Posted by Sarah Sloane on Dec 3, 2010 in communication
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that I’m still not too old to change.
When it comes to kink, I’d been through a couple of “drought” years – well, not a drought, but in comparison, far below my previous history and my desires. I sort of knew it was happening, and had simple reasons why (and even simpler attempts to change it, which didn’t work well)…but in the end it comes down to this: I was afraid.
I tend towards having ongoing relationships with people I play with; not necessarily that of a lover (though sometimes that’s the case) but certainly a friendship with an extra dollop of respect. And when I have an ongoing relationship with someone – I make myself vulnerable. I can’t do it any other way – especially when the quality of our interactions are laced with the dynamic of power, I have to share some of the essence of who I am with someone in order to have the depth of experience that I crave.
But being vulnerable means being open to both the pleasure, and the pain, of intimacy. It means that the words “I like you” and “you could have done better” strike me more deeply. It means that I run the risk of being hurt. And I’m a Capricorn – stubborn, calculating, scheming, ever feeling the need to control my environment…so running that risk is scary as hell for me.
I have been fighting that for the past few years. I’ve had a few relationships with people (some still going) where I knew that I was holding myself back from being as present with them as I could be. I can sort of tie it into a few relationships that ended in ways that I would have chosen otherwise, but the reality is that I have pushed myself back from the world to avoid the bumps and bruises of wrestling with real life relationships.
It came to a head this spring. Read more…
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Oct 13, 2010 in Articles
As promised in various places, the following is the text of my speech from last weekend’s Poly Pride Rally, sponsored by Poly NYC.
It is my honor & privilege to be here today to speak to an amazing group of people who stand at the intersection of two communities that nourish & sustain me: the queer community, and the polyamorous community.
2010 is an amazing time to be queer in America. On the surface, our social and legal standing looks a bit bleak; the headlines reflect the bigotry of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the hatred and bullying aimed towards our LGBTQ youth, and the lack of legal marriage & partnership rights in almost every state in this nation. But underneath – we are making progress towards our goal of taking our place at the table of equal rights. Legal decisions are starting to move our way; public opinion is changing, slowly but surely, and more and more allies are standing with queer and trans people as we move forward in claiming those rights.
The queer community did not get here by telling heteronormative people that they’re wrong; in fact, we got here by doing the exact opposite – by building bridges. We got here by coming out as queer, by living our lives with our families in our communities, by letting our neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances learn about our similarities, rather than focusing on our differences.
The polyamorous community can learn these lessons, too. I read poly blogs and websites, and listen to podcasts that often proudly exclaim how much more “normal” and better polyamory is than monogamy; this is not only inaccurate, but it’s incredibly counterproductive. Polyamory is a relationship style that requires different skill sets, different types of exploration, and a different intent; it’s neither better nor worse than monogamy, it’s simply different. Some people are cut out for one, others are suited for the other, and still more can adapt to either, based on circumstances and partners.
Yet when people who choose monogamy, as well as those who are beginning to explore their relationship orientation, hear these “better than” statements, it separates them from us, and deafens them to our message; we are criticizing the way that they choose to have relationships, and we become the same kinds of bullies that we decry. We gather no champions outside of our community, and even more, we push away our partners and friends who consciously choose monogamy because of their own needs and wants.
Instead, let’s learn from the experiences of the queer rights activists. Let’s engage in conversations about polyamory from a perspective of conscious consideration and talk about how our relationship structures are important based on our own needs. Let’s talk about open relationships as part of the spectrum of consensual healthy relationships, not the ONLY sane choice. And let’s reinforce that healthy relationships are our birthright, even if our relationships don’t look like those of our parents, our neighbors, or our legal structures. Let’s show the rest of the world smart, healthy examples of open relationships, and let’s celebrate our love as one of the unalienable rights that we are entitled to: life, liberty, and the pursuit of OUR happiness.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Jul 16, 2010 in communication
Sometimes, it gets a little old to me. I feel like I talk about so much about sex, but have so little of it, that I’m a fraud – an educator who is all talk, no action; who can’t do, so she teaches. The sad thing is that many of my friends who are long-term sex educators, sex workers, and performers all commiserate about it.
“How many of you are convinced that your customers have more sex than you do?”, I asked at a recent event held at a very sex-positive shop. Every one of the half-dozen staff present raised their hands.
“How often do you have kinky sex?”, I’ve asked my perverati friends. Some of them are getting it on, all the time; others confess (yes! confess!) in quiet voices that they have “vanilla” sex almost exclusively.
So, when I went through two years of libido coma, it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong. Really. I was teaching over 100 classes a year (which, while it looks great on the resume, is pretty craptastic on the free-time front). Of *course* I was too tired to be creatively kinky, especially from the top side of things. I was traveling too much to maintain much in the way of relationships.
And after sharing – nay, preaching – about the importance of personal boundaries when it comes to sex work of all kinds…imagine my shame and shock when I realized that I’d been screwing myself over for two. bloody. years. I let things that hurt push me back into the cavern of my sexual isolation – the loss of relationships and lovers, the stress of travel, the fear of being vulnerable, the ease with which I avoided possible entanglements involving lube or toys. And what I ended up with was feeling distanced not only from my lovers and from people who I really do like and really do want to play with…but also, feeling distanced from myself.
I started talking about kink & sex because it was such a valuable part of my life; a part that I’d shredded, examined, processed, raged at, ragged about, celebrated, denied, and reinserted into my psyche in my late 20’s. Empowering my own ability to be a sexual being, guiltlessly kinky and joyfully queer, turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My self esteem took a ride up to the Mile-High Club when I realized that I could actually be externally who I was internally without being afraid of it. So, when this all took a back seat…I started feeling like a bit of an automaton. Like someone who talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. And that meant…time for a serious talking to with myself, and some reprioritization.
But like many minor miracles…the one step of saying “that’s it – I’m done with this bullshit” started making the changes happen. Within weeks, I found out my libido had shaken off the scent of the mothballs that it had been packed in, and was off on its own making sexy play plans with folks. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had to push it a little. I made a decision to engage in some sort of play with someone at every event that I’ve been to this year, and so far, I’ve been quite (suprisingly, to me) successful at it. And the play has been good – really good. I feel released; I feel more in touch with my whole body and my libido than I have in a very long time.
Lesson acknowledged, Universe. Don’t become so focused on what I am that I forget about who I am. Gotcha.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Jun 13, 2008 in communication
The abstinence-only proponents would have us believe that educating teenagers provides them with an impetus to screw. If they know what actually happens – a penis goes into a vagina (and we won’t even discuss the alternatives, because that would make their kids gay, and THAT is not possible) and ejaculates – then they’ll be tempted to do it! It’s like Reefer Madness, only with orgasms! Sadly, we’ve seen studies come out lately that say that STD’s are on the rise in the under-21 crowd – and yes, that includes these kids. There are also studies that say that young women who take pledges to remain abstinent are more likely to have sex without condoms than young women who don’t take these pledges.
Why am I talking about this in a kink-oriented blog? Because I see the same thing happening some circles in the kink community. Breath play? It kills you! We must never talk about it! Scat play? Oh, the horror! Heavy body modification & body play? Why, you’ll be messed up for life! The kink community has their dirty little secrets – and frankly it’s time we got over it.
Yes, your kink may not be okay for me, or for anyone else – but if you make a conscious choice to do it, and your partner(s) make the same conscious choice to do it, and it doesn’t affect anyone who is unable to consent, then who am I to complain?
Moreover, I am a part of the community of people who practice and advocate for consensually based BDSM practices as a healthy part of one’s sexuality. I am a firm believer that each person deserves access to the information that they need to practice their kink in as healthy a manner as possible – whether that’s emotionally healthy, physically healthy, or psychologically healthy. I am also a firm believer that, while organized educational classes and events cannot teach everything, they should be a forum for as wide a range of practices – including taboo practices – as possible.
The challenge comes in when I hear about organizations that, due to pressure from a vocal sub-group, choose to not make classes and discussion available about various topics because they are either unsafe or otherwise taboo. Breath play, rape play, age play, heavy humiliation…all topics that are edgy for many groups to consider having presentations on. Yet, aren’t they, due to the potential for significant complications (physically and mentally), more important for all of us to enter into an educational dialog about?
Hiding our collective heads in the sand and trying to act like we all play in the same predictable ways is unhealthy for us – and while it might not be the most politically savvy way of handling BDSM advocacy and education, at some point we need to remember that we come into community with one another in order to create and live a life – sexually, and otherwise – that it authentic to us, even though it doesn’t match up with what the societal standards of our culture are. By not acknowledging our shadow play, we’re eliminating our connection with our true selves and our core sexual fantasies, and that is precisely what causes sexual repression in the first place.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Feb 29, 2008 in communication
No matter how perfect a submissive I am, I cannot control everything that might affect my dominant’s mood, nor should I try to take responsibility for them.
No matter how powerful a dominant I am, I cannot actually force my submissive partner’s behavior, nor can I be responsible for their actions if they are doing what they willingly choose to do.
No matter how much I give back in service to the community, I cannot hold myself emotionally or mentally responsible for a group’s well-being, nor should I continue to give back out of obligation when giving diminishes my energy rather than enhances it.
No matter what level of respect or etiquette I observe in any group that I attend, I am responsible for my own actions and ethics, and I deserve to be treated the way that I treat others.
No matter how good a top I am, I should never feel like I can’t talk about my concerns or worries out of fear of being thought of as “less than”. A good top admits fault, learns from their mistakes, and cultivates a sense of humility.
No matter how good a bottom I am, I cannot allow others to make choices for me unless they negotiate that action, and I consent to it. Being a bottom does not mean that I am not strong, intelligent, and capable.
No matter how little I think I know about “this stuff”, I have something to teach other people around me. My life experience is unique, and my perspective is valuable.
No matter how much I think I know about “this stuff”, I can always learn something new and potentially life changing, even from someone I might least expect to learn it from.
No matter who I am, having a healthy self-esteem is one of the keys to having a healthy relationship with anyone else, regardless of type power exchange, number of relationships, or type of relationships. If my self-esteem suffers, no amount of lovers or play partners will make it better.
No matter what, I must remember that knowing where my responsibilities end and others begin is the key to peace of mind.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Feb 7, 2008 in communication
In IM earlier today, a profound statement was made:
…it’s the people on the fringe who can help those in the midst the most
I’m still thinking on this one. It came up in a discussion with a trusted mentor and dear friend about the feeling of not being a part of a group, or feeling like one doesn’t fit in. I posited that perhaps some of us need to have the feeling of not fitting in, for whatever reason. He followed up this comment with the fact that Moses, after leading the Israelites to the promised land, was denied access to it himself.
Those who guide are often those who do not achieve. They give up some of their own personal goals in order to help others to reach theirs. They are the teachers who challenge the young, brilliant minds of our next generation. They are the parents who, having never reached the educational or professional pinnacles that they hoped for, encourage and support their children to rise to their own hopes and dreams. They are the partners who ensure that the house gets dealt with so that their lovers can go out and make things happen.
Just something that I’m gnawing on. Thought provoking.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Dec 19, 2007 in communication
Last night, I spent a lovely couple of hours presenting for Black Rose’s Tuesday night educational meeting. We talked about how to better accept service; this was the first time that I had presented this particular class, and so I asked for feedback. Beyond the usual “great presentation” kind of comments, I got a few comments from people who were up front about parts of the class that they felt could have been done in a way that would have made the class flow better, or would have enhanced the way that the topic was received by the audience. Some of those comments were very valuable; one or two were much more “blunt”. It brought me back to something that we discussed in the class – how to give criticism or correct someone in a way that leaves them feeling valued, and hopefully wanting to improve.
It’s often called “bookending”. Think of the criticism as a book; it doesn’t stand up as well on the shelf by itself, but if you place two supporting bookends next to it (in this case, positive reinforcement), it remains stable because it can lean on them.
When we deliver criticism, often the urge is to just say it & get it over with as quickly as possible, or to apologize for having to give it in the first place. Both of those techniques diminish from the words we speak; the first doesn’t give context to the recipient of the criticism, and makes it very easy for them to dismiss the entire statement OR to take it very personally and allow it to affect their emotions or self esteem. The second makes it seem that we don’t really believe that the criticism is justified; in trying to take the sting out of it, we minimize it to the point where they don’t even consider it as valid.
When we ‘bookend’ criticism, we use a very simple formula – a valid, positive comment/pat-on-the-back, followed by the criticism, and then a second (and different, if possible) positive comment. It looks a little like this:
“You did a great job overall with washing the dishes last night; they were all beautifully clean and that makes me happy. The one issue I did find was that you didn’t empty the dishwasher once it was done, and that means that we’ll have to stack dirty dishes in the sink until it gets emptied out, which leaves the kitchen looking messy. Other than that, it was a huge help to me to have you get them washed and to know that I didn’t have to try to handle that after dinner made my evening so much more relaxing!”
That sounds a lot better than “Hey, you didn’t empty the dishwasher last night”, right?
So many of the challenges we encounter in our relationships, particularly in service-based relationships, revolve around communicating our needs and wants in clear and concise ways. Often, being mindful simply of the way that we deliver correction & criticism can make a huge difference for us in how smoothly we get what we want.
As for me? I’m listening to all of those comments & criticisms from last night, but some of them (the ones where there was also a positive comment or two) are sticking in my head a little better than others.
I hope you all have a wonderful rest of December, and enjoy yourselves!