Douglas Spencer (dougs) wrote,
Douglas Spencer

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Not a rant, part two -- the back-story (TMI)

This is a difficult thing to write. I rather suspect it'll be a difficult thing to read, too. But -- as I've said both in chat and in a comment to the preceding post -- it's necessary that I write it.

It's not, however, necessary for you to read it. You have the choice.

A number of people are following this journal for the developing story of scarlatti and me. They talk about it being sappy. They say things in comments like "Ahhh, sweet". This post may be a shock. This post isn't sappy. This post isn't sweet.
A number of people are following this journal because I'm open and honest about my sexuality, about my kinks. I'm going to be saying more of that inside the cut. It'll be more open and honest than some people will want. But if people learn from it, it'll be worthwhile.
A number of people are following this journal because they're my friends. I'll apologise in advance for this post.

All three groups of readers, please remember that I'm writing this with myself as the intended audience. You can read it because I'm introspecting without masks.

(I'm assuming that people reading this either know the meanings of the technical terms I'm using, or are capable of looking them up.)

Top, bottom
I identify as "bottom, occasional switch" when the question arises. I'm a competent vanilla too -- but it's as a bottom that I feel most at home. I've topped Anne very occasionally, and not very well. I know the techniques, I know the knots, I know the theory of topping -- It's simply something that I don't do, have never done. It just doesn't feel as natural to me as bottoming. It's easy for me to go under. I don't have to think about it. Conversely, topping is hard work. It's not intuitive for me. It doesn't come naturally. So I don't do it. I always took the view, too, that I wouldn't enjoy it much.

I'm famous for advising people who come seeking advice in matters of the heart to talk about it. Go and talk to him|her about it. It's almost a catchphrase of mine. But why do I say this? Why do I think it's such a core technique in resolving relationship issues?
I can't read signals. Most people have some sense for how another person feels, for what's going on inside their heads. I don't. I misread moods, I misread emotions, I misread motivations. Or, more often, I fail to read them at all. The only clues I have to what's going on come from what people say. A few weeks ago, I said that if I could change something about my world, I would ensure that people communicated with each other properly. And in addition to being unable to read signals, it seems that I'm not terribly good at sending out the signals in return. This inability isn't eased in a text-only medium.

Safewords, safesigns, SSCF
When a couple are interacting as bottom and Top, it ought to be the case that the interaction is built on trust. The bottom has ceded all their control to the Top. The Top takes that control and works with it for their mutual enjoyment. The bottom trusts the Top to get it right. The Top trusts the bottom to give good feedback. They both trust each other to have communicated properly before the scene begins, so that each knows what the other hopes to get out of the scene, each knows where the other's limits lie. And, crucially, each of them knows how to tell the other that they wish the scene to end -- and each of them knows what signs and signals to watch for which demand an end to the scene.
A scene should be Safe, Sane, Consensual and Fun. If it stops being safe, it stops being fun. If it stops being consensual, it stops being fun. And, crucially, if it stops being fun for one partner and the other partner doesn't spot it it stops being sane. And when it stops being sane, it stops being fun.

Late in 1985 I met Chris. I didn't know what terms like bottom or Top or consent or safeword meant. I hadn't even heard them before. But Chris became my Top. I pretended, to myself and to him, that it was fun. I pretended I was safe. I continued in the relationship because he was having fun. I didn't know about negotiation, I didn't know about consent, and when it stopped being fun, it stopped being sane or safe. But I stuck with it, because Chris was having fun.
I had access to Usenet. I read about what was happening to me. I read the groups that later changed their names to things like soc.motss and soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm. I learnt fast. I learnt about what made D/s relationships healthy. And I got out. I got out before I sustained any more damage. And so issues surrounding consent, and the boundary between play and abuse, have become hot issues for me.

scarlatti isn't a top. She isn't a bottom. She's completely new to this sort of play, is completely unfamiliar with the dynamic, the terms, the rules. She's determined to learn. On my recommendation she bought a copy of The Topping Book, a copy of The Bottoming Book, a copy of SM101. She's studying. She knows that's what I do, she wants to learn. But it's all very new, very unfamiliar. It's as new for her, now, as it was for me, then. Remember that -- it's important for what follows. I forgot.

Yesterday's scene
We've had some role-play in chat, scarlatti and I. Some of it has had D/s elements, and she's been on top. But a couple of times, it's taken an unexpected turn, and I've ended up topping her. This wasn't something that was negotiated in advance, but I've enjoyed it, and she's played along. Not a problem, I thought.
Yesterday morning, we had a session. When it turned D/s I was on top, which was a bit of a surprise. But she was playing along again. I enjoyed it. The scene extended, we moved from one situation to another with the same roles. And then we ran out of time, because I had to go out in the afternoon. We brought the scene to a close, I said goodbye and went out.
I was on MSN from the PDA a couple of times during the afternoon and evening. When I got home, I went onto chat for a while. She said that she had something she wanted to talk to me about later, but that it was late, that I should go to bed. I'm a good boy, I do what I'm told, I went to bed.

The next day
And in the morning, I went to church, went shopping, came home, put the dinner on, and went on-line. scarlatti was there, and we flirted a bit. Then I said "You had something you wanted to talk to me about". "Darn your good memory", she said. "It's not a big deal", she said. "I don't know quite how to approach it", she said. Red rag. I replied in typical dougs fashion: "Directly?" I said, "That sometimes works".
She said that there was something she was uncomfortable with. Something in the roleplay. It was going somewhere that hadn't been negotiated, it stopped being fun. I said "If it's no fun, it should stop" and she replied "But you were having fun". And I flipped.

Today's rant
If only one participant in a D/s scene is having fun, the scene should stop. I can't cope with a sub going on with a scene because the Dom is enjoying it. That's the wrong kind of scene. It's not consensual, it's not fun. And if it's repeated, then it's the wrong kind of relationship. It's not safe. It's not sane. We both have safewords. She didn't use it. She didn't break the scene. She didn't discuss what was wrong with the scene. I didn't know that anything was wrong. I went for my afternoon/evening out without realising. When I came home, we chatted and she refrained from bringing it up because it was late. Because I'd been tired. If I hadn't nudged her, I don't think she'd have mentioned it today. And then I'd have repeated the error.
This is the rant: If something stops being fun, break the scene. Immediately. Don't wait until later. Don't let your partner carry on. Don't leave it because he's tired. Help both partners sort it out at the time. This is really important. It's fundamental to the health of a relationship. It's the single most important lesson in a budding D/s relationship. Break the scene. Because if you don't, you'll break the relationship. And that's Not Fun. And when your partner finds out that the scene he enjoyed so much was no fun for you, it'll poison the memory of that scene for him. If you -- either of you -- let the error be repeated, it'll poison the whole relationship.
Before I knew what the issue was, she said "It's not a big deal". She was wrong. It's the most fundamental, the most important, the biggest deal in any relationship which involves D/s elements.

Interview meme, revisited
Writing about losing Anne is easy, because there are many happy memories alongside the loss. I said goodbye to Anne in the natural, preordained, "correct" circumstances. When I married Anne, I used the words "till death do us part". I write about losing Anne with ease. Writing about Anne is a joy, and a delight. The memories I have of Anne are the best memories I have.
Flick asked me:
If you could go back through your life and only save five memories, what would they be?
I replied, in part:
Chris was my second, and he wasn't light or bright at all. Quite the opposite, in fact -- dark and sinister. The relationship forced me to face some difficult questions, forced me into some serious introspection. It taught me a lot about kink, a lot about consent, a lot about prejudice, a lot about choice, and a lot about how to recognise the difference between play and abuse. Lessons I had to learn quickly, almost in self-defence. Mercifully, it only lasted three or four months. So why is this a memory worth saving? Precisely because it made me ask myself these questions. Because I couldn't discard this memory without discarding those lessons. And if I did that, I wouldn't be me.
I long to discard this memory. This memory is awful. It's very hard to write about Chris and me. I avoid it. I run away. I try not to think about it. When I'm forced to think about it, it destroys my sense of proportion. I rant. And it's not pretty. But the issues underlying that relationship are important.

What I fear
Chris and I are fundamentally different. I can't read the signals, but I worry about it. I think Chris was perfectly able to read the signals, but he chose not to -- and didn't care. There's a huge difference of intent there. But the effect on the sub is just the same. It means that I'm as unsafe as a top as Chris was, at least potentially. Perhaps that's why I'm not a top.
If I end up topping scarlatti with any regularity, there's the possibility that I'll damage her in exactly the way that Chris damaged me. And that's frankly terrifying. I hope and pray that my terror stops the abuse happening without breaking the relationship -- and I hope and pray that scarlatti has the presence of mind to break the scene and alert me to what's going on if it starts to happen. There's nothing that I fear more than someone I love getting hurt -- unless it's the prospect that I caused it.

For ease of reference, I'll repeat the text of the preceding post here.
If you ever say something seemingly small and inconsequential to me, and are shocked when I break out into a huge, seemingly disproportionate rant, this will have happened for one of two reasons.
Either you've hit some hot topic in my personal history, and I'm ranting because I'm temporarily blind to my sense of proportion.
Or what you said really isn't small and inconsequential, and my rant really isn't disproportionate.
Just occasionally, it's both. Then you'll see just what a real rant is like. It happened today.
Apologies. Not for the message, but for the delivery. It really is nothing I can help, you understand.

Elsewhere I've said that living without masks isn't difficult, that I'm doing it because it's easier than trying to maintain a separate persona for each group of friends. I'm reconsidering that statement. It's hard. It's very hard indeed. This post has taken me about four or five hours so far, with many false starts, and it's not right yet. But if I wait until it's right, I'll never post it. Here it is. What I have written will stay written.
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