I was talking with a friend about limits in preparation for Wednesday’s PTNG Discussion Social on limits, negotiation and consent. She asked me, seriously, if I personally knew what my limits are. Honestly, it was a hard question for me. I don’t like the idea of being labeled as a “hard player”, despite the fact that I know I sometimes am one, but I know that a lot of my friends, especially my local friends, see me that way. I’m certainly not one of those “no limits crazy people” that sometimes show up on fetlife, claiming they’d let their Dom do anything to them. I do have some sense of self preservation: it’s just less than a lot of other people’s. I had to admit that there are some limits that I’m not sure of. I don’t mean what types of play or activity I am or am not comfortable with. I find that to be straight forward and easy to categorize. I do so like this:
Ethical Limits:The following are things that I won’t do, even under duress, because I feel that they are ethically inappropriate. These limits are constant and universal.* Play involving parties that do not or are unable to consent. This includes play involving minors, animals, the dead, the unconscious et cetera. * Play where the validity of consent is questionable. This includes people who are not mentally stable enough to give proper consent or those who have a track record of consenting to activities and then retroactively “removing” their consent to play the victim. I believe that consent must remain cut, dry and clear for a scene to function.
Solid (Unbending) Limits: I don’t like to use the word “never.” There was a time when I had “themes of bodily possession or belonging to another individual” on this list, and now belonging to Malignus is one of the greatest joys in my life. I’m always open to the idea that I could change dramatically in the future. That said, I can’t see myself ever doing these things if my life keeps going the way it is right now: * Sexual themes or contact in play. * Degradation or humiliation.* Inserting anything into any of my orifices, including my mouth.* The sharing of bodily substances other than my tears and blood.* Contact with my sexual organs, including my breasts, of any sort during a scene.* Religious, spiritual or occult themes in play. * Permanent bodily damage or transformation. * Consensual non-consent.* Infantilism.* Age-play where a character is younger than teenaged.* High Protocol.
Hard Limits: These are things that I have absolutely no desire to ever do, but that I would engage in if sufficiently driven by submission and in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Those in bold carry significant emotional weight:*Wet and Messy play, especially including food.*Suction or vacuum play.*Electrical play.*Breath or choking play.*Drowning or water-boarding scenes.*Fire play (including fire cupping).*Knife/ Sharp object play.*Whipping and flogging (or any kind of impact play on the back).*Needle play.*Sensory deprivation.*Medical play.*Things involving feet.*Tickling.*Confinement.
Soft Limits:These things aren’t my preference, but I’m willing to do them if they are useful in a particular situation or are for a video:*Full nudity during a scene.*Teenage ageplay.*Bondage or restraints.
These are the limits that I understand. The ones that are lost on me are the limits of physical tolerance within a scene which is emotionally comfortable. There has to be an end to what I can take, right? If there is, it’s eluded me thus far. I’ve never reached the moment where a spanking becomes physically unbearable before (although I did once reach the point where I had to throw up because I had eaten way too much ice cream cake before the scene and another time because the emotional side of things wasn’t right for me). I’ve touched on the rumored “terminal hurt” –– the place where the body simply stops processing pain and things feel awesome, once, and it was an amazing experience. But I often hear people talk about thinking that they “can’t take any more” and that is something that I don’t feel. I choose what I can endure. I have never seen a photo of a scene or created a scenario in my mind that I did not have full confidence that I could endure unless it was permanently damaging, against my other limits or far too dangerous. I’m not being cocky: I know what my abilities are, if I desire to use them. I’ve been severely injured in the past (from reasons not related to the scene!) in ways that the majority of people I interact with will never experience. I endured. I’m able to endure a considerable amount. What influences me, what creates my not yet understood limits, isn’t my ability: it’s my desire.
I’ve come to the conclusion that what I can take is based entirely on what I want to take, which makes the idea of the end point very flexible and sort of unnecessary. There’s romanticism in the idea of “going all the way” and finding the end of what I am willing to endure, the place where I no longer have any desire to continue. If I enjoy pushing myself, it would follow that I would enjoy pushing myself all the way. The problem with this is that it isn’t practical. It’s a nice fantasy, but it would involve an amount of force that would certainly be injurious and the satisfaction of proving what I can take wouldn’t be worth the effort and possible physical consequences to me.
As it is, I take pleasure in engaging in play which is severe and “pushing myself” from time to time. It isn’t my usual thing. I don’t consider myself a particularly hard player in my daily life. When I do receive spankings that are particularly severe, I have the confidence of knowing that no matter what happens, it is something that I can take. I don’t need to have physical evidence to know that. I really only play to that level of intensity with Malignus, and I trust him entirely. Perhaps more importantly, I trust myself to be responsible for my own well-being if it comes down to it, and to endure appropriately if it does not.
Whether you’re seen by others as a hard player or not, do you know where you draw the line? Are you comfortable when others mark their limits in vastly different places than you do? I’ve often been uncomfortable talking about the level of play that I’m alright with because I fear that others will judge me negatively for it. Thoughts on that?
Saturday as my friend Mori’s birthday. She hosted a party at her home, which was really lovely. Homemade cupcakes and pizza with good friends is always a good combination, and Mori is a remarkable domestic! After eating and socializing, a number of us packed up and went over to Threshold, a local public BDSM play-space and education center. Threshold is my favorite of the play-spaces in Los Angeles because the general attitude is very friendly and comfortable. We met a lot of people for the first time that night, and everyone made me feel very welcome. They also have a “no sex ever!” policy, which makes things more comfortable for me.
I spent the start of the evening just hanging out and chatting: that’s the activity that I’m most likely to engage in at a “dungeon” anyway. There’s a room there which is decorated like a bedroom in a fancy, renaissance (maybe) era mansion, and I enjoy that one the most: it doesn’t have the harsh feeling generally found in BDSM theme-rooms and is just a touch “homey” and therefore comfortable to me. A group of my friends ended up hanging out in that room together and it was really enjoyable. After a while, I asked my friend PrincessToy if she would want to try topping me. She knew all the basics and had expressed interest in trying it before. She agreed, and I bent over the padded, synthetic leather bench with my skirt lifted.
The first part of the scene was way up there in terms of ridiculous spankings I’ve participated in. It was still fairly far behind the scene in which a friend spanked me with a bunch of celery sticks, or the time when my Pikachu slipper flew off and broke Serious_Face’s lamp, but it had classic and hilarious banter. I haven’t had a lot of chances to be spanked in a light-hearted group setting, and I find that very fun. There’s an aspect of performance to it: my reactions to the pain take on a silly tone, and I find myself squeaking, squealing and laughing instead of sniffling and sobbing.
|Yes. These slippers.|
PrincessToy spanked me with my new textured spoon and it really does have a unique feeling to it. I would recommend that you check out your local Asian food market, if there is one in your area, because that’s a pretty cool implement. She also spanked me with the Pokepaddle, my original hairbrush from back in the day, an assortment of her leather toys, one of her hairbrushes which has an awesome thud to it (I want to track onedown for myself) and “The Evil Stick from Hell,” which is a heavy, hardwood paddle that is about three inches across and eighteen inches long. If that thing hurt as much as it did when a brand-new spanker, who was trying not to be too rough due to the atmosphere and our relationship, spanked me with it, then I’m horrified as to what it would be like in the hands of an experienced sadist. It might violate The Murder Rule. It is, most certainly, Unacceptable.
After a ton of witty banter, Mori decided that Princesstoy was going to give me her birthday spanks. The girl clearly needs remedial counting lessons! I got at least two times the 28 swats I was due! At one point, a creepy creeper came into the room and acted as if he was going to get in on the action, but he was promptly told off and left. During the telling off, though, we took a break and I checked out my butt in the mirror. I’ve ceased to be as much of a magic marker as I used to be: it only took me six years! There was a time when a spanking of that intensity would have left me bruised, but that night, it was only a reddish pink. After all the creepy was taken care of, I got back in position and we went back to spanking. The conversation was very different than what I usually get during a scene: “Name a Sanrio character after every swat!”, “How many kittens do you want, Alex? I’m going to give you one spank per kitten!” and a rendition of the Pokemon theme song all contributed to my hysterical laughter.
|I believe in being honest all the time, so I answered “90”.|
At one point, Princesstoy changed positions and put her hand on my back, holding me down as she spanked me and my entire demeanor changed rather instantly. It was pretty incredible to me how such a small gesture had such a large impact on my headspace, but I instantly felt very cozy and relaxed. With that element of calm suddenly in place, I became aware of a desire that had been building behind the scenes for quite a while: I wanted a spanking that left me in a calm and comforted headspace. I had never had one such spanking until I met with Malignus: all my previous spankings had been very adrenaline oriented. Sometimes, especially during bedtime spankings, he spanks me with an even rhythm and a slower than usual pace. I wouldn’t say that it’s a gentle spanking (for I don’t believe the man is familiar with the concept of “gentle” :P) and it certainly still hurts, but it brings me to a headspace where the fact that it hurts is totally irrelevant and I simply feel warm, cozy and safe. The whole “subspace” and “headspace” thing is, for me, still not largely understood, but I’m sure it has something to do with that. Anyway, I’ve recently had a lot of hard, cathartic spankings, but none that gave me that mysterious feeling that I choose to refer to as “being in my Pokeball.”
Because I’m awesome at communicating what I desire and Princesstoy is pretty much the greatest service top I’ve ever met, I was able to instruct her in exactly how I wanted to be spanked. The emotional side of things was obviously very different, but the physical side was exactly what I’d been craving and it relaxed and calmed me enough that I simply didn’t care about a lot of concerns that I tend to carry around with me. I ended with a floaty, peaceful feeling.
The rest of the night was a lot of fun. I was very calm and laid back feeling because of the positive after-effects of the scene. Several of my friends got tied in Shibari ties, since I hang out with a very rope oriented group of people, and while rope-work doesn’t do anything for me on a kink level, I find it very cool to watch and Milk Mage, who did the tying, is very creative at it. I also got to watch MaskofNormality get beaten really freaking hard with the Evil Stick from Hell. It pained me to watch when I imagined myself getting it, but because he’s a masochist, I enjoyed his enjoyment of things.
All in all, it was a lovely night. I’m happy that I was able to go out and have fun with my Los Angeles crowd, even though I got home late and was too tired and busy to head down to Crowe’s Nice Little Spanking Party in Orange County the next day. I hear it was a success and that pleases me.
I also want to point out that despite the fact that it was PrincessToy’s first time really spanking someone, I ended up with a lightly marked and tender bottom the next day! Win!
|Awkwardly taken photo of my butt from the morning after? Who DOESN’T want that! Pardon the fact that there are boxes and suitcases all over the floor in the background: I’m packing.|
As I mentioned in my last post, I headed up to Folsom Street Fair last weekend with three of my friends from the Los Angeles scene. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing, but I’m very glad that I ended up going. For those who are not familiar, Folsom Street Fair is the world’s largest BDSM gathering and is held every year in San Francisco. It has a very heavy Leather focus and is largely (but by no means exclusively) attended by gay men. I was warned in advance that San Francisco’s kink scene in general, and especially the fair, had a much stronger presence of Old Guard practices and high protocol.
In order to explain why attending this event was a rather big step for me, there are a few things that need to be established first. I identify as a spanko, and I didn’t really see Spankingland as being a subset of the BDSM community. I’ve always viewed it as a similar but parallel community that often gets lumped together with BDSM due to said similarities. At my worst, I can get downright snobby about the differences between spankos and “regular” kinksters. I’ve often felt slightly out of place in the general kink community. My move to Los Angeles and my involvement in the scene here, however, changed some of these feelings. I discovered that not only did I have a place within the scene, but I was able to become a group leader and event organizer. I even went so far as to get myself involved in local Leather politics on the side of female submissives with male Dominants. Despite these things, I still felt very ill at ease around anything stemming directly from the Old Guard tradition. It’s a tradition that was founded around something very specific which has nothing to do with me. Protocol has always felt to me like it was trying to force the wide world of kink into a tiny, black leather box. I want my relationships, my experience and what I participate in my community to be my own, with everything tailored to my needs, desires and comforts.
Still, no matter what other feelings exist, I love the people I’ve become close to through the scene in Los Angeles. Whenever I’ve felt like an outsider, or like I don’t truly belong, the people have kept me coming back. I headed up to Folsom mostly because of the people: I wanted to have an adventure with my friends. In a way, though, it was a quest for better understanding of the larger kink community and whether or not I belong within it.
We had a good time driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We had fast food, we chatted, we had a passionate sing-along rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and we honked the horn all the way through every tunnel. We rolled into San Francisco after dark and checked into our hotel, then showered and got ready to go to The Citadel, one of their local Play-Spaces. We met up with a friend’s (scene) Daddy and Mommy and headed over with them.
I’ve only played in BDSM Play-Spaces a handful of times, and I’ve never played anywhere that allowed sexual contact, so seeing the amount of straight out sex that was happening at The Citadel made me slightly uncomfortable. It isn’t that I’m any stranger to sex, it’s simply that sex and kink simply do not mix for me. My brain kept coming up with error messages as I observed a latex clad Mistress pegging a man in a sex swing right next to a man whipping a nude girl in high heels. Eventually, though, I got more comfortable, although I don’t think I would ever be comfortable being spanked in a setting like that. The dim lighting, the fancy, intimidating looking bondage furniture and the industrial soundtrack were cool, but they certainly didn’t “do it” for me.
None of us really ended up playing at The Citadel, but it was interesting to get to observe another city’s scene. Aside from the sex, it really didn’t seem that different than what I’ve observed at Play-Spaces in Los Angeles. There seemed to be a pretty even mix of men and women, and I didn’t feel any different attitude towards protocol or tradition. Maybe, it occurred to me, I was worrying about nothing. We got back to the hotel fairly late and I was too sleepy to go with my friends to Denny’s, so I went up to the room and fairly immediately fell asleep. I woke up later to eat the french toast they brought back for me with my hands, then fell immediately back to sleep. I love sleeping.
|It was a gray day at first.|
The next morning, we got up, spent a while getting dressed and then headed down to the fair. On our way over, we stopped at the store Mr. S Leather. Let me tell you: “unacceptable” does not even begin to cover my feelings towards the implements they sell there. They had metal canes, paddles covered in corse sandpaper, paddles made entirely of some kind of awful, dense rubber that made my rubber “running track” paddle (which is up there on the list of things that make me cry) look positively snuggly and things that they called “slappers” but I’d call “excessive force for riot control.” I also got to handle something that I’ve long considered “unacceptable”: a wooden paddle with a piece of tire tread set inside of it. I left there with a strange set of warm and affectionate feelings towards all of my implements ;).
Upon entering the fair itself, I felt rather uncomfortable by the variety of people representing their various niches that surrounded me. There were a ton of gay leathermen, naked people, people in medieval garb, furries, ponyboys and girls, those in corsets, those in latex… the list went on and on. While at first I found myself looking around to see if there might be even one other spanko in the crowd, after I got more comfortable with my surroundings I came to an interesting conclusion: there were no two people in this crowd who had exactly the same kink experience or desires. The community was a fragmented group of people who were all okay with each other. There were people from Old Guard Leather groups next to young women with pigtails and their boobs out. There was a shibari booth just down the way from a group into puppy play. There was a free HIV testing clinic next to a booth about barebacking it.
|There was even a girl dressed like this 😛|
There was an incredible variety of vendors there. There were corsets and jock straps and fur tails and butt plugs. There were solid metal paddles and rubber canes that could take (if I remember properly) 32,000 pounds of force. There were wooden paddles that I wouldn’t bother buying because one scene would leave them in pieces. There was even a t-shirt that was appropriate for me:
|I think it’s on the back so it can be read while I’m over a lap, where I belong 😀|
I also suspended my sense of self preservation for a moment and bought this unacceptable thing:
I mean, seriously, that’s like, what a panda eats. It just feels dull when tested but after the lag is full of ache and bite. Have you seen how thick that is? Is that even legal? Why do I DO these things to myself? Also, my face is amazing in that photo. I just need to point that out.
What’s more important, when I wandered off on my own part-way through the day, I was able to have one on one conversations about the history of the SoMa (or “South of the Slot”) scene with a number of older men who had been around for a long time. I found it a great honor that they would choose to share their oral history (please, no puns!) with a young girl from a very different niche than them. I found my feelings of prejudice practically melting away and my respect for what all of us do growing. Folsom Street Fair taught me that there is no right and wrong in the community as long as it doesn’t harm anyone and everyone gives consent. I always knew this in my mind, I always believed this for myself, but I feel like the community validated this for me. The Spanking Community is my home, but I feel very OK with my home being a subgroup of a big, crazy scene full of all types of people and activities.
I’ve long felt spite about the fact that women were not included in the scene for a very long time and that prejudices against them still exists in some Old Guard circles. I expressed this to an aging man that I met at one of the quieter booths when he asked me about how my experience was as a young woman in a place where there are still a few “Men Only” signs. What he said almost brought tears to my eyes. He said:
“I regret the way we treated the women, especially the dykes, early on, but it’s true: we didn’t make the scene for everyone. We did it for ourselves. We did it because it was in our blood. We did it to create the first place where we could be free and safe. We did it to protect ourselves. We did it for love and passion. We did it because we had to. Now that everything is said and done, I want nothing more than for everyone to do the same thing for themselves. Do what you have to do to be happy, but for God’s sake, don’t get AIDS.” (This is paraphrasing. I did not tape record any of the conversations I had during this hour or so that I spent exploring and asking questions, since I didn’t really plan on taking oral history, but I really wish I had and I intend to next year.)
I showed the man my bandage from where I had just been given a rapid HIV/Hep screening and told him that I tested negative. I saw in his eyes the pain of being a survivor when your friends are dead or dying from a horrible illness. I wondered about the people he was thinking of as his eyes glazed over for a second. I, too, thought of the people I’ve lost to AIDS already and those that I’ve been slowly losing over the years.
I know it is off-topic, but it is extremely important to me. Know your HIV status. Practice Universal Precaution. Teach your friends how to stay negative. Test even if you don’t think you have any risk factors, especially if you play in public spaces. Those men in our community that died of AIDS in the 80’s and 90’s (including the philosopher Foucault, who I am in love with on an intellectual level) simply did not have any way of knowing what they were up against. There was no research. There was no education. With the information, prevention strategies and prenatal treatment options that we have now, there is no reason for anyone new to be infected. We have the power to let education spread more quickly than the virus.
When I finished these conversations, I felt taken aback and very introspective. I didn’t talk to anyone about them until today: I came back to my friends and kept what I’d been doing to myself until I had time to process it. I then had some fun messing around with awesome people at the SoCal Shibari booth, then my friend’s daddy took us to get Indian food and introduced me to Mulligatawny soup, thus changing my life forever. Seriously, it was the best thing I ever ate. I ate most of it, even though it was supposed to be for sharing >_<. Then we helped pack up the our friends’ booth and headed home. The drive home always feels a lot longer than the trip there, but we got into a lot of important and frank conversations about our lives and histories. I got home feeling too tired to move, but the experience was one of the most educational ones I’ve ever had. It’s a beautiful thing to observe your own mind opening.