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Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sex Communication Tactic Derived from S&M #3: Journal-Keeping

Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism

I’d like to thank all the brave pioneers of the BDSM community, for plumbing the depths of human sexuality, and coming back with maps.
~ an unsourced quotation provided by commenter Motley on my gigantic manliness thread

I’ve already written about S&M checklists and S&M safewords, and how both those things can set really great examples for everyone’s sex life — not just us BDSMers. This entry will be about journal-keeping!

Some BDSMers play with really, really strong power dynamics. A good example of this is couples who choose a “24/7 dynamic”: one partner is dominant and the other is submissive … all the time. I attended a workshop once with Sir Top and slave bonnie, two wise BDSM educators, where I learned that slave bonnie was only ever allowed to disobey orders of two kinds:

* Suicidal orders,
* Orders that would cause financial ruin.

The rest of the time, bonnie obeyed Top — all the rest of the time.

Obviously, relationships like this are totally cool with me as long as they are — say it with me, everyone — 100% consensual! Such relationships can also encourage the use of interesting communication tactics, because many of the usual tactics don’t feel right to the participants. For example, these relationships often take place between people who feel such a strong power dynamic that it would be almost impossible for the submissive to feel comfortable safewording — safewording can feel disconcertingly like a form of resistance.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

[advice] How did I know that S&M was right for me?

Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism

I love it when people email me interesting questions. This letter is posted with permission:

Hi Clarisse –

I found your coming-out article on “Time Out” and I am both grateful and fascinated by your story. I apologize if this email is a bit personal, but I am unsure where to get honest non-judgmental advice. Recently a lover introduced me to SM and while I have always considered myself a fairly sexually tolerant and open person, I found myself unwilling to let go and trust with a scenario. On the surface, I feel I would very much enjoy what BDSM has to offer, but in practice I am unable to fully appreciate? the fantasy.

My questions to you are: did it take a bit a time for you to … hm … let go of yourself with this type of play?

It seems from your article that you recognized this lifestyle was / is a “fit” for you. How do you know if it is the right lifestyle for you?

Also, you mentioned some therapists who specialize in understanding the needs of alternative lifestyle folks. Could you direct me to some resources for additional information?

Here’s my response:

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sex Communication Tactic Derived from S&M #2: Safewords and Check-Ins

Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism

Everyone knows about BDSM safewords … or at least, everyone thinks they know about safewords. But one of the initial moments that really impressed me about my current boyfriend was when I asked him, many moons ago, if he knew what a safeword is. He paused, then answered, “I think I’m familiar with the idea, but I probably don’t know much more than a stereotype, so I’d like to hear you define it.” Humility and open-minded curiosity are so incredibly hot!

Righto. Hot boyfriend aside, I’m here to explain safewords and check-ins, and how those concepts can exemplify excellent sexual communication for everyone — not just S&Mers — in a world that doesn’t do a good job teaching anyone how to communicate sexually.

When two (or more) people have a BDSM encounter together, generally they set a safeword — a word that anyone can say at any time to stop the action. (Sometimes people don’t use safewords. This is their choice and I totally respect it. I would not recommend going without safewords for anyone who doesn’t know their partner extremely well, and I would be seriously sketched out by anyone who pressured a partner to go without safewords.)

When I give advice about setting safewords, I usually offer the following:

A) Some people like to say that it’s good to use a safeword that’s jolting, and is likely to make your partner feel totally unsexy. Isn’t there a “Family Guy” episode in which Lois & Peter’s safeword is “banana” or something?

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sex Communication Tactic Derived from S&M #1: Checklists

(Posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism)

I’ve often written that the BDSM community encourages really excellent sexual communication, and I’ve been meaning to write further about specifics for … um … years. (Oops.) So I’m finally getting around to describing one of my personal favorite sexual communication tactics: checklists!

S&M checklists are long lists of different acts that sexual partners can use to discuss different acts and measure each others’ interest in those acts. Here is an excellent example. Each act on the checklist usually looks something like this:

FLOGGING — GIVING __________________ O O O O O
FLOGGING — RECEIVING ______________ O O O O O

Each partner rates each entry by filling out 1-5 bubbles, with 1 darkened bubble meaning “Not interested” and 5 bubbles meaning “I crave this!”

I think this concept is brilliant because:

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sexual Openness: 2 ways to encourage it!

(Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the factors that went into my sexual evolution. People have always seen me as sexually open-minded, and I had an extraordinarily liberal upbringing … but at the same time, I think I spent a long time surprisingly buttoned-up. For example: I didn’t explore S&M properly until my twenties, and I didn’t figure out how to orgasm until after that.

Part of it was the men I fell in love with, the partners I had. Monogamy felt right to me, and that effectively meant that once I was in a relationship, it was hard to explore sexuality beyond what my lovers were comfortable with. I’ve often looked back in frustration at sexual shame and inhibitions that I feel were imposed on me by some past partners. But at the same time, there’s no denying that — even when my partners were relatively inhibited — I was with those men partly because I felt comfortable with them. I recall conversations in which I felt frustrated at a lover’s unwillingness to explore or discuss certain things … but I also recall times when I felt relieved that they were willing to leave those things alone.

How did I evolve through that balance and come into the place where I am today, where my sexual boundaries have shifted dramatically? I’m up for trying things just to see what they’re like; I routinely have fantasies that would have appalled me in my teens; and I routinely have orgasms as well …. But why is it that, for example, I’m very interested in having multiple partners now, but wasn’t at all interested a few years ago? How is it that I initially considered myself solely a submissive but later transitioned into an enthusiastic switch (i.e., both a sub and a domme)?

Here are the two factors that, I think, facilitate sexual evolution and openness:

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Exciting new “Time Out” blog; reflections on blogrolls and blogospheres

I’ve been hired as a professional blogger! I’ll be keeping my personal blog here, but I’ll be posting quick links and even quicker commentary over at Time Out Chicago: Love Bites.

While setting up my Time Out blog, I found myself thinking about one of the more headache-inducing aspects of blogging: the Blogroll. You can see my blogroll on the right side of this page, and that’s where the Time Out editors put my Time Out blogroll as well. Blogrolls are sticky and interesting because there are definite social conventions surrounding them, but those social conventions are not well-defined, and different people use very different approaches.

* Some people just post links to whatever blogs they like or consider interesting. Some people work really hard to screen blogs for their blogrolls and figure out whether they really want to link them or not; others just glance over blogs and add them if they seem interesting. And others avoid the whole problem by not having a blogroll on their site at all.

* Some people are straightforwardly tit-for-tat about blogrolls: they do “link exchanges”, which means that you post a link to someone’s blog in your blogroll, and in exchange they post a link to you. This means that not only will people maybe find your blog through that other blog, but that hopefully your PageRank will improve. (PageRank is Google’s measurement of a given page’s importance. For example, my blog has okay PageRank, which is why it’s usually on the first or second page of Google results if you search for the name “Clarisse”, even though there are over two million total results for that name.) I’ve accepted offers for link exchanges occasionally, though I obviously only do it with sites that I appreciate.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Kink bloggers open thread: how do you feel about BDSM blogging?

A while back I wrote a post called Where Are All The Male Dominant Bloggers?, because I didn’t feel like there are very many male dominant bloggers out there. I recently discovered that before my post, Thomas over at Yes Means Yes wrote one called Where Are The Women Tops? Where Are The Men Bottoms? Which just goes to show.

So you know what I think we need? A Kink Bloggers Open Thread! If you know about an awesome BDSM blogger, post ‘em. If you yourself are a BDSM blogger, post about that. Any gender, sex, orientation, whatever is welcome. If you feel like adding any special details, you can talk about what you like best about the blog(s) you’re posting.

Also, I would love to have some cross-talk on the following Exciting Questions!

1) Do you have any frustrations about kink blogging?
1a) Are there any topics you’re nervous about or afraid of posting about? Why?

2) Do you think you have weaknesses as a kink blogger?

3) Hey, what do you actually like about being a kink blogger?

4) Do you blog under your real name? How many people who know you in the mainstream world know about your blog?

5) Got any questions you want to ask other kink bloggers?

(Posted at Clarisse Thorn)

Clarisse Thorn's picture

How to start your own local sex-positive meetup

I’ve been reminded that tonight is the one-year anniversary of Pleasure Salon, the sex-positive meetup I co-started in Chicago; a reporter from Columbia College Chicago called me (all the way in Africa!) to chat about it. And over the last few months, I’ve received a number of inquiries about how people can start their own Pleasure Salons in their own cities. Which means it’s time for a blog FAQ!

I obviously haven’t been to Pleasure Salon in quite some time. It sounds like it’s still going strong, at least from what people tell me, but I don’t really know. Still, I remember the process of starting it pretty well ….

PLEASURE SALON: THE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS!

(Readers may also be interested in the FAQ I wrote about Sex+++, my sex-positive film series, which gives advice about how to start your own!)

On the very night that I first announced my sex-positive film series, Serpent Libertine of the Sex Workers Outreach Project got in touch.  Serpent is really passionate and outspoken; it was delightful to talk with her about how we could collaborate. One idea that we began tossing around was, in her words, a low-key “bar night”. She fondly remembered sex-positive socials privately conducted by past community leaders; for my part, over the next few months I really got into the community discussions at my film series, and it always seemed a shame that we had to wrap them up within an hour or two.

On a trip to New York a couple of months later, one of my film contacts invited me out to Pleasure Salon NYC. Pleasure Salon was exactly like what I’d been picturing — and the name was pretty cool too — so I requested permission to “license” it and start a Pleasure Salon Chicago!

arvan's picture

SOFFA Anthology Call for Submissions

The editors of a new anthology call for submissions on the experiences of significant others, family members, friends and allies (SOFFAs) of transgender and/or gender variant individuals.  The feelings, emotional processes and experiences of those in relationships with transgender and/or gender variant individuals are seldom acknowledged.  That’s why this anthology is so important as a resource and an educational book.  This particular call seeks quality “think-alouds” that are reflections on the experience of being in a relationship with a transgender and/or gender variant loved one.

Our vision for the anthology is not solely focused on partners, but the transitional experiences of those in relationships with transgender persons.

We are interested in personal narratives, stories and reflections from significant others, family members, friends, allies, co-workers, teachers, medical professionals and clergy who are in relationships with transgender and/or gender variant individuals.  Give us your inner dialogues, theories, practices, joys, coming-out stories, challenging moments and transformative events.  We are seeking a multiplicity of voices tackling the intersections of relationships and transgender and/or gender variant identities with sexuality, race, religion, spiritual affiliation, socio-economic status, ability, etc.

We are looking for thoughtful and authentic responses of 1,500-6,000 words.  Only respectful submissions will be considered; however, we expect pieces to document a range of experiences and emotions including confusion, joy, frustration, pain, happiness, identity struggles, fear, anger, anxiety and love.

maymay's picture

Stand Against Stigma: Don’t Succumb to a Fear of Sex, Sexual Speech, or Sexual Freedom

(Cross-posted at Maybe Maimed but Never Harmed)

I have marched in two Pride Parades. Both times, I marched with the group of people who are skilled enough with that most iconic symbol of sadomasochistic sex to make some serious noise: the single tail whip. I remember the experiences vividly. Pride day is a good day.

I raise my arm, swing the whip, and out comes a force so sure and strong that it breaks the sound barrier. It’s hard to forget walking in the middle of New York City’s Fifth Avenue, surrounded with 25 to 50 feet of empty street on all sides, cracking whips above my head so loudly that the sonic booms bounce off the skyscrapers and echo back at me. It’s one of the most self-empowering memories I have: “I am not afraid to be seen here,” I thought to myself.

In both parades, I was one of the few bottoms who marched, wielding a whip. In both parades, I walked shirtless, showing marks acquired in scenes the night before. I turned heads.

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