And it's go boys go They'll time your every breath And every day you're in this place you're two days nearer death But you go… Well a process man am I and I'm tellin' you no lie I work and breathe among the fumes that tread across the sky There's thunder all around me and there's poison in the air There's a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair
I want to put all this—this blog, my other one, my interest in yours—away. And I’ve felt this way for a while. And I’m so sorry.
I’m sorry because there are so many things I still want to say. In recent months, my drafts have exploded from around 10 to over 30. I wanted to write in greater detail about how the BDSM Scene made me feel unwantable; I wanted to write praise for the older submissive men on whose shoulders I stood; I wanted to write an analysis of how and why “creepers” are attracted to, incubated by, and remain in the Scene; I wanted to write about the night at the club when I experienced the closest thing I ever have to sexual harassment and how awful it felt; and I wanted to write about why, despite the disdain oozing from my flesh, I now feel an immense swell of compassion for the person who kept touching me after I said “no.”
I wanted to write about the people who send me private letters of support, and also the ones who find it necessary to share their delusions that I rape young boys. I wanted to write about the BDSM Scene as the closest thing I’ve known to a cultural home, and how important having that is to me. I wanted to write about why I fear that putting all this away would feel too much like self-imposed exile, and why I want to put it all away anyway.
So, day in and day out lately, I write but do not publish. Though reticent to let it show, I am very often scared of all this. And yet, I feel called to these tasks like a moth to a flame.
There are so many reasons why.
In mid-April, shortly after I published my “unreal” experiences at the Kink, Inc. Armory, a comment reading simply, “Thoroughly predictable,” was left by someone calling themselves “Sexually Opulent.” The pseudonym was a simple clue; it was the 38 year old self-identified dominant man I had quoted early in the piece. Minutes later, his FetLife profile contained the following writing:
So here he goes again, and since he’s decided to use parts of our conversation in the public sphere, here is the whole thing. Mind you, it took him saying something like the following to make me call him out publicly for being such a fucking weak-ass male submissive that he makes male submission look bad:
Yeah, you’re a paragon of sociability. You ignore the logical arguments and spout opinion. Now you’re spouting intuition as being as valid as an observable fact, have the only negative quotes in your new blog entry being from VISITORS to the armory rather than from employees, and completely miss your own sexism when saying you questioned your gender identity because of your submissive ideas, something akin to saying a woman who likes being on top should consider if she wasn’t actually meant to be born with a cock. And let me make this clear to you, if it’s that hard to stay alive, perhaps you should consider the alternatives.
Although it remained up for a while, I recently noticed the post was deleted. But since his reaction was another perfect illustration of the very poison I wrote about, I snapped several screenshots (and even saved a .webarchive for Safari users) to ensure his attitude—so you think I’m “a fucking weak-ass male submissive,” do you?—would be captured in perpetuity. I am drawn to this flame because I will not permit him—I will not permit you, Fistandantilus—the luxury of running from your own words, and I am no moth in your cowardly light.
To all who’ve tried to intimidate me: Thank you for teaching me why there exists more strength in my greatest vulnerability than exists in your most powerful outburst.
While I do gain a certain satisfaction from such encounters, these are merely proving grounds for my own parrhesiastic experiments. I accord such sparring partners only a bare minimum of care; they are poisons in the air. When they are fearfully cowed to, indifferently subsumed, or revered like kings of their petty, puny hills, The Scene, a far too unctuous and aristocratic environment both, is an abuser.
In early June, I opened my email and there was a letter addressed to me:
I googled up Male Submission Art the day before yesterday to find pictures for a friend, and ended up reading your blog for almost an hour.
I like that you gather material exalting the physical form and emotional concept of the submissive man, material that addresses the submissive man as a beloved individual and as a sex object, because I’m fucking sick of the unending kink porn drivel that tells me that as a female-bodied sexually dominant person, I’m supposed to base the sex I have with male-bodied people around devaluing my partner’s desirability. I want my partner to submit to me because he is desirable, because I adore him. Why would I ever want to push a person to their limits if I don’t have care nor curiosity about what that person is made of? Why would I want to have someone spread out for me if I’m not fascinated and delighted by what’s being made available? How can I trust someone to let me hurt them if we can’t communicate with each other on a human level about what we’re doing? I really struggle with feeling like I don’t want to label or disparage people for whom the mainstream femdom thing works, but speaking privately… you know, uh, to a stranger, like you do… I just fundamentally cannot understand this bullshit.
I’m also tired of scanning messages from submissive guys who don’t see me as a person, and who don’t or can’t imagine themselves being simultaneously submissive and valued, but are looking for — I don’t even know what, for a vagina-bot in stilettos, for both of us to fill empty roles based on gender essentialism and dehumanization. I love that you are adamant that it’s not enough to settle, that you want something that’s true and, as much as I tend to roll my eyes at this word, authentic. I’m really sad that you’re not finding what you want and need, because I can’t help but think that you can’t be the only one who feels this way, just like I know that other people like me exist, and many struggle to untangle their genuine desires from having been twisted or silenced by gender training. I suspect you must stand for others who may arrive at the party of human sexuality bright-eyed only to finally leave disillusioned, letting go of the hope of fulfillment, or settling for less than what they deserve.
And I’m just so mad about it! Fuck that, the entire thing, because it’s totally, totally stupid.
Yeah, I think that’s pretty much what I wanted to say. So I hope you had a good day, and from my friend’s incoherent, glee-filled phone call a minute ago, she appreciated the pictures I grabbed from MSA. I told her to go check it out when she gets a chance. There really are tragically few resources for me to point her toward, which, really, sums up the whole damn thing.
This person is who I accord care. They are nobody’s hero—except mine. While they are unseen by and often in The Scene, they exist, damnit, and they matter and they are the goodness in the future!
On a personal level, this email has been my answer to the question of what and why I’m still even here, still alive—and still writing—in a poetic-literal sense. But it’s also why what I’ve come to call the Work will never be “done.” The day I stop getting emails like this on a regular basis is the day I will no longer be drawn to the tasks that inspired them.
While nothing I do will ever be enough, in the face of that feeling I can at last feel that I have done something. I’m getting copied. A lot. Kind of all over the place. In places I didn’t even know existed. Places I don’t even have the mental equipment to access; another thing I wanted to write but have as yet failed to do.
At a recent BDSM munch in Berkeley, a young person introduced herself to me. “Hi,” she said, offering a handshake and stating her name. “Hi,” I responded, shaking her hand. “I’m maymay.” She froze momentarily, still holding my hand, and I saw recognition cross her face. Then, smiling, she said, “Awesome.” We spoke for a while, and she told me of how she once got a comment on an old MySpace blog from someone who signed up specifically to leave the comment. The comment said simply, “Thank you for writing what you did; it helped me.” That’s when she became another of my heroes.
I look around now and I see even more personal heroes, a multiplicity of thought-replicants. Stabbity is writing great rants in the style of the sorely-missed Bitchy Jones. Thanks in part to Dev’s significant piece on the topic of devaluing male submission, discussions about it have flourished in a number of places, including look-alike venues whose rhetoric I despise. There’s also a whole interview series with submissive men in which the issue is a recurring theme. Even whole new blogs with the premise are sprouting.
It’s no accident my heroes were birthed by the Internet. “Sexual reproduction,” as Donna Haraway wrote, “is one kind of reproductive strategy among many, with costs and benefits as a function of the system environment.” In what can perhaps be viewed as an ironic technological re-appropriation of sexual determinism, I have impregnated The Scene’s spaces using cybernetic replication; other people’s minds offered presequenced cultural genetic material, instruments to engineer a more humane culture. The act is pleasurable, certainly, though crude and often still uncomfortable.
In desperation, denying parts of my own didactic lust for corporeal sensation, I ruptured and reconstituted myself an intellisexual cyborg who thrived on the orgiastic exchange of conceptions rather than bodily fluids, a kind of idea-sex in which hyperlinks are sex toys. (Probably strap-ons.) My persona is now so thoroughly projected on the thin surface of cyberspace that I feel offering you this digitized dossier has cost me the depth of my life. Yet it has also rewarded me with a kind of awkward attractiveness I could not attain when decoupled from my electronic prosthetics.
By the same reasoning, it is also no accident that I am a brutal critic of the BDSM Scene at this moment in history, nor that I would critique it using the lore of radical transparency, diversity, and accessibility—all gleaned from techno-privileged open sources. For all intents and purposes, I am the illegitimate offspring of The Scene and The State at a time when the literary telepathic non-magic of the Internet threatens them both. And, still borrowing from Haraway, ”illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.”
And I feel Haraway was prescient in more ways than this. You, my heroes, are also cyborgs, for you are simultaneously everywhere and invisible. So if you are also my replicants, then you are blessedly illegitimate offspring, too. I hope you will be as unfaithful to me as I have been to our shared cultural ancestors.
I now believe the identity of a “submissive man” is at best of limited use; exuberant, perhaps, but taxonomic rather than expressive. In her succinct deconstruction of Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes:
Sandoval emphasizes the lack of any essential criterion for identifying who is a woman of colour. She notes that the definition of the group has been by conscious appropriation of negation. For example, a Chicana or US black woman has not been able to speak as a woman or as a black person or as a Chicano. Thus, she was at the bottom of a cascade of negative identities, left out of even the privileged oppressed authorial categories called ‘women and blacks’, who claimed to make the important revolutions. The category ‘woman’ negated all non-white women; ‘black’ negated all non-black people, as well as all black women.
In applying this to myself and the specific microcosm of deliberate erotic megalomania in which I was socialized, it feels a parallel trajectory: A submissive man has heretofore not been able to speak as a man nor as a submissive person. Thus, within The-Scene-as-The-State, his is also an amalgamation of forced-negative identities that inevitably fluctuates along multiple spectra in ways that do not conform to gender role stereotypes. He could be neither submissive nor a man at the same time; his kink is necessarily queer.
I think this holds because The Scene’s “revolutionary authorial” categories are overwhelmingly “submissive women”, while its “privileged” categories are overwhelmingly “dominant men”. So trapped partly by my own self-projection, which by its very literal nature is multifetal since I’m concurrently in my own space as well as volatile and hostile arenas, I constantly experience a maddening multidimensional dissonance. That my dissonance—and my dissidence!—is caused by (specifically categorical) privilege in some contexts and its absence in others is simply another layered irony.
But our broken sexual identities—submissive man, dominant woman, what have you—are not served by having Scene-State figureheads at all; I’ve been documenting entrances when I should’ve been documenting exits! I’m too visible, acrid, and incorporeal to change The Scene, anyway. Perhaps you, my invisible heroes, would be better suited to that task.
Refuge in Diasporic Exile
As June came to a close, I visited Portland to volunteer for a tech conference, and someone who knew me far better than I knew them invited me into their new house, and then I felt a way I didn’t know I could feel again: they caned me, and I loved it. I wanted more, and harder. It was more desirable pain than I’d felt in years, the first time in a long time I’d felt good about playing a way I’d craved for so long.
I wish I had words to describe it, but all I have is this unceremonious picture:
When I look at this photograph, the emotional intensity I recall and the objective inanity I see have me feeling trapped in an endless tug-of-war. “Don’t you get it?” I want to scream at anyone who doesn’t. I want so much more than this momentary banality but this is all I get. This is such a sentimental photograph to me because it shows a moment unfairly difficult to find, something made out of reach, and something I could only touch again for a brief moment. And it is simultaneously such an agonizing photograph to me because it shatters the self-consoling aplomb I had of living my life without it.
Yet I cannot imagine this photo holding any significance to anyone but myself, and perhaps some of the people who care about me. It’s not particularly beautiful or well-lit. It is not retouched or cropped, nor particularly intentionally posed or composed. I am not an especially beautiful model in it—I don’t even know how to be, for a picture—nor are my marks remarkable, even by my own history. There is no way this picture would and, worse, no reason this picture should get any love on FetLife’s Kinky & Popular feed, for instance.
I deeply resent the “privileged shits” who belittle this mundane sacredness, who don’t understand why I’m terrified of publishing this picture in the first place, or why I’m doing it anyway. I’m jealous of others’ sociosexual ease (where they have it), but more so of the cornucopia of sex they inhabit regardless of whether or not the horn of plenty is a mirage; more than anything, I’m jealous of their access to a symbology for signaling desires and boundaries to others. How can I ever hope to feel whole when I can’t express submissiveness for fear of signaling meekness, nor desirous for fear of signaling aggression?
I desperately want to have sex and play and lay with lovers, new and as-yet-undiscovered. I hate The Scene because I cannot kneel and feel confident I am seen for who I am—even in my own bedroom, even, no, especially by my own eyes. This black lung is the ugliest part of me.
Further, a personal irony makes things harder: my Work itself was what made me not only attractive, but noticeable enough to have even the opportunity for such play in the first place. In Portland, in bed, as we laughed together, they whispered in my ear: “I had this idea that playing with you would have to be so serious.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” they said. “You’re maymay.”
In other words, when I move through The Scene, I’m no longer one of the dime-a-dozens. I could have a puny hill, too, now, if only I’d wear that contemptible crown. But I don’t want it, even as I know others would love to have it, because breathing the air there tastes like oil.
Recently, FeministSub asked me a poignant question:
do you think the BDSM community is capable of change and do you feel motivated to be one of the people that helps make that happen?
I evaded answering because I was scared to admit the extent of my true feelings publicly: like all governances obsessed with power, this Scene-State is fundamentally callous. It’s not immune to the toxins in general society, it amplifies them—but it’s also the source of vital yet unrefined antiserums for general society. That’s why I can’t find it in myself to light the match, but if I were to witness The Scene ablaze today, I would not move to stop its destruction. Instead, I would watch with bittersweet sensitivity as the closest thing I knew to a cultural home burned. Because maybe, if there is enough fire, eventually there won’t be any flames left to draw me back here at all.
And in my awkward, cataclysmic final fantasy, I’d distill this sentiment to explain why many people far more forgiving, far more generous, and far more compromising than I wrinkle their noses at WIITWD all the time. They’re correct to do so. If my genuine sorrow at that fact is a mystery to a community that declares itself well-versed in reconciling paradoxes, then that community isn’t just self-selective and self-protective, it’s self-delusional.
A Lighthouse in the Park
So, all this being said, here’s what I’ll do: I’m going to the park, and I’m inviting you—yes, you—to join me to hang out for a while. It seems to me that the kind of kink-friendly people I want to meet, as well as the ones who seem to have the things I most want, occupy a liminal space between public Scene and private clique. If a humane cultural home exists for me at all, it exists there, and I need to recenter myself at the permeable edge of that voluntary intersectional diaspora.
I’m going to the park because it’s not Wicked Grounds, or a munch, or a party. You’re still invited if you like those other places, but I want a less polluted environment. After all, “if the only available patterns for kink emphasize something a person doesn’t like, then that person will probably avoid kink.” And that’s who I want to meet; you’re who I really care about, anyway. Even if The Powers That Be don’t believe me, I know there are many of you out there, somewhere.
So, I’m going to the park. And I’m bringing my juggling clubs, and maybe a book in case you don’t show up (that’d be okay, too), and maybe some fruits and berries if I can find fresh ones on the cheap to share, in case you do show up. Because I’ve already spent too much time doing things I didn’t want to. And I deserve to feel fulfilled in every way, but not because I’m special, not because I’m “maymay.” I deserve it because I’m just like you.