An Introduction to Kink

*Presented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Pleasure Week, February 2017

Artist: Tina Maria Elena

Kink has been a part of my life longer than I have understood what kink is.

Things I wish someone would’ve told me:

That I would not become a raging, hedonistic, deviant shadow-version of myself. These were my mother’s whispers of her past partners and their ‘dark’ and ‘secret’ selves that they kept hidden in a cupboard in the basement. She would tell me she always had an inkling that those shadows were there and knew that her partners were struggling with their demons. The demons, I wish someone had told me earlier, were not because of the demons of whips and chains, or latex and knives, but the demons of guilt, shame and fear surrounding the symbolic whips and chains of whichever kinks we are drawn to.

I wish I knew sooner that ‘being kinky’ is a far reaching spectrum that can range from something as simple as the sensation of someone whispering in your ear, a hand on the back of your neck directing you as you walk, following a direction from a friend without question: Go put the kettle on, choose your tea and wait for me to get back from the store.

That kink is not only relegated to sexual relationships, but can touch into any interaction in whatever way you might like it to. That my inability to be dominant in my sexual relationships allowed for me to be dominant in my friendships with friends who are indecisive, friends who are going through a hard time and need someone to walk them through certain situations, colleagues who overwork themselves. Sometimes the only thing I crave when I want to fall into submission is for someone else to take the reins, and take my body through the motions so that I can turn off my brain for a period of time. Kink can be an excellent way of building intimacy in non-sexual relationships.

I wish someone had told me that the kinks we are drawn to do not define us as moral or immoral humans. I wish someone had told me that while it might be fun to ponder about some of the origins of my kinks, in reality it is often futile to nail it down to either nature or nurture. That while it is totally possible that my first consumption of porn may have shaped my desire to be more submissive in sexual relationships, I can point to even earlier recollections of being drawn to men in power, older men, and I have no clue where those desires came from.

At this point I’ve resigned myself to just accepting my weird brain as it is and just roll with it; it is far more fun this way.

I wish I knew earlier that if I am kinky one way with one person, it does not mean I have to be kinky in the same way with every person. And that while I am a queer woman, my submission specifically comes out only when I am around certain cis-men, and I become more dominant with partners of other genders.

I wish someone would’ve told me that kink is really just play time for grown ups. That the physical playground of childhood turns into the desires of the mind and the sensations of the body. That sexuality is dynamic and you get to choose your own limits. And when you find someone who likes to play the same games you like to play, it is super duper fun.

I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to prove my kinkiness to anyone, to prove how sex-positive I was, how in charge of my sexuality I was, how bold I was. That I didn’t need to lay everything on the table for anyone who asked. So many countless men insisting on knowing whether or not I liked to be tied up or choked before finding out what my last name was. Not that this can’t have it’s own place in time, I just wish I knew sooner that I am the gatekeeper of my own desires and I am the only one that gets to choose who I share those desires with.

I wish someone had told me just because someone calls themselves ‘kinky’ does NOT mean that they are good at it. There are aspects of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadomasochism) that require heaps of research before you go ahead and write your paper. And while it might sound fun and dandy if someone says they want to tie you to a post, blindfold you and treat you like an object, it does not necessarily mean that they have any idea what they are doing, or if they are doing it safely.

I wish someone told me that BDSM and forms of kink play can cause trauma, in both the head and the body. I wish someone had told me that as a submissive person, I have ALL of the power, and any dom who believes otherwise is one helluva a giant red flag. BDSM without the research and prep work is nothing shy of assault. Assault covered up in kink.

I wish someone had told me how to have the conversations about my submission so I didn’t have to rely on other people shaping those experiences for me. It was not enough to say to someone older than me, someone stronger than me “I want you to be rough with me.”

I also really wish I was able to forgive myself sooner for pushing myself beyond my own boundaries and not speaking up about them. I wish I knew how empowering it was just to say ‘no’ without any excuse or reasoning; you do not need one, the no suffices.

I wish someone had told me that the best play partners are the ones who hold the most respect for you and put your needs and requirements on the highest pedestal. The ones who ask what your safe words are before any play starts. The ones who negotiate boundaries prior to getting naked and then continuously during. The ones who want to keep learning and growing and recognize when they fuck up, too, so that you know and feel comfortable in them being able to see their own strength and their own boundaries. It is one thing when someone chokes to hard and you tell them, it is another when they continue to do it without change.

There are many times where I wish someone had stopped after starting something I was no longer comfortable with but believed I had to sit through it because I had already consented.

The best play partners are the ones who create containers that allow you to feel safe to communicate. The ones who, after getting your permission, will slap you across the face and then ask you “Where was that from 1-10?” and wait for your answer and then ask again “How hard are you okay with me going?” And if you say “don’t go harder than a 3” they hear that, respect that, and don’t go harder than 3.

Artist: Tina Maria Elena

The partners who check in, read your body language and ask “Would you like to use a colour?”

The colours, respectively, are Green, Yellow and Red.

Green, as you might guess, means All Systems Go, Keep Going, Don’t Stop, I’m Really, Really Enjoying This even if it looks like I’m in a great deal of pain or distress. Green is the ever joyful: I’m on board with this, whatever ‘this’ is.

Asking for a colour is a moment of stepping back into reality to ensure that everything you are doing continues to be consensual.

Sometimes, when in sub-space, you don’t even know where you’re at or how you’re doing unless someone comes and pulls you out for a moment to bring you back into the present: how is your body? how is your head? Sometimes this doesn’t even work…

“During the scene, the intense experiences of both pain and pleasure trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, [… a] part of the fight or flight response, produc[ing] the same effect as a morphine-like drug, increasing the pain tolerance of the submissive as the scene becomes more intense. Since the increase of hormones and chemicals produces a sort of trance-like state, the submissive starts to feel out-of-body, detached from reality, and as the high comes down, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion, as well as incoherence. Many submissives, upon reaching a height of subspace, will lose all sensation of pain, as any stimulus causes the period to prolong.”  – http://www.submissiveguide.com/encyclopedia/subspace/

Yellow hits pause. Yellow is the beautiful space of taking a moment to check in with each other. Yellow can mean various things to various people so always requires a conversation, no matter how small. Yellow might mean ‘less pain’ or ‘loosen your grip’ or ‘slow down’ or ‘we need to move onto something else’ or ‘I’m done with the paddle, but I’d be really into the whip’ or ‘let’s do you now.’

Attention to someone’s yellow is when kink play benefits both people. Attention to someones ‘yellow’ is attention to the details of their reactions, their bodies, their mental state. Whoever is momentarily in charge (the person acting as ‘dom’) is held to paying a great deal of mindfulness to a situation that might take you away.

Red is the immediate STOP. This is it, this is all. Release your hold, cut your ropes, stop your movement. Do not do ~one more spank~. Do not ever continue whatever it is you are doing. BDSM play can only function enjoyably if your partner KNOWS that their hard lines will be respected. Red is a good safe word. “Safe word” is also a good safe word. My partner and I made up our own safe word because it was romantic. I was supposed to say ‘dust bunnies’ but in a moment of panic, not able to breath properly, unable to recollect what stupid word we had romantically settled on, all I could say was “safe word.”

Safe words are also good for many other things. Like being tickled. This has been a good way to practice with my partner.

I wish someone had told me it isn’t always quite as simple as you might hope it would be. Just when you’ve become comfortable with exploring a certain area or realm of kink, something new sparks interest in your brain that confuses you just as much as the first one did. I wish someone had told me that this is totally normal and completely fine.

Only a couple of years ago did I finally feel safe and welcome entering into the kink community: I am a bold personality, I am assertive, I am probably a little too confident. I did not feel that I was allowed to call myself “submissive,” because I am not and did not want to be known as such. I had to hear from another, powerful and impressive woman, that she held her submission in her own way, just as her soft-spoken and kind partner held his domination in his own way. There is room for me in this community; no one will define your role or what you want and how you want it, but you. I can be stubborn and assertive and confident, and still want to be pushed into submission. There is room for you if you want it.

votes4nudes

Hells yes. What a superb plan. This slut is all about voting AND nudes.

Jessica Simps has created a win-win exchange: send a picture of yourself voting to votes4nudes (on Instagram) and in turn receive a picture of a naked so-and-so because bewbz. You can also follow their tumblr (which is less likely to be taken down by the man). I will be enthusiastically participating in this campaign as a slut who believes sexuality is a positive thing and if nudes are the incentive to get our political system into vaguely better shape, I am proud to be a Canadian.

 

slutsagainst

 

 

 

When I Was Your Age….!

This is a recent article I wrote for the upcoming gutterbird NEST zine (an awesome publication that promotes artists in Toronto). They will be having their next issue release party on May 1st. You should be there. I will be there.

When I was eight I was having sex dreams. I also humped my teddy bears. Yeah. I said it. No shame. BUT I WAS EIGHT.

Our current understanding of anything to with children and sex is that, to them, it is explained in a manner that is all very mechanical and logical and maybe connected to this distant non-understandable concept of ‘love’ that our parents talk about, blushing and stuttering all the while.

The dreams I had were comprised of rather obvious symbols and images that would depict what the subconscious of a hypersexual eight year old might resemble; enlarged genitalia that you traveled through to get to other realms – but needed a password before entering – and strange naked games in which there were always boys, naked, jumping on top of me.

BAW

To be frank – I have no idea if I understood any of this. I knew it made me feel all tingly and happy and excitingly naughty, so I didn’t complain, because, why WOULD you complain about something that made you feel all those things… Not that I could control what I dreamt about anyhow… Sex was just running rampant in my randy, young subconscious mind.

What also happened when I was 8: I found my mother and her boyfriend’s underwear on the couch one Saturday morning when I went to go watch the Weekenders and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It was mind-boggling. What on earth would they be doing taking their underpants off in the living room? Let alone taking them off TOGETHER?!

I knew this likely meant that I should recognize my mother and her boyfriend as sexual entities in their own selves (as they seemed to be reenacting the naked games I was having in my dreams) – but quite like how my mother did not want to imagine her young, innocent daughter as a being with a libido, I was in denial about every adult having a libido.

When my parents divorced, my grandmother bought my father about 200 different types of condoms for Christmas. I looked away and chose to ignore the fact that my father may have been a sexual creature.

Which is hilarious, because I was eight.

What is sexuality to an eight year old?

I remember watching a girl very gently, softly and carefully focus on braiding another girl’s hair and feeling ‘funny’. I remember doing ‘back tickles’ late at night with my female cousins, extracting pleasure from the sensitivity of light fingernails on the skin from our necks down to the waistline of our pajama pants. I remember seeing a flash of testicles in grade one when a fellow classmate was doing sommersaults and again, feeling ever so ‘funny’. I remember trading candy hearts with a boy named Luke and thinking we would get married.

This is not dangerous stuff. This is nothing that we need to be terrified of for our offspring. To me, these instances strike me as moments of intense sensuality that derive not from genital stimulation, but an ability to appreciate and experience pleasure.

I feel the need to paint you a picture: I was the quietest, shyest girl in my class. No boys had crushes on me. I became a flaming red ball of blushing embarrassment if ever asked to speak in front of more than one person at a time. I didn’t keep up with the latest fashions – at ten, I tip-toed around the schoolyard in purple velvet pants and an over-sized pink teddy bear sweater to hide the swollen nipples mother nature hatefully handed over to me.

What I am hoping this characterization of myself as a child will do is to negate that image of a half-naked, extroverted tomboy who went around asking if she could see down every 9-year-old boys pants, and her hand always between her legs regardless of the fanciness of the restaurant.

Something is okay to recognize: children are sexual beings. Not just the flagrantly obvious horny little boys – but also the quiet, shy timid girl in the corner.

SHOCK GASP APPALLING DISGRACE HOW DARE YOU SAY THIS CAITLIN?!

Now I’m not saying we should toss away all thought patterns we have on the subject matter. Throwing in the towel and just letting our kids masturbate all over the place likely won’t solve any of their internal sexual reservations that most of them will have when they reach adulthood.

However, it would solve a lot of our future generations psychological turmoil if we acknowledge that children are already pre-programmed for sex long before we even have a chance to explain to them that it has to do with a bed, two individuals who look at each other longingly and lovingly, and with mushing our genitals together.

MOST ADORABLE COUPLE IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION

VUVLA Original

VULVA Original is the smell of a vagina in a small vial.

as a side note: the very very small bottle is covering the slit of the vulva (most of the advertisements for this product cover the 'genital region'. this is an idea of how we understand nudity in media - this is not inappropriate... why would it be if a woman had hair/larger inner lips/a bigger pubic mound?

This product came out a few years ago. I am just discovering it now. My reaction?

No. Just no…

I mean, they get like maybe five points for the sake of hilarity and that fact that this is actually in existent out there in the world. But mostly just lots of no.

I’m into people liking weird shit.

I am not necessarily going to like it with you, unless I really like you and choose to go there with you, but otherwise – here’s to you! Let your freak flag fly as long as you aren’t hurting anyone and it’s consensual.

If you’re into smells and sniffin’ things – that’s cool. I love stickin’ my nose into a man’s armpit and inhaling like my life depends on it. No shame. Man pits smell like a delicious mixture of lumberjack and old spice.

Smell fetishes are actually a thing, too: Olfactophilia.

(But they pretty much have words for every fetish imaginable… Just find the latin name for the thing and add ‘philia’. Here’s a decent list of fetishes.)

So cool. Whatever, you’re into the way pussy smells. Like, big time. So much so that all of your dreams have come true when you discover that there is a company called ‘viva eros’ that has dedicated time and ‘cost-intensive research’ into creating a product that will allow you to PURCHASE the scent of a woman in a small vial that you can get off to at your desire. For your desire.

I could be okay with this. Really. I’d high five the company and be all “You guys are pretty epic and I cannot believe someone funded this project….”

But here is where it all goes downhill:

Knowing this, not only men, who intensify and satisfy their own sexual pleasure by their own smelling pleasure are our main target, but also women, who use VULVA Original to make themselves even more attractive by using the perfect vaginal scent.

because my vagina smells like roses...

Labiaplasty is becoming one of the most popular and wanted types of cosmetic surgery in North America. Doctors and specialists refer to it as ‘vaginal rejuvenation‘ – removing portions of ones genitals is also called ‘female mutilation‘.

To be clear – yes, I am very against any type of surgery to alter/’fix’/rejuvenate ones privates (unless it is reassignment surgery). To be clear – yes, I am against cosmetic surgery (unless it is for physical health purposes)/(this is the purpose of my Body Pride workshops, for every single woman who comes into my home to recognize how completely amazing they are AS they are).

You can watch a documentary called ‘The Perfect Vagina’ here if you’d like to get a better understanding of what I am talking about.

So when we are faced with another product that provides women with another way to hold disdain against their bodies – something for which they have no control over – I, for the life of me, cannot get on board.

If you gave 16-year-old Caitlin an open wish-list of the things she could change about her body… I don’t even know where I would’ve started. Tummy tucks to get rid of the ‘dip and rise’ factor of my midriff (my stomach is not ‘flat’ – nor will it ever be), liposuction on my arms and thighs, collagen for my lips, pubic bone reduction (because my pubic mound does not just flatly transition into my lower stomach) – the list goes on.

Thankfully, I began the ‘fake it till ya make it’ methodology of living very early. If you asked me when I was 16 what I’d like to change about myself, I’d have said: “Nothing”, because I wanted to be the confident, courageous woman I only imagined, and I wanted people to think that WAS who I was.

Which is the part that tears me apart inside, because I have had a few comments along the lines of “Well, yeah, if I looked like you I’d be naked on the internet, too.”

The ‘fake it’ method, it works. Use it. Because the place I never thought I would reach – I’ve reached it.

But I would’ve said the same thing six years ago. (Probably another HUGE reason why young women should not be allowed to receive cosmetic surgery – again, unless it is for physical health purposes or reassignment.)

If, at 16, I had known about this product that advertises the ‘perfect scent’ of a vagina… I likely would have never let a man gone done on me. DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LIKE ORAL SEX?!

A lot.

Not too mention, HOW CREEPY IS THIS GUY?!

As a side note, I did try to think of a possible plus of this product other than a fetish thing, and one of the options I thought might be useful would be for post-op trans-women. If you are a post-op trans woman, and are comfortable speaking frankly on such topics, I would love to speak with you.

Body Pride: A Letter From Your Photographer

The beautiful thing about Body Pride parties is how quickly every girl forgets she’s naked.

Welcomed with warm smiles and open arms, Caitlin offers a glass of vino and seats you in a circle among girls just as anonymous as you; the atmosphere is quiet but full of anticipation. The floor is cozy with a soft spread of blankets and the twinkling white lights adorning the walls provide a level of security that can only be attained with a nurturing intent. In the middle of the circle lies a fantastic spread of munchies (all of which are pro-veggie and health conscious – most of which I generally wind up chopping and plating), as well as the book with veteran Body Pride sisters smiling up at you from the clean white pages, their love-filled manifestos to their bodies hand-written beneath their photographs. Continue reading “Body Pride: A Letter From Your Photographer”

Dear Caitlin Of A Year Ago

Dear Caitlin of a year ago:

Love is harder than you think it is.

I know, right now, you are having a lot of trouble digesting the idea that you are actually capable of love. I know certain people have instilled in you recently that you may want more than random sexual excursions – and you do, and maybe you won’t admit it to them because your path is the path you are on right now, and these random sexual excursions are teaching you things of incredible value.

I know, right now, that love is really hard for you. Not being in it, but the idea of getting there. It seems that you have great difficulty just placing it anywhere, and this is fair considering your history with the thing… Love, that is.

Right now you are trying to shape in your mind what it might be like for you to fall in love. You imagine how absolutely madly passionate it will be. You do not doubt for a moment that you would be capable of some form of monogamy if you tried.

Dear Caitlin of a year ago: love is a lot harder than that.

A year from where you are, you will try to be a girlfriend.

People around you will convince you that love takes on this peculiar form that involves delving into your own history and pulling out all the potentially damaging memories that occurred in your past and calling them ‘issues’, so that when you cry at the movies, your partner will understand that is because of a deep-seated fear of abandonment from your parent’s divorce when you were five…

People will convince you that relationships are built upon conversations. How do you feel? Tell me what you’re thinking. Are you okay? How was your day? Why won’t you talk to me? You will be in constant state of frenzy because you aren’t sure you recognize how screwed up you actually are…

You will love all other boys while loving this one boy, but you will keep it in your pants and call it determination. You will think you can do this out of sheer willpower to prove you can be monogamous, to prove you can be the girlfriend.

You will drink two glasses of wine in order to ‘pour your heart out’ because you have no idea if you really want to start connecting your ‘Daddy Issues’ with your partners financial status, but this is what monogamy is. This is how people interact.

And you lie in bed with this person, sleeping soundly with your orange earplugs sticking out from your head, and you will think “Look at me go! I’m doing it! I can be a girlfriend.”

And you will listen blankly to stories about your partners day and then try really hard to remember the names of the people he just mentioned to prove that you were listening. And you can mark ‘plus one’ on that wedding invitation and wear matching colors and introduce him as your ‘boyfriend’… Boyfriend… What an icky word. But you will use it anyhow.

And then. When everything is going smoothly, there will come a point when you are sitting across from someone you love dearly with all your heart. And this someone is not your boyfriend, and all of the rules of monogamy are marching around your head with picket signs reminding you of how to stay in line, how to be a decent member of society. But the moment is so intense and incredible that you cannot hold back how important this person means to you… and you whack down the pickets and aim for his lips and then… you don’t know what rules to follow anymore.

You don’t want to hurt anyone.

But you will.

You will really wish that someone was here telling you what to do. You will wish this so hard even though you know, somewhere in your head, it is there.

You will wonder if you will feel trapped in six months time. You wonder if you will be okay being alone. You will wonder how hard you should have fought. You will wonder if you are worth it.

Dear Caitlin of a year ago:

It is okay to be wherever you are at whatever phase you are at.

Because it happens as it happens. Life will give you what it gives you and trying to rearrange the order of things just won’t work. Desire will come galloping through your barriers and kiss you softly and you’ll remember why you love it all over again and get swept up in sweaty beds and wine drinking and dousing yourself in the essence of someone just for one night.

It is okay to stop and question the pre-arranged relationship constructs that society has built up for you before you were even born. It is okay to love multiple people. It is okay to hold one person’s hand and mean it, and then hold another person’s hand and mean it just as much. It is okay to have sex. It’s getting to the core of someone. Seeing them naked. The dichotomy between who they are when their clothes are on, and when their clothes are off. It is also okay to like sex just for the delicious carnality of it.

Mostly, want I am trying to tell you, is that it is okay to be a slut.