Short Story: Please … Obey Me (V.2)

Wanted to try a rather different dynamic from V.1 with this.

The rationale expressed by Bay in this story is not necessarily one that I believe to be common in BDSM or M/s relationships, but it was one that intrigued me, from a writer’s perspective, as a possible basis for wanting to switch roles. It’s meant to be playful, even with the serious BDSM theory stuff/ideas explored.

In case it’s not clear, I believe Bay passes the test in flying colours, and Hesyon is very proud at the end.

* * *

Please … Obey Me (V.2)

Bay knelt at her Mistress’ feet. Her bottom lip trembled and despite the fire drawing sweat from her body, she shivered, and the sweat on her brow was not due to the heat. She fought the urge to close her legs, to hide her body, the only thing she could not do was meet Hesyon’s gaze.

“I’m waiting, slave!” Hesyon reminded her, and tapped a riding crop against leather-clad heel.

“Mistress, I dare not.”

“Fear not. Give me your answer.”

Bay inhaled and exhaled.

“Please … obey me.”

The tip of the crop lifted Bay’s chin, Bay hesitated to look up. When she did, Hesyon’s lips were drawn tight and each eye resembled a black hailstone.

“Say that again.”

“Please, Mistress. Obey me.”

“Obey you? And what would you gain by that?”

“Mistress, as You know, I always admire Your control, Your skill, Your power. You seem to destroy me and yet You always revive me. You give me so much through Your ownership of me. I have only striven to be the best slave You can make of me. You command me to challenge myself, to seek growth and new experiences, to aspire to be more and better than I believe possible. Mistress, it is to answer that commandment that I ask this. It is to try something I would never dream was possible, and to aspire to be, for a brief while, that which I most admire. Please. Obey me.”

Hesyon closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she said, “Stand.” Bay struggled to her feet. The naked slave faced her catsuited Mistress. Hailstones replaced by smouldering coal, thought Bay as she studied Hesyon’s eyes, one after the other.

“Very well,” Hesyon murmured. “Hold out your hands.” Bay presented her palms for Hesyon to inspect. Hesyon instead rested the crop upon them.

“If you believe you can take my obedience, take it. If you can’t, give it back.”

Bay bit her lip and trembled, but her fingers curled around the leather and she hugged it to her bosom. Hesyon raised an eyebrow.

Bay shifted her feet into a stronger stance, and cleared her throat. She squeaked, “Kneel, Mistress. Please.” It was Hesyon’s turn to shuffle. Bay took a deep breath and barked, “Obey me!” Hesyon smirked, and sank to her knees. “As you wish, Slave,” she grinned.

* * *

Bay hesitated. This was new, and unexpected. What would her Mistress wish of her? Could she live up to the challenge, to Hesyon’s high standards? Did that smile mean Hesyon knew she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, command her Mistress, or did she smile because she thought she could, and wanted her to succeed? To ask would be to admit defeat, and not to ask was to risk disappointing Mistress. But that was the deal. Bay served, to the best of her ability, and Mistress challenged those abilities. To serve was to risk failure, but to know there would be rewards. She had to do it, had to command her Mistress.

She licked her lips.

“Mistress, follow me on Your hands and knees.” Hesyon’s face grew serious, but her eyebrow quirked. Bay took short breaths and turned her back. Would Mistress follow? Bay took short steps, the riding crop brushed against her knee as she slipped into her perfect comportment as Hesyon had trained her, the lotion of her hands and feet as much a symbol of power as of submission, she found. She turned her shoulders and looked behind. Hesyon was crawling just as she had been told, her focus entirely on her slave’s free hand. Bay led Hesyon to the chaise longue. When she saw Hesyon still followed, she walked around the seat, along the back and round to the front again. Hesyon followed every move, her knees shuffling through the deep crimson carpet.

Bay lowered her bottom to the seat, to perch on its edge. Forbidden usually, save with Mistress’s touch and pleasure, Bay hunched herself to take as little room as possible. But still, her lessons remained. She gripped the crop with both hands, halfway along, paced her knees and ankles together, forced herself to open her shoulders and put them back, and straightened her spine and lifted her chin. Hesyon watched from all fours, her perfect hair pinned back in a classic French barrette grip, grey eyes studying Bay like a chemist with an intriguing compound.

Bay took a deep breath, and met the scientist’s gaze.

“Sit up, please,” she muttered. Hesyon pushed off the ground and sat on her haunches, lifting her hands to her chest in a doggie-paws pose. Bay stroked her Mistress’s hair from brow to grip, as she herself had often been stroked. A vacuum seemed to form in her bosom as she said, “Good girl.” Hesyon’s eyes crinkled and narrowed with her smile, and nod. Bay saw the look and heard in her mind the magic words reflected back. She studied her Mistress, trying to recall her own training as it might appear from the outside. She bit her lip, and adjusted her grip on the crop.

“Behind your back, please, Mistress,” she said and tapped Hesyon’s hands with the crop.

“Yes, slave, sorry,” Hesyon replied and sprang to obey. “Is that better?”

“Yes, Mistress. Good girl.” Bay felt warmer now.

“Um, Mistress, er, open your knees?” she tried. Hesyon raised an eyebrow, but did as she was told. Bay racked her brains for something to make her Mistress do. An idea came, and wth it, a smirk.

“Mistress?” she said, and Hesyon focussed. “Worship… knee!” she tapped her left knee with the crop. She felt a buzz like static making her hair stand on end when she saw Hesyon’s eyes widen. But Hesyon shifted her seat and bent to put her lips to the knee. She peered through her lashes at Bay. Bay held her breath and waited. Hesyon parted her lips and teased the bony tip with the tip of her tongue. She spread her jaw wider and used the broad sweep of her tongue to rasp and smear. Bay could feel the saliva at once heat and cool, her Mistress’s mouth and lips stroking and flexing against her skin.

“Enough!”

Hesyon leapt back into position. Bay assured her, “Good girl.” Hesyon lowered her eyes for a beat, then met her slave’s again, a faint smile once more on her lips. Bay reached a decision. She spread her knees, and tapped her own cunt with the crop. Hesyon stared, and Bay nodded.

Slave spread for Mistress. Mistress bent for slave. Hesyon’s tongue worked Bay’s labia and clit with precision and flair, wielded by a Mistress in every way. Bay moaned, and sighed, and held her breath according to Hesyon’s will. And when she came, it was at Hesyon’s will. The orgasm swept from toe to crown, her cunt spasmed and oceans fell. The riding crop fell from her enfeebled fist, abandoned as she knew it must be.

Hesyon laid her slave on the chaise longue to recover, and reclaimed the crop. She stroked Bay’s hair and cheek.

“Good girl,” she smiled.

Short Story: Please … Obey Me (V.1)

Content Note: rough sex.

This is inspired by a prompt/tweet from Yingtai of University of Abject Submission, that really set my imagination racing:

I came up with three scenarios that could explain how that phrase could be part of a hugely hot storyline, and hope to write all of them eventually. This is the first to be completed. As ever, the interesting/hot/exciting bit for me is the build-up where the line occurs (the “why this is happening” bit), and I cut away before actual fucking occurs. Use your own imaginations to decide what Amber tells Indigo to do next…

* * *

Please … Obey Me (V.1)

Amber put his hands together and took a deep breath, “Please … obey me.”

“Make me!” Indigo pouted.

Amber shook his head, “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day and for once, I don’t want to, to hold you down, use my strength against you, physically impose my will. Don’t make me. Please, just obey me. Just once.”

Indigo blinked and stared at her feet.

“I don’t know how. I want you take what you want. I’m not sure I want to just give it to you.”

Amber stepped back, shifting his weight onto his back foot. He folded his arms and looked away. Indigo clenched her fists at her side and shuffled her feet. When Amber turned back to face her, she took a silent gasp. Amber stood tall, smiling. He looked at her through his eyelashes.

“I won’t take it. Tonight, you have to choose. Please. Obey me.”

Indigo shuffled her feet and bit her lip. The deep blue eyes she loved to stare into as their owner ravished her now seemed hard to meet. “I don’t know how,” she whimpered, “I’ve never done this before.”

Amber took a stride towards her, Indigo felt his gaze like an awl directed at her heart though all she could see were her own painted toes.

“Take your clothes off,” he said. Indigo looked up at him. His arms were still folded about his bosom, his brow glowered above those beautiful eyes. He stared back. She straightened herself until they were almost level, pursed her lips and finally stared back. His expression didn’t change. She licked her lips. She wanted to say her line again, wanted him to do it. But what if he refused? She blinked first. He was a metre from her, and yet the heat of their breath seemed closer than ever before. Her chest seemed heavy and the room too small. Her fingers twitched. Her arm went to the hem of her top. She started to pull it over her chin.

“No. Your jeans first.” Amber’s lips hardly moved but his voice filled Indigo’s mind. She dropped her hands to her belt buckle and unfastened it before she stopped to think what she was doing. She undid her jeans while she wondered how she could be doing it. The jeans fell about her ankles, and she straightened to meet his gaze again, a smirk on her face.

Amber hadn’t changed.

Indigo fidgeted. For one brief moment, she had felt proud of herself, but now she wondered, “What wasn’t good enough?” It seemed something wasn’t right for Amber. She bit her lip. Amber’s eyes flickered for a moment, to Indigo’s belly. Indigo looked down.

“Oh!” she gripped her top and lifted it over her head, dropping it by her side. She stood straight again, and grinned. But another thought struck her. She shuffled her arms, glancing over her shoulders and clasping her hands behind her back.

Amber smirked. “Are your knickers a part of you?”

“No, Sir.” Indigo hastened to peel her underwear from her hips. She bent down, her hair hiding her face as she struggled to escape the crumpled jeans. With a smirk of her own, she stepped out of the knickers, stood, and held them out in front of her.

“Happy, Sir?”

“Very.” Amber took the silk undies from his partner and stepped forwards. Indigo smiled and trembled, putting her hands behind her back again. Amber stepped forwards and now their nipples almost touched.

“That was just a warm-up. The real obedience is about to begin. Now, please will you obey me?” Indigo bit her lip and nodded.

“Good girl.” He touched her lips, “Now, open.” Indigo dropped her jaw. Amber’s hand rose and he showed her what he held. He stuffed her knickers into her mouth, and for once, she didn’t try to stop him.

Can I be an online sexworker?

[EDIT TO ADD 19.07.2014] I did it! I’m offering IM-only so far, but as I get used to the idea I’m planning to nudge towards cam work (face-to-face rather than performing to start with, although who knows how confident I might get eventually). I even found out there’s a web-based “Lite” version of the camming software so I can use the Mac after all!

- – -

So I’ve been looking at AdultWork.com, after seeing Nimue Allen tweet about her services there (links NSFW, in case that needs explaining), wandering around, enjoying some free previews, finding out what the site does and what it offers on a “Seeking Services” account.

In a move that is not directly related (but also not completely unrelated) to the fact that my building society is cutting my current account agreed overdraft limit soon, my motive is not just an interest in perusing online “adult” material and services, but wondering what, if anything, I myself could offer and expect to get paid for.

There’s a section for erotic stories, so with some editing I could probably earn a few quid for my writing. It would require some focus to create material suitable for a commercial site instead of just whatever kinks and extremes fuel my inner fantasies, but then, I’m kind of doing that anyway when I write sex scenes for my novel, or write things with a “real life” theme. The tricky part is going to be the editing. It’s going to require some ideas of what top write about as well.

I dearly wish I believed my body was beautiful enough for webcamming. As discussed with regards to body hair, I am not at all happy that I can’t shave my back or arse, and until I have significant sums rolling in I cannot afford “back, sack and crack” waxing (even assuming my pain threshold would make it seem worthwhile for the business). There are also various scars, marks and blemishes over various parts of my body, relics of illness, injury and so on. Perhaps strangely, I could imagine being in porn with this body more than I could imagine being a successful pro webcam performer. (For one thing, I imagine there would be a market for watching a guy/male-bodied genderqueer undergo the torture of a waxing, which would kill two birds with one stone, so to speak). And, yes, there is the worry that no one wants to look at a lardarse like me twerking or whatever. (I do think my shaved moobs are pretty sexy-looking, but not sure that’s enough to pull in the punters and keep ‘em hooked if that’s all there is to the private show!)

However, the webcam system at AdultWork includes a text-only “Instant Messaging” service option. Now, that’s something I have some experience with in terms of online BDSM roleplay, scening and “cybersex” with romantic partners. I like to think I have some talent for it, and a certain flair for creativity. There don’t seem to be many men offering this service, which either means there isn’t a big enough market to support more, or that the market is relatively untapped, with low competition. This could be my niche.

Unfortunately, their third-party software for running paid-for webcam/webtext is only available for Windows. My main PC is a Mac, and since XP support ended, I switched my netbook over to Ubuntu (which I like very muchly). As it happens, I made a dual boot install on the netbook, so in theory I could still log in with the XP boot and run web software. It’s far from ideal, given the lack of support for XP nowadays, but equally, I haven’t heard any major news stories about it (apart from that one thing where Microsoft released a patch after the support had ended). A little bit of research reveals that there are some who use the “book in advance” options and offer IM via Skype or Yahoo IM to provide the service, so I could do that as well.

What I don’t know, and have no real way of guessing, is how long you have to be online to get a client. How long would the average chat session last? What’s the likely maximum? Overall, how much time a day/week would I need to spend “available” to make it worthwhile? Some of the IM roleplay/scene/cybersex sessions I’ve done in the past lasted for 2 or 3 hours (although there was often non-cybersex talk included in that). Would clients want that, and pay for it? Would they want something more direct? How much time do client & provider typically take over negotiating the online scene?

I think this is doable. The idea excites me as a way of using the skills I have to do something people value (and getting paid for it is pretty important, too). Am I brave enough to do it? I know I’m not confident enough, which is why I need to be brave. So many questions, so many doubts, about how to make it work for me, whether I really have the skills I believe I do, whether anyone would really want to pay for them.

I’m going to sit with this. My heart is telling me that I will do it, or at least, put myself out there to try. So if I give it enough time, then something will happen.

Then I might just have to change “Valery North – Writer” to “Naughty Val – Sexworker”.

Look into my eyes

I’ve talked recently about my tomboy-ish inner self-image, and about disliking my body hair. I haven’t mentioned my favourite feature: my eyes.

It’s a little frustrating that generally I need glasses (although I quite often forget them, and my prescription is weak enough that I don’t notice – but I will get headaches if I go too long without). I feel as though they often create a barrier, or the frames disrupt the appearance, or the light reflects off them and conceals my eyes. (So, there is a temptation to delibverately forget my glasses…)

It might seem odd, if they’re my favourite feature, that I would want to use eye makeup, particularly. Surely, logic would ask that I should look to improving other parts of my face that satisfy me less. But it’s not about “improving”, it’s about playfulness, having fun, or looking a different kind of awesome. I especially like “unnatural” colours: colours that are outside of the usual palette of human skin. Most of all, I love sparkly eye shadow and my first set of colours was a range from Body Shop with all glitter tones. Only recently have I added a bit to them, and investigated more about proper technique and styles, bought a mini brushes kit from Boots (very handy, it turns out), and started experimenting properly to find out what makes the best look. I’m finding it hard to pick out colours that go well with my eyes and skin tone, especially as I am a gyrl on a budget here, but I already know that the sparkliest bronze is a definite element that works. Figuring out how to use it for best, and combine it with other shades, is taking a bit of time.

I was quite pleased with my last effort, though, and took a few selfies to show off. Sadly, I don’t think the effect has come out properly in the photo, but you can make out the glitteriness here if you look carefully:

"You are falling into a deep trance..."

Sparkly, no?

One thing I noticed as I was cropping the selfies to find out which gave the best effect, I felt oddly confronted by the expression when the rest of my face was cut away; maybe it’s the dark purple I used in the crease that makes the expression seem more serious. I certainly felt I looked more cheerful before I cropped the pic (but that doesn’t mean it was a good enough shot to show in its entirety – I have my vanity!)

Speaking of Vannie (if you see what I did there), I got to thinking about how I have to start from scratch in learning how to do makeup, and about the awkwardness of those who don’t follow the rituals of feminine socialisation to learn this stuff (archetypically, the nerdy loner or the tomboy; and of course trans women). I don’t just want to do my eyes, I want to learn much more. I found a handful of advice pages aimed at trans women a decade ago when I first started looking into doing something about embracing my non-binary/feminine side in terms of appearance but really, I’ve been moreorless fumbling in the dark. There seem to be more “how to” videos on youtube now than there used to be, that can help, so I am hopeful. Nevertheless, there is a consciousness of being in many ways a long way behind everyone else. In keeping with my rejection of “conscious incompetence”, however, this post is about saying that, even though it may not be impressive to those who have a lifetime’s experience, what I’ve done here (shown in the above picture), is still way more than I knew how to do a couple of weeks ago.

My eyes are my favourite feature. I like to play with different looks for them. And now, I am learning how to do that. And I feel pretty!

The Inner Vannie (Valerie Northe)

More-or-less by coincidence, this post is going out on International Non-Binary Genders Day, which seems quite appropriate given the content.

In my piece discussing the effects of narratives of fear, privilege and lack of it, I described my inner image of myself both as “a small and timid little tomboy”, and as Dale’s attempt at pickup, “Just smile, and laugh.”

It got me to thinking about these concepts of self-image and what they mean. The “Dale” image is how I imagine other people see me; the “tomboy” is my internal self-perception.

However, the internal self-image is not a simple construction. It becomes apparent only when I find some discord with other narratives, whether they are my own or others’ (e.g. social norms). This means that the issues of “I feel myself to be X” as a discrete rather than integrated part of the self, are heavily dependent on situation and circumstance. I am fond of saying, “I can only be me, but there are many ways of being me.” The way I choose in a given situation is, hopefully, appropriate (I am not the same with a sexual partner as with the JobCentre advisor or in a job interview, for example). Likewise, the tensions in those situations are not the same.

Nevertheless, I am a writer, and playing with characters is part of the joy in that. So meeting the tomboy within is worth it even though a full description is not possible and it may not produce as much in terms of illumination as I might hope.

So, let’s see what can be said about the tomboy Valerie Northe, or “Vannie”, as that inner idea of me.

I’ve never quite felt “grown up”, despite being “adult”. Vannie, too, feels about 14 most days. Inasmuch as I am adult, so is she, but that sense of teen insecurity shapes the image slightly. The idea of Vannie is very much about what I wish people would perceive about me that is at odds with my appearance, or that reflects how I relate to social norms of, for example, gender. Vannie is a girl (or woman) because of the ways in which I feel my relationships to others match more closely the way women are socialised than the description of a “man”. It’s no accident that, when given the option, I often prefer to play as a female character in video games or online worlds.

Since Vannie is me, her sexual orientations and desires are the same as mine. Which is to say, predominantly interested in women but also likes men she finds sexy (the same ones I do, who tend to be somewhat androgynous, but not hugely so). This produces the uncomfortable phrase of calling myself “a lesbian in a man’s body”, but I really don’t like that because the phrase has been used in various and problematic ways such that it cannot convey the complex combination of reality and self-perception that I am trying to describe here. Nevertheless, the startling fit of the Lesbian Cancerian dating advice feels appropriate to say why Vannie being bi/predominantly lesbian matches with my self-identity.

It gets weird when I try to think about Vannie’s genitalia. My self-image doesn’t generally negate my penis. So Vannie is a girl, with a penis, but isn’t trans* (because I didn’t see myself as trans* and don’t relate to Vannie as my true gender in that sense). Inasmuch as I present as cis in respect to genitalia (that’s complicated as well, but largely true for these purposes), Vannie doesn’t have genitals because there’s no need to interpret my self-image as distinct from my external reality/perception.

Appearance-wise, my starting point for how I feel/wish/think I look is more-or-less Mayim Bialik as Amy in Big Bang Theory. Vannie, like me (because she is me, in a way), feels her chest is too flat and wishes for bigger boobs. When I had long hair, it could stop there. But when I decided to crop it completely using a clipper on #1 or even shorter, the image incorporated that (one thing I liked was how much I thought I looked like a lesbian if I covered the lower part of my face with the annoying stubble). When Nimue Allen, who performs regularly for Pandora Blake’s site Dreams of Spanking, tweeted about her BDSM head shaving, the result was an image that resonates very strongly with my (self-)image of Vannie. Nimue has the breasts that Vannie/I dream of, so her pic is closer to “wish I look” than “feel/think I look” but otherwise I think she’s my new “inner avatar”.

Reflecting my self-image, Vannie is a little more athletic than I am, and not quite as fat. I frequently feel when I look in the mirror that my reflection looks bigger than I feel I am, even though I know the measurements of my body. That’s why I described her as “small” and “little” before: it’s relative. (Also, in terms of communicating my sense of vulnerability, Vannie is smaller than when she just represents my sense of physical space. Remember what I said about relating in different ways to different circumstances? This is an example.)

It’s fair to say that this version of myself has many similar traits of introversion, and resulting shyness or being reserved (in me these traits are related, but not all introverts are shy), she’s also a bit nerdy. I think people would be less likely to assume Vannie is a Dom, but because she is me, she would be. This is another awkward juxtaposition between my reality and identity/image.

It is very tempting to work Valerie Northe up into a full character, with a story (probably of sexual experimentation and self-discovery although I am wary of letting her be 14 for such a story) and supporting cast. In a way I could relive my school days as I wish they could have gone through writing out such a piece. But there’s two reasons not to.

  1. The past is the past and, for better or worse, I’ve processed it as best I can. revisiting and rewriting it won’t help me very much (although there’s a case to be argued that all my story ideas do this in one way or another)
  2. As I explained at the beginning, there is no cohesive, coherent entity “Vannie” in my real experience; the description concocted here comes from disparate and unconnected elements of finding myself at odds with the world around me in ways that are not confrontational but just awkward or disconcerting. Creating a new character to represent that is actually not going to help very much.

So instead, this was all just a game and a chance to show you, dear Reader, how my non-binary self, disguised (not so) cunningly as a cis man, struggles to be myself.

Shearing shortcomings

This is just a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post. All the things that are annoying or awkward about shaving my body!

Time

I mentioned I set aside an afternoon for the job. That’s because it takes two or three hours to do and it’s not really something you can pause in the middle of. I don’t know if it would take much less time if I remembered to shave it more often, but the fear is that it wouldn’t shave that much off the duration each time (see what I did there?) Nevertheless, I am sure that this time I will make the effort to find out. Maybe.

Missing patches

I already talked about how there are bits of my body I can’t reach to shave myself. But a big problem, especially when I’m getting rid of vast quantities, is that I can’t always see how effective my razor stroke has been; and sometimes the thickness of the hair means the razor can’t catch all of it. Meaning that, as I rinse off later, I find isolated patches where the hair is just as long as before. Not pretty!

Down the Drain

Because there is so much of it when I get around to doing it, it forms huge clumps that block the plughole (or the drain, as the shower is better for doing the lower body). Fortunately, they don’t block it way down the pipe, just catch in the metal grille at the top. But it’s still awkward. I have to scoop it up and dump it somewhere else, several times over, lest the sink (or shower base) overflow. This inevitably means then picking up the hairs that stuck to my feet and deposited across the floor. It’s a messy business, this.

Cuts

Putting a sharp blade and running it over my skin runs the risk of drawing blood. The more strokes, the higher the risk. I take care but am by no means expert enough (even when doing my face) to be completely confident of getting away with it. Invariably, given the large surface area to cover, something gets nicked. It’s a higher risk when I’m reaching into hard-to-see patches (like the back of the knee) or where there isn’t as much “give” under the skin (knobbly knees, wrists, elbows, mainly). The back of the wrist seems especially prone to the slight nick.

The first time I ever did my legs, I made a right mess of it, and my right leg required several sticking plasters. Some time later (I can’t honestly remember if it’s weeks or months) the same pattern re-emerged, this time in the form of an infection. You can STILL see the pattern today, because the infection left scars. I can’t say for certain the infection was caused by the cuts, but equally, the similarity of the pattern of cuts to the patches of infection seem to make it likely.

I’ve got a lot better since then (and take much better care of the small cuts that still happen) so that was the last time it was that bad, but all the same. And i don’t like types of SM play that break the skin (needles or cutting) so it’s much less fun.

Growing Back

It feels wonderful for a few days. Then I get all-over body stubble. And the hairs look TOUGH! I mean, like Jeff Goldblum when he first starts turning into The Fly in that movie. And it itches. Just for a few days, I feel like an itchy Fly. This should probably be the motivation to get that electric shaver on the job, but what usually happens is I just scratch a bit and wait for it to grow out. And after a few days, it does and it stops itching.

* * *

It’s worth all these downsides and I really owe it to myself to do better at maintaining the shave (which would actually offset some of these issues, too). The reasons why I value it so much were covered in the previous post; the point of this is to illustrate how much I value it when I have it (and to explain that it’s not all fun and happiness to get there, for those who have no frame of reference).

Dogged by the hair

I tweeted yesterday about experimenting with eyeshadow. I think my eyes are probably my most beautiful feature anyway, but I like adding a bit more colour or sparkle around them and am determined to learn how to do this. As I wrote then, “I will be beautiful, or failing that, sparkly”. Still working on the eyeshadow project, but I have discovered a wodnerful bronze colour that creates a nice highlight in small doses. I think I may want to combine that with a couple of other shades (this is something that a guy who doesn’t play with make-up would probably not realise: eyeshadow is used in combinations! I know I was surprised when I looked up “how to” videos for it…) and build a shiny new look.

Anyway, this post is not about eyeshadow, it’s about hair – or, getting rid of it.

My hair is in various ways linked with my sense of self in quite a deep and complicated way. When I chose to cut my head hair short – and then clip it REALLY short – these were huge steps for me; it felt almost like being born again into a new self or body. I took the opportunity to embrace that change and make a few of the changes to lifestyle and presentation that I had been meaning to but never actually putting the effort in. Even now, every time I get the clippers out to get back to the super-short trim, it feels like a significant event and makes a huge change. Nimue Allen & Pandora Blake tweeted today about a BDSM shoot in which Allen is going to have her head shaved: how could I resist mentioning how powerful that is for me? And it turns out Nimue Allen shares the same feelings.

But what really prompted me to start writing is that for me, hair is not just the stuff growing from my scalp. My body is covered in the stuff most of the time, and it really bothers me. It locks my body into a “male” frame of reference that is at odds with my self-image and preferred genderqueer/genderfluid presentation/identification. With the exception of my scalp (which, alas, is slowly relinquishing the idea of being hairy: a trait that shows up in my paternal family line) I would happily be rid of the lot. I’m not too bothered by my crotch pubes (though more because trying to shave them seems fraught with peril than any reluctance to be rid of them; but they bother me least of the body hair) but the rest can go.

About once a year (and today was that day this year) my discomfort or dissatisfaction with my body hair grows sufficient that I will set aside an afternoon to scrape off as much as I can reach, using a pack of razors. Arms, legs, chest, belly, shoulders – all bare! I caqn’t reach my arse or my back, and there’s always a strip up the back of each thigh that is just out of range. But if I can see it and get to it, it’s gone. Each year I promise myself that I will use the electric “ladyshave” to maintain the hairless magnificence, but each year I forget or fail to make the time to do it, and I muddle along for a year or so until finally the urge to be fresh again overcomes the laziness. What triggered it this year was thinking about makiing myself beautiful (re: the eyeshadow) and getting on with it. (There’s also a point that I was told in my teens that the more often you shave, the quicker and longer the hair grows back: I’m slightly nervous about turning into a totally hairy creature if I do it too often!)

Pandora Blake (her again!) wrote a couple of weeks ago a post called Pain, permanence, and laser hair removal. The treatment was a gift from one of her partners. The idea of permanent removal of body hair is just my ideal: all over, all gone, forever, never coming back: brilliant!

I love the feel of my bare, shaved skin on my arms and legs and chest when I’m finished. It feels liberated, alive, and connected. Blake writes:

For me hair removal isn’t about fashion as much as sensation. I like the feel of being touched or licked on hairless skin. It makes it more sensitive, more tingly. Personally I don’t have any preference about anyone else’s grooming regime, and will gladly touch and lick my lovers’ bits, hairy or not. On my own body, however, I have grown to love the feel of silky velvety smoothness.

It’s exactly the passage, and the sentiments, that I woluld have written here, if I didn’t have Pandora Blake’s post to cope-paste from already! I love this feeling so much, I find it hard to understand that someone wouldn’t want it, all the time.

There’s also a practical thing: when I am hairy, the hairs catch and hold water in the bath or shower, making it much harder to dry myself off properly afterwards.

And finally, as I said, being hairy makes my body feel much more male-oriented than suits my sense of self or identity. My body feels so much more like my body, a body that is intrinsic to me, when it is hairless than otherwise. Not only through sensation but through identity I feel more closely attached to the world. I haven’t had sex while hairless (to be honest, I would be too self-conscious about the obvious divide between where I can reach and where I can’t – and as yet no relationship has lasted long enough for me to trust a partner with a razor on my body) but even ordinary touches to parts of the body you wouldn’t think of as erogenous feel sensual and sexual, too. To have a partner I could share that body with, would be special.

I have no idea whether whole-body laser hair removal is feasible, or even safe; I’m fairly sure facial hair removal would not be. I couldn’t possibly afford it anyway. But it’s a dream. And who knows, maybe THIS time, I will remember to use that electric shaver…

Fear narratives, creepiness and (failed) masculinity

Content Note: descriptions of abusers’ tactics/behaviour. Rape myths/figures. Also, TERF myths

So I’ve been mulling over for a while now ideas about how it can be hard for someone who has been powerless to recognise that they now have attained (relative) power and are harming others with it. [EDIT TO ADD cos I forgot to include it earlier] Over at The F-Word Blog, Sheena Vasani has a fascinating post that touches on this topic: she opens with two descriptions of herself, one that emphasises her privilege and one that emphasises her exclusion or lack of privilege. The conversation she describes in that post with a guy whose privilege/lack of was split differently, serves as a starting point for this post (although my thoughts have been floating around for a while now) and is well worth checking out in its own right.

This dynamic of missing one’s own power or privilege with respect to others, unfortunately, seems to occur far too often in social justice circles. I suspect it’s also an issue underlying a lot of rape apologism, especially the rhetoric about “false rape”.

It’s also a way that abusers camouflage themselves. I suspect it is a general rule that any situation where there is a person with a legitimate claim to be hurt by a rule, there is also an abuser making the same claim in order to perpetuate his (or her) abuse. Sometimes the potential abuser is used as a means to describe the legitimate person as also an abuser, or otherwise to deny that person access (for instance, it is possible that there are abusers who are trans, or who disguise themselves as trans; nevertheless, it is not legitimate for TERFs to use that possibility to exclude trans* women in general, especially as trans* women are more likely to be victims of cis women than vice versa; probably there are more cis & lesbian abusers of cis women anyway).

I believe that this is the dynamic when it comes to discussions about the “creepy” label, and about “false rape”. Whenever discussions arise about rape culture, the “not every man is a threat, but any man could be” problem faced by women in public spaces, there seems to be some visceral response pleading not to be falsely accused (typically by saying, “not all men”). When it comes to discussing figures about rape accusations and what to do about the low number of convictions, the same thing occurs. The concept of the “creepy guy” also produces a slew of men pleading not to be “unfairly labelled”.

The surface-level fear that we see expressed is one of enforced celibacy: “once I have been (falsely) labelled this way, no one will ever want me ever again” (often coupled with a barely-veiled entitlement narrative – although for the moment I’m going to extend benefit of doubt to include “entitled to a chance of having” rather than “entitled to have”; subtle distinction!).

But this is less of a thing with being accused of rape. The bigger fear here is being sent to prison; and such is the perverseness of the penal system, that carries fears of becoming someone else’s rape victim. It’s often expressed in terms of women punishing men, but that’s not what really happens. For a start, in the UK around 6% of rape accusations lead to a conviction; the rest are either dropped before they reach court (usually because the process is so demanding that the victim/witness backs out) or are acquitted. So it’s unlikely to get punished in that way. Furthermore, social dynamics being what they are, the stigma of having been accused of rape is often not as great as generally feared: in many high-profile cases, people have rallied around to diminish the effects as much as possible, even when there’s incontrovertible evidence (e.g. video evidence of the crime taking place) that the accused did commit rape. In Europe, with the “right to be forgotten” ruling, after a while you can get Google to hide your connection to a false accusation anyway if someone searches your name.

But even when a punishment is delivered, it is typically men who punish men. If that stigma does stick, it is the actions of men who make it so, and who are the biggest threat.

Let’s feed that idea back into the “creepy guy” complaints. My suspicion is that a deeper fear when a guy complains about being labelled “creepy” is not the effect this has on women, but the effect it has on other men.

Masculinity is largely performative. The way Patriarchy constructs it, we are told that men who perform it well will get good things, and have the right to fuck whom they want; men who perform it badly do not have the right to have sex or other nice things but must be punished until they learn to perform it better, and must be punished if they try to take what they are denied. (This is also a key element in homophobia and transmisogyny.)

Think of the US High School Drama complex: The classic trope is “football captain dates cheerleading captain”. This develops such that, if romantic developments occur between the nerd and the cheerleading captain, then this is the nerd aspiring to something forbidden and violence towards the nerd ensues. Alternatively, the nerd acts creepily towards the hot girls and gets punished for it. See where this is going?

That is obviously the fictional world but it presents a social norm or ideal. In the real world, there is always the “guy who gets picked last at sports” (I was actually the one who got picked second-last, but you know, it was the same social status – just one person lower on the ladder than me). If as a male (or at least male-identified-by-others – is MIBO a commonly used term?) you happen to be that nerdy, bad at sports, slightly weird kid who’s grown up as the target of bullying (or “physical, emotional and/or financial abuse by other children”) or who has acted out of fear of being the target, then you have a different perspective than if you were the one who went along with it or was part of it, and enjoyed social privilege as a result.

The social narrative that the “nerd” or “outsider” grows up with is one of being punished for desires, whereas the others grow up feeling entitled to them. The first thing to push back at is the idea of being punished for desires, to make desiring seem legitimate.

The consequence is that these are often the people who fear they are being described as “creepy”. They are used to being powerless and the victims of more powerful individuals, but now found themselves being cast by others as the powerful and threatening ones, which runs counter to their internal narrative of themselves.

It also reproduces the narrative of being punished for wanting the girl. I suspect that underneath it there is a visceral fear that when a woman calls him creepy, this guy expects a bigger, more muscular, more aggressive guy to loom out of the darkness and beat him up. The usual claim is that creepiness is a problem because on average, a woman is less likely to be able to overpower a man than vice versa, but I think the person afraid of the accusation expects that to be reversed when the “real man” turns up. The trope of “manly-man as protector of woman’s virtue (and thereby being rewarded with it)” coupled with the personal narrative of “I’m the victim of bigger boys” leads to this fear of being perceived to be encroaching.

Ironically, one of the commonest descriptions of “creepy” behaviour is of “testing what you can get away with”, which gives the impression of wanting far more than you’re really admitting to (literally, the appearance of creeping up on someone to get close to them – metaphorically, think of a big cat prowling through the grass to pounce on a buffalo calf or something). The counter-advice on how not to be creepy is generally to be more direct about your intentions, make each action deliberate and purposeful (with a clear end-point), and basically avoid equivocation in word and deed. And if you get a “no”, respect it and back the fuck off. (For example, here’s Dr NerdLove.)

The expectation in one person of being punished for overstepping an invisible line (DNL is big on learning to see the line through better social calibration) produces the impression in the other that the first person is going to overstep a far more important line. Or, a fear of being called creepy makes one behave in a creepy fashion.

The reality is that the “bigger boy protector” doesn’t happen very often; and if someone does step in as the White Knight, it’s more about front than actual violence: you have the opportunity to back off and hide. Hurts the self-esteem, maybe, but not much else. And it’s possible for the smaller, nerdy guy to make a point about it, too. (That story is all about front; also, the creepy guy there is not the fearful type I’ve discussed, but the other sort.)

None of which says it’s okay to be creepy. It is not okay. DNL’s piece is a good place to understand that whatever the source of creepy behaviour, learning not to be creepy is the solution, rather than demanding people not comment on it. Regardless of how powerless you feel, recognising that you have power relative to this other person, who has a right to be wary of you as a result, is the first step to making oneself less of a threat (perceived or actual).

I know that the feeling of fear and powerlessness is not going to go away. Let’s just accept that it exists for the moment, and instead look at what can be done about it. Some people cling to it: only by being ever-vigilant and striking down any who seem threatening can they feel secure. except you don’t feel secure because you are constantly wary of the next assault on your protected domain. Thus, for example, we get TERFs who imagine trans folk as a threat to them, rather than the other way around. Others don’t acknowledge their fear but conceal it while still letting it govern their actions (the apologists for creepiness). But it is possible to feel the fear and acknowledge it, but also to recognise at the intellectual level that it is irrational or that it is not universally valid.

For instance, I am a bulky lardarse bloke who nevertheless exercises regularly and by any measure am pretty strong and fit for my size. It is not rational for me to be as fearful as I am about other people. It is rational for others (especially women) to see me and perhaps be wary. The rational conclusions do not fit with my internal self-narrative: despite the evidence to the contrary, inside I am still a small and timid little tomboy (that is, boyish girl – hence my comfort with being male-bodied) who nevertheless wants to be wooed. My physical presence in the world does not reflect how I see myself, and therefore the way others perceive me is different. Therefore, I have to put aside my fearful, timid inner self and understand that I can also be feared.

Of course, this isn’t always successful. At the moment, I feel as though when I try to follow dating/pick-up advice (note: everyone, including DNL above, say to smile and laugh. Everyone), it goes something like this:

(Note the “protector guy” narrative in that scene, btw)

Which is to say, not that it actually does go like that but that my self-perception is that I appear the way Dale does. Again, that’s my issue to work on.

Anyway, I was explaining that it’s possible to recognise the fear that comes from seeing oneself as powerless, or a victim, while understanding that to others, you are the one in power; and thereby to accept intellectually the concept of oneself as feared, and not merely fearing. This understanding can be used to temper one’s reactions, to see not every criticism is an assault, and to recognise others’ boundaries and the reasons for them. Acknowledge your own fear, and each others’ fears.

Auditions, musical and social

So Monday was my annual “handling rejection” practice – by which I mean, auditioning for The Voice UK. This isn’t the televised “Blind Auditions” but the process by which they decide who’s going to get onto those. The nearest venue for me is in London, and it makes a fun adventure to the Big City.

Performing for an audition is unlike any other performance, because normally an audience is on your side: they are in the mood to be engaged and entertained. Not every audience, of course. But most of them. When you audition, however friendly and welcoming the judges are, they are there to judge you, and you are fighting for their approval. An audience has already paid to see you (or else, there’s no reward in it at all) so there’s nothing really riding on the outcome. But an audition is precisely to gain some reward by being “good enough”.

These thoughts made me think about what dating advisors teach to aspiring young men: a woman wants you to be good; you should be “outcome independent” and this will help you relax and perform better. As seems to be the case a lot recently, these thoughts started off seeming profound and insightful, but when i tried to organise them that way I realised – not so much.

I think the advice is hard to achieve, because unlike the audience who paid (or chose freely) to see you perform, a woman in a cold approach (or even some warm approaches) is not already warmed up and in the mood to be entertained and wooed. Of course, with better social calibration, it is easier to identify those who are most amenable to that mood. My tendency towards caution and “punishment cues” means I tend to assume people are not open to the positive frame and is more likely to be a hostile audience (which is worse even than an audition panel).

You can shift the probabilities in your favour if you go to events set up for finding dating partners: speed dating and the like. Here you know they want to find a partner just like you do, so it’s more about how you come across.

I always struggle with the whole “outcome independent” thing. Being an introvert, every interaction with another person is a cost, against which the anticipated benefits of it have to be weighed (another iteration of the “spoons” theory, I suppose). Yes, sometimes it will be rewarding, but a lot of times it is just something that has to be endured. I could, I suppose, become good at it but the underlying costs would be the same: imagine a sportsperson who feels good about their sport only because they are successful, but takes no actual joy in the activity. If I didn’t love singing, playing and writing, then that’s what auditions (or the process of writing & sharing my stories) would be like.

So approaches are always going to feel like auditions rather than gigs. Rejection is inevitable from time to time. Thus, I use the audition as practice. (Also, nearly always end up talking with people in the queue, which is good practice for socialising).

They blocked me: I must be relevant!

So today I found out that, if you’re on TalkTalk in the UK then you can’t read this. Well, that’s not strictly true. AIUI the way it works is that the government pushed for “opt-out” filters at the ISP level on the internet (EDIT: turns out existing customers haven’t had to choose yet so the fact I can still get porn means nothing – tenses altered in remaining text to reflect this. Source XBIZ) but the point is that you had (or will have) to make a conscious decision to receive “adult-targeted” material:

The government is promoting filters to prevent children and young people from seeing content that is supposed to be for over 18s. This includes pornography and sites that talk about alcohol, smoking, anorexia and hate speech.

(From the blocked.org intro)

So someone who doesn’t opt out (maybe doesn’t realise they could safely, or imagines it would only block the really hard stuff) on TalkTalk, can’t see what I write here. (The Open Rights Group “Blocked!” page says they check for both opt-out and opt-in filters, so I don’t know for sure that TalkTalk do it the way the Govt. suggested.

One thing that puzzled me was that anyone would have noticed my blog enough to want to censor it at all. I don’t seem to get that many hits (unless I’ve had a successful post in e[Lust] the last month). I noticed was that on their “Unblock a site” page, ORG describe TalkTalk’s policy on filters:

TalkTalk say they will add websites to blocked categories if a customer asks them to – and if their “panel of online experts” agree. They don’t say whether this works the other way round too. Nor could we find any information on how a non-customer, such as a website owner, can complain about a wrongly-blocked site.

Wow. Um. Did I piss someone off so much they reported me to their ISP? That is so cool! What isn’t cool is that the ISP would respond to that.

I’m not sure if I want to try to get TalkTalk to remove me from their list. I aim to be open and more towards education that erotica with my sexual/kink blog posts, although there’s a significant overlap (I hope) in the way I write. I believe it’s okay for teens to explore and discover information about the sexual feelings they’re having (it’s how I ended up not hating myself, that I was able to), so I don’t mind if those under 18 find my blog and take value from it. Education is better than ignorance.

The content here focusses on:

politics (especially gender politics – think feminism, trans* issues etc), BDSM and real life (and a bit of hot fantasy as well if I’m in the mood), relationships (or my ongoing quest for one – currently “single and looking”), friendships, music, and a little bit of religion.

I’ve talked about BDSM/kink, LGBTQ+ issues, sex workers’ rights, and so on. I would argue that all of these are things that teens need to be able to discover (if teens learn to see sex workers as fully human with minds and wills of their own, then when those teens reach adulthood they will hopefully retain that understanding and regard sex workers’ rights as human rights and workers’ rights). But because I address these topics, sometimes openly and with unabashed language, it seems unlikely to me that, once blocked, I can persuade an ISP to unblock this site unless the law changes.

This is the risk, I suppose, of being integrated with my personal, sexual and political life such that sexuality is not seen as some alienated, separate part of my being but part and parcel of me and my life. If sexual, kink and so on feelings are no different from any other motivations then there is no impediment to writing about it. So I do.

And that means that people who do feel impediments about such things want to block me.

But hey: if they want to censor me, that means I’m relevant, right?

[EDIT TO ADD: It turns out, this is my 150th post. Nice way to mark the milestone, huh?]