"All Outdoor Cats used to be Indoor Cats until something went wrong. But once you are an Outdoor Cat, you may occasionally get petted or fed, but you never live indoors again.
Also, we don't mind visitors coming into the house and petting or playing with our Indoor Cats, but it's important to us that the Indoor Cat remember where he is fed and sleeps."
"We also recognize that our Indoor Cats may be someone else's Outdoor Cat. There is a cat door!"
I originally wrote this as a FetLife post, referring to some events that were happening on there, but several recent conversations have reminded me that I wanted to share it more publicly as well.
I'm going to take an angle on discussing consent that isn't often addressed. It may be a little uncomfortable to think about. Hells, it's uncomfortable for me, especially admitting that I have transgressed these rules a few times myself, but I really feel the need to point this out.
Touching someone without asking is assault. EVEN IF THEY LIKED IT.
Touching someone - anyone - without their prior consent, in a sexual manner is sexual assault. That includes fondling, groping, kissing, biting (actually that last counts as Actual Bodily Harm in the UK, if it leaves a mark, I don't know what it is in the US or Canada) and so on.
Prior consent is the important bit here. If you haven't asked first, that's assault. No matter how the person responds afterwards. Even if they enjoyed it, even if they came, even if 'they secretly wanted it but wouldn't dare to say' like all the rapey tropes in bad porn, and even if it's funny, even if they THANK YOU FOR IT, if you didn't ask first, you still assaulted them.
Consent is established by saying 'yes' before the fact, not by 'not saying no' when something is already happening. Only YES means yes. (There's a group set up to talk specifically about this on FL, in fact: https://fetlife.com/groups/39158 plus there are blogs and websites dedicated to the idea outside of the kink world, too.)
If someone decides they're okay with it after the fact, if they decide to accept your apology (or if they decide no apology is necessary), if you remain friends with each other, or lovers, or coworkers, that doesn't mean you didn't assault them, it just means they decided they're okay with it. You were lucky. YOU ASSAULTED SOMEONE, AND YOU WERE LUCKY. Consent after the fact doesn't make it not assault, it just means you are 'getting away with it'.
If someone decides they're okay with it, accepts an apology, but then later says in effect 'dude, what you did, you do know that was assault, right?'... then that's not an attack on you, that's a statement of fact.
I will add that, yes, I have assaulted people myself. I have swatted the occasional butt that was bent over enticingly in front of me without asking for permission. I've assumed consent on a couple of occasions when it wasn't explicitly stated up-front, either because I thought the humour of the situation warranted it or because I thought the other person(s) involved would be okay with it. I made a judgement call and I got away with it. That doesn't make it any less assault, however, and if I'd gotten that judgement wrong and upset someone, I'd damn well hope to be called out on it.
As kinksters we play with consent and with trust all the time, as doms and subs and as tops and bottoms. If my judgement is off, I want to know it, so I can learn from it, and I want the people around me to know it, so folks can protect themselves and me.
So I've gotten away with assaulting people. That doesn't make me a monster. It also doesn't make my friends (because yes, I'm talking about occasions when I was messing around with friends or lovers) into doormats or liars or put them into the wrong for not having gone to the police about a casual butt-swat. Those people who insist that a crime didn't happen unless it's recorded by the police are almost as problematic as the folks who believe that none of this is important at all. Sometimes it makes sense to take it to the police. Sometimes it really doesn't, and there are a million valid reasons why someone might not, including that they Just Don't Want To. Even stepping on someone's foot is a form of physical assault. Can you imagine a world where you weren't allowed to mention that someone was clumsy and had a tendency to step on feet, unless you were willing to take it to the police?
If I was to vandalise a friend's car as a joke* and he finds it funny, that's a shared giggle. If he doesn't find it funny, he could choose to take it to the police, or he could decide that our friendship is worth more than that. Whether he finds it funny or not, and whether the police were involved or not, a couple of years down the line he'd still be entitled to say 'watch out for Emanix, she vandalised my car a couple of years back'. Why would we apply a different standard of proof to discussion of sexual assault? Why do we still allow anyone to get away with the idea that if you think you can succeed in making someone enjoy it, you don't need to ask permission**? And why do we assume that we will know a rapist when we see one, when every one of us at some point has violated somebody's consent, deliberately or otherwise, even if only by stepping on a foot. It doesn't make it okay, but the idea that these things are only perpetrated by 'monsters' who are easily recognised allows far more leeway for the folks who think that because something was okay once, with one person, that it's automatically okay with everybody else, the folks who assume they have the ability to tell without asking what's going to be okay with any particular person, and of course, the otherwise pleasant to be around folks who just happen think they have a right to other peoples bodies. There, my dears, be dragons.
*I would never do this, I just couldn't think of a better example right now & I know folks who have. Please do not vandalise my car.
**I think of this as Schrödinger-sex. You don't know until you open the box whether it contains an orgasm or a jail sentence. Why on earth would anyone find that attractive??! (E.L. James, I'm looking at you, here.)
Seems a couple of folks are getting bogged down in the rules-lawyering about what one can and can't get away with doing in what situation and why. (Including me!)
The point I'm trying to make by means of exaggeration is not really that one is automatically in the wrong to work without explicit verbal consent, because we've all done it on occasion, but on the flip side the only way to be *100% certain* that you're NOT going to end up with a criminal record for assaulting somebody is to look for active consent, otherwise you're having Schrödinger-sex: You never quite know for sure there's a spot on the sex-offenders registry waiting for you inside the box or just an entertaining evening.
The only person who can tell you whether they're consenting to what you're doing with someone is the person you're doing it with. If you want to be entirely sure what you're doing is okay, don't ask me, ask them!
I am not a brat.
I tend to keep my submissive streak rather quiet. Partly because it's very very rare that it comes out. I have gone most of thirty years and only been submissive for a few days of that, at most. Partly because I see the lack of respect towards submissives in certain parts of the kink scene and perhaps a bit selfishly, to avoid having to spend hours explaining myself or challenging prejudice, I have sometimes taken the easy route to avoiding that. Not by lying, but certainly by omitting to mention my switchy side when in public. I have also hidden my masochistic aspect on occasion, despite that being much larger, because it frustrates me when people automatically assume that masochist equals submissive, and submissive equals masochist (I've written about it in my livejournal before: http://emanix.livejournal.com/24585.html ). I work hard though, nowadays, to break down that false assumption and free other kinky folk from unsatisfying and confusing relationships. Most often, when I play these days, it's something along the lines of 'Masochist Dom' (“Spank me! No, harder! Mmm, that's good. More. Good boy!”)
But I do have a submissive side. There is a part of me that very occasionally wants someone else to be in charge, someone telling me what to do, or what is going to be done to me. It's small, but it runs deep, and comes out only when I'm with people I feel very very safe around, whom I respect emotionally and intellectually, and most often when I'm feeling pressured by the outside world and looking for a safe space to go to, where someone I trust is willing to take on the responsibility of making decisions for me, just for a while. And I am not a brat.
A brat is someone who misbehaves deliberately in order to be punished. An awful lot of masochists are brats, through nature or through training. The outside world teaches us that physical punishment is a response to bad behaviour. A child does something hurtful to themselves or others, and is given a smack as a swift way to create an aversion to that behaviour. Many countries in the world still use corporal punishment to control adults. More importantly, it is normal not to reward bad behaviour, for obvious reasons. If someone hurts you, or takes something of yours, you don't give them a lollipop. It is obvious to most people that giving someone a reward for undesired behaviour is going to result in more of that same behaviour. For a masochist, which I'm going to define here as 'someone who enjoys pain', a spanking is pretty much the same as that lollipop. If you give someone what they enjoy, every time they do something that's annoying or upsetting, you are setting them up to want to do those annoying or upsetting things more often. Even if they don't really want to do those things otherwise. Even if those things are actually bad for them. If you are habitually rewarding a person for bad behaviour, they will keep doing it because they want the reward. Curiously enough, outside the world of kink, this is known as a 'perverse incentive' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perverse_in
I am a masochist, and sometimes I'm submissive, and I am not a brat.
It's still not an easy concept to explain in the abstract, so I'll work through an example:
A few years ago, I moved from a three bedroom house into a single room, and since I had way too much stuff in a very small space, I was struggling to keep it tidy. My primary partner at the time told me he planned to spank me every time he visited and saw that my room was messy. He thought he was being wonderfully helpful – and it would have made perfect sense, in the rest of the world. But for me, that was a stressful and hurtful position to be in, because spanking was something I enjoyed and wanted, this meant I had to choose between two situations I didn't want. If I had a tidy room, it would mean no lovely spankings, but if I left my room messy then I'd get spankings but I'd also have a room I hated to live in. Whatever I did, I lost. Eventually I burst into tears and begged him to please spank me when my room was tidy, or it would never be tidy again.
Don't get me wrong, 'bratting' works really well for some people. At times, it can be a really useful way to negotiate consent without dropping out of role in a scene. When I'm in charge I might threaten to spank someone if they poke their tongue out at me, and then I know, if they poke out their tongue it's a sign they want to get spanked. For some people it's a fun game to play, to see how much you can 'get away with' before you get punished. But (and a few people might find this rather surprising) my subbie side is not a bad girl. Submissive bunny desperately wants to please and hates the idea of doing something upsetting or wrong deliberately. If I've really done something wrong, a mere expression of disappointment is enough to devastate. Punishment of any sort is rather redundant, and physical violence when someone is genuinely angry at me just feels like abuse. I really, really don't want something I love (i.e. pain) associated with negativity and anger.
So how do you punish a masochist?
Well, for one thing, speaking for a moment from the dominant's perspective instead, and an occasional student of psychology, I would question the idea of 'punishment' at all. If you're genuinely in D/s for the purpose of behaviour modification, then there's a lot of research out there talking about how positive or negative reinforcement (i.e. rewarding good behaviour by offering something nice, or by taking away an adverse condition - "you will have to put up with this thing you don't like until you behave yourself properly") is more effective than punishment for long term change. If you're just doing it out of sadism, as an excuse to inflict some torture, then why not be more straightforward about it? “I want to see you suffer. Be a good girl and take it for me.” is, at least to me, hotter and more honest than “You're a bad girl, you need to be punished!” If that's not the way you're kinked, though, and you really, really want to punish, for correction, or just to be evil, then you have to consider what constitutes a reward or a punishment for the individual. Everyone has their own 'thing'. Some people love marmite, and would be really happy to be rewarded with a slice of marmite on toast. Other folks hate the stuff, and would see it as the worst punishment in the world. Same goes for pain, isolation, being enclosed, being paid attention to, being ignored, being humiliated... I could go on and on. For every person who likes something, there is someone who dislikes it. For every fetish there is a phobia. Yes, it requires communication, it requires paying attention. It might even lead to the terrifying possibility of intimacy. For me? Quite honestly, the thought of receiving a pedicure makes me squirm in discomfort. Try inflicting that on me if I'm not in a particularly agreeable headspace and the results will *not* be good.
But if you hate my essay, you're welcome to spank me for it. I'll just enjoy it
I have come across this poem online a couple of times, attributed to a Veronica Shoffstall. However it appears that it's also a translation of an original work in Spanish, possibly by Jorge Luis Borges.
Either way, it is beautiful, and expresses a lot of how I feel about relationships, and about polyamory, and deserves to be known.
After a While
After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't always mean security.
And you begin to learn
That kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman*
Not the grief of a child*
And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers
And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
And with every day, you learn.
.*I notice these two lines aren't present in the Spanish version. They are awfully pretty, though, and fit well into the model of the poem, so I've left them where I found them. Being a language nerd, I also fixed the last line of the translation: the version I found said 'with every goodbye you learn', whereas the spanish just says 'with every day', which I think is far more optimistic!