My Sex Myth

I had a very cathartic moment the other night. My husband and I were watching a recorded episode of Masters of Sex, and for those of you who have not seen this fantastic series, I highly recommend it. The writing and performances are incredible…and the way the program tackles the subject of sex and sexuality is profound. Plus Lizzie Caplan is just all kinds of awesome…

In this particular episode, Virginia Johnson was assisting a patient with vaginismus…or, the female version of impotency. She was having an inability to be comfortably penetrated, all due to the trauma and shame she incurred around a series of traumatic sexual experiences in her childhood. I won’t go into detail about what happened, but let’s just say that the writing and the acting was incredibly powerful. And in this particular scene, the woman was sharing with Ms. Johnson all of the personal conclusions she had made about herself as a result of this sexual dysfunction. As a man who went through my own series of sexual traumas and abuse in my childhood….needless to say, a button (rather a keyboard) was pressed. And in that moment we handled it…let it move through me…looked at it for what it was, and moved on.

But I got to thinking after about what opened up for me as a result of watching this powerful scene, and reflecting over the years about my feelings on sex.  Yes as a leatherman and kink educator I am very vocal about the importance of maintaining the sexuality in what it is that we do. It’s fun and it can be very powerful. It’s a large component of who we are in leather and kink. But with that, I’ve had a great mythology about what sex ‘means’ to me. And it’s been a meaning that isn’t true I’m discovering.

If you’ve read my post called Wounds, or simply listened to my podcasts, you are familiar with the sexual abuse I experiences as a child. And there are many of us in the kink world that sadly have this experience in their pasts. With proper help and guidance, and a certain amount of courage, one can evolve from the grip that these traumas create. Inevitably, because BDSM and kink play require a large amount of trust and relinquishing control, there are going to be triggers from the past that are going to be scary or disabling in some way. The trick is to identify them. And learn to not let the wounds hurt as much. Personally, I don’t believe they truly go away. In my case, there were three perpetrators over the course of my life from age 8 to 17. And all three of them had something in common.  The first was a caregiver – my father, and as a child I turned to him for protection and love, especially because visiting him was an escape from the physical and emotional abuse from living with my Mom and stepfather. But in order to receive that love and protection, I had to do my part to make him feel ‘fulfilled’. During that time there was also a teenager who lived up the street…and when things were bad at home I could go hang out with him. He had lots of fun projects like forts and things…and yes he was quite a few years older, but he was really the only friend I had and I definitely needed one. He too, abused me sexually. And did some very twisted things. All of these I was willing to put up with, just to get that feeling of security and acceptance by this ‘friend’.  Years later, I went off to boarding school, and had to deal with the isolation of being a freshman. The beginning of the teenage years was awkward for me like it is for many, so I sought the help of the school counselor, who lived on the campus. Sadly, he too molested me frequently. And constantly assured me that all I told him was private and that I could ‘trust’ him. Well, I was hurting so much and wanting so much to be accepted by others…that I allowed him to do these things to me to get his help and guidance. Eventually though, I reported him and he was fired from the school.

I didn’t see it before I watched this Masters of Sex episode. But in all three of these cases, I formed the false belief that I HAD to bring someone else pleasure and sexual gratification in order to receive love, care, security and protection in return. In other words, I created this sexual myth, that SEX leads to SECURITY.

It’s funny how much this statement has permeated my life experience over the years! I can remember when I would first go to leather or kink events, and knowledge of my play abilities would become known and suddenly I would get all  kinds of requests for me to tie people up, or make them a pup, etc. And I would let my ‘dance card’ get packed with these playdates…because subconsciously I believed that this would lead to my being liked, accepted, even loved. And in many of the cases, what would happen is the play would ensue…the orgasm or catharsis would be reached…and then the person would thank me and be off to the next dance! And I would feel incredibly empty and exhausted by the end of the weekend.

I can remember situations in the past where I would be with a boy…or even a Sir….and a play offer would come from another source for them to embark in. And my jealousy would be so strong that I would want to vomit. Even when I was part of a leather family, I can remember moments when I knew my Sir was playing with my leather brother…..and I would feel incredibly scared and sick. And it makes perfect sense….I was believing that my supposed ‘security’ was being lost. And I wouldn’t be cared for or protected.

Sex…especially kinky sex….is awesome. It can drive you absolutely wild with joy, make you have physically convulsive moments so filled with pleasure that you can barely talk afterwards. It’s a very profound act and it’s meant to be fun and enjoyable. But we have to remember…I have to remember…that it is just that. Sex. Call it spiritual, call it love-making, or simply call it and high-endorphin hormonal power exchange. It’s still simply SEX. And we can free ourselves up to enjoy it more and our relationship with it when we make ourselves aware of what SEX ISN’T. If you have equated some powerful words with sexual exchange as I have over the years….you may be hindering your own growth and enjoyment of it. I certainly have.

One thing I never stop embracing is my humble evolution and growth as a kinkster, leatherman, and above all a human being. The path of BDSM is crazy to begin with and I don’t think the insanity ever truly stops. But the rewards that come as a result of opening up your trust to others and your willingness to put your ego aside can lead to some amazing self-discovery. I certainly have realized this in the last 48 hours. Hopefully in my sharing this, I can help some of you with an equally amazing breakthrough.

Thank you for reading 🙂

 

To Err, to Grow

I’m about 3 weeks away from presenting at Beyond Vanilla in Dallas, and among the classes on my roster is one I call, “Damn I F@%KED up!”.  As you can well deduce from the title, it is a workshop/discussion where we examine  in-depth what causes our mistakes, how we react to them, and how we can constructively learn from them.  And alas, every time I prepare for this class, I get confronted by MY many fuck-ups.

The idea for the workshop came to me as I was observing something hypocritical about our leather/kink culture.  Over the years one hears so much language about ‘traditions’ and ‘honor’ of the connections in leather…that we are a brotherhood of trust and respect and we stand by one another in times of good and bad.  When one of our comrades is down, we stand by their side and help build them back up. The connections between Sir and boy are all about GUIDANCE….that in the Sir’s collar the boy will be encouraged to grow and learn.  The Sir will strive to bring out the very best of the boy..and when the boy errs or fails…the discipline given will come from a place of nurturing and love.  And then there’s our titleholders. These are the men and women we choose to be our leaders; to represent us and the community we strive to uphold. The people who step up to the plate to make a difference….to abide by those principles of honor and respect….and evoke change when necessary, so that we are welcoming to our future generations….

….and it all sounds well and good. Until the fuck-ups begin to happen.

And then all these optimistic keywords get replaced by those of judgement and condemnation.

As children we hear all kinds of heartwarming encouragement about not feeling bad about making mistakes; that we should embrace it as a part of growth, and a universally shared trait.  So says Big Bird:

“If you make a mistake while counting one to ten,
Well don’t get mad and don’t be sad;
Just start to count again.
And if you should only get to eight or nine,
I’m still your friend and I still like you fine”

(Please forgive me for citing Sesame Street BTW, but I’ve always found that some of life’s most sage advice comes from Muppets. Plus that song’s been stuck in my head for two days…).

Regarding the Big Bird message…one would like to believe that a child will embrace their own humanity and be self-forgiving in the face of their mistakes.   It’s all part of learning and growing, and we should all LOVE to do that, right?  Until the mistake actually does occur.  THEN we have a whole different story, as I’m sure many of us can painfully remember from our youths. A perfectionist father may scold his son for not being ‘good enough’ to excel at a particular sport and thus never amount to anything.  A teacher may lose their patience with a student who is a little slower to learn arithmetic, and in their frustration put the child down.  And the other kids witnessing the mistake…well, many of us have read Lord of the Flies and can attest to how cruel children can be to each other.  This is their opportunity to feel better, by using the error as a deflection from their own shortcomings.

And many of us treat each other similarly as adults.

So what exactly constitutes a fuck-up?

It can happen in play, such as accidentally nicking someone in the ear with a singletail – unless of course you’re ME, in which case it’s my nicking my own ear repeatedly.  Maybe it’s a social or administrative fuck-up, such as a miscommunication with a sponsor resulting in an upset.  And then there’s countless relationship fuck-ups….and the dramas that go with them.  Basically, a fuck-up occurs when a preferred expectation or outcome  is not met as a result of not having all available data.

Being a leatherman or kinkster involves having to navigate around one’s feelings of personal shame.  Growing up, it wasn’t enough that we felt different or perhaps ashamed for being gay. Our kinky feelings gave us additional reasons that we were different and somehow bad or wrong. Therefore if we want to maintain some degree of thriving in our community, I believe we need to stop using the mistakes of others as an opportunity for judgement.  These simply uphold the messages of shame we learned in our childhood.  A wise statement my mother used to tell me about those kinds of exchanges: “Who are they actually responding to – you? Or their unresolved past?”

Here’s a personal example. Years ago I participated in a weekend leather camping event in Canada with my boy at the time. One of the doms was doing a presentation on scrotal saline inflation…and my boy was going to be the demo bottom. The weather was very hot, and we all spent most of our time either in jocks or naked. When it came time for the demonstration, my boy had not had sufficient fluid intake nor had he eaten anything that morning (something I found out after the fact). When the infusion began, his electrolyte balance was severely off and he became very dizzy. It was suggested that I take the collar off of him as it was slightly restricting. Well, due to the heat and all of us in jocks…the key was NOT on my person…but in the bedroom. I therefore opted to use a pair of safety scissors to remove the collar instead (it was leather). We got some fluids and nutrients in the boy, and he was able to come to. For the remainder of the weekend…EVERY dom present at some point came up to tell me how THEY always keep a spare key and all the precautions they take and how THEY would avoid such a harrowing situation. One even smacked me on the back of the head and said, “What the hell were you thinking??” What was interesting is not ONE person came up to the boy to ask why he hadn’t eaten or hydrated properly before the demo.   After all.. he was MY boy….it’s not their responsibility.   However, I believe a few were using that as an excuse to simply not be involved.  “He’s collared to you. I don’t tell another man’s property what to do. That’s disrespectful”…Hmmmm.. it didn’t stop you  from flirting with him earlier….but I digress.  While each of these gentlemen may have thought they were helping the matter…the reality is they were doing nothing but shaming me. It was as if each of them were using my fuck-up as a means of making themselves feel better. Only one man actually came up to me later and said, “Oh I am so sorry Dart. I have been there myself as a Sir.  It’s so hard when you think you’ve taken every precaution and then BOOM you discover one oversight. And everyone feels the need to point it out to you.  It happens to all of us man…are you okay??”

That was actually the only exchange that weekend that made me feel better.

Have any of you been a titleholder?  How nurturing or forgiving was your community to your efforts during your title year?  Many of you were probably made aware of your downfalls more than your successes…or in the face of great endeavors there was one or two negative people in the community who shot down your hard work.  What’s always interesting to me is at times like this….it’s the people that have spent the least amount of time in your life that suddenly become the greatest ‘experts’ on who you are.

Now, I know it’s important to be vigilant about mistakes in the world of kink. After all, what we do can be dangerous, obviously.  But in being vigilant, I feel we have a responsibility of remembering the most important element of all this –  that we are human beings, and nothing more. Accidents are going to happen….we are going to continue to fuck up. And we’re going to witness others do it as well. And in this, we have opportunity. Instead of condemning the person for their error, we can be that supportive comrade and say, “yes…I have fucked up too. Let me help you. Here’s what I learned.”

These are some tools to assist you in navigating a fuck-up, or helping others do so:

1. Have Courage – a courageous mistake is worth a thousand times more than a fearful compliance.

2. Trust Yourself – in the aftermath of your fuck-up you’ll most likely be inundated with outside judgement. Don’t give in to the social pressuring of shame when it’s undue.

3. Accept – take ownership of the fuck-up..and be clear what is yours, and what is not.

4. Avoid Guilt – this is part of a mythology where we believe we have to openly demonstrate our remorse and regret to everybody. By indulging in heavy guilt, you sacrifice your personal power. The situation cannot be reversed based on the sorrow you express…so tread lightly.

5. Stay in Action – cultivating resiliency is one of the best antidotes to resignation.  Nothing gained from being scared into doing nothing.

6. Laugh at Yourself When Appropriate – because really, a LOT of this is quite funny when you step back and look at what it is we do, and how much we take ourselves seriously

7. Don’t Quit – plain and simple 🙂

I have had innumerable fuck-ups in my time and shall continue to do so. But I love the life I live and what it has brought me…mistakes and all.  One of my favorite quotes that sums up all this for me comes from Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: “It is better to perfectly follow your own path flamed with mistakes, than to follow inperfectly one’s perfect path that is NOT yours.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to cover Big Bird as a Sir…..

Play, Dammit!

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past year being a good listening ear for my friends as they navigate their way in the community. A great majority of them are either producers of contests and events, or titleholders…and sadly, there appears to be an abundance of seriousness and resignation with all of the ‘political’ crap that comes up for them.

Plain and simple, the most important component of my leather life is the PLAY.

It’s not that I don’t care about the politics…it’s just that, I lose my hard-on when they come up.

As my husband and I wind down from the intense whirlwind of the various events we have attended the past few months, and get the suitcases reorganized and sorted for teaching at the next gig, I always get a little childlike glimmer as I look at all the toys we incorporate into our ventures. I look at some of the larger items that he built that exist in our playroom..such as our bondage box..and always say, “think it’ll fit this time??” I always continue to be amused at some of the overtly complicated postings of political disarray on the various leather and kink sites; the ongoing debates of what “traditions” are or should be…the various allusions to feuding among titleholders and Machiavellian individuals they have to contend with in their communities or circles. Then there’s the inflammatory reactions to published works …many of which have titles with the word ‘handbook’ or ‘manual’ in them. And let’s not even delve into the debates
around exclusionary playspaces. Where’s the fun??

Leather and kink, to me, is and always has been very simple, yet so many feel an inherent need to bring complication to it. To me, the core element is the dynamic of PLAY.

Think about it. Your greatest transformation and growth occur when you’re in the domain of playing. Think about that connection you have with someone in the dungeon…the intensity of their gaze, sadistic and evil..yet so incredibly arousing your heart is pounding and your body is weak and your breathing is heavy..the way their hand touches your bound body, letting you know that they have full control of what happens to you…what you FEEL or allowed to feel. Think about the endorphins, the hormones….the adrenaline….your chemistry being altered and surging just by the experience of the afflictions, intense….yet hypnotic. There is no past…no future….only the now…the moment by moment of every exchange of power, of energy..increasing with each lashing, each punch, each drop of wax. You hear the Dom’s voice, their breathing, their laughs of evil….perhaps you feel their mouth or tongue…you register their unique scent , mixing with yours. And most of all…the “you” that has been so familiar all this time…the identity you believed yourself to be…all suddenly changing. Reaching what you proclaim to have been your limitations and yet, the trust you feel is immense, and the power of what is happening is so exhilarating that you give a nod to your captor…and together you go further that you imagined you could do. Maybe you’re the one controlling the scene, feeling the incredible catharsis that is occurring as a result of the parameters you’ve orchestrated. A person or persons have enabled you to create an incredible moment…perhaps several…as a result of your skill, your prowess…and most of all you’re ability to instill trust. You feel a surge happening in the dominance you have over your sub, your prisoner, your pup. The game is
in motion…there is a point of arrival….but the journey is just as amazing. The scene concludes…perhaps with an orgasm or an outburst of tears. The trajectory has been reached … the aftercare ensues. And we reflect on who we’ve become as a result of going there. We are changed. Complete.

Or…perhaps you’d rather talk about fundraising…?

I have always found that my greatest growth happened as a result of what went on in the dungeon. What transpires in there is profound and non-linear. It is there that I have found my deepest bonds with others. It’s the kind that takes you beyond the threshold of standard one-handed masturbation and puts you in the context of bliss. I know when my husband/boy and I play…if he can still form full sentences at the conclusion of the playscene, I’m off my game.

So what are the components of play?

Well, Psychology Today sums up play as having the following characteristics:

-It is self-chosen and self-directed, with no pressure to engage or quit.
-It is conducted for its own sake, not because there is necessarily a ‘goal’ to be reached
-It is carried out in accordance with self-directed, mental rules.
-It is non-literal, imaginative, and marked-off in some way from reality.
-It involves and active, alert, but non-stressed state of mind

Now I understand that this approach may seem a little too simple. You may be reading this thinking “there is SO much more to what leather is about…there’s honor there’s traditions there’s a feeling of brotherhood and families and guidance, community work and charity …”

*Shudder*….I’ve been a titleholder twice….I remember the language I had to put in my speech in order to survive the scoring of the judges.

All that is mentioned above, I accept, and have experienced, and even strive to uphold. I am a presenter and when I educate I make a point to be true to our history for the most part. But, I firmly believe that there is a strong element of sexualized play that lays underneath this that we seem to deny. And I believe we would have a lot less negativity in the culture of leather if we embraced this more. We have new generations expressing an interest in what it is we’re doing and they want to be a part of it. But then they see the cattiness and drama and say, “no thanks”. We have to remember that for most of us, the first thing that had us being our venture into leather was the arousal we felt when we saw it on someone sexy.

If you’re having a negative reaction to what I’m saying, take a little closer look….as PLAY is a wonderful thing. Back in the 80’s I was a Theater Arts major at UCLA – I know, BIG surprise right? – and during my time there I had the pleasure of taking a course in Children’s Theater and Creative Dramatics. I will never forget the day we met our professor, who I had envisioned would be a kind of matronly “Miss MaryAnn” type, who instead turned out to be a very stern-looking Twyla Tharp clone with eyeglasses that made her look like a bee. She walked in, scanned the room, and opened the semester program with a warning: “For those of you who have come here with the immature belief that you are going to have it easy because you are playing to an audience of children, I shall tell that you will be broken here.”  Yikes…John Houseman was kinder in the Paper Chase. “A child is perhaps the toughest critic you will ever face as a performer. And they will let you know it, right then and there…and you will never be given another chance with them.”  Well I can’t say
this was a surprise to me – I knew kids were brutal…I had read Lord of the Flies after all. She continued: “However, what you are about to embark on here is paramount…because theater, and playing in theater or any kind of artistic endeavor, speaks to a child in a way that an authoritative figure cannot. And when done well, you provide a space for the child to grow in infinite ways”.

It was incredibly inspirational. And it dawned on me how true this was.

As children, we would throw ourselves into a world of play with complete commitment, a hundred and ten percent. There was rarely any consideration of where the “moment of arrival” was..the key was being IN it. The “means” were more important than the “ends”. Sandboxes suddenly became fortresses to protect. The sofa cushions would be arranged to create an ornate secret hide-out where we could gather to discuss world espionage. And the intimidating tree in the back yard…normally too high for us to climb…would suddenly become a beanstalk, and we would push ourselves to climb higher with the hopes of reaching the giant’s house. The “space” was sporadic, free- flowing….and perfect for nurturing our development. It would promote creativity,autonomy, and socialization. We became better children as a result of going there. And we always had new found energy to come back for more.

This is what is so wonderful about being kinksters and leatherfolk. We still have access to that domain. We can still engage in those “worlds” where cathartic exchanges occur, and grow as men and women as a result. And we have the added bonuses of hormones, endorphins, developed language, and intellect. Not to mention some degree of street wisdom. I think all too often, we forget this…or neglect the importance of it. Maybe we get caught up in things we believe are so serious…that we lose sight of the very thing that brought
us here initially.

Never underestimate what engaging in play can do for you and others in leather. If you have reached a point where you are feeling a sense of negativity or resignation with your leather journey, I invite to go back to that ‘root’ where it all began for you. Seek out the playmates you trust, schedule those flogging, cutting, or bondage sessions. Get back to that freedom you had to feel the power exchange. And when you are at an event or contest or fundraiser, and you see others suddenly engaging in play…SUPPORT it. It’s vital to who we are.

Remember everybody….this shit is supposed to be FUN!

 

World AIDS Day

I will never forget the day I found out my status.

I had never thought that I would actually contract HIV, given how careful I was.

But not only was I poz…I had full blown AIDS.

I had gone for years not bothering to get tested…I was in a monogamous relationship, and he kept testing negative.

Like an idiot, I took the stance of “I must be too then”.

And as a result of waiting so long, the virus did immense damage to my immune system, and I was on the verge of getting a fatal complication. Getting on meds was paramount.

LIFE GOT BETTER

I will tell you on the World AIDS Day, that getting tested and knowing your status is one of the greatest acts of self-love and respect you can give yourself.  I still beat myself up for allowing my body to get the to the state it did, simply because I was afraid of the test.  Had I known what I know now about how to manage the disease, and live a very full healthy life, I would never have hesitated.

I have stated often, that in a very odd way HIV has been a blessing in my life. It has enabled me to not get so wound up in the superficial issues of life. Yet..it has also shown me that sometimes….the little things ARE the most important.  Things that I took for granted before…I no longer do. And other things…are not worth tolerating.

The greatest gift HIV gave me, was honoring myself.  Living a healthy life with this disease means listening to oneself, taking care of one’s own well-being. And reaching out to others when you need it.

If you are someone who has a fear of HIV…please hear me out: my life has been immensely fulfilled since I got my news. I am healthier now than I was in my thirties. I am incredibly happy in all my endeavors, and have a very rich life. And a few months ago, I married the man of my dreams.  Back in 2006 when I received my scary news, I never thought THIS life was possible.

Well, it is. And I am very grateful to be able to enjoy it.

Please…don’t fear HIV…fear ignorance.

Wounds

Perhaps not the happiest title of a blog entry, but one I feel necessary to speak openly about as a leatherman and a human being.

By ‘wounds’ I’m not referring to the decorative welts or cutting marks that are shown off with pride after a heavy play session with a sadistic top. I’m actually talking about the wounds that we THINK we’re hiding from everyone…but are just as openly displayed. These are the marks of ‘damage’ from our past…our emotional wounds, that we have developed all kinds of interesting and clever mechanisms of concealment and compensation to coincide.

I have always spoken that a chief component of leather for me is the PLAY…for it is in the playroom/dungeon/bedroom where the greatest opportunity for transformation can happen. It is there, where we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, exposed..open ourselves up to trust. It brings our connections to an even deeper level of intimacy; of knowing the other person..knowing yourself. And consequently, it presents more opportunity for the emotional landmines of our past to detonate.

I have frequently referenced  that I have a very emotional past….as many do. As a child I endured years of emotional abuse from my mother and stepfather, and covert incest by my biological father. I was living in a household where I was frequently told that if I wasn’t “perfect”, that things would be taken away from me. My mother frequently told me that I was very stupid and lazy, and that I was quite unwanted in the house. I would then seek refuge with my real father…who instead of nurturing and protecting me, would tell me incessantly that he needed ME to make him feel whole. For years, I felt as though I became by Dad’s new ‘partner’, and that I was responsible for his emotional well-being. In time, it became sexualized. The way my Dad would hold me, the way he’d touch me…compliment me on my body. And then to compensate, he would tell me something I did “made me look like a fag”. And I endured it because I felt it was the only ‘safe’ option from the abuse at home.

When I became a teenager, my mother and stepfather sent me away to a boarding school. Now, I don’t want to say that this was a bad thing, because it really was an amazing experience and I am very grateful that I got the opportunity! And given the downward spiral I was in as a child…this was a chance to finally “get away” and become my own person.  I will say though…that at the time, I felt I was sent there because I was unwanted at home..and that I wasn’t “perfect”. While there, I also had to endure constant phone calls from my real father having crying fits and saying things to me like, “why do you have to be so far away from me? I feel like I can’t live without you. I don’t think I can go on with you being away from me”. I was immensely resentful of the guilt he laid upon me.

During my freshman year at the school, a counselor had reached out to me. The degree of loneliness and turmoil was evident in me…as was the fact that I was also beginning to realize my gay feelings. I felt that I had found a man who I could confide in and trust with my feelings, and it meant a great deal to me that he wanted to help me so much. In fact he would come by my dorm room at night from time to time, just to check in with me and to make sure I was doing alright. Now..obviously as adults it is clear as day what was going on. And yes, eventually this counselor molested me. In the course of our “talks” he had told me that I appeared to be reaching out to him as a young man who desperately wanted to be touched and explored. In other words..make the lonely boy believe it was his own doing. Sadly this is a very common pattern in cases where young boys are molested by authority figures that they put their trust in. I however, needed to understand what was going on. So as a 14-year-old boy, I actually went to the school headmaster and told him everything. I still cannot believe I did it…as I didn’t fully understand the crime that was committed. But a week later when I was brought back in to the office, the headmaster revealed that this had been going on with 12 other boys in a 5 year period, and that action would be taken. It was the first time an authority figure had told me, “it wasn’t your fault”.

This mantra has saved my life.

It wasn’t your fault.

As you can see this is a substantial amount of baggage – let’s call it freight – that can present itself as demons or negative ‘buttons’ that can get pushed from time to time. Many have endured all kinds of abhorrent experiences from their childhood…and these create a kind of filter that life gets perceived through. Often if we have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to something, we are really reacting to the intensity of something in the past. To say that one will stop doing this is impossible…as it’s part of our design. But, we can recognize that this IS what we do…and therein lies the power over it. A therapist used to refer to this as “making friends with the dark”..in other words, recognizing what the emotional defaults will be when a button is pushed, and peacefully accept it as just that.

It’s very important that as we deal with our emotional landmines, we remember that they are OURS to deal with.  Reminding ourselves that “it wasn’t our fault” does not excuse us from how we deal with our reactions. It becomes all too easy to put the responsibility of the upheaval on someone or something outside of ourselves.  By not taking ownership we get the perceived luxury of being the victim. In leather, we have to keep an eye on this…often when we relinquish control to a Sir or dom for instance…we may fall into the trap of also abandoning responsibility for our emotions. And when we play the victim, we leave it up to someone else to fix what is rightfully ours.  Believe me..I have played this game often, especially as a boy, and it never ended favorably for me.

Something else we have to watch out for with wounds, is turning our traumatic history into our identity. We relate to others and ourselves as if what happened to us IS who we are. How many of us..especially gay men…have been in those social situations where we try to “out-saga” each other?? Admittedly, there have been many situations where *I* have attempted to hold my own or garner attention by sharing my traumatic history.  I have seen this often with others and myself when it comes to leather connections. That when we relinquish control to a dominant, we believe we have the luxury of relinquishing ownership of our ‘crap’ as well.  NOT something I’m proud of….but I certainly own it now. I see how it alienated those around me. It starts to become quite silly…what we really should be doing is sharing in order to HELP others.

A Sir told me years ago, that deep emotional wounds don’t really ‘heal’, they just hurt less and less over time. And they have less power over you. I find his approach to be much more realistic other than the overly metaphysical approach of “forgive and let the pain dissolve”. I put in enough of my time volunteering for Louise Hay in the 80’s ..thank you very much. BUT, on those lines, I will say that after 30 plus years of extensive therapy, meditation, and sharing like I’m doing now, I have reached a point where I don’t feel like using up my energy being angry about what happened to me. I think it’s very important to acknowledge what happened, and to look at it objectively…and to embrace the anger, shock, and sorrow around the circumstance. Then, it’s up to each of us how long we want to do that for. Eventually, you may decide, that the anger is repetitive, predictable..and wears down your spirit. It is in that moment you have a great opportunity to no longer be held hostage by your wounds. They may always be there; but you have the liberty to declare that you are going to enjoy the NOW regardless.

My parents are different people now than they were then. My mother has gone through a deep life restructuring of her own, and my father has developed dementia in his old age. Regardless of what happened to me in my childhood, they are still the people I refer to as Mom and Dad, and I simply feel better now honoring them for that fact.  They are not gods, they are human beings.  And as such, they are the product of how they were raised.  Knowing what I know now…they were simply doing the best they could do with how their parents treated them.  I am never going to get any sort of “answers” or apologies…any kind of acknowledging statements of closure that is going to magically make the pain of my past disappear. I don’t NEED to. I am at a point in my life, where I am very present to the blessings I have every day. My health is excellent, I have incredible friends and connections, and I am married to the most amazing man the Universe could ever present to me. I can’t focus on the immense joy if I am using up my energy being angry about something that happened decades ago. Is that to say that these wounds don’t rear their ugly selves from time to time? Of course they do. And they always will I’m sure. But now, I have a good working relationship with them.

Thank  you for indulging me. I hope my sharing this will help you.

 

 

Transition

Perhaps a better title to this posting would be ‘evolution’…simply because that is what we do as human beings in everything we do.  I like it as a word too because there is an element of optimal change and growth associated with it. In life it becomes all too easy to look at the transitions we go through and see them as ‘failures’….resulting in beating ourselves up…not once stopping to consider that something far greater is about to unfold.

And wonderful things HAVE unfolded from the transitions of my leather life recently..hence the revamping of my site.

The first transition was my departure from the city of Toronto…and my involvement in the community there. It was an incredible 7 years that I lived in TO, and I owe a great deal of my growth and maturing to the leatherfolk there. But ultimately, the city was not my home, and I reached a point where it was time to move back to the US and feel a sense of grounding.  I have no regrets for the time spent in Canada, and I am grateful for the lifelong friends I have there.  But as an American, I needed to be back to what I knew.

I am also no longer a collared boy.  Many of you are familiar with my podcast with Sir Machias, where I shared openly about my need to “balance” by engaging in subspace with the man responsible for getting me there. We had an incredible connection and some pretty amazing play. And eventually, we realized our paths were going in different directions. It was a tough transition for both of us and certainly very painful. But ultimately, he had to release me. I learned a tremendous amount from my time with him, and I still wear his permanent marking with great pride.

I later wore the collar of a gentleman named WhipMaster Bob for a year. He is someone I have known from teaching at various events all over the US and Canada, and I embraced the opportunity to wear his collar and grow even further. WMB is someone who among other things, fulfills a kind of paternal role for me…something that I have yearned for in my development. I also needed the “marine” disciplinary approach he has with life. This too came to an end recently…though the reason is not a negative one….

Just when I had decided that a relationship was not something I needed or wanted…when I firmly believed that I was simply going to be a single leatherman with my boys that would come over and play on the weekend…HE came along. And in a nuclear way.  I never thought that I would be able to find a partner that had all the kinky qualities I enjoy, but also loves and embraces who I am under all the “Dart Inc” and holds me in the highest regard. But,I found such a man.  His name is Bart (yes I know…Dart n Bart…we can’t make this stuff up!)..and not only is he my collared boy…on Sept 1 he also became my husband. It has been an incredible ride, and I am ever thankful to the Universe that they put him in my life. WhipMaster Bob and I had decided it was time for me to concentrate on simply being a couple…and I have never been happier 🙂

So here’s to change and evolution..and the launch of the new site!

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Jump

About 15 years ago, I participated in an ultimate thrill seeking rush. A group of friends asked me to join them in the Mojave Desert…to go skydiving. To this day I still consider it to be one of the most intense endorphin rushes I have ever experienced, far more than anything I’ve done in a playroom. I can still recall the huge “whoosh” of hot dry air rushing in with the deafening whir of the propellers of our DeHavilland Twin Otter as the door of the fuselage was raised, and the pit in my stomach as my turn was called. I can relive the look of the “Divemaster”, tethering my static line to the cleat, and instructing me to take my launch position in the doorway as my friends cheered on. Even typing this, my heart rate increases a bit and my palms get sweaty.  This was to be a monumental day for me.

You see, I am actually afraid of heights.

I mean, I’m DEATHLY afraid of heights.

I have a very difficult time being in a skyscraper or on the edge of a bridge looking at the ground below. The idea that I might possibly fall causes an immense terror for me. I even have a difficult time watching movies with scenes of rock climbing or cliff dwelling because of this phobia.

So why the skydiving then?

Well, I considered it a kind of experiment.  It was a chance to have a major insight about my fear, and engage in life regardless of it.

I wanted to see if I could experience jumping out of an airplane despite my fear of heights.  There was this inaccurate way of thinking that this fear of mine could somehow be “cured” by going on this quest. Perhaps they were two separate entities. Perhaps, it was something I was always going to have…but could take action anyway.

In that moment when I was getting in the doorway of the Twin Otter – and I will tell you, there is something very clarifying when you are dangling your feet outside an airplane that is several thousand feet in the air – the Divemaster saw that I was shaking, and that there was teary glassiness in my eyes. He knew how big this was for me. With a very kind, very fatherly grin he looked at me and said, “You don’t have to do this if you’re not ready”. And it was never clearer to me in that moment. Yes he was right. I could choose not to do any of this. I could choose to be scared, and let my fear control me. I could pass on my turn, take my seat again, and land with the plane, and my life would look just as it did before I ventured out on this great challenge. All would be fine. All would be recognizable. But …that’s not who I wanted to be. I wanted to know what skydiving was like…because it was supposed to be fun! I took a deep breath, looked at the Divemaster and said, “Let’s do it!” His eyes lit up, and with a huge smile he yelled “JUMP!” With great aplomb I pushed away from the plane…the air howling around my body…the image of the plane disappearing from my line of vision. The actual free fall was only 6 seconds….that’s what we’re told at least. In that moment I had no concept of actual time. But when the chute popped open – a sensation as intense as my first orgasm  – and I suddenly was able to see the amazing panorama of the Mohave as I glided down, I felt exhilaration. I had done it. I had acknowledged what I was afraid of, but I jumped anyway. And I had almost missed this amazing life experience. Later that day, I went a second time!

This brings me to present day, and a pivotal time in my leather journey, where I am now having clarity on another one of my most debilitating fears.

My biggest fear in life is a fear of abandonment.

Without going into maudlin detail, as I believe we all have a saga of some sort and sometimes as gay men we have a horrible tendency to try to “out-trauma” each other …but, I was an abused child.  In a nutshell, starting at the age of eight, I was mentally and physically abused by my stepfather, while at the same time being sexually abused by a neighbor.  It went on for years. All at a time with a mother that chose to not protect me.  Many of the things my stepfather did to me were outright devastating, and done all under the guise of “trying to make me a better child”.  Perhaps one of the most debilitating things he did was as a result of my “mouthing off” to him one day as I was standing up to the way he was treating me.  He later retaliated by having my dog put to sleep and told me that “if I fuck up again like that, more things will be taken away.”  Years later, I was sent away to a boarding school while my stepfather moved his son into my room.  A transition that became permanent. You can imagine the lifelong scar this has left.  Human beings can be cruel…and this is a reality.
Although I feel I have done extensive work in my life on this traumatic event and made tremendous growth over the years, I am now at a point where I am seeing much more clearly just how much this terror has been running me, and the choices I make.  I spoke of the scorpion in a previous blog post. I would like to stop stinging.

Herein lays the insight.

In my leather journey as a presenter, Sir, and collared boy, many of my reactions have been based on that past, as if it was happening again. When I do that, I am left with the pain of what happened then, and blind to what is actually happening NOW.

I have projected this problem onto others. I have tried to make others to believe that my fears were their responsibility. But as a dear friend told me recently, “this is my shit to own”.  No matter how much assurance I may receive, no matter how much I may be told all is “safe”, this demon will make me think contrary …as long as I allow it to.

Leather relationships enable us to take a deeper journey into ourselves, and in turn connect with those around us. Through the bonds of communication and honor, we have the opportunity to attain greater senses of self. And to do that, we sometimes have to face our greatest fears, and to simply trust. All the groundwork can be laid, all the concerns and all the hopes can be put on the table. A common goal can be reached. But in the final hour, we are the ones who have to choose for ourselves.

This fear will always be a part of me. It’s been inherent to my design, my being, and has shaped the man I have developed into. Many of my qualities as a leatherman have grown out of having survived the trauma of my past. There is an overused mantra of “just let go of your fears”. But this is not reality-based. There will always be triggers and pain to contend with. But, just like my fear of heights…the key is to learn to make amends with it, to peacefully co-exist with it, and eventually allow myself to engage in the present without being controlled by the darkness of the past.

I don’t know how to do this. But I know that I want to do it.

I am now back in the doorway of that airplane again, ready to jump. It is what I choose. I want to trust, because at the end of the day it simply feels better than not to. I don’t know what this looks like…but I am ready to jump. And this time, there is no parachute.

This time, I have wings.