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Shopping trips and sexual identity

May 23, 2010 3 comments

An accumulation of recent events and activity has me thinking a lot about this long, circuitous journey that has become my personal and sexual identity.  Or maybe it should be identities; or, better yet, the spectrum of identities upon which I find myself traversing.

When I visited Max last month, we took a brief shopping trip along with one of his partners, Red.  There is perhaps nothing more innocuous than a shopping trip.  We were, specifically, shopping for a little black dress for me, along with a pair of wearable heels (the pair I brought were 4 inch monsters I managed to convince myself I could wear for 2 hours straight. Despite the fact that I overwhelmingly favor flip-flops and hiking sandals over any heeled shoe).

What began as nothing more than a fun outing became unexpectedly troubling and triggering for me.  It’s embarrassing to admit that here, that I let a shopping trip get to me.  Of course, no one chooses their triggers, but still.

I wrote privately in depth on some of the personal history I have with this, much of it related to family shopping trips and the way I felt like a dress-up doll.  In short, I grew to hate clothes shopping as a child.  And as I grew older and my various family members continued to press specific clothes onto me, I only felt more repelled by it, especially shopping for feminine clothing.  I decried the physical limitations of dresses and skirts, hated wearing bras, and opted to hide in bookstores on family outings to the mall.  I still get an immediate visceral reaction to being around clothes, and I swear clothes racks make me claustrophobic.

Related to all of this is the issue of self-image that I was struggling with at the time.  There were years where I refused to look at myself in the mirror.  There were the constant disparaging remarks about my weight, size, and skin, and constant comparisons made against my peers.  And of course, rather than achieving anything productive out of that, I just withdrew more within myself, and isolated myself from others.  I had no overwhelming desire to be more like my peers, and as my best friend also had an unfavorable opinion on most of the rest of our schoolmates, I did not feel compelled by any sort of peer pressure to assimilate.  I just never cared that much about what I happened to be wearing on my body, as long as it was comfortable, kept me warm or cool as the weather dictated, and allowed me to climb trees.  I admit, there was also the detrimental belief that pretty clothes and makeup could not fix what was not fixable to begin with, and the accepted belief that I just was not that kind of girl.

I probably spent all of high school looking pretty scruffy and disheveled as a consequence.  It wouldn’t be until halfway through college that I would start to care more about my clothes.  And this was expedited by my relationship with Tim.  I dressed up for him, because he wanted me to.  He bought me dresses, each a bit shorter and more revealing than the last, and encouraged me to wear skimpy outfits around campus.  And he encouraged me to wear makeup, and for him, I did.  I often wonder if I would know anywhere near as much about makeup application as I do now, if not for him.

When I broke things off with Tim, I felt like I’d lost a huge sense of self.  And there was no time for me to process everything because I had to go to Costa Rica for my study abroad program a month later.  There, amongst an intimate group of students and acres of rainforest and wilderness, I tried to keep myself together.  It was difficult to fully enjoy the trip with the weight of this recent emotional baggage, and when I could, I emailed or messaged with J and confided in him.  All the while, I was coming to love my trip and the people I was with, especially once we flew to Cayman Islands for the coral reef ecosystem portion of the study abroad.  There, I fell in love with long, flowing beach dresses and skirts (what my mother, in fits of anger, would call “gypsy clothing” derisively).

Once I returned from Costa Rica, I left almost immediately again for Taiwan, where I stayed for most of the spring and summer taking a class at a local university.  There, despite my aunts’ best attempts to take me shopping (for miniskirts and bras, no less), I strove for autonomy, found my own apartment, and started hanging out with expats, where I would meet and start dating M.  Luckily M approved of whatever I wore, and I felt free to continue indulging in my newfound interest in this particular style of dress.  And since I, the darker-skinned American, was already seen as the Other on the island, it was a given to my relatives that I would dress and act oddly anyway.

Once I finally returned to the States to continue my fall term at college, I had repieced together parts of my identity and felt freer to express it than before.  I began to enjoy going, alone or with friends, to the local thrift store in search of cheap clothing, where I often found dresses I liked (and discovered I looked good in).  I stayed away from anything above the knee, feeling still raw at the intentions that Tim had in encouraging that specific kind of dress.  I am reminded of a conversation I had with a close friend, D, where we were discussing dating habits and history.  She told me how she felt that each preceding partner influenced her choice in and attraction to future partners, and how she often looked for opposite qualities from her most recent partner.  This is how I felt about my clothing choices.

So for the most part, I stayed away from anything that could be described as revealing.  I was also tentatively working in the concept of clothing as a part of my identity.  It was still incredibly vague and formless, but I think it was around then, early spring of my senior year, that I began to realize the power and messages that clothing can convey.  And I was doing my hardest to convey a sense of independence, freedom, and purity to fend off the guilt and shame that lingered around the latex skirts, collars, and garters and stockings that defined my time with Tim.

Then, lo and behold, a year later I discovered the public kink community.  Specifically, I fell in with the Bound in Boston crowd, met Dov, even went to a suspension-themed play party in NYC.  I dusted off those garters and stockings and a little black dress, the only fetish-y articles of clothing I’d kept, and found that I was no longer reminded of Tim just by looking at them.  I wore them one last time, to that NYC play party, before I finally threw them away.

And now?  Now, after moving to San Francisco, discovering the immense kinky community here, and attending IMsL, I find myself drawn and attracted to a new aesthetic, yet one reminiscent of my childhood: leather, jeans, and boots.  Thanks to the increased exposure to the leather community, Max introducing me to bootblacking, and working at Wicked Grounds, I’ve come to embrace my love of boots with gusto.  Since purchasing my first pair of Frye’s harness boots, I feel like I’ve found a part of myself, as utterly clichéd as that sounds.  I’ve never felt so compelled or attracted to any piece of clothing, much less any kind of footwear.  But when I walk around in these boots, a jolt of thrill courses up my legs with each step, and I feel a strong sense of power.

At this moment I still oscillate between the easy comfort of soft, breezy cotton dresses that I can quickly slip into and the harder, angular lines of jeans, boots, and leather jacket that fill me with such satisfaction.

So, how does all of this tie into the visceral reaction I had to shopping for a little black dress?  I guess, in all of this, I’ve still kept away from adding both formal dresses and fetishwear to my wardrobe.  And so, while I have a fairly clear idea of what I look like in my gypsy dresses or in my tank top and jeans, I still don’t know how to pick out fancier dresses for my body’s shape and size.  I don’t have any experience wearing nice dresses and heels, and rarely have I needed to.

Perhaps that was enough uncertainty and doubt to bring back all of that history in one solid punch to the gut.

Perhaps my aversion to short black dresses specifically has to do with Tim, and the way he was trying to change me, as a person, through what I wore.

I’m not sure.  I certainly wasn’t happy about the way I was feeling, and it was affecting the way I acted with Max, which made me even unhappier.  Despite knowing, logically, that Max did not have the same intentions as Tim did, I could not stop the emotional doubts regarding the purpose of the trip from racing through my head.

I knew from when I first agreed to be in service to Max during Folsom that I would have to deal with an abundance of emotional baggage.  Yet I never expected that baggage to rear its head, nine months later, at a thrift store in Seattle.

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Countdown to Shibaricon

May 23, 2010 1 comment

Three days until I finally get to experience this epic rope-geek’s paradise that I keep hearing stories about.  Though really, the countdown began sometime three weeks back.  But I can’t believe it’s almost time!  I’ve taken note of the classes I’m considering going to, including “Hojojutsu for Pirates” and “Abductions and Takedowns,” I’ve got my volunteer shift schedule and will be working at Merchandising, and I’ve got a mental packing list of everything I want to bring.  I just hope it all fits into the laptop bag and one carryon I plan to bring with me!

But beyond classes and play parties, what I’m most looking forward to is the chance to reconnect with a whole bunch of people that I’ve met throughout the past year or so: from the then-budding rope group in Boston to the wonderful rope lovers I met at Folsom Fringe hailing from Australia, Oregon, and of course – Seattle.  Everyone will have stories to share and new rope tricks to show off, I’m sure.  So much has happened this past year.  I know I’ve grown tremendously – into my own identity, and into my kinks.  I know I’ll be bringing my boots, which are fast becoming part of my identity.

Who knows – maybe I’ll get to kick someone around with my boots, and explore that arena of play.

Three days…

Categories: rope, travelog

EdenFantasys: the self-referential black hole

May 19, 2010 4 comments

I just finished reading this article by maymay, and I’m going to cross-post it here just in case he gets a cease and desist, as was warned about in the comments.

My personal experience with the online sex toy store mentioned here, EdenFantasys, was a short-lived one.  I started reviewing sex toys for EF when I received an e-mail from them in the winter of 2007 asking for a link exchange and for me to become a sex toy reviewer.  Having never done something like this before, I thought it would be a fun experience and willingly accepted both offers.  I loved their website, I really did.  It is well laid out, clean, and they have great functionality in place.  I took it slowly, however, and between late 2007 and the fall of 2008, I think I reviewed about four to five products.  Then, in October of 2008, another blogger discovered a linkable spreadsheet containing personal information of all the company’s reviewers.  This alone was enough for me to request that they immediately take me off their review program and delete my account (which I just checked again, and it looks like they never fully deleted my account and reviews, only set it to disabled.  It’s still viewable to the general public).

Since then, I stopped going to the site altogether, and after a couple months passed, I signed up for Babeland‘s affiliate program.  I love Babeland, I love their physical store, I love their website, and I love their support of the community.  I keep hearing escalating issues that seem to continue cropping up around EdenFantasys, and this latest post by maymay makes me relieved that I never got in too deep with them.  It’s just sad and disappointing to see such a promising company fall so far as to resort to shady practices, questionable ethics, and outright lies.

Anyway, maymay’s post follows in full. His research into EdenFantasys’ linking practices is meticulous, thorough and well-documented.  Well done, maymay!

A few nights ago, I received an email from Editor of EdenFantasys’s SexIs Magazine, Judy Cole, asking me to modify this Kink On Tap brief I published that cites Lorna D. Keach’s writing. Judy asked me to “provide attribution and a link back to” SexIs Magazine. An ordinary enough request soon proved extraordinarily unethical when I discovered that EdenFantasys has invested a staggering amount of time and money to develop and implement a technology platform that actively denies others the courtesy of link reciprocitya courtesy on which the ethical Internet is based.

While what they’re doing may not be illegal, EdenFantasys has proven itself to me to be an unethical and unworthy partner, in business or otherwise. Its actions are blatantly hypocritical, as I intend to show in detail in this post. Taking willful and self-serving advantage of those not technically savvy is a form of inexcusable oppression, and none of us should tolerate it from companies who purport to be well-intentioned resources for a community of sex-positive individuals.

Read more…

Categories: links, sex toy review

Little Lotte

May 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Having just finished some major house shopping and furniture assembling, all after another day of wracking my very tired brain against a continuing issue at work and staring at Javascript and PHP, I have no capacity to write much coherently.  But I did want to post this, one of the many favorite scenes I have of Phantom of the Opera (which I’ve seen on Broadway a magnificent three times so far).  It’s audio only, which is fine for me; I love reliving this scene in my mind, seeing the Phantom appear like a ghost in Christine’s mirror and completely enchanting her…seeing the way he controlled her.

Ever since I first saw this musical, I have been in love with the Phantom.  I love the compelling, dark, and twisted character that is the Phantom.  I love the spell he casts on stage and on Christine Daaé.  No surprises there, I suppose!  This brings to mind a cascade of other childhood memories I’ve been having lately, all little signs and epiphanies on what, very early on, hinted at my awakening kinky interests.  I should write about some of those memories sometime.

But now: to sleep!

Raoul:
Little Lotte, let her mind wonder. Little Lotte thought, “Am I fonder of dolls or of goblins or of shoes?”

Christine:
Raoul.

Raoul:
Or of riddles or frogs?

Christine:
Those picnics in the attic.

Raoul:
Or of chocolates.

Christine:
Father playing the violin

Raoul:
As we read to each other, dark stories of the north

Christine:
No, “What I loved best,” Lotte Said, “was when I was asleep in my bed.”
And the angel of music sings songs in my head

Christine and Raoul:
The angel of music sings songs in my head.

Raoul:
You sang like an angel tonight.

Christine:
Father said “When I am in heaven, Child, I will send the angel of music to you.” Well, father is dead, Raoul. And I have been visited by the angel of music.

Raoul:
Oh, no doubt of it. And now, we go to dinner.

Christine:
No, Raoul, the angel of music is very strict.

Raoul:
Well I shant keep you up late. (Laughs)

Christine:
Raoul, No.

Raoul:
You must change. I’ll order my carriage. Two minutes, Little Lotte.

Christine:
No, Raoul, wait!

Phantom:
Insolent boy/this slave of fashion/basking in your glory/Ignorant fool/this brave young suitor, sharing in my triumph!

Christine:
Angel, I hear, you/Speak, I listen/Stay by my side, guide me/Angel, my soul was weak/forgive me/Enter at last, master.

Phantom:
Flattering child, you shall know me/See why in shadow I hide/Look at your face in the mirror/I am there inside

Christine:
Angel of music/guide and guardian/grant to me your glory/angel of music/hide no longer/come to me, strange angel.

Phantom:
I am your angel of music/come to me, angel of music.

Raoul:
Whose is that voice? Who is that in there?

Phantom:
I am your angel of music

Raoul:
Christine! Christine!

Phantom:
Come to me, angel of music

Categories: life, lyrics, video

Not very virtuous…

May 9, 2010 2 comments

“My left ear is still sore, Sir.”

–  I could balance it out.

” … That’s alright, Sir.
…According to my parents, the shape of my earlobes means I’m a selfish person.”

–  I don’t think you’re selfish, girl.  I think you’re the farthest thing from selfish.

“Well, if you believe Ayn Rand’s philosophies, selfishness is the highest virtue -”

–  I don’t think you’re very virtuous, either.

“Oh.”

Categories: humor, memories

Airport thoughts

May 4, 2010 Leave a comment
Written 04/30/2010 while I waited to board my flight…

I’m writing this from San Francisco International Airport, but who knows when I will actually be able to post it. I’m still appalled that this airport doesn’t offer free wireless.

I don’t know what it is about this particular morning, or this particular airport, but I’m feeling inexplicably moody. Suddenly and without warning, thoughts of Tim are flooding my mind. It still happens every so often (though less and less frequently) that I get sudden flares of residual anger surrounding this man. And with each instance I have to close my eyes and just let it take its course. And always, the same questions. Why? How could he? How could I be so naïve? So stupid?

And each time I get angry at myself. Three years gone, and still he can affect me like this. Three years, yet I can still remember, with vivid detail, every feature of his face. Sometimes I think he will always be there, a hidden ghost haunting my every relationship, questioning the trust I place in each person. After all, I’ve more or less determined that my kink is a large, necessary part of my being and will always be a prominent part of my life, and Tim will always be the man with whom I first explored kink.

Human minds have this annoying propensity for remembering milestones and landmarks, personal or otherwise.

And then there was the instance, after many months of silence following my departure, where I got a cryptic, late-night IM from him. It said, simply: you still don’t know what you’re missing do you.

I felt a clutch of fear from reading this, not knowing how to interpret the message. But I never responded. Remembering, now, I still feel that clutch of fear.

Still … I have come a long way, I think. I no longer question my self worth or wonder whether or not I ever meant anything to him. I no longer wonder whether my absence burned as much of a hole in his life as his did in mine. The wound has closed, and only the faintest of scars, it seems, remains.

So perhaps I have just brushed against that scar this morning, reminding me that it is even there. And no – I still don’t know what it is he feels I’m missing. It certainly is not him, and I am content never to see or hear of him again. If he means to imply that I am lacking a more fulfilling life for having left him – well, the mere thought is incredulous and scoff-worthy. As a friend and confidant stressed repeatedly throughout this period of time, the best revenge I can have is to live a fulfilling, rich life and to create my own happiness.

I think, so far, I’m heading down the right path.

Categories: Uncategorized