Tag Archives: Etiquette

Your Friend Told You They’re Polyamorous and You’re Confused

Dear Samuel,

My dear friend (who we’ll call “Samuel” because that’s his name) told me that he’s polyamorous. The thing is that I’m pretty sure he’s European, what should I do? Should I show him his grandparents’ Ellis Island certificates or play along with his delusion that he’s from tropical islands? Help!

Love,

Samuel

 

Well Samuel, you stupid little twit, the word  you’re thinking of is “Polynesian” and that’s quite different from what “Samuel” actually said. So why don’t you grow a pair of ears, you miserable excuse for a human, and sit down so I can explain to you what your friend actually meant.

Considering that your friend and I are the exact same person I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what he was talking about. Your friend is using polyamorous to describe the fact that he can feel romantic and/or sexual attractions to multiple people at the same time. Samuel feels comfortable acting upon his various attractions even if he’s currently involved with other people. You need to understand that Samuel is not cheating as he has not entered into any relationship with the expectation that it will be monogamous. To achieve this Samuel places a premium on constant communication to ensure that all participants are informed and feel safe/comfortable.

Here’s some basic advice:

First of all it is not your place to question the validity of Samuel’s, fuck this I’m going to use first person pronouns, of my relationships. If I am in six relationships (long term relationships with two people, casually hooking up with three, just starting to date one- obviously this is hypothetical because in what universe can I get one date, let alone six) then I am in six relationships that mean as much to me as your one relationship. What I feel for each person is genuine and sincere and it is not your fucking place to tell me otherwise. If we’re close friends and you feel that there’s something wrong with one of my relationships because it just doesn’t seem healthy then please express your concern but the fact that my relationships might look different than yours means jackshit.

You might have some questions with terminology. Who is my boyfriend? Who is my make out buddy? Valid questions and they deserve valid answers: I’ll tell you who is who. If you’re confused then you can ask, “Hey, how do you refer to Steve? Or Belinda?” Be polite and I’ll be polite in return. It’s probably not a big deal but you’ll make it one if you obsess over it.

In trying to answer all the questions that I felt people would want answered I realized that what I really cared about was respect. Please respect my relationships and my feelings. When I act upon my attractions it’s because they’re sincere emotions that I truly feel. Furthermore I do my best to keep communication at the forefront of my relationships. Also, it’s not really your business. I mean, as long as everyone involved is freely consenting and know what’s going on then you can’t really complain. So fuck off?

If you have any questions about polyamory please ask. I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my abilities and provide resources that I’ve come across.

Etiquette: Bringing Others into a Dom/Sub Relationship

The other day I was listening to the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast when one of her guests talked about her experiences with a slave who came into the sex toy shop where she works. She describes how a man entered her store and presented her with a letter that she was to open and then read to him. The letter was a shopping list of what he was supposed to bring home (apparently this was the first time he was told what exactly he needed to buy) but also included several very mean things that the woman had to read out to him. After the woman said that this was the most uncomfortable she’d ever felt while working in a sex toy shop Sandra talked about how this sort of behavior is unfair to people who don’t know that they’re getting roped into a fantasy. She went on to describe how the shop where she works gets these sort of situations but that these can be successful if the dom/master will call before the sub/slave arrives to give the shop a heads up.

I was actually horrified when I listened to the story and kept hoping she was going to say something about how this was a hypothetical situation. My horror is not with the master/slave or dom/sub relationship but by the fact that this woman was brought into the dynamics of a relationship without her consent. I’m sure we can all agree consent is extremely important, particularly when we enter into the intimate world of sex, (Actually I tend to say that communication is even more important as you can’t have complete consent without communication but let’s make that a different post.) and for a culture that puts so much emphasis on consent why do we sometimes bring people outside of our relationships in without their consent? It probably sounds like I’m over reacting here but my anger and annoyance isn’t geared towards this one incident but rather was reignited by hearing this story.

When I first began exploring more sex-positive subcultures I kept running across stories like this in forums or advice columns or articles or just general conversation. The nice thing was that a year or two ago these stories died down. To hear this woman’s experience after a nice quiet period was really troubling, especially since I thought that this was basically over. Me writing a blog post on this subject probably won’t have any impact but I’m a Blogger And So My Opinions And Ideas Are Worthy Of Being Shared With Everyone From Solomon To Jack the Ripper.

The blunt point of what I want to say is that consent isn’t needed just from the people who are placing their genitals into each others orifices (or whatever it is that you like to do) but from whoever is going to be involved; this includes anyone who is involved in your power dynamics. The one area that I feel less strongly about this is when it comes to people who get their jollies from the danger of almost being caught. It’s one thing if you’re sneaking into semi-public places to have sex (the dorm laundry room or a some shrubbery in a not too crowded park) but when you want to involve someone else you better have their consent.

One popular theme that gets brought up in erotic stories involves the subordinate partner answering the door to a plumber/electrician/mailman/etc. while wearing nothing or with a collar on or some other humiliating device their dominant has thought up. I feel it’s one thing if it’s along the lines of the sub is wearing a short skirt with no underwear (Trust me, I’m not just thinking of female identified people here.)  as I tend to place this more in the category of “flirting with almost getting caught” but to go further is a whole different ball(gag) game. The advice that I’m going to give is something that I haven’t had personal experience with and it will need to be adapted depending on where you live; however, I think it can provide a useful starting point for people who might want to incorporate this element of humiliation into their play. The dominant can call or e-mail ahead to whoever is coming over to your place. Here’s a suggestion script or e-mail that I wrote up:

Hello, [YADDA YADDA MY STOVE NEEDS MAINTENANCE YADDA YADDA] Just so you know my partner and I have a relationship where we explore power relations/kink/humiliation/whatever-you-think-will-get-the-point-across. My partner might answer the door while wearing “X” and I wanted to give you a heads up. There’s nothing specific I need from you but I wanted to make sure you/whoever-is-coming-over won’t feel uncomfortable with what they’ll find. Obviously if this is an issue than I’ll make sure my partner isn’t home/is wearing all their clothes.

I think it goes without saying that you will know your own situation better than I will so please take this as a rough suggestion.

If you have friends with similar interests in your local community then they can be a great resource. Ask if they know people who’d be comfortable making house calls and make sure you let them know if you find people who are open to this. Local messaging boards or really any kink forums can be another tool. Finding forums online that address your region may be challenging (Fetlife could be a good place to start looking.) but finding them can be a lot of help.

One of my favorite examples of dom/sub in public/incorporating others is an anecdote from a friend at my previous university. His face flushed with happiness, he came into the suite to announce that he’d been walking through the student center when a dominant came by walking their subordinate on a leash. My friend approached the dom and after commenting on how cute their “puppy” was asked if he could pet it. Permission was given and my friend left with his day made. What I like about this is that this particular couple brought their relationship public (Yay for kink visibility!) and welcomed participation from others but didn’t force others to engage in it. (I also really like this demonstration of how power play doesn’t only mean one person in boots flogging a naked person like our media likes to portray.)

Consent, consent, consent, three words that I never get tired of hearing. Bringing others into your relationship can be fun and exciting but should always include consent. Let me know of your own experience with this subject and if you feel there’s anything I got wrong.

Etiquette: Why Asking “Are You a Top or Bottom?” Might Not Be the Greatest Move You’ll Ever Make (Unless of course you lead a very sad little life)

A person with a penis* has sex with another PWAP and the next day it’s casually brought up in conversation. “Oh, are you the top or the bottom?”, someone asks.  And then I begin to cry with anger. I was originally going to write this post about how straight people sometimes ask really intimate questions to queer people as if it’s not intimate because we’re different. “Who’s carrying the child?” “How do you masturbate?” “Are you on testosterone? ” “Were you abandoned by your father/mother as a child?” Yes, not every straight person thinks that they can ask anyone who isn’t straight and/or cis-gendered intensely intimate questions about their bodies/sex lives/history/mental-health/life-in-general, but which queer reading this can say that they’ve never had a question like this asked at them by a straight person?

You, put your hand down, you’re lying.

Sorry, maybe you’re not lying and maybe this is only prevalent among the various communities I’ve lived in.

This post was going to be about straight people asking PWAPs who have sex with other PWAPs if they’re the “top” (the penetrator) or the “bottom” (the penetratee). After writing the title of this post and saving it as an empty draft I meditated on the idea for a few days** and realized that I had more to say than just that. The subject I wanted to tackle was more than a nosy question, it was the whole TOP-BOTTOM-NO GREY AREA dichotomy that I was annoyed with.

Asking someone if they’re the giver or receiver in the sack is a pretty personal question. If your relationship with someone is close enough that you two talk about your sex lives then this question could be fine. If you’re co-workers, or casual acquaintances or friends who aren’t at the Let’s-Share-Every-Detail-Of-Our-Sex-Lives-And-Bowel-Movements stage then maybe let this question rest. By also run the risk of getting a very confusing sports answer when asking an acquaintance, “Are you the pitcher or the catcher?”

Moving on from the Appropriateness-Of-Questions issue I’d like to address why the question in general bothers me. It’s a really fucking presumptive question. Think about it for a minute. The question isn’t, “If you were going to engage in anal sex would you have a strong preference for one role or the other and please explain,” it isn’t even, “Did you have anal sex and if you did than which role did you preform?”, it’s “YOU ENGAGE IN ANAL SEX AND DID YOU TAKE IT UP THE BUM OR DID YOU GIVE IT UP THE BUM. AND BY IT I MEAN THE PENIS.”***

Not every PWAP who has sex with a PWAP is going to do anal. According to a study put out by the Center for Disease Control 2.9 percent (with a standard deviation of .3 percent) of the 61,865 men, aged 15-44, who “sexual activity with same-sex partners in lifetime”**** between 2006 and 2008 engaged in anal-sex. If I’m interpreting this correctly (And someone please let me know if I’m not. I’m not a professional statistician or professional CDC report reader.) then the majority of men (using the CDC’s definition) would respond with, “Neither,” when asked if they bottomed or topped. As a society we seem convinced that PWAP who have sex with other PWAP are going to do so anally. The idea of an effeminate twink bottoming enthusiastically for a straight-passing dude is super ingrained in our cultural mind. What about frot? Or is it frotting? I don’t really know. Frot is a form of sex that can happen between two PWAP but it doesn’t include anal penetration (Don’t worry, that link takes you to the Wikipedia entry on “frot”.)

And why do we have to have such a cemented idea on roles in anal sex? What about “switches”? Some people find joy in both giving and receiving penetration, ya know. To say that you must be one or the other really limits people’s creativity when it comes to exploring what makes them feel good. This idea that PWAP only have anal sex and only get to have position their entire sexual lives must be rolled back, if only because it’s limiting for those engaged in sex.

Also, don’t ask questions that are too intimate. Let other people bring up the topic before you start asking them if they’d rather have their Tricky Dick up someone’s Watergate or if they’d want someone’s (or some people’s) Prince Philip going into their Buckingham Palace.

*Maybe this penis is a biological one that this friend was born with, or maybe it’s a plastic one purchased from a shop, or maybe it’s a different type of penis. Maybe this friend identifies as male and maybe they don’t. That’s really not important right now. For the sake of brevity I’ll be using the acronym PWAP in place of “person with a penis”.

**Reality television, job hunting, West Wing watching, walking around town lost all count as meditating, got it?

***Maybe it isn’t that aggressive but I’ve got a scenario in my head where the person asking is a highly confused woolly mammoth who speaks loudly and in broken sentences when confused.

****Trust me, I’m really not thrilled with how the CDC presented their information. The section regarding anal sex in same-sex female couples? There isn’t one. And how are they defining “male” and “female”? There doesn’t seem to be anything about intersex individuals or different gender identities. If I could find data that wasn’t so… traditional, is that the word I want?, then I would have used that data. Anyone who has a report that’s more inclusive should send it along to me, please and thank you.

Etiquette: Approaching a Man in a Dress

(Let’s start things off with a disclaimer: I am a man who wears “women’s” clothing but I can’t speak for every man who wears dresses. Like most questions of etiquette all advice given must be then applied in regards to the situation. To quote Stephen Fry in his excellent piece on the beauty of language, “Context, convention and circumstance are all.”  But onto the meat of this post.)

It’s 2012 (soon to be 2013, dear mother of everything that’s holy) and it’s highly probable that you’ve encountered a man in a dress. Maybe you were behind a man in heels while online at the grocery store, or perhaps a close male friend sometimes wears muumuus  to parties. For the past two years  I’ve been that man (well, I do prefer pencil skirts to muumuus, much more flattering for my figure) and I’ve had a some… awkward encounters  with strangers, family members and friends who feel uncomfortable with my sartorial choices.  Understandably, many people are uncomfortable when they first meet me. It’s not that they’re looking at me and comparing me to the Son of Satan, it’s simply that they really don’t want to offend me. I appreciate it that, I really do.

When approaching a man in a dress the most important thing for you to keep in mind is that (get ready for this, it’s a shocker) IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. Seriously. The fact that I’m a male identified person whose wearing a fitted black black dress, fishnet stockings and sensible librarian shoes doesn’t mean that I’m a homosexual or a child molester or confused about my gender or an anarchist (For the record: I’m none of those four.) Smile, keep calm and treat me like you would anyone else.

There is the big issue of gendered words in the English language. I’ve had many encounters with people in retail where I’m addressed like this, “Hello, sir, sorry, madam, I mean, sir?, sir, madam, hello? I’m sorry.” If you’re in this situation then just breathe and remember, it’s not your fault. If anyone is to blame it’s the English language and its male-female based language. A few intrepid folks are trying to help rectify this by bringing in third-gender/gender-neutral pronouns (this is a link to the Wikipedia page on the topic) but these pronouns haven’t yet been fully adopted into language. When the time and situation allows for it a friendly, “Excuse me, may I ask what your preferred pronouns are?”, can’t hurt. In cases where there really isn’t a chance to ask about preferred pronouns then I’d have to recommend that you try to skip over any gendered-words. If you really, really, really have to use gendered-words like ma’am or sir then I suppose you’ll have to go with your gut.  Really, we could totally use a form of polite address that doesn’t carry gender…

There’s a strange trend where complete strangers will meet me and then seem to want to demonstrate how down-with-blowing-up-out-dated-gender-stereotypes-and-roles they are by immediately saying something that acknowledges the fact that I’ve got a penis and I’m wearing a dress. These comments tend to divide into two categories:

You know, my cousin’s daughter has a friend who also realized he’s a girl.

OR

 How do your parents feel about you wearing dresses?

The first is, is, well it’s ridiculous. My clothing tells you jack-shit about my gender identity. To assume that you know anything about my gender identity is just a bunch of bull. And let’s talk about why you think I’m trans (AND let’s also point out that the way the first comment is phrased is quite problematic. If you don’t see anything wrong with the first comment please look at the links to resources at the end of this post.)- Maybe I am, maybe I’m not but either way YOU DON’T KNOW.  You can ask my preferred pronoun or just don’t bring it up. This first type of comment is also irritating since it relies on a very divided concept of gender and gender performance that says that only female-identified people wear “women’s” clothing.

The second type of comment is really uncomfortable and quite frankly not really your business. If we’re close friends or are having a nice conversation about gender and gender-identity in which I share a bit of my own experience then great, ask away! When you’re a stranger this is just weird. You have no idea about my history with my parents and my sartorial choices. Perhaps I’ve had some really horrific experiences that I simply don’t want to talk about or maybe I haven’t, either way you simply don’t know. So please, unless we’re not complete strangers, how about you don’t bring this up? Great, thanks.

Here’s a quick re-hash of what we’ve learned today:

  1. Men in dresses isn’t a big deal. Really. I promise.
  2. A nice polite, “Excuse me, do you have preferred pronouns?”, is nice.
  3. Calm down, it’s not a big deal. Seriously.
  4. My clothing tells you nothing about my gender identity (or any other aspect of any of my other identities, for that matter) and to assume that you know my gender identity is kinda rude…
  5. Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine.
  6. YOU DON’T NEED TO TALK TO ME ABOUT MY FASHION CHOICES. Compliments? Compliments are great. “You look better in a dress than most women”? Not so great.

Most importantly- What I’ve written can’t be applied to every situation you’ll find yourself in. I’ve laid out my opinion on the subject but you can bet there are other men in dresses who disagree with me on this. Please feel free to respond with your thoughts on my suggestion.

Super Cool Resources On Gender And Fashion And Cool Things:

Genderfork: According to their “about” blurb: “Genderfork is a supportive community for the expression of identities across the gender spectrum.” This is less of a resource for self-education on gender identities and more of a beautiful online community that I highly recommend looking at.

LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS! The graphic originally is from TSER but I discovered via Project Queer.

Actually, just go TSER’s sweet graphics page for some rather well designed presentations. The focus is on trans* identities (and let’s face it, who among us couldn’t use a brush-up on how to not be a stupid-head on trans* identities?) but it includes some excellent information about gender identities.

And of course Planned Parenthood has a lovely page on gender.

Doms Messaging Subs: A (Fairly, Maybe, Most Likely) Safe for Work Post about Etiquette (That I'm Probably Not Too Qualified to Write…)

Let’s be perfectly frank (but not sexually explicit*): I’m a person who has interest in submissive/dominant sexual relationships and who uses online sites to interact with potential romantic/platonic partners. (This isn’t about my interests, I just feel like sharing where I’m coming from.) When I create profiles for online sites (primarily Fetlife and OkCupid) I tend to put onto my profiles something about my interest in sub/dom sexual relationships. My profiles don’t necessarily say that I lean one way or the other but they do mention my interest.  Despite not declaring myself a submissive or dominant I tend to get messages from dominant folks looking for a submissive and that’s perfectly fine, but here’s what I don’t think is fine: the way in which I’ve been approached by doms.

When I look at the messages (and I’m thinking primarily of two messages I’ve received on Fetlife) I’ve received from doms my “WARNING! UNCOMFORTABLE! UH-OH! NO! OH DEAR!” Klaxons begin to sound. My first thought was that I’d just happened to get two icky apples but after spending more time in online kink communities I felt that I was seeing similar experiences being shared or brought up. So here’s a pro-tip for doms approaching subs via messages or pictures: just because I’m interested in exploring sub/dom relationships does not mean that I’m coming to react favorably to demanding and explicit messages. There’s a big fucking difference between a message that reads something like this:

“Listen Up Slut, Master Here [List of bossy-ass demands]”

and a message that reads something like this:

Hello, I saw your profile. I am also interested in dom/sub. I like X, are you interested in X? Let me know!

The issue that I take with the first message is that it presumes that the sender knows what I’m looking for. (And let me just say that if you dare to presume you know what I want then you can go and take a long trip down an abandoned mine-shaft**.) The sender presuming that they know what the other party wants makes me instantly uncomfortable. I feel that these messages immediately set up a not-so-equal power relationship where the messenger/dom is setting a tone of “I am in control and we will do exactly what I want and your input doesn’t really matter to me.”

Look, it would be one thing if my profile said:

I want you to send me explicit and bossy and X and Y messages

or even:

I want to be in a relationship where the master is in control and we will do exactly what they want and my input shouldn’t really matter to them.

In this case the rough (Pardon the pun.***) particulars of the relationship are already set out. A vague framework has been established of what one party wants out of the relationship and the manner in which the dom replies helps to establish what the other party wants. My gut instinct is to say that before any sexual (or really any relationship) begins all parties involved will have an honest and open conversation about what exactly they’re comfortable with, what they want and what they definitely don’t want. That being said, I totally get that not everyone is going to share my view on this. Not everyone is as turned on by open conversations as I am (Open conversations are right up there with full consent, Ezra Miller and conversations about bog bodies.) and  I can respect that, as long as everyone is satisfied with what’s going on.

Oh, here’s another note for doms messaging subs (or really anyone messaging anyone): If the recipient responds by turning you down then you really shouldn’t take it personally and you really, really shouldn’t respond in anger. What you were offering simply wasn’t what that person wanted and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m going to draw on my own first-hand experiences to show you what I don’t recommend doing:

Messenger: [Bossy-ass demanding and demeaning opening message that I was really turned off by.]

Me: “No.”

Messenger: “FUCK OFF AND DO NOT FUCKING BOTHER ME.”

Yeah, please don’t be this dude, alright? And let me know what you think. Also, comment about Fetlife. It’s a bizarre website with some… some… somethings in its past that makes me uncomfortable and I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on it.

(*Hello! You found the footnote! Did you know that WordPress doesn’t seem to have any sort of footnote feature for their posts? It’s the truth. That’s not the point. A note about the sexual nature of this post: I don’t want this to be a rated-R or NSFW (Not Safe For Work) post. Rather, I’d like this post to be a friendly conversation about an aspect of life that has to do with sex and kink. If you’re not comfortable reading this then please don’t.)

(**I could be alone in this. Disagree with me? Agree with me? Feel completely neutral about this? Please let me know in the comment section, I really would love to hear your feedback on message senders thinking that they know the recipient’s interests.)

(***Yeah, I know it’s not a great pun but I’ll take any pun.)