consent and the everyday submissive

As anyone who’s ever thought for more than a few seconds about BDSM should know, the magic word is consent. Safe, sane, consensual, risk-aware consensual, safewords and so on. If it isn’t consensual, it isn’t kink. We all know that much.

So where does the so-called 24/7 relationship fit into this? Is consent no longer an issue for people in such relationships? Is it given once and than assumed to be given constantly–the submissive agrees to the 24/7 relationship, and the dominant does whatever they want from then on out? More broadly, are those “24/7” people real or are they making it all up to sound More Kinkier Than Thou? What’s the deal?

Well, I have no idea what other people do, I only know what they write online. I can explain, however, what K and I do in our relationship–call it what you will; I don’t call it anything in particular. All I can say is that kink permeates nearly every aspect of our domestic lives, and this is how we interpret consent, for us:

1. In terms of the literal definition of “24/7,” no, we do not actually practice kink every second of every day for every week all year round. That would be exhausting and nearly impossible under the normal requirements of real life–we are real people with real housework, jobs, social lives and so on. But we do integrate our kink into most facets of our relationships, well outside the realm of bedroom activities. Sometimes I wash dishes because they need washing, and sometimes I wash dishes because I’m ordered to. Sometimes K puts on her shoes because she needs to leave the house for work, and sometimes I put them on for her because she needs to leave the house for work. Sometimes she says “please” and “thank you” and sometimes she doesn’t–and the absence of such isn’t rude, it’s an expression of dominance. In a word, we have house rules.

2. We operate under a general framework of consent. Put another way, the probability of my not consenting to an activity is extremely, extremely low. So K works under the assumption that most things she does will be okay with me, and needs not ascertain consent for each and every activity.

This is somewhat akin to the way that vanilla people in established relationships assume certain liberties with each others’ bodies. When you are first dating, you might feel anxious or require permission to put your hands under her shirt, or to put your arm around his waist without asking. Once the relationship has been established, you can do these things nearly subconsciously without requiring permission to enter your partner’s personal space. K doesn’t need to ask if she can do hurtful things to me, it’s assumed. I don’t like each and every thing she does to me, but generally, I like that she does them and I’m okay with it.

3. But this doesn’t mean that consent can’t be revoked. I don’t mean entirely, as in the dissolution of the D/s relationship, but rather on a case-by-case basis. This most often happens when K will ask my permission to do something that, technically, she doesn’t need to ask for. E.g., I don’t particularly enjoy having my nipples played with, but most times K won’t ask before torturing them–my dislike is really not a factor. Other times, such as when I’m having a bad day, she might give me the possibility to refuse. That’s a courtesy, and a gift to me, to return my consent temporarily…

I think it’s also understood that I could voluntarily revoke it, temporarily or for a specific activity–maybe, I’m not sure. Perhaps it would require some negotiation; I’ve yet to do this. If we ever found ourselves in a situation where I needed to, it would probably mean something was seriously out of whack.

Ultimately, I rely heavily on K’s intuitive understanding of my needs and abilities. Our system works because she knows what I can take, and what I want–and doesn’t push me beyond my boundaries or at inappropriate times. When it comes down it, that’s what makes our relationship not that different from any other kind of relationship and differentiates our dynamic from one of abuse. We are also exceptionally well matched in terms of interests, which means that she very rarely asks me to do submit to things that I don’t enjoy. Except sometimes she does…but that’s the subject of another post.

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money and a room of her own

Give her another hundred years, I concluded, reading the last chapter—people’s noses and bare shoulders showed naked against a starry sky, for someone had twitched the curtain in the drawing–room—give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days. She will be a poet, I said…
-Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

Today I am home alone, cleaning the house. I’m not required to, I do it because I like a clean house—and this apartment is paid for with my own money, which I earn enough of because I have got an education (forgetting for a moment about the debt). These are things that I am profoundly grateful for: the weekend, the ability to read and write, a bank account in my own name, a place that is legally mine to live in.

But on a smaller level, in reflections which are insignificant compared to the above paragraph, sometimes I wish…I had my own bedroom. I love K. and I am glad that we have the freedom to live together, and that I am privileged to sleep in the same bed with her every single night. Someday in the future, though, I would like to have a bedroom that I don’t share with anyone. There are times when I miss relaxing by myself in my own space, with a cup of tea, a blanket and a notebook, and knowing I won’t be interrupted at all. That’s a luxury I grew to love in high school (since I shared a room with my sister until 9th grade, and again with other girls in college) and it’s a luxury I’m looking forward to having again. I’ll always have the space within my own mind to myself, but it’s nice to have a physical space as well.

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alteration, permutation, transformation

You’ll note the blog has a new address. No particular reason for this other than that I got tired of the old name, and wanted a new, easier-to-understand look. Which appears to be the theme of the week….

One result of my girlfriend’s fabulous new haircut is that other people read her as butch. We have always been recognizable as a couple, because I am girlier than most (though not as much as some, due to a lack of time in the morning), but I do not think K. has been particularly noticeable on her own. Perhaps because she is somewhat shy and used to have a habit of making herself invisible. Either way, this is all different now.

She comes home from her retail job ecstatic because, in her words, “a girl flirted with me! That’s never happened before!” I am fairly sure this cannot be true, but I will admit she is not a magnet for attraction. At least, she hasn’t been before. From now on, I’m thinking I might have competition—and that’s a surprisingly uncomfortable thought for me.

But for now the jealousy is an entirely different subject. I struggle on and off with a feeling that I have no community, and as she described the thrill she gets from being noticed by older women coming through her line, I couldn’t help but feel my heart sink a little. She says there’s something in the way they glance at her, some kind of connection, “that little spark of recognition, you know?” and I say, “not really,” but tell her that must be a good feeling and I’m happy for her.

K. seems to me a butterfly right now, some holometabolous creature emerging transformed in brilliant colors. I am slightly in awe, and held in expectation. I am eager to find out who she’ll be, to see her unfold and stretch out, privileged to be here as it happens–and hoping that some of this newness will rub off on me.

the history of her hair

On Friday I came home from work to find my girlfriend had undergone a radical transformation. I leave for work and she has chin-length hair, sweet curls a little messy, cute and soft–and I come home to find that I live with a totally different person. This new haircut? Undeniably, it screams DYKE. It’s a statement haircut, you know the kind–with the buzz in the back and a bit more up front–very recognizable. Very butch. I swear I nearly fainted.

Understand: when I met K., her hair was long. To her elbows at least, blond, wavy, thick. And looking at her today, in a polo shirt with this new very short hair, I was struck by how changed she is–and I couldn’t help feeling guilty. Like I have somehow manipulated her into changing through the sheer force of my lust for the butch women of the world (every one of them, in their machismo and grace). Like I had managed, simply by fantasizing, to make her actually do it.

Not that I asked. But I will admit…when we started dating, the hair was a drawback. As were the skirts she sometimes wore. I am much more attracted to masculine women, and I knew it then and ever since. Not enough to let it compromise our relationship, but the K. who appeared in my fantasies, to say the least, did not look very much like the girl I was dating.

So when she expressed even the faintest interest in button-downs, I went on a femme shopping spree that would make Stacy and Clinton proud. I was trying to be supportive, you know? But I worry, deep inside, that what I passed off as “support” was truly a kind of manipulation. That I was hoping, that if I wished hard enough, she would turn into one of those suave butches I admired so much. That, if I was patient enough, she would change her wardrobe and–yes–cut off all her hair. That I could, in time, have my cake and eat it too.

And I am probably being a silly girl, but when I lie curled around her tonight, I will run my fingers along the back of her neck and the prickly feeling of those little hairs will be half sheer lust–and half a kind of dread. Because what if she changes her mind? What if she has done this for me, not to make me happy, but out of a kind of…obligation? What kind of girlfriend am I, then?

the sea was airtight

Five days without her, counting from now. The house and me, sleeping pets, silent plants. If we had TV I’d turn the news on just to hear someone talking. It’s entertaining, really, how much it upsets me–the memory of her hand on my shoulder, fingers brushing tears off my cheek, whispering be a good girl, now–how silly I am.

When we were still in college, we would go days and days without seeing each other. A date on the weekend, looking forward to the next. That was fine; I liked the space. That was being a real woman, an independent person– I was me and she was she and that’s how I wanted it. And now she’s been gone for three hours and already I can feel the silence invading my head.

You are driving your little sedan on the highway, singing to some bad rock station, swearing at the other drivers–you hate the ones who skip three lanes to get to the exit. You are going home to your family, your annoying teenage brother, that sister I’ve never met, your mother and your cats, and you will have a great time with them, and I will miss you and wait, I will miss you and wait until you come back.

I will lie in our bed and touch myself the way you would, imagine your fingers in my hair, the way you hold me still and tell me I belong to you. I will wake up with your scent on the pillows, soft and full, holding myself tight. I will miss you and wait, miss you and wait until you come back.