At Burning Man 2017, my partner and I attended a demonstration called “Dinner and an Interrogation”, hosted at the theme camp Brûlée.

Two BM contributors (names withheld until/unless I get their blessing) allowed an audience to watch one of their “rough body play” BDSM scenes. The general scenario was that S had a four-digit number that M had thirty minutes to “interrogate” out of them.

Before the scene began, there was some lengthy description of what was going to ensue, so that anyone in the audience had ample opportunity to decide this was not their cup of tea (and potentially triggering) and excuse themselves.

There was an explicit discussion of consent and the absolutely essential role it plays in ethical BDSM.

M displayed a table of tools that might be used during the interrogation, and S had the opportunity to review the table and remove three items that they didn’t consent to that evening. No argument, no wheedling, no debate; bam they were off the table.

The actual scene was incredibly intense to watch, even hard to watch at times, but I was mesmerized for the entire event. There was punching, wrestling, dragging across the dusty playa ground, pressure points, paddling, tying to a chair, and even waterboarding! Somewhere around the 20-minute mark, M got the final digit from S and the scene ended and the pair immediately departed for aftercare.

There was a lot in the scene that didn’t work for me. Not that I’m being at all judgmental about someone else doing it, but a lot of it wasn’t my particular kink. For example, I have a tough time figuring how I could conduct waterboarding in a way that felt arousing. However, I was absolutely fascinated by the rapport between the two participants, their commitment to explicit and enthusiastic consent. It was a thing of beauty.

So when I saw the pair was returning for Burning Man 2018, their events were circled in red in my “What, Where, When” book. First we attended a “Rough Body Play” workshop where the same pair talked through a lot of the thinking and planning that goes into that sort of scene. As they talked through and demonstrated punching, kicking, grappling, judo throws, they spoke at length about some of the risks involved, steps to minimize those risks, alternatives for people with physical challenges. I was absolutely delighted to see the same (or even higher) level of emphasis on consent. There was also a fascinating blend of professional and serious presentation with the playful affection and obvious respect between the two of them.

Two days later we saw the “Dinner and Interrogation” scene again, this time with M and another partner, P. I was astounded to see P last the entire thirty minutes, yielding only two of the four digits to M. The difference between how S participated in the scene in 2017 and P in 2018 was night and day, and it was educational seeing the range of experiences. Once again, the entire scene was breathtaking to watch.

The very next day there was a “Fetish Friday” party at the same camp where M and S were chatting with people one-on-one and tutoring them through some specific moves. Melody and I approached them, gushed in a hugely fanboy fashion for a while, then started asking for some pointers on grappling and punching. Both M and S were enormously gracious and generous with their time, and the next thing you know we were piecing together foam grappling mats on the playa dust and stripping down for business. Melody learned a couple of ways to throw me, as well as a position where she could almost completely immobilize me. We got some pointers on how to punch more safely and then… we started talking about breath play and choking. I got some essential pointers on what to avoid, the proper places to apply pressure, different positions to try, and safeguards to follow. In the process, I admitted that I had never been choked out and and was curious about it. My rationale is that I don’t want to do something to anyone else that I hadn’t experienced myself. Asking if I really meant it and wanted to experience being choked out, M offered to oblige me.

I dropped to my knees in the dust (*ahem*) and M stood behind me with one arm wrapped around my neck, my throat in the crook of his elbow. He applied gentle pressure on the back of my head and … we stayed there for several seconds. I waved to someone in the crowd watching (I was later told we had an enormous audience), and then began to think it wasn’t going to work and even felt a small bit of sadness for M. “Aww, it’s gonna be embarrassing when the big ole dommie top can’t choke me out.” Then… something happened… and the next thing I knew my brain was rebooting. I was on all fours. It was dusty as all fuck. Flashing lights. Noisy thudding bass. I looked up and made eye contact with a human it took me several seconds to identify. Melody said it was quite disturbing to look in my eyes and not see any glint of recognition for several seconds. My first rational thought was “What happened? Did… did I just pass out?” Then I glanced to the side and saw M and recalled that I had asked him to choke me and… it all kinda popped into place. It was incredibly bizarre feeling all my systems slowly come back on line and to reconstruct what happened based on such disjointed data. It was an amazing rush!

Melody and I left for a while after that so that I could collect myself and integrate the experience. Every thirty minutes or so I would exclaim aloud with shock and wonder, “Holy crap, M choked me the fuck out!” Mind. Blown.

Oh, and I want to point out; the entire hour we spent with M and S getting tips and techniques and demonstrations, every single time either M or S was going to lay a hand on either me or Melody (to demonstrate something), they asked for consent. Every. Single. Time. Melody tells me that when M choked me and I finally blacked out, M cradled my head with great tenderness and very carefully lowered me to the ground.

Those interactions were the highlight of a really amazing burn! When you admire someone from a distance (as we did after watching last year’s scene), there’s a little apprehension about getting closer to them and finding out the reality doesn’t match the expectations. Instead, our expectations were exceeded. M and S were kind, gracious, generous, incredibly thoughtful, and I cannot thank them enough. If you at at the Burn next year (and this is your kind of kink), I strongly encourage you to look for future events with the names I listed below.

I’ve gotten involved in a local sex positive community, attending workshops, classes, socials, and events. At a class about consent and boundaries, I learned a technique for when you make a request of someone and they say “No”, you reply with “Thank you for taking care of yourself.” The idea is to help assure the recipient that their boundaries have been heard and respected, with no recriminations, no bargaining, no pleading.

When I first heard the phrase, it sounded artificial and forced and I had a hard time imagining using the expression “in real life”. Trying to be a good sport and give it a fair shake, I made a solid effort at using it a few times. Gradually it felt less weird, and eventually it became something that my girlfriend and I would say to each other in a mundane day-to-day context, often with a wry smile, but still sincerely.

“I’m going to the grocery; want to come with me?”
“No thanks, I’m gonna finish this chore.”
“Okay. Thank you for taking care of yourself.”

Lately, I’ve begun to feel like this expression was also fulfilling a different need, and I’ve spent some time meditating on what that’s about.

If I’m feeling an attraction to someone, it can take some effort and nerve to get around to asking the person if they would like to act on that attraction, whether it’s “Would you like to get coffee?”, or “After the party, feel like coming back to my place?” or “May I give you a hug?”

If the response is a flat “No”, that can be rough to hear. It’s obviously not the response I hope for, and tends to leave me feeling awkward and deflated. I’ve heard a lot of people attempt to handle that challenging moment, often with a lack of grace and decency. “Aww, c’mon, you’ll have a great time! You know you want to!” or “Oh. Well, fuck.” (slink away) or “Fine. I wouldn’t want to fool around with your fat ass anyway.” (stomp away)

In that awkward and vulnerable moment, I am finding great comfort in having a scripted response immediately at the ready. It’s a response that acknowledges that the “No” is more about the other person than it is about me, it’s a response that respects the person’s boundaries, and I leave the encounter on a positive (or at least not negative) note. It has become an expression I enjoy using for my own emotional state, as much or more than for the recipient’s benefit. For me, that’s a significant win.

A brief coda: I was talking about this with two female friends last night and they both expressed surprise at my new perspective on the phrase. It hadn’t occurred to them at all, and we discussed it a bit. It turned out they simply had far less experience with asking and being told “No” than I had. Their experience was that they were much more often in the position of being propositioned, not making a proposition themselves. On the occasions when they did extend an offer, “No” was an infrequent enough response that they didn’t see it as being a significant issue. So it’s possible my new-found appreciation for this phrase will resonate with some genders more than others.

Like most women I know, my girlfriend’s prior experiences with anal sex were loathsome. There was no prior discussion or negotiation, and when it happened there was a great deal of difficulty and pain. The result was a resolve of “Nope, not for me. Never again.” that lasted for years.

When I raised the topic some months ago, S was very frank about her past experience and the overwhelmingly negative impressions it had left. Given how much trust she had in our relationship and the successes of our on-going sexual explorations, she wasn’t completely closed to the idea, but she was open about her apprehension and skepticism.

With her explicit permission, I began a very gradual process of simple, classical conditioning. I’m going to describe that in some graphic, and not always sexy, detail.

In the beginning, I just wanted to make her aware of her asshole, in the context of actions she already enjoyed. For instance, while I was going down on her, I would simply rest an oiled finger on her puckered sphincter. There was no attempt to penetrate, in fact there was only the very lightest of stroking. I just wanted her to be aware of her asshole while I was licking her pussy and bringing her to orgasm. This was a sporadic and occasional association for some weeks, but gradually became more of a regular thing; while giving her head I would lightly pet her asshole.

Once she seemed fully at ease with that pairing, and even enjoying it, I raised the stakes. After a particularly vigorous bout of pussy licking, once she was completely aroused and engaged, after several orgasms already, I asked her to roll over onto her belly. I pushed one arm under her and started stroking her engorged clit with my fingers, swiftly bringing her back to the brink of orgasm. When she was right on the cusp, I started gently lapping at her asshole with my tongue. She stiffened with surprise, I increased the speed and pressure of my fingers slightly, and she came quite loudly and enthusiastically. I reinforced that association several times, bringing her to orgasm with my fingers while my tongue licked and swirled against her sphincter.

Again, licking S’s asshole while fingering her clit and pussy was an occasional thing at first. Over the course of some weeks, it gradually became a more regular part of our sexual repertoire. Additionally, I became a little more vigorous with my tongue, licking her asshole more firmly, and even worming the tip of my tongue just a tiny bit into her sphincter.

Over time, it became quite apparent that S was deeply enjoying having her asshole licked. I began to experiment with stroking her clit and fingering her pussy a little less, keeping her just below the threshold of orgasm, and then using the licking of her sphincter as the tiny bit of additional stimulation that would push her over the edge of climax. That worked better and better over some time. The day finally came when I rolled S onto her belly and started licking her asshole intently, with no other stimulation whatsoever. It took a little time, but she finally reached a frantic orgasm from no other stimulation than having my tongue on her ass.

From there, things accelerated a bit. I started giving S head by having her sit on my face, with the tip of my pinky finger on her asshole, as I licked and sucked at her clit and labia. Slowly, with a lot of lube, I started sliding my finger inside her ass. I listened carefully for sounds of discomfort, pulled back when needed, and focused on making sure she was cumming so much from the cunnilingus that she wasn’t too distracted by what was happening to her ass. I probably didn’t get more than the first knuckle of my pinky inside her the first time, and that was just fine. Over the course of weeks, that position became a more common activity, very slowly working my finger a little deeper, and gradually moving to larger fingers. As with having her sphincter licked, eventually having her asshole fingered became a source of pleasure for her, all by itself.

From there, it was only a matter of time before we were both in the right headspace to try putting my cock in her asshole. I’ll tell that story in a little more detail later, but first stop here and stress some of the major guidelines of all this:

– Consent: Embarking on this journey was explicitly discussed and freely agreed to. There was a tremendous amount of trust involved and my primary goal all along was to make sure S never had a reason to regret that trust.

– Association: I always started with an activity S already greatly enjoyed and looked for ways to add very small forms of anal stimulation to that activity. Gradually, she began to associate the anal play with the pleasure she was experiencing. Over time, the repeated reinforcements of that association meant the anal play was pleasurable on its own, without the associated pussy play.

– Patience: This process happened over a span of six months or more. It was very important to me that every step of the journey be enjoyable and pleasurable, so that S would be enthusiastic about continuing. I let S’s reactions guide how fast and how far we progressed, focusing on being patient. The last thing I wanted was to push too hard too fast and cause a negative reaction, undoing all of the previous progress. I stayed intent on simply enjoying where we were at any given moment, being ready to back off at the first sign of discomfort.

– Hygiene: We take some very simple precautions. Make sure our recent diet is respectable, with a minimum of greasy foods. If there’s been a bowel movement since her last shower, maybe it’s time to shower again. Don’t be shy about using plenty of hot water and a soapy wash cloth to wipe at the sphincter. That minimum amount of preparation has worked fine for us; I’ve never felt like an enema was a necessary part of the process. Mostly, I refuse to worry about it. If I’m doing it right, sex is messy; I regularly end up smeared with spit, cum, lube, and pussy juice. I just don’t obsess over it; I’m too busy having fun. Thus far, there have been no messy accidents that have led me to regret those guidelines.

That has been our process, and it has worked very well. No doubt, a lot of that has less to do with the process and more to do with my extraordinary partner.

Late on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was lounging on the sofa and S was reading in the bedroom. From the other room she called out, “Do we have talcum powder?” “Nope, don’t think so.”, I replied. After a moment of silence, S came back with, “How about corn starch?” “Sure. In the cupboard, in a round, blue and gold can.” Without responding, she padded barefoot into the kitchen and then returned to the bedroom.

Intrigued, I asked from the couch, “Why do you ask?” In a matter-of-fact voice she said, “Because I was lightly stroking my clit, and I wondered what it would feel like totally dry and buttery soft, like with talcum powder. You know, instead of all wet and oily.”

Can you see why I adore this woman?

Within a bare few minutes, I could resist no longer. I got off the couch, went to the bedroom and laid down beside her on the bed, where she was idly playing with a pussy liberally dusted with white powder. With her welcome blessing, I joined in the experience, and found it was quite lovely. The powder made the skin contact soft and smooth, and the lack of oil meant I could feel every little crease and fold and all the subtle differences in the skin texture. It was extraordinary!

Despite S’ appetite for overwhelming sensations and rough play, an excruciatingly light and fairly slow touch is the surest way to get her off. With my powdered finger feathering up and down the shaft of her clit, she was ready to come in very little time. I teased her for a while, denying her that first orgasm until she begged and pleaded and offered me anything I wanted (like that’s anything new) before I allowed her to have that first shuddering orgasm. Once the dam broke, I continued stimulating her and brought her off several more times before giving her a break and letting her breathe. It was a delightful experience, and one I enthusiastically recommend.

After, her eyes twinkled and she asked hopefully, “What would you like to do next?” I did not have to think very long. “Friday night you talked about wanting to squirt again. Let’s go up to the attic and do that.” S did not need her arm twisted. “Okay!”

I hasten to point out that she hopped in the shower to briefly rinse off the corn starch; we weren’t trying to make a roux here!

In the redwood paneled attic that a friend called our “Fuck Treehouse”, we put down the “sex blanket” (a Liberator Throw) to catch any fluids, got out the NJoy Pure Wand, and brought the jar of coconut oil into easy reach. As aroused as S already was, getting her to squirt took surprisingly little time. Her ejaculate was copious and decidedly milky white. I still haven’t found the knack of making her squirt with my fingers, but the heavy steel barbell does the trick pretty reliably. As I was using the barbell on her, I provided some auxiliary stimulation by playing with her clit, then later very shallowly fingering her asshole. She soaked the blanket quite thoroughly and noisily (and happily, the mattress below stayed entirely dry).

We have gradually been exploring more ass play between the two of us, and this seemed like a good time to push that envelope a bit. (“I’d push her envelope, I tell you whut.”) We took some time to examine in a clinical fashion what she liked and what wasn’t as good. With not even one knuckle fully inserted, I demonstrated lightly jostling and bouncing my finger (her favorite), working my finger in and out without actually stroking the skin (I can demonstrate that better than I know how to describe it), and then stroking my finger in and out a way that actually stroked the skin (which was a little too intense for her).

Equipped with a better idea of what was working for her, I asked her to get on hands and knees. I inserted the narrow end of the NJoy into her pussy and played with that in the usual fashion, soon getting her to squirt a bit more. After a while I bent forward and started lapping at the puckered pink rosebud of her asshole. She groaned deeply, her face and shoulders dropped to the bed and her ass arched towards the sky. We played with that for quite a while, with explosive results. I have become familiar with how fast and how often S can orgasm, in rolling waves one right on top of the other. This was several steps beyond that. She was thrashing side to side, screaming gutturally into the pillow, utterly incoherent, one step away from a grand mal seizure. When that went on long enough that I thought she might hurt herself, I backed off slightly, stopped lapping at her asshole, let her gather her wits, and then resumed the intensity, this time stroking her clit as well. And whoosh, there she goes again. I played through several variations of that, until she begged for a break to have a drink of water.

After the briefest of respites, we decided to very carefully try to narrow end of the NJoy wand in her ass. Still in the “face down, ass up” pose, I held the wand very still and let her gradually work it inside her ass. With me holding the wand still, she could be in control of the speed and depth of the action, pausing to get used to the size and sensation as needed, then working deeper, then waiting, then again. Ultimately, she took the ball end of the wand and perhaps an inch of shaft, and that seemed to be a happy place for her. With the slightest rocking motion of the wand, I started stroking her clit, bringing her to a couple of very happy orgasms with the wand inside her. Emboldened, I slipped two fingers inside her pussy and started playing with her g-spot while the wand was still in her ass. The wall separating the rectum from the vaginal canal is rather thin, and I could clearly feel the hard ball of the wand against my fingers as I stroked her g-spot. She had several more orgasms this way, rather louder and more enthusiastically. On a hunch, I removed my fingers and just played with the wand in her ass, hoping it would tap in a diffuse way against her g-spot. It seemed successful, and she had two solid orgasms with no stimulation aside from the wand in her ass (albeit, stimulating her g-spot indirectly).

When her ass finally reached its limit, I held the wand steady and let her ease forward until the bulbous end plopped free. I reassured her that I saw no sign at all of any tearing, nor any slight bleeding, and frankly, no messy “santorum” either. I gave her well-used asshole a friendly and comforting lap or two, set the wand aside, and fell on the bed beside her as she exclaimed a tired but joyful “Wow!” Then she noticed my cock, which was rather happily erect, and perhaps even a bit larger than usual.

She attempted some profound deep throating, and found the extra smidge of length too much for her throat. She asked me to fuck her instead, and I did so with great abandon. In all honesty, I was so crazy aroused by this time that I didn’t last very long, but it was still enough to give her three or so more orgasms before I reached my own shuddering, groaning climax.

Goddamn. Is it any wonder we so rarely leave the house?

Note: Wow, I threw around a couple of brand names in this post. I want to rush to reassure readers (all two of them) that I have no connection with the companies cited and there’s no compensation whatsoever. I only mention the brands with such specificity in case someone reading thinks to themselves “That sounds nifty! I wonder where I could find one of those.”

Over the last two weeks, S and I have had two dates with a new person in our lives, E. There have been a dozen delightful aspects to the experience; glorious conversations that swoop from the silly to the sublime to the serious, learning each others’ stories and histories, the seemingly instant rapport S and E developed, the easy way the three of us collaborate and play in the kitchen while making pasta and salad, deep-and-real conversations basking in the hot tub, and (lest you forget who you’re talking to) there has been a considerable quantity and quality of amazing sex. Fucking awesome (and awesome fucking)!

There’s one aspect of the experience that I have found especially gratifying and would like to describe.

The first evening the three of us hung out together, we reached a threshold where it was clear we were going to be fooling around. We had been talking about sex all night, her experiences, our experiences, where our individual journeys have taken us. Eventually we ended up in the sex treehouse and she saw the Sybian and the bed up there and we all looked at each other, grinned, and effectively said, “You wanna?” (Oh hell yeah!)

So, clothes were doffed, we cuddled on the bed together, and there was that brief awkward pause of “Okay, how are we gonna do this? How does this work?”

It feels like there is never a good sexy time to have the STD talk, there’s only more and less awkward. But this felt like about the best window we were going to find. So I seized the conversational bull by the horns, “Hey, before we get started, let’s have the terribly unsexy and awkward STD talk.” We explicitly reviewed when we had been tested last, what issues there were to consider, possible risks to be mindful of. Once we felt like we had all potential issues on the table and a shared understanding, we took a moment to acknowledge how that can be a challenging topic, but we were all three so glad we had discussed it before anything juicy had happened.

Since we were in that space already, I then dove into explicit topic number two. “Let’s talk about boundaries for a minute. It’s super important to me that we’re only doing things that you’re really enthusiastic about. If you’ve got any hard boundaries that you already know about, I want to hear them. At the same time, if you find your boundaries shift as we’re fooling around and something that you thought would be awesome is making you uncomfortable, it’s important to me that you are able to speak up and let us know. Does that work for you? Can you do that, can you explicitly own your boundaries like that?” She could and did. We laid down a couple of hard lines and enthusiastically agreed that any one of us could pause the action at any time to add to that list with no drama, no hurt feelings.

I thought we were about ready to start and then E paused for a moment with a thoughtful expression and spoke again. “I need to say… I know you two enjoy some pretty enthusiastic BDSM play, and I feel like I need to say… that’s not really my thing. I like a little bit of light hair pulling in just the right moments, but that’s about it. I just don’t have the same relationship with pain that you do. I hope that’s not a huge downer.” We rushed to reassure her; I think my answer was something like, “Oh hon, I have zero agenda except making your brain turn to mush with pleasure! Especially while we’re getting started and learning about each other, I’m not trying to push your boundaries or do anything that you feel uncertain about. I want you to end this night feeling supremely blissed out and completely comfortable.”

With those conversations done, we turned to slathering each other with oil, getting a little familiar with each others’ bodies, and… epic amounts of fun ensued. I could write full-on porn about the experience, but here’s the thing that really stood out for me. Having had those conversations, we then proceeded to have one of the most uninhibited and least self-conscious threesomes I’ve ever had. There seemed to be the least amount of anxiety and fretting that I have ever had with a new partner. Everyone seemed to be fully comfortable in their own skin, overflowing with praise about how stunningly gorgeous the other two were, and deeply committed to spreading around as much pleasure as we possibly could. I don’t think I have ever felt as nakedly exposed and vulnerable in front of a new partner, nor have I ever been as well rewarded for being so open. Everyone took a prolonged turn as the center of attention, combinations and permutations were explored with glee and abandon, the differences in our bodies and preferences were explored with wonder and delight and a complete lack of judgement. And I was really pleased to find out that E did indeed feel safe and secure enough to say once or twice, “That’s not really working for me; can we have less of this and maybe more of that?” Knowing that your partner(s) have that ability to own their own boundaries does a considerable amount to quiet that inner voice that frets about, “She seems like she’s having fun, but is she really enjoying that? What’s the furrow on her brow mean? Hell, is that person feeling left out? Am I doing too much of this and not enough that?” Being able to let go of that and trust my partners was an enormous gift and tremendously liberating.

Last night was the second date with E, and I am so happy to report the first time was not a fluke. Again we discussed our boundaries, where our heads were, what we needed. We started in one place and twice when it seemed like things were about to escalate I checked in explicitly, “Can I do this, would you enjoy this?” and received clear and honest answers. It was a magical experience, ran rather later than any of us expected, and included several (welcome) firsts for E.

I feel profoundly fortunate to have had that experience with partners who are so extraordinarily generous with their affection, trust, and intention. I can’t tell you how eager and excited I am about the prospect of more forthcoming.

In my relationships, I use safewords for edgier sex play. Simply having a discussion with a partner about safewords can be reassuring, as it establishes that consent is massively important and that both parties have a vehicle for clearly, unequivocally withdrawing consent at any given moment. I also appreciate the sense of freedom safewords can imply. Knowing that your partner has a safeword frees you from trying to second guess the meaning of the occasional “Ow!”, “Sonofabitch!”, or “Fucking hell!” Curse me all you like, I’m not stopping until you use your safeword. *grin*

At the suggestion of some more experienced hands, I’ve adopted the “traffic light” colors of safewords. “Green” means everything is fine and please continue. In practical terms, once a scene is begun “green” tends to be taken as given and almost never used. “Yellow” means, the action needs to be paused while something is adjusted. Maybe a wrist cuff is cutting off circulation, or someone urgently needs to pee, or a muscle cramp is ruining a good time. “Yellow” tends to imply that things are mostly okay, but some changes need to be made before the action can continue. “Red” means done, full stop, game over. There’s no negotiating or debating a “red”; release any bindings and proceed directly to aftercare (do not pass Go!, do not collect $200).

Even when safewords have been fully discussed and agreed upon, there are still those people who appear very reluctant to actually invoke a safeword. Some people seem to feel like using a safeword is a failure in some way. Maybe it feels like admitting they couldn’t take some sensation that they think they should be able to handle, or perhaps they fear that saying the safeword will disappoint their partner, particularly in dom/sub situations.

Speaking for myself, I really appreciate it when my partner uses a safeword. At the very least, it shows they know their own boundaries and will communicate them, always a good thing in my experience. But there is an additional benefit. As a dom, I want to push my sub’s boundaries, to take them to a place they have never been before. In order to do that, I need to know what their boundaries are. And if a sub refuses to use a safeword, in a very real way they are refusing to communicate what their boundaries are. Boo, hiss! I want to know where those boundaries are, with crystal clarity. I want to be able to bring someone right up to the precipice and use their fear and anxiety as part of the experience. The more my partner can share, the better I’m going to be at taking them on that journey.

And on a happy note, I finally got Cheer to say her safeword! I had to cheat a little bit to get there, but I’m okay with that. 🙂

I was talking with someone recently about how friendships work for me, and I’m reaching a growing suspicion that my brain handles these things a little differently from most folk. I would love to hear what the rest of you feel about this. (Assuming anyone reads this blog.)

I’ve never made friends quickly or easily. People who don’t know me well assume I’m an extrovert, but inside I very much identify as an introvert, and a socially awkward one at that. I struggle with making small talk, I have trouble connecting with people in groups (at parties for instance), and it’s tough for me to open up to be real and vulnerable with someone until I’ve really gotten to know them.

As a consequence, I’m not one of those people with a large circle of friends. I have lots of acquaintances, sure. But people I can be “deep and real” with, and really let down my guard? That’s a pretty short list.

Having said that, for those friends I tend to be pretty over the top. I like spoiling them, making them feel pampered, adored, loved. For instance, I’m friends with a couple who are hammered with work and school right now. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to have them over for dinner (the least I can do is feed them, right?), but their schedules are so tight that we can’t seem to make that happen. So I made them a quiche and dropped it off for them. And I’ll probably do something like that once a week or so until they finally have some breathing room. I’m pretty shameless about picking up the bill or even loaning money when the circumstances call for it. (I’m so very fortunate to be in a position where I tend to have more financial resources than my peers.) Taking people to the airport, helping people move, holding them when they cry… that all feels very natural to me.

The bottom line is, if you’re my friend I really want you to be happy. I want to help you feel good, in all the ways, emotionally, mentally, even physically. One of the reasons I’ve returned to my massage practice so enthusiastically is that it’s something I can share with my friends to help them feel relaxed, comfortable, and at ease in their own bodies.

And in my head, that extends to sex also. If you’re my friend, if I’m that close to you, I’m pretty happy and enthusiastic about going “there”. When it comes to offering my friends pure physical pleasure, I don’t see a massive distinction between a scalp massage and oral sex. It’s all about making that person feel good, right?

But I’m aware the lines are much more black and white for most people. Some of my friends are not comfortable with blurring those lines, and that’s of course okay. The last thing I want is for anyone to feel uncomfortable or weird and so I honor and respect whatever boundaries they might have.

But for me, it’s very much a smooth, seamless spectrum. That makes some labels challenging for me. I’m not very good at drawing boundaries between friendship, love, lust, friends with benefits, romance.

And finding that space of comfort and boundaries with a friend can be interesting. Just last night I said to a loved one (with a great deal of awkwardness), “I’m just going to take it as a given that you would prefer I not make a pass at you?” She smiled and blushed and said, “I like when you flirt with me, but for sanity’s sake we should keep it as friends.” So we smiled and hugged and I gave her some space. And later told her how hot she looked gyrating on the dance floor (because flirting had been green lighted, right?) I really hope that hasn’t left things awkward between us; I’m looking forward to our next meeting to find out.

And as I think about it further, the people I am very closest to (the Three Graces, I’m thinking of you) probably blur those lines in somewhat the same way I do. It’s a fabulous and wonderful thing to have friends, but it’s even better when they share some of your kinks.

I’ve been thinking about boundaries lately, scattered thoughts bouncing around in my head that haven’t quite gelled into a cohesive whole. But here’s some of the preliminary thinking:

Act 1:

– At Burning Man 2014, I participated in the Human Carcass Wash. I could write a huge blog post just on this one topic, but the short version is that it’s an activity where a bunch of volunteer Burners wash a bunch of other Burners. During the orientation, our guide made the point, “Every time a new person steps up to your station, when you help them into the basin you must ask, ‘What are your boundaries?’ Some people will say ‘I have no boundaries, wash everywhere.’ Others may say, ‘I have a bruise on my shin, please avoid that.’ Others might say, ‘Please avoid my pubic area. I’ll wash that.’ Any answer is fine, and those boundaries must be honored. Any person being bathed has the full right to change their answer at any time. ‘You know, I thought I was okay with having my bottom washed, but… umm, no. I’ll get that area.’ And that has to be okay too.”

The most powerful thing the guide said (for me), was the following. “Please remember that your boundaries matter too! Just because someone says, ‘I have no boundaries, wash me everywhere’, that doesn’t mean you’re obligated. If you’re not comfortable touching them ‘there’, then don’t!”

Powerful stuff!

Act 2:

I’ve been ramping up my massage practice, doing several massages a week for the past few months. I’ve been greatly enjoying it, but as the frequency increases I have to be mindful about not zoning out and going through the motions. Massage is not a time for auto-pilot. There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve been just starting a massage and catch myself really leaning into it. “Slow down, this person on your table isn’t ‘Cheer’. Ease into it and then find out how much pressure she wants. You can’t just start at 9 and escalate from there.”

When you have someone on the table, you have to meet them where they are, and work with however much or little they are willing to present to you. I’ve had a client who asked for deep glute work and who left their underwear on. I had another guy on the table for a full massage who wore his jeans on the table! It’s all good. If that’s where their comfort level is, I can work with that.

Act 3:

As I’ve blogged about recently, I have a new partner who is open to some fairly intense sensations and activities. The previous time I saw her, we spent extensive time at the massage table, starting at an intensity of 8 and swiftly escalating from there. I used every bit of my anatomy knowledge, my size, and my muscle to do things that I knew would have her writhing in that fascinating blend of pleasure and pain that she craves so desperately. We spent about ninety minutes doing that, and it was an unqualified success.

We saw each other again last night, and I orchestrated a suite of activities that were completely different from the previous meeting. We started by focusing on her pleasure – what things pushed her buttons, what made her purr, and what things were an inhibiting distraction. As things progressed, I escalated and began pushing her boundaries (or at least tried to). Not with pain this time, or at least not overtly. Instead, I worked on providing pleasure, increasing amounts, from various sources, and with growing vigor. I started with a luxurious spell of cunnilingus, savoring her smell, her taste, the musky flavor that comes with full arousal. I seem to recall her asking for something and responding with a “Hush. This part isn’t for you; it’s for me.” I took my sweet time lapping at her vulva, sucking her lips into my mouth and gently pulling, and lifting her legs while I plunged my tongue into her as deeply as I could reach. Once I had sated my own hunger (for a while at least), I started working on hers.

I gradually eased a finger into her, sliding in and out while I flicked my tongue beside her clit hood. That got a very enthusiastic response and I held there for some minutes, letting her pleasure rise and plateau before I continued. Eventually my finger curled and started stroking her G-spot, which was met with energetic and rhythmic clenching of her hips. Holding tight for the ride and continuing to lick and stroke, I slid my free hand up her torso and found her nipple, which obviously needed rather firm pinching and stroking. I let her energy build and swell over several minutes, until her wailing reached an urgent pitch and her bucking got too frenzied to ride.

In a big rush intended to add to her disorientation, I withdrew, roughly rolled her onto her belly and sank my thumb deep inside her. Just sliding in and out at first, roughly, quickly. Before she could relax into that I changed angles so that the pad of my thumb was stroking over her G-spot with each push. With each stroke, she cried gutturally into the mattress, and finally her hips contracted and her ass rose off the bed to meet my hand hungrily, greedily. I put my free hand on the small of her back and crushed her to the bed pinning her in place while I put my knee between her thighs to keep her open and exposed. Finally, I changed the motion of my thumb completely, leaving it deep inside her pussy and pulsing up and down, tapping, drumming on her G-spot. Her crying became constant and incoherent and it was a struggle to keep her pinned to the bed. I increased the speed and force of my drumming, far beyond what I would even consider with most partners. Finally, with every muscle of her body tensed, rigid, and straining, she rewarded my efforts with a long keening cry and a splashing surge of fluid.

So there’s another kind of boundary, not of pain, but of pleasure, of giving in and submitting, and of taking more than you knew was possible.

Must. Push. Buttons!

Act 4:

That same evening, after a necessary break for recovery, fluids, and laughter, we decided to return downstairs one more time to play with some floggers I’d made. I bound her with some padded wrist cuffs, which I don’t think she was expecting, and started working on her upper back and bottom. I began with a medium-weight flogger and eventually moved up to a heavier one, letting her feel the thudding, percussive weight of each stroke. I alternated targets, working on her back for a bit, then shifting to her ass with no warning. I played with speed, giving her a slow deliberate rhythm, then pausing and letting her dread the next blow. I practiced some crossing strokes, raining down in a fast persistent pattern. She sagged against the cuffs once or twice, only to leap to attention again in response to a carefully placed lash on her bottom. Periodically I would pause the flogging to whisper deep and low into her ear and to glide my fingertips ever so gently across her burning cheeks and shoulder blades. The feathery touch made her writhe even more than the flogging.

With considerable reluctance, I called a stop to the action. She seemed to be in a good space, watching her writhe was so very compelling, and I really wanted to continue, but… that sort of space takes a great deal of thoughtfulness, deep attention to detail, real care and caution. I often think of it as a high wire act. And I was too exhausted (very happily so) from all of the previous activities to be as “on my game” as that kind of play requires. I just didn’t want to gamble with being sloppy or careless when she was in a position so vulnerable and trusting.

Which is to say, I hadn’t hit her boundary, but I very much hit mine.

Act 5:

I’m an enthusiastic bicyclist. (A hell of a segue, I know. Bear with me.) There’s this interesting phenomenon when riding with another person. If you’re riding side-by-side, you can each go at your own pace. At any given moment, one person might be feeling more energetic and surge ahead, while the other person might drop back a bit and catch their breath. Over a long ride, this sort of ebb and flow balance out (assuming roughly equivalent riders) and you both end at the same place at the same time.

However, if you’re riding single file, the person in back is restricted by the top speed of the person ahead. If the follower is feeling bouncy and energetic and the person ahead isn’t… the follower has to wait. They might try to hold a little energy in reserve to accelerate ahead when the leader decides to push, but they basically inherit the limitations of the leader’s pace.

In sex, there’s no one ahead and no one following, but it’s still a group ride. The boundaries of the “slowest” person necessarily set the pace. You might find yourself in a time and place when you wish your companion was going faster so you could really give it your all, no holding back, working towards furious and glorious exhaustion. It’s an amazing, dizzying feeling! And if you ever find such a *ahem* “riding partner”, you’ll soon realize that now you’re the slower one, putting your boundaries on them.

And that’s okay too. Your own limits are just as real and just as valid as your partner’s limits. You might enjoy playing right at the edge of those limits, you might enjoy pushing them a bit, but ignoring them is a really bad idea.

Back in December, my primary partner asked me what I would like for my birthday (in January). I’m pretty shameless about buying myself whatever toys catch my eye, so I always struggle with answering these kinds of questions. I laughing said something about how “a drug-fueled fuck fest is the gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving”. And promptly forgot all about it.

On the weekend of my birthday, the aforementioned girlfriend and I traveled to central Oregon to traipse about in the snow, and had a perfectly lovely time. As we prepared for the return trip on Sunday (the anniversary of my birth), I began to get some small hints that something was up. She said small things like, “I’d like to get home by the early afternoon” without offering any reason, and “Let’s not stop to eat there on the way home; you might not want a full belly.” Curious, but completely vague. I enjoy surprises, so I didn’t pry.

We got home, went for a run and showered. Knowing full well that something was in the works, I asked how I should dress post shower. “Comfortably sexy. I don’t think we’re going out.” Of course, one has brief thoughts of fantasies that are far too improbable for reality, but I quickly settled down to earth. “Hmm, maybe she’s asked B over to give me a massage. That would be lovely.” Then the girl tells me if I wanted to indulge in any recreational pharmaceuticals, now would be the right time. *gulp* I’m enough of a control freak that taking a mind-altering substance without knowing exactly what was in the works for the evening took a considerable leap of faith. But I leapt in an ecstatic fashion. And somewhat nervously waited for the other shoe to drop.

About thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang and I nearly jumped out of my skin. She smiled and said, “You should go answer that.” Heart thumping, I went to the door to find… a woman I’ve been seeing lately! And behind her… was the other woman I’ve recently become involved with! They came in bearing pizza boxes, homemade cupcakes, and absolutely mischievous grins. My mind quickly bounced back and forth, “This can’t be what I think it is! Oh my stars, I think it is! No, it can’t! Oh shit, I think it is!”

Some background, for context: “Splendor” has been my partner for a good long while, and knows both of the others socially, but has never err, umm, “gone there” with either. “Cheer” I have known for a long time, but the relationship has only recently escalated to a significantly new level. And “Mirth” is someone I’ve been involved with off and on a couple of times, currently “on” and hopefully done with the “off” problems. Cheer and Mirth had met briefly at a couple of parties, but that was about the extent of their experience with each other. I found out after the fact that about a week ago Mirth asked Splendor what plans were in store for my birthday, and my quote was relayed to her. Bless her heart, she took the idea and ran with it, contacting Cheer and coordinating the event. Such balls!

The Three Graces

Back to the narrative. The girls got a bite to eat while I fidgeted in an anxious fashion, trying to figure out if I was already deeply hallucinating. After a short time, someone suggested that perhaps it was time to find a more comfortable space to lounge. A brief bit of scurrying for armfuls of pillows and blankets and we were soon ensconced in a very cozy nest. Soon enough, clothes were shed, copious amounts of oil were applied to all available flesh and things got decidedly warmer!

I can only pretend to relay the roughest of outlines of what followed; my head was swimming in an ocean of awe, appreciation and astonishment. For a brief time I lay passively and accepted the oily petting and stroking of six hands and many kisses, sometimes from multiple people at once. But I’m really not built for passivity and soon started orchestrating matters. Splendor was placed in the middle and received ample attentions from all of us, with one person leading the main event and the other two assisting in whatever clever ways they could find. And then another person took the lead. And then I took the lead. After we had thoroughly given Splendor all she could possibly handle, we rotated Mirth into the middle and repeated the process. We took a brief break to soak in the hot tub, but swiftly returned for a second act. We repeated the same routine with Cheer, and then I got the finale session in the middle.

Each girl is so completely different in her wants, needs, preferences; I began each session by telling some story about that girl’s kinks (Your kink is okay!), amusing little stories about our early experiences, anything to break the ice and set the stage for what that girl might especially enjoy. And for fuck’s sake, did they rise to the occasion! Every one of them dove into the action with all due vigor and enthusiasm, as though they were long-term lovers. I tried to quietly check in with each of them at various times, just to make sure it was all good and everyone was in their happy place. Each time I was met with a big damn grin and firm instructions to quit worrying so much. I did my best to comply.

The night was such a long series of amazing things, and everything flowed so easily, so naturally, so comfortably, that it’s hard for me to lock down a precise sequence. However, some specific moments remain etched in my brain: The way Mirth lay directly under Cheer and held her down spread eagled to be used and abused. The way Cheer curled up against Splendor in a fawning, adoring, submissive fashion after receiving a series of exquisite bites on her torso that left bruises visible for days. The way Mirth presented herself face down, ass up so that I could make her squirt profoundly, multiple times, to the delight of our audience.

But more than anything, I will long remember and cherish the feeling of love and adoration that filled the space. Everyone was so incredibly loving, open, giving, accepting, supportive… I was just awestruck. And when I remind myself that this was the first time any of them had ever interacted with the others in anything resembling a sexual context, I hardly know how to respond. I am blessed beyond measure.

The following day was a flurry of glowing messages and photos of spectacular love bites. One of the girls said, “I went into it thinking I was doing it for you. I came out of it knowing I did it for me.” I find both ends of that so beautiful, it makes me tear up. That any or all of them would consider doing such a thing for me is an honor I can barely comprehend. That it became such a beautiful, shared, mutual experience for all three of them just fills my heart with joy and love.

The bravery and openness of these women completely awes me. I fail to see how I have earned it, but they assure me I have. I’m going to bust my ass trying to live up to the person they think I am.

For the past year or so, I’ve been exploring BDSM activities with a little more enthusiasm. On playa in 2014, I camped with the Theme Camp “Retrofrolic”, which is the largest BDSM playspace on the playa. I’ve taught classes on making your own flogger (from upcycled bicycle innertubes). And I am newly involved in a significantly more serious BDSM relationship than I’ve experienced before. In these experiences, I’ve been the “top”, the “dom”, the “sadist”.

Despite that, I’ve been really uneasy with the title “sadist”. It didn’t feel like it fit me, but I had a hard time articulating why. 

From a historical perspective, the writings of the Marquis de Sade describe some really extreme behavior, sexual abuse, rape, pedophilia, necrophilia… some reprehensible actions, to say the least. But okay, let’s agree that we’re only talking about the context of consenting sexual behavior involving pain and/or dominance. There are still aspects of that that sit uneasily with me. It was jarring to walk into camp in the wee hours of the morning and greet a fellow Burner who had a fresh array of bright purple welts from the small of her back to her lower thighs, purple drifting into blood red in places. And she was enormously proud of them! I very firmly believe and embrace “Your kink is okay!”, but at the same time that was a level of BDSM that I had a hard time personally relating to.

So I’ve been pondering this term, “sadist”, talking it over with partners, even talking about it with a local meeting of sex geeks (wow, I love Portland!). And I think I’ve finally figured out my own personal relationship with the term.

I have relationships where I really enjoy exerting control and dominance, where I provide verbal abuse and inflict considerable amounts of physical pain. And I’m not a sadist.

Let me explain by giving you an example from my massage practice. Nearly every massage I do includes some work with my fingertips on the client’s temples. Most clients really love this, but there are a few that hate it and I make a note to avoid it with them in future massages. And some clients like it but only with the very lightest of pressure, while others wants me to wear a groove in their skulls. And you know what? It’s all good. I don’t think less of the people who hate it, and I’m not upset at someone who doesn’t want me to bear down as hard as I might. The point isn’t to flex my finger muscles; the point is to make that person feel good! And if that particular move doesn’t work for someone, I move on and find something that does make their toes curl!

And that’s very much how I feel about my BDSM practices. I have had a few girlfriends who enjoy aspects of those behaviors. And I’m currently involved with someone who is taking me to the limits of where I thought I could go. But I also have a partner who has no appreciable interest in those activities at all. And it’s all good! I’m not grumpy and sad because I have a girlfriend who doesn’t want to be flogged ruthlessly. For me, the point isn’t the pain, the point is to use that pain as a vehicle for bringing someone pleasure. And I’m really talking about “for me” here. I hugely enjoy giving my partners pleasure. I like bringing them to a fevered spot in their head where conscious thought stops and their senses are electrified. If getting there involves some extra dirty talk and a little spanking, I can handle it. If it involves causing screaming pain and some bruising, I can hang. But I have no desire to go there if it doesn’t make my partner’s toes curl.

If I were really a sadist and had a partner who wouldn’t let me beat them savagely, I have to think I’d be really disappointed in that. “Aww, here’s this girl I’m really into, and I can’t indulge this thing that I really love to do. That sucks!” In fact, I have a kink I feel exactly that way about. I love giving a woman head. Even if it isn’t that pleasurable for a particular partner, I still enjoy licking her pussy. The smell, the texture, the taste. Mmm, the taste. That richer, muskier taste that comes when she is thoroughly aroused. It makes me growl with hunger. If I had a partner who refused to let me eat her pussy, I would be hugely sad. It would feel like a huge loss in the relationship, to me. ‘cause that’s my kink. (And your kink is okay!)

But I don’t feel that way about BDSM. If that doesn’t work for a partner, I’ll find something else that will. I’ll find something that will make them gasp, stop them in mid-sentence, make them see a mandala of light pulse in their vision. As long as she also lets me eat her pussy every so often. 🙂

My soundtrack for this discussion is courtesy of Momus: I Want You But I Don’t Need You