When I Knew: One Kinky Click Moment

Before I fully understood how I connected to kink myself, I found myself drawn to kink spaces. I thought if I were only brave enough to make it to a party, someone else would step in and help me figure out what to do there. But after spending a few devastating parties waiting for a revelation that never came, I started to wonder if I was wrong about belonging in kink space. Then one night, I met Her Majesty.

We talked through dinner, and then, when we moved to the party, the conversation shifted toward play. “What are you into?” she asked. The question intimidated me. I had ideas about the kinds of dynamics I wanted in my play but still couldn’t quite imagine which set of acts would evoke them. Besides, the question presumed I had a repertoire of kink acts that I’d already done, which, to my great shame and disappointment, I didn’t.

The answer I gave was disjointed but honest: I wanted to top but was open to bottoming (I identified as a switch at that point, and it’s hard to know now how much of that came from genuine desire to bottom and how much came from believing that bottoming was the only acceptable way for a newcomer like me to play). I’d come to kink because I cared about consent and healing, and because I wanted to intentionally create my own sexual practices. As far as what I liked to do… this was where I grew vague, stammered, and threw up my hands. Her response was slightly incredulous. If you think about it like that, she said, “You’re missing out on all the fun parts.”

It was the first of many condescending things she would say to me throughout our several-months’ involvement. When I gave her contact information that included my given name, she practically sneered, “Yeah… you might want to change that.” When I filled out a yes/no/maybe list at her request, she zeroed in on the no answers. “What have you got against that one?” she asked of one item on the list. At another, where I’d detailed my discomfort with a different act in full sentences, she scoffed, “You think about things too much.” And sure, I’d used an academic word or two to describe my reaction to the act, but only because I couldn’t figure out how to express the way imagining it made my body shrink and go still.

She scoffed at my clothes, at my cooking, at my not knowing how to smoke pot from a particular pipe. She scoffed at the way I handled books (I’d bent a spine). Later, when she set up a date for me to co-top the boy who was submitting to her, she scoffed at my hesitancy to receive his service. The date taught me, in retrospect, that I needed to feel a connection, or at least an attraction, to someone I was topping. The date taught Her Majesty and her boy that I wasn’t a real top.

It’s hard to imagine now why I stayed involved with someone who clearly had so little respect for me. But in the kink world at the time, I felt worthless. I was hopelessly out of place in kink venues, woefully inexperienced, and desperate for things to change. Her Majesty was willing not only to play with me but to teach me the skills I needed to top. That someone would indulge my floundering seemed generous beyond anything I deserved. If I noticed Her Majesty’s condescension, I took it as a matter of course. I wasn’t impressed with me either.

A few months into our sporadic courtship, Her Majesty took me to a party. It was a private play party, an all-night gathering in someone’s apartment, and I remember thinking, as I had thought so many times before, that this would be the time that things really changed for me. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to happen there, but Her Majesty had my checklist, and I was certain she would come up with something.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Her Majesty told me afterward (exasperated, of course), that I barely spoke a word the whole night. Looking back, there isn’t much of the night I remember. I remember that Her Majesty and I had plans for her to top me, and that I spent much of the party waiting for her attention. I remember watching her top someone she had just met, thumping his thighs with a heavy plastic bottle. I remember someone I recognized as a local big-name kinkster entertaining a crowd in the living room with stories of discovering his first fetish as a child. I remember Her Majesty leaving sometime in the wee hours, and me staying behind with a handful of other all-nighters to sleep amidst a jumble of sheets and mats.

And I remember the scene that was. Her Majesty announced that she was helping me learn to tie someone up and requested volunteers to bottom. A girl, Beta, raised her hand; she was small, talkative, a self-described exhibitionist, and, unlike Her Majesty’s boy, someone to whom I felt an attraction. Her Majesty brought us to the host’s bedroom. Beta lay on the bed, and Her Majesty knelt above her. Her Majesty asked a few perfunctory questions about where she might put ropes, and in their exchange, I saw intangible agreements pass between the two of them.

Maybe Her Majesty described what she was doing with the ropes as she did it. Maybe she even offered to let me try some of the tying myself; if she did, I don’t remember. What I remember is that the moment the scene began, it felt different. I felt different, drawn in, breathless, my mouth gone dry. As Her Majesty tied, taunted, and slapped, I watched Beta yelp, grin, and grow hazy. I was hyperfocused, outside my body and yet deeply in it, aware of nothing but the girl on the bed and the room’s taut silence. I lost all sense of time—maybe it was minutes later, maybe hours, when Her Majesty moved back and gestured toward Beta, offering her to me. “Your turn.”

In a few moments, I would again be stuck. The wordless negotiation hadn’t included me, and I had no idea what Beta had and hadn’t consented to. Nor was I versed enough in my own desires to think up on the spot what exactly it was I wanted to do with her. And perhaps some part of me also saw what is clear to me now: Beta consented to playing with us both, but the energy of the scene was between her and Her Majesty; Beta’s submission wasn’t Her Majesty’s to offer me, nor was it mine to take. Kneeling over Beta, I would fumble and freeze again, and Her Majesty would sigh and pick the scene back up herself, taking my failure to act as one more piece of evidence that I was wrong about my desire to top.

But in the split second before all that, something slid into place. My body lit up and turned on, feeling Beta, helpless, suddenly in my power. I was nine again, telling myself bedtime stories where armies of girls with fists and machines batted for domination. I was five again, gleefully replaying scenes in my head of a cartoon cat tormenting a cartoon mouse. What I felt in that moment, I hadn’t felt since childhood, not in sex and just barely in fantasy. What I felt in that moment, that was why I’d come here. I belonged here. Whatever anyone said, I belonged here.

When I think back to the events surrounding this moment, so many of them disturb me. The shoddy way Her Majesty treated me. My certainty that I would go into play without knowing what I wanted and come out the better for it. The way we treated Beta, like an object to be passed between the two of us. That this flash of rightness came to me in a scene that does not, in retrospect, feel entirely consensual. And yet, looking back, I can’t help but see that click moment as a moment of triumph. Everything—my internalized shame, Her Majesty’s condescension, a string of painful parties—told me I was wrong about who I was and what I desired. But something in me knew. And I was right.

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On Loneliness

It’s a bit of a dreary subject for a kink blog, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness..

I’ve been lonely. At least, I’ve been what I think of as lonely. I’ve been restless. I’ve been sad. I’ve spent a long Friday night or several not quite sure what to do with myself. I could say it’s because I’ve recently moved to a new city, but the truth is that I’ve felt this way most times in my life. I have rarely if ever experienced an abundance of intimacy. What intimacies I’ve had, I’ve cobbled together—this friend here, that friend there, sometimes a partner—and I’m often afraid I’m leaning more on one person or another than our relationship can bear.

I’ve been thinking about the stigma of being lonely. How I feel inclined to closet myself about it, afraid that if I admit to feeling friendless (or at least not having quite as many close friends as I’d like) or to having an empty weekend, it’s as good as admitting that I’m just plain unlikeable. Even as I write this, I’m hyperaware of how I might come across (oh good, I sound like I have some friends at least). I’ve been thinking about the way we talk about lonely people, or people without friends: Pathetic. Pitiable. Losers.

I’ve been thinking about the ways that finding intimacy takes skills, energy, and vulnerability. The ways heteronormativity (and homonormativity too), assume that all the intimacy we need comes from our romantic/sexual partner(s), and how much of that belief I’ve taken in—sure, I say I’m looking for community, but every time I get close to someone, I catch myself hoping that it’s romantic and/or sexual, and often when I think about loneliness, I imagine that what I want is a partner.

But this restlessness is one I’ve felt even while partnered. It’s one I’ve felt even in a room full of people I care about, who care about me. And it’s one I can sometimes quell by wandering somewhere new, or absorbing myself in reading. I’ve been thinking that what I’ve been calling loneliness could better be described as understimulation. That what I need isn’t precisely intimacy with other people but ways of challenging and engaging myself (intimacy with other people often facilitates this kind of challenge and engagement but isn’t the only route there).

The other night, I had planned to go to a local kink event, and I was dreading it. Interacting with strangers takes a lot of energy for me, and I don’t trust public kink groups, particularly ones that aren’t explicitly queer, to give me much energy back. There are too many wrong assumptions made about me when I walk in the door: that I have certain kinds of kink/sex experience; that I am available to be touched (kinky folks might ask first, but I don’t trust most of them not to balk at a “no” answer); that I will not object to casual racism/classism/misogyny; that I find play easy and uncomplicatedly rewarding.

But I’d also been thinking that going to the event might ease my loneliness. After all, this is a community with which I have at least one significant point of connection (that kink informs my worldview), and it’s a point of connection that’s been missing with many of the radical queer folks I’ve recently started getting to know.

I didn’t go. In the end, I didn’t feel I had the energy to interrupt all those assumptions, let alone reveal to strangers the things that about me that are real. Instead, I asked myself, what is it I need now? what is it I desire? The answers surprised me. Exercise, because part of this restlessness is my body wanting to move and be challenged. The right books, because incisive political analysis, mind-bendy alternate realities, and skilfully rendered emotional experiences challenge and engage me even when I’m sitting still. To make a practice of pushing to my edges (and no further) when it comes to building connections, which means knowing what I’m up for, being aware of things like, say, the impulse to be closeted about my loneliness, and prioritizing being vulnerable and open when it feels reasonably safe and productive to do so.

It’s no coincidence that noticing these needs and desires brought out my first blog post in months. Particularly when part of the mission of Circumstance and Carefulness is to build community.

So, welcome back to Circumstance and Carefulness (and on its shiny new site, no less!). If you’ve got any thoughts on loneliness and desire, you are welcome to leave them in the comments.