Words, Concepts, Questions, Closing

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Here are some words, concepts, and questions to look at when exploring Sexuality/BDSM/Kink…  While they don’t all pertain to everyone’s situation, they’re themes I’ve found useful to have roaming around in my evolving understanding of the world while I’ve explored various sexual, non-sexual, kink, and kink-related communities.

Gender:  This is a concept.  One’s personal exploration of gender takes on many ideas, politics, and realities and will manifest very differently for different people depending on what they find.  Gender sometimes changes throughout a person’s life, perhaps even multiple times, and even daily.  Gender is the concept named by how one feels they are as a human being and what they know themselves to embody regardless of their biological sex (note: there are more than two scientifically identifiable biological sexes based on DNA/chromosomal variations, genital appearance and functioning, and active hormonal levels…  I suppose this aside should have been it’s own section entitled:  Sex).  Knowing and respecting the difference between gender related identities will help you actively respect the people you are meeting in any scene.  There are a lot of them out there to distinguish between:  gender performers (such as Drag Kings/Queens or Bio Kings/Queens, Gender Artists…), transsexual, transvestite, gender-interesting, genderqeer, genderfluid, tomboy, MTF, FTM, cisgender, boi, butch, femme, femme-daddy, fairy, …  the list is literally as exhaustible as the number of people defining their gender for themselves and those they wish to share their findings with.  Do you know anyone who thinks about, plays with, or identifies as a particular gender in ways you find surprising?  If you haven’t questioned your own gender, are you interested in thinking about it and possibly trying on words to describe yourself in new ways?  What does it mean if someone you are attracted to, have sex with, play with, or are in a relationship with identifies as a gender you are not usually attracted to?  Is it possible to respect someone’s gender and feel it does not threaten your own in more complicated circumstances?

Pronouns:  Pronouns are used throughout the world of sexuality, kink, and in life every day in numerous different ways.  When you respect a person’s (or a pet’s/animal’s) wishes about how to be referred to or addressed you will get waaaaaaaayyyyyy further with that person than if you decide to discard their wishes and use words you think are right or are more comfortable thinking about and saying outloud.  It is ok to have a hard time, get tripped up, and make mistakes while using words and pronouns you are not used to using.  It is hard to change pronouns for someone you’re used to referring to in other ways, but it’s important to acknowledge that someone’s gender and pronouns are not about you, they are about the people defining gender for themselves.  If you are deemed safe enough to be invited into a discussion about someone’s gender and preferences, you are probably an important person to them, and they probably care and are impacted by your decision to respect or discard their preference.  That person is telling you they want to be loved in a particular way – by being respected within your address of them.  Some popular words you may hear as gender preference and/or within kink identity are: he/his, she/her, they/them, hir/ze, it/it’s (perhaps during objectification play or referring to a slave in a Master/slave relationship)…  Are there pronouns I’ve glaringly missed?  Do you have a pronoun you like or would like to be referred to that is not the one usually assigned to you?  Do you feel comfortable asking someone about their pronoun preference when you meet them?  Are you comfortable asking what someone’s current gender and/or pronoun preferences are when you’ve known them for awhile?

Orientation:  This is how we describe ourselves based on what we generally find attractive or want to be associated with the idea of sexually and in our relationships.  Some commonly referred to orientations are:  gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, a-sexual, polyamorous, queer, omnisexual, pansexual, mongamous, monogamish, kinky, master, slave, dominant, bottom, submissive, top, pet, hetero-flexible or homo-flexible, dandy-sexual (I know I’m not the only one)…  Like gender, there are as many orientations as there are people with one.  What words do you like to describe your orientation with?  Have you experienced changes in who you find attractive over the course of your sexual awareness?  Has your orientation “changed” or “grown” to include or exclude relationships, partners, experiences, or desires over time?  Do you consider your orientation flexible, curious, or fixed?  If you found yourself interacting with a person who does not fit within your usual pattern of attraction how would you feel about that – would it be confusing, would you feel the need to change your orientation, would it not matter at all?  How important is your orientation to you?  How important is your orientation to your various communities?  Do you feel anyone other than yourself has stock in how you identify?  Is it hard to admit to even yourself attractions you might have to people outside your orientation guidelines?

Relationships:  Now, this is the only word I’ve explored so far that is not a concept.  Relationships are the real time agreed upon bonds we have with the people (or animals) around us.  A lot of the names we have for our relationships might echo orientation words, and some are different.  Relationships change over time, as do their rules, boundaries, activities, and how we feel about them.  Some relationships are longstanding, others are short lived, and everything in between.  Relationships can be as exclusive or inclusive as the people within them decide they should be.  Relationships can be considered unique as snowflakes, made from the quirks, needs, desires, and negotiations the particular combination of people within them provide.  Some relationship terms are: partnered, engaged, married, boyfriends or girlfriends, boyfriend/girlfriend, lovers, hand-fasted, common law, straight, gay, lesbian, Boston marriage, kinky, BDSM, single and dating, civil union, significant others, primary, secondary, triad, poly-family, M/s (Master or Mistress/slave), D/s (Domina or Dominant/submissive), s/m (sadistic/masochistic), Master/pet, Mommy/little, Daddy/girl, Master/boi, leather family, polyfidelitis, polyamorous, monogamous, monogamish, open, Master/animal, trainer/trainee, teacher/student…  as usual the list goes on and on and on to such delightful proportions!  What types of relationships have you been in?  What types of relationships have you been interested in being in?  Do different types of relationships categorically point to different activities for you (such as your kinky relationships might not be sexual in nature, and the sexual relationships you engage in are not necessarily ones you practice kink within)?  Have you ever been in a relationship that changed due to either you or your partner’s orientation or gender evolving?  Are there types of relationships you have no interest in ever trying out?  Have you ever experienced thinking a relationship would be one thing when it started out, and realized later on that it was something entirely different – did you stick with it?  Why have relationships ended for you in the past?  Historically why have you stayed in relationships?  What do you consider successful in one?

Communication:  Communication is central to how ideas and practicalities evolve and come to be around us.  Without communication it would be impossible to let someone outside of our brains know anything about our needs, wants, feelings, or thoughts.  Communication is traditionally thought to be a verbal endeavor, however it is much more expansive than that.  Verbally what we say and how we say it is very important, but often equally important can be what others are telling us through their body language, tone and cadence, facial displays/expressions, emotional expression, cultural reference, past conversations including stories about who that person is and what they’ve survived or been impacted by, medical or psychological diagnosis, and any other reference we may have about how meaning is made with the individual person we are talking to.  An apple is not always an apple – sometimes it is specifically a grannysmith, a red delicious, a pink lady, or even what someone is referring to when they mean asian pear.  There are a million methods to break down, explain, and practice communication more clearly and I highly recommend reading about the subject if you are going to be in the world and have even a slight desire to interact with people intimately.  Consider learning about non-violent communication, “I statements”, radical honesty, mindfulness, various therapy techniques, active listening, and even learning foreign languages can help a lot as different cultures create meaning conceptually very differently and the more connections you make to a word or phrase, the more reference points you have when using it with another individual.  Have you ever thought you knew what a word meant and realized halfway through an argument that you had the meaning wrong or that you and the person you were talking to had very different ideas of what that word inferred?  How large is your vocabulary and how specifically do you use it?  Do you generalize a lot or think and speak in minute detail?  When you think and try to communicate do you use your body and facial expressions and tone a lot or are you more physically reserved?  Do you think in pictures, feelings, words, or some other method and how hard do you feel it is to translate to others your thoughts?  Are you empathic or sympathetic or do you find it hard to connect with people emotionally or even understand them when they express emotions?  Have you learned how to talk with someone more effectively over your time with them?  Have you had to do a certain amount of self-examination to better understand your communication with the people around you?

Consent and Autonomous Reality:  The fact is we are all autonomous individuals.  The other fact is we live in a world where community is important not only for survival but often for happiness as well.  Because we are autonomous we have the right to create boundaries, expectations, and guidelines for others concerning how we wish to be and not to be interacted with.  Consent is central to the conversation between autonomous individuals desiring to interact in intimate ways where conduct is to be healthy and respectful.  Consent may look like being explicitly asked every time someone touches you, it may look like someone just needing to ask the first time and then checking in every now and again and being sensitive to your non-verbal or verbal cues, it may involve negotiating a relationship where you feel safe enough to “give up” your right to consent within your dynamic with a person.  Consent given can be revoked at any time.  Consent may be given to someone and not to someone else for the same activities regardless of the relationships involved.  Consents and non-consents will sometimes change over time depending on how an individual feels about themselves, the person they are granting consent to, and the physical or psychological environment they are in.  Consent for an activity at home is not consent for that same activity in the workplace or anywhere else it has not been negotiated.  Sometimes respectful negotiation can change consent parameters with an individual, sometimes it will not.  All this said, consent is not so hard to navigate most of the time for most people.  When you find yourself having crossed a boundary with someone it is important to acknowledge it has happened, sincerely apologize, and find out what can be done to remedy the situation or aid in containing the damage.  Respecting someone’s wishes in such situations is paramount regardless of how bad you feel about it, wish it would go away, don’t feel what you did merited the reaction you are getting, …etc.  Autonomous individuals have to live with their experiences and the emotional, psychological, physical, and mental fallout from their experiences.  Your experience of a situation is no one’s but you own, and does not trump someone else’s reality.  Have you ever had to apologize for something you felt was “not that big a deal”?  Have you ever felt you did not set healthy boundaries with someone who then you felt hurt by in retrospect?  Have you ever had the experience of feeling great about an activity for a long time and then one day realizing you were no longer emotionally or psychologically ok with it anymore?  Have you ever felt you did or did not have the right to have your feelings about a situation or person or activity based on how others around you were acting?  Have you had the experience of your boundaries being respected?  How did you feel about that if it is something you are not used to?  Have you ever survived an experience you feel was traumatic — how did that process change your point of view about respecting other people’s boundaries?  Have you ever learned to respect someone over time as you got to know them better and understand more fully the ways certain things effect them?

Sex positivity:  Ideas like GGG (good, game, giving), SSC (safe, sane, consensual), RACK (risk aware consensual kink), acceptance, being non-judgemental, anti-slut shaming, feminism, safe space, being an ally, understanding privilege, and more can all play a part in being sex positive.  Sex positive is an idea that encompasses respecting sexuality and accepting the sexualities of others even as they don’t align with your own.  It does not mean rolling over and playing dead because your partner wants something that makes you feel unsafe in the name of being “positive”.  It often means being able to talk openly about sex/sexuality/kink/preferences/relationship styles/sex or BDSM acts/etc. even though that can be scary (as long as you’re safe).  It can mean creatively problem-solving within your relationships based on conflicting needs between you and your partners.  It often means negotiation.  It can mean figuring out how to have a hard conversation about your needs when something does not feel right rather than pointing fingers, blaming, or alienating your partners based on your discomfort.  Sometimes sex positivity will require you to learn more about a subject you have not been confronted with in the past, or making peace with something that worries you by asking questions and getting more personal answers to your questions.  Sex positivity does not require you to like sex, engage in sex in a certain way or with a certain number or people, or at all.  Sometimes sex positivity is all about finding exactly what makes your boat float and asking your partners for it or at least to respect your needs and consider supporting you finding it somewhere else.  Sex positivity is about feeling acceptance about your own sexuality and the sexualities of others.  Have you ever wondered whether you were being “sex positive enough” when you had a hard time supporting someone else’s needs or actions?  Are you able to talk it out with people when you find yourself in that type of position?  Have you ever realized that opinions you once held about a particular lifestyle or sex/kink act or behavior was narrow-minded or misgiven once you found out more about it or met someone engaged in that lifestyle/act/behavior?  Have you ever realized that you were uncomfortable about or “against” an idea only to realize that when you tried it out yourself you felt turned on or positive about the experience?  Are there concepts or behaviors you feel you categorize as sex-negative?  Do you think those opinions will ever evolve or change?  How do you create meaning surrounding conflict – do you meet it head on with a conversation, do you prefer to make up your own mind and hold to it, do you ask questions, do you blame…?

There is sooooo much more I could write, and so many more things I think about on the subjects of interpersonal relatedness, sexuality, kink, BDSM, queerness, and identity.  I sincerely thank every person who has read my work, contacted me about the blog, offered their own two cents for publication, or been there as a resource or sounding board at any and all points of this past year’s journey through the ABCs.  I am sure this is not the end My Friends, but a step into the next meditation.  I am grateful for the experience.

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

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~Thank you.


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