Choose and Cherish

I know how the majority of us feel about this holiday and if you’re like me, I despise it. The amount of insanity and chaos I see just in the people travelling and purchasing and cooking all for an audience that they don’t really care to be with and don’t get any kind of gratification from is very sad, really. But the one thing that most kinksters and leatherfolk like us embrace around this time is the company of who we choose to be with and call ‘family’, in whatever capacity that may be. Most of us are already given the label of ‘black sheep’ by our biological families, and then on top of it we have lives and connections and play that sets us apart even moreso. But we are blessed in that we can choose to spend our holiday with those that we are loved and accepted by, or simply enjoy the company of, and call them family.

I haven’t spent the holidays with my bio family in over a decade. I don’t ‘hate’ who they are, it’s just that the majority of the interaction when I am with them is in the form of put-downs and ridicule. My mother stopped including herself in the gatherings for the same reason and used to tell me, “only surround yourself with people that fan the flame of your spirit.” Yes it’s a trippy saying but I love it and it holds true. So more times than not I am either with the company of friends or leather family, or I chose to work. And I see to it that I feel the blessing of whatever connection I chose.

With these holidays, or really any day for that matter, please keep something in mind when it comes to ‘chosen family’. This is a term that is thrown around in leather a great deal and unfortunately there are some that forget one important aspect of it – the emotional responsibility that comes with it. In other words, if someone has chosen you to be family to them, it is up to you to cherish that they did so. This person has informed you that you are special and important to them. They enjoy your company and feel lit up when they are with you. You provide something for them that makes their life a little better and a little happier for whatever reason. The only reason you have connected is because you chose to do so, so don’t shit on it. Don’t take it for granted, don’t treat it as an emotional dumping grounds, and don’t be one-sided. Honor the sharing you have and nurture it. Remember, you can always be un-chosen as well.

With whatever connections you make this holiday, please take the time to cherish the person you chose to connect with and vice versa; whether it’s extended leather family or a co-worker stuck at work with you, or even the neighbor you don’t really know but they took 10 minutes to stop by your house to deliver a nasty homemade fruitcake that you’re not going to touch. The bottom line is, someone took the time to let you know that you are important to them for whatever reason, and we need to do a lot more of that to counteract the cruelty this holiday brings.

To all the people I consider ‘family’ in one form or another, thank you. I love you immensely and you all fan the flame of MY spirit  🙂

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Now, back to work, and enjoying the awesome company of this really fun flight crew….

 

The Ridiculous Lexicon

I understand we have an obsession for labels.

You point to your shoes and say the word “Prada” and some people simply treat you differently. You tell people the area code of where you live, and you might get a reaction of “oooooh!” or just the opposite. Even when I take out a set of locking fistmitts the person may joyfully react with, “Mr.S?”, and I’ll nod proudly. We have assigned a perceived importance of labels to instigate how we shall continue our interaction. It’s as though they are touchstones to how things will proceed.

Sometimes we appear to have to do this in leather and kink, and frankly the words have gotten out of control.

Someone will ask you, “how do you identify?” Okay, I understand if you respond with ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ or ‘gay’ or ‘bi’ or whatever. Maybe you need to say something like “I’m more old guard” or “I’m a pain pig” to appear more enticing. Great! Ultimately we just want to know if a connection of some kind is going to be possible or if there might be chemistry. So, these words can indicate if it’s a go or not. Maybe you’re a submissive who is seeing being collared to a dominant, and what they are looking for is someone who sees themselves as a ‘slave’, where you might be more ‘pup’. Okay, both parties know to keep looking. Words like this can be useful to economize finding what you are looking for.

But I remember being at a large event where I heard all kinds of crazy labels that really told me nothing:

“I am biologically male and my inner prowess identifies as a feminized boy, but as a power switch I lean more toward an internalized she-wolf and so I take on a woman’s name when I Dom. I’m a service-oriented pain servant as well with pup-like tendencies and lean more toward being someone else’s beta when I do so. How about you?”

Pause.

I shrugged and simply said, “I’m Dart.”

I was blown away. I had NO idea what any of these words really meant or what I was supposed to do with this information that was provided. Does this mean we won’t play? Are you even interested? Is there something I’m supposed to do when it comes to our interaction based on these terms…?

I understand that I am being judgmental here, and it deserves some grace.  Truth be told the fact is that these labels provided some means of identity for this person. It was as though taking them on gave them permission to express themselves they way they wanted to. So, it’s not completely fair for me to not understand them because obviously they are they to enable the other person to be who they want to be. But ultimately, an overuse of the English language isn’t going to add to the power exchange we’re hoping to have. When you get deep into it, the words are just ‘noise’.

Sometimes the use of a label on someone can be a hindrance, because it doesn’t illustrate the totality of the person. I have a dear friend at work who survived a bout with breast cancer, and she absolutely detests being called a “cancer survivor”.  Her reasons are simple – she doesn’t want to be called a survivor, she wants to be seen as a person who survived. Subtle difference, but one gives her an identity all around the breast cancer, the other treats her as a whole person who happened to have breast cancer at one time. It’s something she had, but it isn’t who she is. “If people interact with me based solely on what I went through with the cancer, they are missing out on all the really awesome things about me!’ she says. I absolutely adore her by the way and I find this approach to be very inspiring. It has made me wonder how I am missing out on the labels that I have taken on.

Personally, I think we need to back off on all of these BDSM/kink labels for they have reached a ridiculous level of jargon. A connection is a connection and ultimately the dynamics reach a level that cannot be understood on a linear level.  If we need these words as a way “directing our spirit” I can certainly understand that, however we want the focus of others to be on US, not the labels.

Next time you’re at an event and someone asks how you identify, try saying “I’m ME”.

For many of you the connection that follows will be utterly amazing 🙂

 

Our vulnerabilities, our filters

I always love when people tell me that communication is the key to relationships, especially when the advice comes from someone who is not in one and doesn’t have a good track record with them. While the advice is certainly true, the art of exchanging words and genuinely being heard and understood is not an easy one. No doubt I have my challenges in trying to master it myself.

We all like to think that we are stronger and wiser as a result of our past, and in many ways we are. We try things, we fall down, we make mistakes, learn, get back up and proceed again or take a different approach – it’s life. We figure out what didn’t work previously so we don’t let it repeat itself. We take something negative and turn it into a useful tool for the future. However, when it comes to communication and expressing yourself to someone, or being on the receiving end of it, the past can be a hindrance.

In life we have all kinds of experiences that make us draw conclusions and form ‘filters’ that we perceive things through. I will give you an example of this with something I deal with at work (I’m a flight attendant for those who do not know). It is said that one of the most challenging domestic routes a crewmember can work is New York to Miami. I don’t really know how to describe it except that it’s just a LOT. It’s always a very busy flight, very full, and there’s a lot of – passion shall we say. And it’s not necessarily always full of nasty people; I have often said that even when the flight is perfect and all the passengers are happy it STILL wears you out. It’s just a very aggressive ‘people experience’. Well, all of what I have described is now a filter that I perceive the NY-Miami flight through. It’s just subconsciously in place and other flight attendants have said the same thing so there is agreement. So now if I have a particularly demure, calm and pleasant customer on that flight – yet I have this filter in place, there’s going to be limitations to how we communicate.  They may ask for something as kindly as possible, and I’m still going to be defensively thinking, “okay what’s the catch? What are they really trying to get out of me?” It’s not necessarily the truth, it just my perception that makes it seem like it is.

The same can be said with D/s relationships – or any relationship really. You have the experience of one person, and it may not go well or there may be negative things that occur in the connection. Consciously or unconsciously, that becomes part of your filter that you experience the next person through. And the next. And the next. And suddenly you’re not truly experiencing the person you’re with, you’re busy reconciling all the inner dialogues created by the previous connections. As are they! All parties involved are attempting to communicate with one another based on the past, and not being truly present to one another. We are trying so hard to avoid a previous experience that we are living in the future created solely from the past. AND WE ARE NOT IN THE MOMENT.

Here’s the really tough part. In order to be authentic and speak truthfully, we have to risk vulnerability, and that’s terrifying. As kinky Sirs and boys and slaves and pups we have what we believe to be a built-in means of protection in that we are ascribing to being archetypes. In other words, if we look like a menacing mean Sir nobody has to know that we’re really terrified and needy underneath. Nobody has to see any of my imperfections or flaws as long as my biceps look good. You may laugh, but I will tell you that at any given moment at MAL there is a gay man in his hotel room doing last minute pushups because he’s about to enter the lobby. It’s what we think we have to do to survive. But alas, that exterior only goes so far. Sooner or later if there is to be a connection and one based on trust, we have to lower that guard and risk being real. We have to expose all those things that we believe the other person won’t like about us, because somebody previously said they were a problem.

There is a young man in our life that if I may speak bluntly, Bart and I have lusted after for quite some time. Very recently, he has expressed that he is interested in serving us both as our boy. Personally I am WAY excited about exploring this, but in chatting with him I am also very aware of just how much our barriers and filters have gotten in the way of feeling an intense connection previously. From a personal standpoint, I always had this filter of not being good enough or sexy enough that this boy would even be interested. Previous flirtatious exchanges were met with a certain reservation, and I drew the conclusion that he was looking for something in a completely different ‘league’ that was not us. However, in chatting with him recently we have found out that just the opposite was true, and that what we perceived as hesitation or disinterest was actually his being overly protective of himself and trying not to appear ‘needy’. We said, “you don’t appear needy at all boy! In fact we’d rather see how you really feel!” He explained however that previous relationships had told him that the way he was coming across was unattractive, so he was trying hard to not be that way in talking with us. Thus we had an exchange that had been stilted for a long time because both of us were communicating from untrue belief systems. And because we’re TWO Sirs that would be taking him on, we also have to contend with Bart’s filters and the inner dialogues that he’s contending with.

Being a Sir or being a collared boy can be an invigorating and rewarding experience, but also very challenging. We create these enticing yet protective exteriors to get the attention of others, and then an opportunity for relatedness opens up and we have to risk being real in order to establish trust. For a finite evening of play or sex the exterior serves its purpose, but for genuine nurturing relationships where there is to be love and growth and protection, eventually that facade has to be dropped and the human side revealed. The side that is imperfect, scared, insecure, and quirky.

Essentially, it’s the side of us that truly is perfect!

I think my husband probably had the best communication approach when he proposed to me four years ago. He asked me to marry him via text.

“Text? Really?” I said.

He responded, “Yes. This way you can keep reading it over and over and know that it’s true!”

Okay. Gotta admit he’s good.

I might also add that later that day when I came home, he got down on bended knee to solidify the communication 🙂

Kink Alchemy

Back when I lived in Toronto I was in a relationship with a man who deemed himself a FOODIE. For those of you unfamiliar with this label, it’s more or less a person who has become a connoisseur of food to the point of ‘fetishizing’ the flavors and the way they interact with one another. These are people that have taken the act of savoring taste and texture of food to a heightened degree, and relish the ways the flavors come together to create a whole new experience on the palate. It’s not uncommon for wine to play a vital role in said exchange, and for some of us, it’s a required component. Indeed I used to marvel at some of the unique culinary combinations my ex would present for me; things that I would never imagine would complement each other in the way they did. Perhaps the most unique experience I had was the evening he served me a homemade french vanilla ice cream, topped with what appeared to be a very satiny dark chocolate syrup. In actuality, it was a reduction of balsamic vinegar, and before you all grimace, I must tell you that it was absolutely amazing! Certainly, it was nothing I would ever expect but was enough to give me a greater appreciation of mere mastication, and even risk adopting the ‘foodie’ identity for myself – at least without taking on the pretentiousness that can sometimes be found in this dining sub-culture – I do remember being at a party of gourmet event planners who were all engaged in a heated discussion about fleur-de-sel.

*insert eye roll*.

What foodies experience in the culinary realm is the exact same dynamic we kinksters experience in the playroom during a power exchange. (At least a really GOOD power exchange). It’s two or more individuals housing a particular energy and intention….along with a healthy dose of hormones, endorphins, and creativity…coming together and creating what is hopefully a mind-blowing nuclear reaction. A reaction that causes all parties involved to go beyond limits and perceptions – a reaction that alters all players for the better. (Or at least enough to make their toes curl and their heads spin). In other words, it’s chemistry.

One thing I absolutely LOVE about BDSM PLAY is that so much of it is not meant to be understood in words. It’s something that is experiential, not linear. You can try to explain the components of a power exchange and kinky intimacy with as much intellect as you can muster, but ultimately one doesn’t truly ‘know’ until they have experienced it for themselves. And chemistry is the backbone to this experience.

So what constitutes this cathartic reaction between players? Well for one, there’s the obvious – which would be a sexual attraction. And before you all jump on me I’m not saying that play always has to have a sexualized component present to be cathartic. Sometimes it has nothing to do with sexual arousal as we all know. But, I am always leery of players who fall into the belief that their skill or expensive toys are enough to bring me into the playscene with them. Years ago I remember being ‘shamed’ for turning down an invitation from a rope top that I simply had no attraction to. He scolded me, saying “Well the truth is, it’s what’s being DONE to you that matters…not whether you think the Dom is pretty or not.” Clearly the gentleman did not take rejection well. But I was young and it left me confused about power dynamics for quite some time. To me it has always been a combination of the two; it is simply part of the human design that we will naturally give ourselves into a stronger connection if there is an element of arousal present. You see this everywhere. Perhaps that makes me superficial but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t just randomly offer play for the sake of the experience to the other. I want to FEEL something with the person I’m tying up. Otherwise, as my friend Midori puts it, it makes you feel like a ‘public utility’.

Sometimes the connection is based on an attraction that is NOT easy to explain in words. Maybe the playmate(s) are not of the archetype that would tend to sexually draw you in, yet they possess a quality or trait that still presents something appealing. Many of us can attest to those times when we’ve felt drawn to play with someone and said, “There’s just something about them or who they are that I’m drawn to.” One of the most honorable things I experience is when a Dominant asks to explore a submissive headspace with me. They may feel that I’m simply a safe place to be vulnerable with – or perhaps I present something that speaks a lack of judgment for going there with me. Whatever the case, we both emerge with a greater understanding of ourselves and each other.  And trust is heightened. It could also be that most of them are bigger than me and could easily whoop my ass. One of my classic directives is, “I am Sir Dart. Now put me down, boy.”

I recently conversed with a young man and his Dom about expanding their experience level together. The boy shared his remorse of rope demos and videos he had participated in that felt very ’empty’. His story reminded me of the first bondage party in California I was ever invited to, way back when I was a more inexperienced Dom. Although it was a pansexual gathering, I was assured there would be plenty of male rope enthusiasts present who would love to submit to my binds. Off I went dressed like a member of the Village People with my packed bag of cotton clothesline from Home Depot, duct tape, handcuffs and a couple of bandannas. What can I say, it was early on in my experience level! I was greeted at the door by a gentleman clad in what appeared to be a cotton kimono from Pier 1 Imports, and was instructed to bow before entering the space. “There will be some very traditional Japanese bondage here this evening.” I arrived to the space to the sounds of a unique and ethereal musical piece I had never heard before…and was very captivated by its carnal tone. I asked the host what it was, and after a very judgmental scan of my attire (everyone was wearing kimonos and kilts….I was in chaps and a wifebeater) he arrogantly told me, “well it’s an import, and you probably won’t ever be able to get it here in the US. But it’s a new band called Enigma. Very rare.” I then decided to peruse the unique space, and was drawn to a large display of ropework activity happening in the largest room in the space.  There was a gaggle of spectators all mesmerized gazing at several women trussed up in what appeared to be extensive macramé and hovering above the ground with lifeless expressions on their faces. One of the voyeurs turned to me and whispered, “They have such poise in their stillness, don’t they?” I had no response so I merely nodded. It was very beautiful and impressive. It was also incredibly BORING. The only connection the dominants appeared to have was with showing off to the room. The subs were equally disengaged.  I actually spoke with one of the women afterwards and she stated, “when I feel his rope on me, it’s like I go somewhere else…I completely leave my being and all thoughts and concerns and I just go away from everything for a while.”  She reminded me of what I refer to in my classes as a “lima bean bottom”. Cooked lima beans are unique in that they will soak up however much butter you put on them and still be completely dry on the inside. There are subs out there that do the same thing with the energy you exude as a Dom….and it robs of the connection. So what I had witnessed were pairs of people that were never relating to each other to begin with. This was NOT chemistry…it was a display of ego.

Chemistry does not exist in the toys themselves, or in the extensive knowledge you may have of its use. A skein of rope or a thousand dollar handcrafted bullwhip are merely inanimate objects until we infuse them with our character, our spirit. When I teach a rope class I try to convey to the tops that if you are in the ‘zone’ with your sub, they are not going to care in the slightest WHAT kind of knot you’re using or how pretty it is. Chemistry is generated when you the toys and your afflictions become an extension of what you want to say to the sub…and in turn if they are connected to you they will return the energy with a loud moan or delightful squeal inviting more.  The connection is with the people; the toys are simply the conduit.

Sometimes chemistry has to be reignited or reinvented in the moment, because an unreasonable expectation was projected onto the other person or the play itself. Or sometimes the players are too ‘familiar’ with each others’ dynamic and they are falling into a routine. The other day my husband and I were about to engage in a bondage scene that I was very excited about, as I hadn’t played freestyle with rope in quite some time.  Shortly before the scene began, I was suddenly pulled into a phone conversation with my mother. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this…but needless to say I was not in the same aroused state of mind at the end of the call. Yet, I went forward with the scene, thinking that somehow my ‘edge’ would be there once I started handling the rope. Instead my mind was completely stuck on my mother’s bridge game anecdote and her latest conspiracy theories. And no matter how much I drew and cinched and tied, I couldn’t focus. Gently my husband said to me, “I see you attempting to play with the rope, but what I would like is for you to play with ME.” It was a gentle and kind indicator to step back…clear my mind with a quick chat…and go back in fresh. And then the play was wonderful!

As you all continue in your various experiences of leather and BDSM, never lose sight of the amazing catharsis that occurs in the dynamic of chemistry. Never forget that there are always connections to be had in play and relationships that ignite amazing shifts for one another. There are always new exchanges to be had – some of which are as unexpected as vanilla ice cream with balsamic vinegar. And of your existing connections, there are always new horizons to open up as your relationships grow and evolve together. Never stop discovering, never stop learning.  And above all, never stop playing! 🙂

 

 

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 🙂

 

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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Protection

I am at a point in my leather journey (good lord that’s an opener that is so incredibly overused – but I digress) where I have come to realize something very simple and basic…yet something incredibly easy to forget.  And that is that in leather, and in life, love equals protection…and it’s something we all want.  Whether it’s love expressed in the course of friendship or courtship, in mentorship or even play….what ultimately leads us into that place of trust and fulfillment, where we see possibilities in ourselves that we hadn’t seen before, and hand over all our fears and inhibitions to allow ourselves to grow….is that unspoken element where no matter what, we’re on somebody’s watch.  And we know it, we FEEL it in our core.

It’s sounds elementary…naturally we’re looking out for the person we care for, right?  Isn’t that an inane part of being a human being?  Certainly.  And as leather folk this is the kind of “tribal languaging” that is driven into our souls from the moment we step foot in our first play party.   But how often do we get caught up in all the things that “cloud” that ability to provide and nurture?   …our being burned somehow in our past, or our need to be competitive, or be territorial.  How many of us claim to be a friend or confidant to one another, when in fact we’re actually exercising an agenda at the other person’s expense?  Perhaps we don’t feel secure in ourselves and our connections, and our only recourse is to sabotage others.  It may not make us feel good, but it at least enables us to not feel “conquered”.  We may not even be conscious that we’re doing it…often the most destructive individuals are those that are engulfed by their own cowardice.  Let’s face it…we all have fear in this journey…and sometimes we even allow others to see just how scared we are.  Ultimately though, don’t we all want to simply feel protected?

As a leatherman, I have had the privilege and honor of being approached by members of the community who identify as Dominants, who for one reason or another have felt safe in exploring subspace with me.  In the course of our exchanges, something occurs where the person for one reason or another feels that they can trust the space with me, they can freely step into it and see what it’s about, be vulnerable…and then see how they feel after venturing there.  My own boy, Scott Bryen of Edmonton, was a prime example of this. Having been solely a Sir and Daddy for many years it wasn’t until recently he opted to embrace his submissive side.  I certainly don’t share this to “toot my own horn”…anyone who knows me well enough knows I’m humble enough lol…but, it did lead me to thinking about what was happening.  And why.  And in asking several of these men why they suddenly wanted to try being a pup to me or allowing me to rope up their bodies….there was a common component.  And that was that no matter how intense or even sadistic the play had become, they would always feel that they were somehow “special” to me in that moment.  That from the beginning to the climax, and through the aftercare…they were always going to be taken care of.

Every time I am made aware of this, I feel incredibly honored that this person gives me their trust.  I feel that alone is a kind of victory that must be cherished.  But it also leads me to think, “isn’t this simply our job as leather folk?”  I’ll readily admit that there is something incredibly seductive about being looked after by a caring eye.  Yes we all want intense power exchanges…sometimes with immense raging endorphins and a kind of abandon where an amazing catharsis of emotions and energy occurs between the players.  When you experience it it’s like a powerful drug that at times changes who you are and creates a bond that is almost spiritual.  But ultimately what is it that makes all that possible?  It’s the protective love we provide for one another.

I recently went through some emotional challenges in my relationship with MY Sir on the very subject.  Yes, I have a Sir of my own that many do not know of.  Our relationship is stealth to many, but I have an emotional and spiritual connection to him that has profoundly changed my life permanently, and I am a better Sir and leatherman as a result of it.  While you may never see him with me, you will see his mark on my back for the rest of my life.  A few months ago, he explored the possibility of adding another member to the family.  It was a person that for various reasons I was not on board with.  And to put it mildly, I became a vicious scorpion and stung everything in sight out of rage.  While I am not proud of my behavior…what was at the core of the issue was not this particular person, but rather my own fears of not feeling SAFE.  There was suddenly the possibility of another presence in our family that I equated with losing what I had kept sacred with Sir.  Were those fears real?  Most of them were not.  They were simply ghosts of my history rearing their ugly heads.  But the threat felt valid, and the damage I tried to cause was certainly very real.

Ultimately things didn’t work for the family prospect..and everything worked out on its own, happily without my terrorizing :). But it made me suddenly aware of something that we see constantly in our community.  Who else do we know or observe that exhibits that kind of “destructive scorpion tail” behavior?  I know each of you has names of your own as I have mine…that’s not what’s important so much as…why might they be terrorizing or sabotaging?  Have we ever stopped and asked, “what exactly is that person threatened by?”  Yes the easiest course of action is to simply write someone off as an asshole or bitch or a poser or drama queen.  And we’re all about making life as easy and enjoyable as possible in a journey that has enough challenges.  But, what would it actually take to stop and think, “perhaps they lost their security somewhere too”.    Sometimes simply taking that frame of mind gives you just the right amount of compassion, and ultimately, forgiveness.  It’s not to say that suddenly you’re bringing that hurtful person into your boundaries…but if anything, you can peacefully let them just “be”.  It’s a challenge I constantly have to remind myself of.  But I like rising to the task.

We’ve all had our times of wanting to just throw in the towel and abandon our journey in leather, and what comes up in our relationships in our path.  Many times we may even feel abandoned, or lost.  And yet, the reminder of what inspired our connections to begin with, that driving force…it’s our love for one another.

And when you feel that protective love, be it from a friend, lover, brother, boy or Sir, they become something else….your HOME.  And vice versa.

Play hard everybody 🙂