Non-Sexual BDSM

This was written for the December 2014 Carnival of Aces on “Touch, Sensuality, and Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy”

For me, BDSM is completely non-sexual and I never desire for it to lead to anything sexual.  My mind just doesn’t make an intuitive connection between the two.  The pleasure I get from BDSM is simply about playing with the physical sensations and emotional states that BDSM involves.

It might be ouchy, thuddy, stingy of impact play.  The heat from dripping wax, or the cold of an ice cube.  Or tickly, scratchy, soft sensation play.  The coarseness of hemp rope.  It might be feeling scared, safe, trapped, free, in control, vulnerable, powerful, comforted.  Or the shared experience with a friend or partner, creating a beautiful play scene together.  Being a canvass for another’s creativity.

For me, it’s not about being turned on or sexual pleasure.  It doesn’t matter if I’m not sexually (or romantically or sensually) attracted to the other person.  I do BDSM because I want to feel something, with my whole body, mind and soul.  And as a way of connecting with a friend or lover.

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Policing Asexual Definitions

One thing I really dislike is label policing.  Claiming that one specific definition of an identity is the correct one, and objecting to anybody else who fails to fit it using that label.  Many communities have these sorts of “correct definition” disputes.  But disagreements over the “correct” usage of asexual, aromantic, and sexual and romantic attraction (etc.) seems to crop up in the ace community very often.

As far as I’m concerned, any person is entitled to use whatever label they feel describes them.   This results in many overlapping and conflicting “definitions” of terms, as everybody uses language to talk about their own particular experiences.  And I see no problem in this.  Identity isn’t straight-forward, and there are a lot of gray areas.  Rigid definitions can never include everybody.  And so a certain amount of flexibility is needed in our terminology, if we wish for all aces to have the words to talk about their own asexuality.

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November 2014 Carnival of Aces – Round Up

Edit: added a submission from rainbow-after-the-stormy


 

Thank you everyone who submitted a post of the November carnival of aces, on the theme of expectations in friendships/relationships.  I’ve posted links below, but if I’ve missed anybody (or if you are still working on it) then please let me know 🙂

Sexual Expectations in the Kink Community

Being asexual in the kink scene feels strange at times.  On the one hand, it is awesome.  It’s generally acknowledged that everybody’s kinks are different, and so most people don’t take for granted that you will be interested in X,Y,Z (let alone necessarily with them).  There is an emphasis placed on negotiating the kinds of play, intimacy, and relationships you want – including whether or not it will involve sex – and consent is usually taken very seriously.  Non-normative intimacy and relationship styles are reasonably common.  And whilst not the norm, I’ve managed to find people who are happy for play, intimacy, dating and friendship to be forever non-sexual.

On paper at least, the kink community is ideal for me. Yet I feel like an outsider at times, for having an asexuality and gender that is too different.  Whilst almost everybody I’ve met has been very open-minded, the default cultural assumption is that people are allosexual, straight and gender-normative, with dominant men pairing with submissive women.  It may be okay to be different, but the kink scene is a space where I am particularly aware of just how different I am.

One of the things I like about the kink community is that no consensual sexual/kink activity is considered taboo.  But this often strays into an expectation that if you turn up to kink events or munches, then you must be comfortable with graphic descriptions of sex or seeing genitals.  When munches can turn to intimate details of somebody’s sex life without warning, or when you might stumble upon people engaging in sex or genital acts at a public play event, it is very difficult to avoid altogether.  And Fetlife (the kinksters equivalent of facebook) is impossible to use if you are averse to seeing images of genitals.  Even as an asexual who isn’t fazed too much by this, the in your face assumption that “wanting sex is normal” is still off-putting.

There is also a common assumption that if you are kinky, then you are necessarily looking for something sexual.  There are allosexual people, as well as asexuals, who experience their kink as being completely non-sexual, or prefer to keep kink and sex separate.  And within the community many people do understand and accept that.  But I have encountered people who struggle to grasp the concept.  Usually this just results in being asked a lot of confused questions.

On occasion, I’ve played with people whose expectation that kink be sexual has led to them being overly pushy to turn our interaction sexual once the play session was over (or even in the middle of play).  Partly these situations have arisen from my naivety in assuming that if sexual contact hasn’t been explicitly negotiated (particularly when playing in a public fetish club) then it won’t happen.  And since then I have tried to be a lot more explicit beforehand in saying I don’t want to do anything sexual with them.  Though it is still something that worries me when agreeing to play with anybody new.

Another expectation I feel is to be more gender-normative and hetero-normative than I actually am.  I’ve rarely come across any overt homophobia or transphobia within the community, and when it does occur it is invariably condemned very quickly.  But still, my experience of my local kink scene has been one saturated with heterosexuality and gender norms.  Perhaps this isn’t surprising since for most people their kink is very much bound up in their orientation (and consequently gender).

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, and people should be free to experience their kink in the way they do.  But it does mean that unlike every other common interest community I have been part of, I am constantly aware of how different from the norm I am.  Every munch and event I’ve been to has overwhelmingly been centred around dominant men in relationships with, or playing with, submissive women.  Queer people and anybody who doesn’t fit this norm are welcome within my local scene, but only provided they are comfortable being very visibly different from everybody else around them.

I personally feel a pressure to put on a “female” act within the kink scene, so as to conform to people’s presumptions about my gender.  Particularly if a person’s desire to interact or play with me is bound up in my appearing female.  Even when people know that I’m genderqueer and trans*, I still feel I should fit whatever fantasy version of me they have constructed in their head.  I’ve heard submissive men and dominant women also say that they feel a pressure to downplay that aspect of themselves whilst at public munches and events.  And there are kinky gay men and lesbians who don’t associate with my local kink scene, because they don’t want to one of the few people playing with somebody of the same gender.

I definitely don’t want this post to put of any queer, trans*, or asexual person from being part of the kink community, and there is no knowing if it is for you without trying it.  The kink scene portrays itself as very welcoming to people of all sexualities, and gender identities and expressions.  And on the surface, I’ve found that the community does often live up to that – more so than some queer or trans* spaces I’ve been in, let alone the rest of society.  Yet it has it’s flaws, and I know too many people who feel excluded from my local kink community, because they don’t feel comfortable in such a gender-normative, hetero-normative, heavily sexualised space.

Asexual sex-positivism

Sex-positive feminism is far from perfect when it comes to asexual inclusion – or indeed including anybody who isn’t a white, middle-class, cis, straight, fully able woman.  So I completely understand why a sizable portion of the asexual community steers well clear of this movement, where too many activists are openly acephobic and dismissive of our experiences.  I myself stopped engaging in activism for several years because I was fed up with spending all my energy attempting to persuade other feminists to be more inclusive of marginalized/minority groups.  But still, I don’t think writing off the entire sex-positive movement is the way forward.

I still believe an ace-inclusive sex-positivism is possible (and desirable!).  The asexual community doesn’t talk about sex-positive politics wildly different than the movement as a whole.  We come from a different perspective and experiences – as do queer and trans* folks, people of colour, people with disabilities, and working class people.  But we all speak the same language, which has always been rooted in sexual freedom, agency, and self-expression.

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The “Unassailable Asexual” in Activism

This is written for the August 2014 carnival of aces, on the theme of the unassailable asexual

I am a long way from being an unassailable asexual.  I’m a rape survivor, had major mental health difficulties, have a libido, am kinky, trans*, genderqueer and non-monogamous.  I’ve never quite worked out whether being aromantic or romantic makes you unassailable – but I’m pretty sure my confused wtfromantic orientation doesn’t cut it, and nor does my complicated attitude towards sex.

At times this has caused me to doubt the realness of my asexuality – and lead to others questioning the genuineness of my identity.  It has meant that I’ve kept quiet about some of the less orthodox parts of my identities and experiences – both because I want to be taken seriously, and don’t want people to assume all asexuals are as weird as I am.

So it perhaps comes as no surprise that I dislike the notion of the “unassailable asexual” and find it particularly frustrating when asexual activism focuses on this single picture of asexuality.  In fact one of the reasons I started this blog was because I was fed up of the conventional limited narratives of gender and sexuality – people are far more diverse than the neat one-dimensional boxes that lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, straight, trans*, cis, genderqueer, woman, man, and intersex (etc) typically divide us into.

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