beginning. Would I have listened to and reminded myself of them during the beginning of all of this? Probably not. But I still wish I’d had a few really core things at hand to add some kind of context to what I was doing, and to remind me to breathe and be human.

Forget everything.

Except your body your desires your life and your boundaries. These and these alone are both the catalyst and the driving force behind your next step

Deciding on your next step is where fantasy and reality collide in a catastrophic pile of unknown. Taking what it is you think you want and turning that into something that is really happening isn’t always easy. Sure I guess there are some out there who are perfection personified. Who can snap their fingers, get on their knees and this whole submissive gig just falls before them, with no speed bump or stop sign in sight.

But I wasn’t one of them! I’m still not one of them.

So while you read and listen don’t let what we say lead you. You are the one who is doing this. You are the one who needs to make the decisions that need to be made. You are the one who has to weigh up the pros and cons of each of your needs and desires. You alone are the submissive that you are.

Who you are, what you need and how all of this will play out for you is going to look nothing like it did for me. We may form community around a common word “submissive” but the nuance and individuality of how this one word manifests itself in each of our lives is immeasurable.

Let you lead you into this. Now and always.

What you see is the end result.

Photos and stories – especially on social media are nothing more than what happens once the hard work is done. And trust me it’s the hard work that takes up most of your time and energy. Those photos don’t tell you that the woman with the seriously bruised ass has been doing the same thing over and over again for 10 years and it’s only because she’s been doing it for 10 years that she is able to get her body to do that. That story where he was able to push his mind aside and do a really hot scene with his mistress, doesn’t tell you all about the intense emotional and romantic bond they have as a couple or the fact that they have been married for 15 years and she knows everything there is to know about her, including that she won’t ever go past the limit that they agreed to.

Please, do not compare whatever it is you are fantasising about to the things that others are doing. They are not in the same universe of kink. Where you are right now, that is exactly where you need to be. And if you never get to where they are, that is perfectly fine. They are just representations of what SOME people do. Yes, there are some people who use their bodies in a way that they end up with bruises, cuts and with blood smeared over them. But you do not have to like nor want to ever have to do what they do.

I’m not a masochist I do not desire to use my body in the way that will create those picture you’ve seen. The ones that I saw the first time I logged onto Fetlife and freaked out over! I don’t need to go there, and maybe you don’t either. That doesn’t lessen to validity or intensity of desire or anything in the future you may choose to do.

Approach what you see with a huge grain of salt. But please don’t compare yourself to what others are doing and despair because you think you or your desires are not good enough. It doesn’t help. It hurts. It hurts you and it hurts the person you are with. I did it. I did it for a long time. It made what we were trying to create near on impossible. The day I stopped (literally) and realised that what others were doing, how others existed within their relationships has absolutely nothing to do with me and what I need as the submissive half of a d/s relationship was the first day our relationship truly grew.

Life is inevitable.

You cannot, no matter how submissive you are, remove yourself entirely from the rest of the world. Many times I have read that d/s hates the real world. Or that you have to abdicate a significant part of yourself or your life in order to get the most out of this.

Submission doesn’t need to become the centre of your world in order for it to be fulfilling. Even within a so-called 24/7 dynamic as ours is, I have the space to be a whole woman. With a life that extends beyond him. My sense of submission doesn’t diminish when what it is we are doing doesn’t look like your quintessential dominant and submissive relationship.

Life happens. Accept it. Allow your sense of submission and the construction of your relationship fall around who you are as a whole person. Include all of your obligations and those things that are important to you when making all of your decisions. Look towards and factor in the consequences of them. Let your idea of submissive fall in around who you are, and I can promise you that this will become a hell of a lot easier for you today and into the future.

Breathe.

And let yourself be human.

Finding submission, being turned on by it., and wanting to bring it into your relationship or create a brand new relationship around it doesn’t mean you stop being human.

You are allowed to make mistakes.

You don’t have to get it right the first go.

You can’t possibly know everything about your body and your boundaries the first time you take your clothes off.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel is right for you.

You are allowed to slow down and stop. You can say ‘meh I tried it, it’s just not my thing’ and walk away.

You are allowed to be you.

Just remember that you are human and human beings really do need to stop and breath – even us submissive ones.

 

Balancing my kinky & vanilla online persona? Do I really have too?

So I’m wasting time today. It’s not like I haven’t a million things I could be doing, but I need to be glued to Facebook today so I can ‘talk’ to my Sir while he is away. So while I’ve been sitting here waiting while he’s running off to do the stuff he needs to get done I’ve been exploring some sex and kink spaces I don’t normally get too.

I’m really particular with the types of media and pop culture I interact with. I will always choose a woman author/writer over a man (I know; I know reverse sexism!). I will find their themes and if I don’t relate to them or feel that they are just parroting the same old same old I’ll find something else. And I always check out their position on consent – if it sucks I just close the tab and move on. I have limited social media time and choose to use it wisely – and I may have engaged with some rage ‘you’re a bloody idiot’ commenting one night whilst bored and it just didn’t end well for me.

So today I decided to just follow links to different websites and see what I came up with. And I found this commonality that I hadn’t really thought about before.

The idea that to be a sex writer, a kink/sex writer in-particular we have to find some kind of balance. A deliberate sense of equilibrium between your kinky persona and your vanilla one.

I was really intrigued by one post where the writer was talking about this inner conflict she, seemingly battles, between keeping herself compartmentalised and how she finds her kinky compartment won’t stay put. It keeps spilling over into other areas of her online life and she is frustrated that she just can’t write all the kinky fuckery she wants, when she wants. This is her experience, it’s as valid as mine and I’m not writing this to ridicule her life and he struggles. I just found this to be in such stark contrast to mine, and as much as I tried, I just couldn’t find a way to relate, that I wondered if anyone else has wondered about this. I want to write, I love the process of imagining a post, planning, writing and posting. I still lack some of the discipline to put this into practice. But writing allows me to get inside of my head and it allows my fingers to connect with keys and see what I come up with. I do this. The whole of me sit in front of my laptop – right now I’m sitting at the dining room table eating lunch watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The drying is running (I’ve got another load waiting to go in). I’m texting my brother about family plans next weekend, Messaging my husband. Working on a few post ideas. And writing really bitchy, passive aggressive Facebook posts (don’t you dare try and tell me you haven’t done those too!)

My point is this is just a part of who I am. One way that I experience my womanhood. It will be nothing like the way anyone else experiences their womanhood. Womanhood is inherently individualistic. But there has to be some points of commonality doesn’t there? That we are all just trying to fit what needs to be squeezed into the same 24 hour periods, week in week out. I don’t even think I have this and that online persona. I don’t feel the needs to examine every inch of my sex/kink life let alone post about it – mostly because it really is just a (mostly) satisfying sex life. The entirety of myself is such that I can’t figure out how to conceptualise it into kinky and/or vanilla. As I’ve said before I don’t buy into this kink/vanilla dichotomy. Vanilla is really just my favourite flavouring of cupcake. But I had no idea this (false) dichotomy was found in the writing community too!

Do you find the need to separate and balance your sexuality? Is the way you perform your sexuality (be in in the bedroom or writing) something that just fits in with the whole of you or do you need to fit the rest of you into sex?

Review: Luke warm sex

I have been sitting on this review for a few weeks, it just kept getting minimised on my desktop and pushed to the bottom of the to-do-list. Which has annoyed me, I decided I was going to write something about ABC’s Luke warm sex after finally being able to catch up of the first brilliant episode. Better late than never I guess!

This documentary come comedic sketch piece can be best described as a six-part boot camp for sex, with one core there. If one of the most awkward, unsexy men can figure this thing we call sex out why can’t you? It begins by asking sex; what is it, how do you do it and how do you become excellent at it? I’ll admit that when I first saw the opening of the first episode I was thinking ‘great, another piece written about the macho-mechanics of sex’. I’m so happy I was wrong! Luke warn sex brought intimacy and connectedness back into sex, without an ounce of condescending bull shit!

Luke defines the scope of sex in the first episode: any activity undertaken for sexual pleasure between two or more adults, and quickly comes back to add consent. And he stayed true to this throughout the series. The Australian comedian put his and his friends’ bodies on the line with some of the most diverse practitioners of Australian sexology. Funny and open, Luke explores some of the most basic and interesting aspects of human sexuality.

Yes, some of it comes across as cheesy – the scenes depicting porn star directed oral sex on apples and bananas was the biggest WTF moment for me. I really enjoyed the foray into clothing optional spaces, the matter of fact dialogue (embarrassment free) about sex toys – for both bodies, but most of all I loved Luke’s vulnerability. As awkward as Luke is he is still a white, heterosexual male, characteristics that more often than not limit the portrayal of vulnerability – especially when it comes to sex. Self-conscious and sexually illiterate. Luke admits that at times he has absolutely no idea what he is doing or what comes next, and he does this without shame. As much as his inadequacy and awkwardness is front and centre of this, Luke seems to use this as motivation to learn rather than as a means of hiding. He questions and listens and often gets very hands on. It’s not titillation and it’s not an attempt to be a how to bang more chicks, it’s an honest raw account of one man’s adventures into his own sexuality. And it’s really awkward – which is what makes it work!

I watched this with both my husband and my 15 year old daughter & it started conversations with both of them (thanks Luke). We all found something to take away from each episode. It was funny and informative and wants us to get a little more comfortable with expressing and configuring our sex lives. It asks us to examine our own anxieties and to see sex as something that is worth our time. Sex doesn’t have to be a big deal nor does it have to be made into some elaborate perfect production. It’s just sex, and sometimes we need help in figuring out how to make it right rather than just Luke warm. Be it kissing, touching and being touched, to staying hard, figuring out which lube works best for you, nudity or stepping inside a S&M club.

The take away from Luke warm sex is this – getting better at sex is a choice. The choice to set out and figure what you need to do next to enhance the experience for you and your partners. How do you get a little more with a little less embarrassment?

 

 

Saftey is never an acronym – no matter how convincing they may seem.

Risk aware, personal responsibility or safe and sane? Spend any time in any kink space; online or in real time, and the inevitable safety debate will emerge. Safe, sane and consensual might be tried and true but the SS and the C are too literal and/or limiting – depending who is on the soapbox. Risk aware makes us know (although who tells us what it is we need to know is still not settled) what needs to be known. And personal responsibility is victim blaming – ooops I mean making sure you own your own shit, even when you didn’t create this shit in the first place.

Look, I don’t give a shit – personal responsibility or otherwise, which bunch of letters you claim, it’s actually quite irrelevant to the bigger picture of what it is that kink is. And dare I say it a smoke screen used to stifle any deeper conversations about the practicalities of safety.

The desire to feel safe is not imagined nor is it exaggerated. Those of us who do this thing called kink, just as every other human being, need to feel safe. To feel safe is to be able to walk into something with the understanding that, as far as I can tell any potential undesired outcomes will be minimised and any unknown outcomes will be address in the most effective way possible.

To be safe, not just to be aware of risk of harm, but to have a genuine feeling of safety is only achievable through action. It’s through the choices that we make that we are best able to remove and respond effectively to the outcomes of what we do. In all reality we cannot remove every possibility of encountering harm. We all have seat belts in our cars, we don’t drive while intoxicated, we drive to the speed limits and we stop at red lights. Yet you could be as sober as the day you were born, wear your seat belt and drive to the conditions within the letter of the law and you can still be killed in a car accident, Accidents do really happen.

Safe is not awareness. It’s not researching on line, it’s not buying a book written by a self or community proclaimed expert, it’s not a workshop or a munch. Awareness is more than knowledge. Yes, knowledge is a must. But knowledge is not understanding. Understanding comes into the equation when you take what you know and apply it to the what it. You take all that you know and you put it into practice.

How is this going to actually affect me?

What do I need to do to ensure that, if the consequences of my/our choices are undesired what is the next step?

What do I know about myself – through past experiences or expectations that could create something that we need to address?

I love being flogged – give me a long, slow flogging on my back and I will sleep like a baby, and just between you and me the last time he flogged me I fell asleep. What I didn’t know was that I can’t play first thing in the morning. I need to, at the very least, drink water before he does anything to me. How did I come to know this? I fainted. He woke up in the mood and something went wrong with my blood pressure, I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 10 maybe 11 hours. Nothing could have changed what had happened. I fainted. He made sure I was safe, wrapped me in a blanket, got some water and toast. And then when I felt up to it got me to my GP’s office to make sure it wasn’t anything else. At each point of this experience I felt nothing but safe. Even though I was not aware of the risk of harm his choice had, even though I was on the receiving end of something that was unwanted and unpleasant I was safe

We have been together four years, know each other intimately. Have great communication, and there was nothing to show me that the outcome of what has been done to my body dozens and dozens of times would be any different this time. Unfamiliar or undesired outcomes – including harm, can happen no matter how aware we are of ourselves and what it is we are doing.

By acknowledging that sometimes things really do just happen. By accepting that safe comes from more than awareness. When we remove the acronyms and focus on creating genuine safety I think we can begin to offer some more practical strategies into our understanding of safe kink.

I’m starting to learn that changing behaviours and attitudes don’t come from how to, step by step guides and checklists. They are too simplistic and can’t address the intricate difference and needs that come with the nuance of human sexuality.

So the next time you’re thinking about trying something new I want you to do one thing.

Put the entirety of yourself into the interaction and ask yourself this

Is this going to cause me death?

Is this going to cause me disability?

Is this going to cause me disease?

Is this going to cause me distress?

The 5 D’s are something that we use in health care provision to measure the outcomes of the choices that need to be made for our clients.

Death and disability are pretty obvious – and please no arm lobbing strawman arguments!

Disease – not just STI’s. While the common safe sex message is still relevant to kink, we need to take this a little deeper within our physical and mental health. Is something that I want to do going to interfere with any illnesses or medication? What about skin irritation or infection? A UTI? Food poisoning or an allergic reaction? Sunburn? Is this going to affect your mental wellbeing?

Distress – Is the thing that I want going to, in anyway, interfere with the way I need to live my everyday? Stop you from going to work or affect your ability to do your job? Pay your bills? Having healthy relationships with the other people in your life?

These questions allow us to understand our realities within the expectations that we have and to step back and address or change anything that may be relevant to the situation. I believe that if we stopped focusing on acronyms and arguing the measure of safe and sane (which by the way has nothing to do with our mental health and everything to do with our legal competency) and started merging what it is we want with who we are as individuals then we can truly have healthy, safe and satisfying sex lives and relationships.

The tools we use and the intensity with which we use them are irrelevant here. Whether you are using a knife or handcuffs, a latex hood or a blindfold brought from Kmart, if you are able to walk into something with the understanding that, as far as you can tell any potential undesired outcomes will be minimised and any unknown outcomes will be address in the most effective way possible than you are actively; through your actions rather than an acronym, trying to keep your sex life as safe as possible. And as accidents can and will happen this is the best that we can achieve.

 

Well, can she?

Can I and still be …

How many times have you caught yourself wondering if you can still be a feminist and engage with something you enjoy?

I know I have!

Last year I had the pleasure of seeing the fabulous Roxanne Gay while she was here in Sydney. Her Bad Feminist talk inspired so much within me. But the biggest thing that I came away with was the understanding that I am a woman who is a feminist. A feminist yes but a woman first. A woman who is just a person, a person who likes and needs things that others may consider unfeminist – by their standards & their standards don’t have to be mine!

The other thing I’ve learned over the last few months is that this “can I” question is nothing more than an imposed expectation that we justify ourselves and our choices.

I’m still up in the air about the idea of choice feminism. One the one hand, I’ve made choices about my life that directly create the way that I experience the world and I want them, and the millions of different choices that other women make to become a significant part of the overall feminist discourse. I think the way that women come to the decisions we make is important in both a personal and political level. We, as humans, are social creatures and we do look to others to find identity and validate who we are. I see the push to silence “choice” as nothing more than a case of imposing some imagined feminist hierarchy upon us; that tells us when, why, how and what we can claim and discuss as a part of feminism.

At the same time I understand that choice, for many, is a privilege and one that for so many doesn’t exist. I try to be mindful of the benefits that I have for being nothing more than me. I am, in many areas of my life, privileged. From having accessed an education that has allowed me to become literate to gaining tertiary qualifications that have enable to express myself articulately and with confidence. I am straight; so in my country that allowed me the privilege to marry the man I love. I have access to technology, the internet, private health insurance, healthy food and clean water. There is a lot that just exists for me that doesn’t for many; and truth be told some days I am totally blind to all that I really have!

So while I understand the hesitancy of the word choice being used in feminist discourse I believe that we need to start engaging with the, I guess you could call it social commentary, that revolves around the choices that are being made. In particular this incessant pestering women to discuss and justify the choices that they are making – in ways we don’t for men.

For me, having engaged with this both with the choices I have made and through the media (both traditional and social) constantly asking the ‘well can she’ questions, I’m coming to see this as nothing more than a carefully executed distraction technique. A way of controlling and containing the way that women are engaging with outward social spaces to discuss their experiences. It’s another way that the outside is able to define women rather than addressing the issues and expectations (that may not necessarily be being meet) of women.

It’s nothing more that incessant casual sexism.

It has nothing to do with me as an individual making the situations I live with as positive, meaningful and as healthy as possible with the resources at hand and within the applied limitations. It has nothing to do with asking women real questions in order to find real solutions to real problems. It’s got nothing to do with placing the experiences and expectations of women into the forefront of conversations and decisions about the experiences and expectations of women. It’s nothing more than a way to force women to justify themselves.

I’m not sure why this exists. Maybe there isn’t one particular reason for it. But having sat back and thought about the way that I am experiencing this I keep coming back to one of the most poignant elements of misogyny; the need to lump women into this monolithic caricature rather than seeing women as a collective of individuals – who identify with the gendered label of women.

Woman. It’s something that I love being. But what I am getting well sick and tired of having to exist within is this inability – or is it just straight up unwillingness to understand that women find genuine comfort, desire and satisfaction in an infinite number of ways.

We have a problem …

But we have a problem within that problem!

We have a big problem.

And we have a big problem within the big problem.

The problem is violence against women.

The problem within the problem is this continuing narrative that we have “good” guys and “bad” guys and that men who perpetrate violence against women are always ‘the bad guy’ and all other men are the ‘good guy’.

Our new Prime Minister came out fighting. He stood in one of his first pressers and declared his position and game plan. He called for a significant cultural shift in the way we see, relate to, interact with and all round respect women. His comments were called a game changer in the fight against domestic violence and make it quite clear that he wants Australia to become known as the country that respects women.

And, truth be told, my heart did a little dance.

But then he went and messed it all up. With one line Malcolm Turnbull forced my dancin’ heart to take a breather.

Turnbull said

“We have to have, we must have zero tolerance for it. I think the growing level of awareness is vital. REAL MEN don’t hit women”.

(Emphasis mine)

And that’s the problem.

Real men do hit women.

Perpetrators of IPV (intimate partner violence) are real men, they are our loved ones and the ones we love, our neighbours and the man we stood behind in the checkout line last week. They are our bosses and our employees. The guys we watch playing our favourite game and the creepy ex-boyfriend who we knew we didn’t like but didn’t want to upset our friends so didn’t say anything about.

Real men hit women.

Real men. This very concept has had me confused since I first watched Malcolm Turnbull declare his, so called war on domestic violence (please don’t let this turn out anything like the war on drugs!), and I’ve continued to wonder throughout the last month whilst reading all of the discussion that has come with it.

What is a real man?

While trying to come up with an acceptable answer; one that doesn’t play into the already ingrained idea that is toxic hyper/hetro masculinity, I was confronted with yet another part of this man puzzle.

I’m married to one of the most amazing men in the world – I know, I know that’s like when new mothers claim that their baby is the cutest in the world. Full of bias and totally ignoring the bad bits (like how he can walk past the same dirty socks for a week and still not see them) but he really is my dream guy.

So when I posted on Facebook something entirely sarcastic about wanting him to go away for work again I was confused, no horrified by the comments that I got from friends. I was told that I can’t say anything like that because he is a “good guy” is “the perfect husband”. I was told I need to be more “grateful” that he is such a good husband that that I’m “lucky” that I have someone who treats me so well. Now, I know that my friends meant nothing by their comments. These are people I’ve known for years. There was nothing in their comments that was meant in malice and they didn’t mean for their words to come across the way they did.

But the message that I was getting, and now that I’m aware of it see everywhere, is that good guys – the ones who choose to be what I’m assuming are the real men that Turnbull talks of, are really just the ones who do what is (or should be) expected of men in healthy, functioning relationships. Choose not to commit criminal acts of domestic violence or be an all-round douchbag – and yes that is a technical definition!

I didn’t get lucky with him because for that to be right my next door neighbour who is married to a man who chooses to hit, belittle and humiliate her is unlucky. And I just can’t accept that! Her luck has nothing to do with his choices. Her being unlucky isn’t the reason he hits her! That’s victim blaming!

We’ve come a long way on the few years in the awareness, acceptance and approach to domestic violence. No longer seen as just something that happens to ‘bad’ women behind closed doors, to never be spoken of or mentioned in polite company. Domestic violence is now spoken of as statistics and media; both traditional and social, are now allowing us to put names, faces and stories to these numbers.

Numbers like:

2.2 million women experienced violence perpetrated by a male intimate partner.

Australia has a rate of 2 known women per week being murdered by men.

More than 40% of homicides in Australia are directly caused by domestic/family violence. 56% of murder victims were killed by their current or former intimate partners. 75% of victims of intimate partner violence are women.

Police respond to around 700 calls relating to domestic violence every day

But we still have a long way to go. But can we really claim any moral advance in the fight against domestic (and family) violence when we seem to hero worship the assumed extraordinary men who do nothing more than choose to not commit vile acts of domestic violence? Shouldn’t these choices be the norm and not the exception? Shouldn’t we eradicate the idea of real men all together and instead focus on the criminal behaviour of men who chose to commit acts of domestic violence?

And shouldn’t we stop seeing women like me as lucky & others like my neighbour as just plain unlucky?

Ashley Madison; let’s talk about choice.

Ashley Madison. It’s been a hot topic for a while. An extension of our increasing lust to devour car crash reality TV maybe? A symptom of that voyeuristic sadism we have to indulge in others pain, suffering and humiliation?

I’m not going to tsk and tut ,wag my finger or lecture on the evils of adultery, or the wrong of building an entire business model and profiting from people choosing to lie and manipulate their partners/spouses. I don’t agree with the choice to cheat, I’m neither condemning nor condoning the choices that other people make.

But what I will condemn without hesitation, justification or apology is this attitude to blame everyone and everything but your own decisions that lead to you cheating!

Cheating is a behaviour and it’s a choice. It’s not an ‘ooops’ mistake, an accident or something that happens beyond our control. In order to cheat one needs to make a number hundreds maybe even thousands of individual choices. In order to have an account on Ashley Madison users had to decided they wanted what it offers, find the site, create an account, fill in all the information needed, answer questions, upload photos and hit submit. User have to intentionally and actively use the sites search options, read profile, decide if there is an interest and make that initial contact. A connection needs to be established, communication had, chemistry identified, plans made and acted upon. All of these things need to be done/there in order to cheat. All of these things involve individual and deliberate choices.

It is not the wife who makes these choices. It’s not the circumstances at home, the stress of your job, the stagnant sex life you perceive. It is the actions and choices of the individual who decides that cheating is okay, that having sex/a relationship with another will bring something positive, needed and beneficial to their life that makes cheating happen.

So while I will not condemn your cheating, I will judge you as a piss weak looser if you choose to blame your choice to cheat on anyone else but yourself!