Columns May 16, 2012 at 4:00 am

Shady Ladies


@201 - "...trashy AOL chatroom" - FTW!!!

re: Kinky, repressed Puritans (who were, for the record, evidently neither) vs. Libertine Mentally Ill (icky) BDSM kinksters: The real problem is that there is some real validity in these stereotypes, in as much as there is significant overlap between these groups - there is a lot of collision of the sets.

I call myself a kinkster, and while what I basically crave is good quality sexual interaction - with more or fewer 'props' as suits the moment - I don't particularly need to give or receive pain to reach an orgasm. I have done both, and having explored it, discovered it's not really the main thing. I've also had partners in both of these groups - the kind of 'mental issues' pain-slut sub and the terrified of intimacy, turn out the lights and missionary-only with eight layers of 'protection type. I have to say, the pain slut was a hell of a lot better lay.

But the thing is: I don't think Dan's examples - foot fetishes, pegging, lingere - are really examples of psychologically 'broken' extremes. Indeed, they're very much about "exploring your bodies together and feeling good". In fact, in most of the arguments/discussions among the commentariat, it seems like everyone is putting up a straw man cardboard cutout construct of what it is they fear/hate about the 'other' and then tearing it down.

For you pro-vanilla folks celebrating/defending your "simple tastes": I'm very happy for you, but realize, what you are really celebrating is the fact that you largely lucked into a relationship with someone who happens to share your exact same tastes: vanilla ice cream is the perfection of simplicity - and that is lucky, because over the long term, tastes may shift around a little.

Oh, and if we're going to go all "iron chef" to make our arguments: kinky is not cheesy sprinkles and gross manufactured sugar nostrums to "hide" low quality vanilla ice cream; Kinky is learning how to take a week to prepare Escoffier's Espagnole and then serving it on a perfectly cooked Chateaubriand with morels steeped in Cognac. Done well, it takes a hell of a lot more thought, preparation, time and effort to pull off, and is a work of art in it's own right and way.

So, yeah, while I still have the collection of play toys (ropes, clamps, chains, crops, whips, yadda, yadda...and yes, some rattan for making cane switches) in a toy bag in the basement on a shelf, and by virtue of owning them consider myself a kinkster (not "in recovery"), I find what I really want - and it took me a long, love-based relationship with a repressed vanilla (with a lot of really bad sex) to realize this - is just good quality sex, with as few props as necessary, where we explore what it is that feels good for both of us and is a celebration of our connectedness with each other and awareness of each other's bodies (and what feels good). And it is less "kinky", but it does involve some minor deviations from PIV missionary, and I think that is the view of 'kinky' dan was getting at.


Your post, that's kind of kind of what I meant by stage 3.

"Simple" can be a pejorative, or it can be a positive. It depends on who you ask. I have gone to many fancy restaurants with elaborate dishes but would rather eat really good fried chicken off a paper plate. I'm kind of trasy like that. I have simple tastes. A lot of chefs would look down on me for that, just like a lot of kinky people might look down on my tastes too. Honestly though, to me, subjective tastes and goodhearted bickering about 'oh my god, I can't believe you put salt on that, it's seasoned perfectly', it's kind of fun, and that's how you learn about how other people feel and think about their preferences. It's interesting. TO me anyway.

P.S. Vanilla does not mean only missionary. Good lawd...
@214 (AFinch):

I like the point that you make; it's one I was going to get to, but I never got around to making.
"Kink" is a continuum, it seems to me. On this site, I would hesitate to identify myself as kinky, because I am aware that there are so many people here with so much harder core kinks, or who are part of an organized BDSM community, or who only want to have kinky sex (I want to use words like "need," or "require," but that may not be accurate. But their interest, to me, would go beyond "enjoy," or "prefer.")

That's kind of where I am. Prefer.

There have been discussions here before in which I was absolutely astonished at all the women who didn't do what I consider a very "no-biggie" thing. I found out again and again that a lot of what I like and expect and hope for was what Dan called "varsity" or what people think of as "extra."

And then I hear from people who kind of live the life, which I most certainly don't, or who are extreme pain sluts, or who get into very elaborate scenes, and I feel as vanilla as can be.

But I share your opinion that what I want "is just good quality sex, with as few props as necessary, where we explore what it is that feels good for both of us and is a celebration of our connectedness with each other and awareness of each other's bodies (and what feels good). And it is less "kinky", but it does involve some minor deviations from PIV missionary." And I'd throw each other's minds into the mix, because to me, the mental processes behind the sex is crucial.
EricaP and Mr. J:
I think people's responses to the issue of who has the control of a relationship (or are the gatekeepers, or whatever term we want to use) will always be filtered through their own experiences, and--at least in terms of the heterosexual experience--will reflect their gender.

(Mr. J, I know you're bi, not straight, but in the context of this discussion, you're speaking as a man in relation to women, so for all intents and purposes for the sake of this discussion, I'm casting you in with the straights. I hope that's okay.)

You see women as setting the boundaries, as allowing or refusing initial acquaintanceship; EricaP and redpanda talk about women who find men unwilling to behave as friends, which is what I have often experienced.

Yes, I'm just addressing the straight relationship dynamics. Men seeking men is a very different thing.

You make a good point about where men want the relationship to go, but to me that falls more into the "poor quality man" category. That's a trait that leads them to being weeded out. It's not that they have a pool of women from which to choose friends first/sex later. They simply aren't interested in friendship. (that's not me as you know)

I think you're pretty kinky for what it's worth.
@215 - I think you would be mistaken: many great chefs I know (and try to copy) do not believe "complicated" is the indicator of good - good execution is what chefs admire - technique not complexity. In short: perfectly done fried chicken from the chicken shack may indeed be highly admired. So, I agree: I don't think "simple" is, in and of itself, either a pejorative or a positive - it's really how well you do it! I think "vanilla" PIV missionary can be less than vanilla ice cream and fried chicken.

And yeah, I guess that is 'stage 3': admiring and appreciating things for what they are, and how well they achieve what they purport to be - restaurants and lovers! I really don't miss the whips & chains bit at all, but I'd also like to say, if anything even remotely 'unusual' comes up with a partner, I'm very comfortable and it doesn't squick me out. The "vanilla" crowd tends to have a default "eeew" reaction; I don't think these two things (kinky and vanilla) are subjectively equivalent - I think inherently kinky people are more open to a larger range of stuff and are more open-minded. JMHO

You're right. I think the chefs get it - it's the people who prefer the fancy meals who (might) look down on it. But you saw my point.

I think you're right that the "eww" factor is more common among vanilla folk than kinky folk - but of course it's not that cut and dry either. There are some kinky folk who are like "oh sure, you can tie me up and beat me - but pee? EWWW!!"

And same goes for vanilla folks.

As cute pointed out, it's more of a spectrum. On these boards I'm vanilla because I prefer vanilla sex. Among some of my more vanilla friends, I might be considered "kinky" because I have engaged in kinky sex (and am willing to again in certain situations). When given a choice between "vanilla" and "kinky" I consider myself vanilla because I'm not turned on by kink. However, I prefer to say "adventurous", and I think that's a better descriptor than "vanilla" which suggests I'm only willing to have vanilla sex, or worse, than I only like PIV missionary (missionary isn't even my go-to position,. jeez).
@220 - your example of 'eew...pee', was the one I immediately thought of when I tried to imagine what would be the most remote thing from my mind when it came to, not even vaguely sexy or sexual for me. And yet, I know that for a bunch of people WS is their kink. And I also know, in my left, science brain, that it's pretty harmless all around. Not sure I'd be up for ruining the mattress, but something could be accommodated.
@mydriasis and AFinch:
Funny, my "go to" ewww is poop, not pee. I don't have too many limits, but that's a hard one for me.

I agree that the word and concept "adventurous" is key. I've known people who absolutely wouldn't entertain any variation on the routine of PIV that had been established, and people who, on the whole, might be pretty vanilla, but who were open to trying new things. I think that's what ggg is often about: being willing to try something new, being open to listen to a partner's interest without automatically shutting it down as being "icky," "gross," or, most damaging (and telling) "wrong."

I have a theory about selfish sex, which I've written about here before, as good sex, but I also believe in sexual generosity; that's how I always framed the concept Dan calls ggg, long before I started reading Savage Love. Sexual generosity or being ggg doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be able to indulge your partner's every interest. But I think it does mean that you will listen without judgment and consider even things that push you past your initial boundaries. People who are kinky are already in the mindset of considering things that the culture at large says are beyond the boundaries of "normal," even if those boundaries are expanding.

"Vanilla" has become a pejorative, and it shouldn't be. I think framing the conversation in terms of "adventurous," "generous," "intolerant," and "judgmental" is more accurate and productive.
Mr J - You may make my head explode.


That explains so much, and could make me cry for a week if I had the free time, in large part because nobody else objected to that phrasing.
186/redpanda: But it is hard to find someone over 40 interested in a part time relationship who wants friendship first, not just to act out their own sexual fantasies, and recently it hasn't seemed worth the time and energy.

My condolences to you about your husband and about it being too late to have the kind of sex life you wanted with him.

As a guy who has never had any problem being friends with a woman first, even when I was younger, it mystfies me that so many men, apparently, are unable or unwilling to do so. I would think that if a guy really liked a woman, and was attracted to her -- and he felt she liked and was attracted to him so that they were probably going to get naked eventually -- he'd be willing to wait a little while. Not months, but at least a little while. What's the big rush? Being in Venice is wonderful, but the anticipation of being in Venice can be great too**.

Anyway, I hope you find someone...and you probably will in time.

** I can think of only one downside to waiting: the woman may turn out to be a poor lover. But, to avoid that situation, I've always used kissing as my test -- if she was great at kissing, I figured she'd be great in bed -- and that always worked except in one case. Her kissing was very sexy, but she was quite conservative (and weird...and not in a kinky way) in bed.


217/nocutename: You see women as setting the boundaries, as allowing or refusing initial acquaintanceship; EricaP and redpanda talk about women who find men unwilling to behave as friends, which is what I have often experienced.

This reminds me of a date I had about three years ago. After we were talking for a while, the woman, who was fairly attractive, lamented "I can't get laid." I said, "What do you mean you can't get laid? You're an attractive woman. You could put an ad on some dating website and find fifty guys willing to sleep with you. A guy couldn't get that kind of response from women." She then replied, "You're right. I guess it's not just 'getting laid' that I'm after." I laughed, said, "that's what I figured", and told her "It's like men are carnivores and women are vegetarians. We men are jealous of women because they can pretty much have steak, ribs and burgers anytime they want, but women don't see this as anything to be envious of because they're vegetarians."

You said you have "often" experienced men unwilling to behave as friends first. Out of curiosity, how often? More often than less often? (or the other way around?) In being fine with being friends first, I'm curious if I'm in a minority among men.
223/marilynsue: Women who have been sexually abused at a young age may be sexually active in their teens and twenties, then lose interest in sex by their late 40s.

I've been with two women who, unfortunately, had that happen to them. One was molested by an older brother, the other by an uncle. Interestingly, they were two of the three hottest women I've been been with. One of them -- the one molested by her brother -- definitely had a chip on her shoulder about men, but that did not come into play in bed.
@226 don't cry. He wasn't saying anyone was out of his league; he was proposing a convoluted counter-factual. But since he isn't out there looking to date, I'm unclear about the point of his anecdote.
Dan's advice to WHIP: you should have married a kinkster so _he_ would have had to deal with someone non-kinky for the last 20 years instead of you. Thanks, Dan :(

That said, it sounds like WHIP's husband is indeed a dud. Not that he's non-kinky, but that he's non-GGG (and non-adventurous, or is that redundant?). There's a world of difference.

(Perhaps it would be useful for WHIP to know this: I didn't know I was kinky until my 30s, at which point, much against my better judgement, a lover very patiently taught me how to whip her to tears. She's now an ex (she educated her next boy similarly, with similar effect), but one of my current lovers is an enthusiastic bdsm sub, and the other, not to be outdone, decided to experiment with it and is surprised to find that she loves some kinds of subbing as well. And, surprise, I love the scenes too. Fortune favors the adventurous!)

But what better advice is there for WHIP? If she married with the standard vows, then she promised to stay with this dud for her whole life. That may be common, but it's unbelievably hubristic and stupid to think you know what you will want for the rest of your life. She doesn't really have many options: she has to either (a) resign herself to living with a youthful mistake, (b) break a promise, (c) persuade him to become kinky or (d) negotiate an open relationship. (c-d) are both excellent options but unlikely. (a-b) are just typical failures of monogamy, and should serve as a warning to posterity.
Being friends isn't hard, getting sex is even easier, but asking for a relationship is just - ahhhhhh, there's just no describing the frustration. I keep practicing the various steps I summarized in my head, especially my opener - "Come spend sometime with me. We can get beer and pastrami!" -, but it all goes to shit. I always end up asking how they're doing and blah blah blah. And that's if I even hear from them. Of course, the market is always different for everyone.
@227 (Roma):

On reflection, my experience and attitude is closer to that of your date's who initially lamented not being able to get laid, only to have it clarified that simply getting laid wasn't what she was after.

Getting laid is easy (getting laid well, is, well, much harder, but that's a whole different kettle of fish), but I am looking for a relationship deeper than a FWB, and that is proving nearly impossible.

I don't know if you're atypical or not, in your willingness to be "friends first." I'm not sure what you mean by that. I don't know whether you're talking about dating to acquire another FWB or in order to get laid, or dating in hopes of finding a girlfriend, but the two goals are different, and lead to different behaviors.

@226 Mr V

I don't understand the problem with my phrasing. Surely there is a multitude of men and women who are out of my league. Perhaps you need to meet me in person to appreciate why that is. Suffice it to say that empirically it is so.
It would be HILARIOUS if Dan fudged the genders on WHIPS letter. Just think of all these near hysterical babes crying and sobbing all over this blog about how the 'time machine' answer was so "unfair."

Imagine the response when we find out WHIP was a man: Ooops, wait, that wasn't an unfair answer after all. If that son of a bitch couldn't read her mind and predict every response in advance then he should get in his time machine and go fuck himself in the past. Oh yeah, hear it.
Professor, as I'm one of the people who reacted to Dan's response not by getting near hysterical or sobbing, but by pointing out that it was a useless bit of "advice," I assume you're addressing me. So I want to go on record as saying that were the genders reversed in WHIP's letter, my response would be the same. Please don't project your misogyny on me.

Yeah I find that most women are "vegetarians" as you say and don't want "just sex". But some of us do! Problem is, if you're selective, it's still hard just because finding an attractive guy is like finding a needle in a haystack. It's not about wanting more than sex. It's about not wanting hay. Or.. something.. metaphors.
@236 mydriasis
That's a new one. Where do you live that you have trouble finding hot guys? Maybe your definition of attractive needs revision. Do you have a list of qualifications you'd like to share with us?

I'm just picky! I live in a big city (I haven't noticed a real different attractive:unattractive ratio in other cities and I've been to several major western cities). I don't think my definition of attractive "needs" revision (do you?). I've tried going outside of it, but it's unpleasant for me and I've literally run out on guys because I became repulsed when I tried to go through with it.

I'll admit that I'm shallow and most of my friends have at some point made fun of the fact that they think all the guys I've dated or slept with look like models, but I haven't been able to change my preference. If you really want I can list the things I look for but I think you (and the rest of SL) would be pretty disgusted by the end of it!
* Also, my original comment was somewhat more specific to dating sites which I find have an especially low proportion of attractive people (especially in my age bracket) as compared with the typical population.
@233 That's true of anyone though.

@236 I hope you'll take a moment to rethink that haystack metaphor, because it came off as rather cold. Like you're shopping for a sex toy instead of finding a partner. Sexual chemistry IS hard to find, but hinging it on a single factor kind of dehumanizes what most would discribe as a very intimate experience.

In general attractiveness is very subjective. It comes and goes, alters, matures or fades with age, health, and even mood. For me personally, it's not a huge deal UNLESS the other party makes it one. If the way you treat someone is based out of your own negative feelings toward yourself it makes a relationship very hard to maintain. If your able to look past your own shortcomings while admitting to them and owning to the effect they have on you, than you can communicate these things and the other person can live, love, and grow with you because of your sincerety and courage.

You know I was referring to casual sex, right?
@238 mydriasis

Ah, models. There's an episode of Sex and the City dealing with a guy who only dates models. You might want to look into that.

"If you really want I can list the things I look for but I think you (and the rest of SL) would be pretty disgusted by the end of it!"
Go for it. I think it will be illuminating.
@241 Yes. Of course, that was just my opinion. I've known all of my partners personally, sometimes even years before any sexual event took place between us. Sometimes I forget that that kind of framework is actually an oddity, and nowhere near the norm.

Still, I did live in a large city for a time and while there I had very meaningful conversations with people that were being actively ignored (they were homeless, old, handicapped or etc) in the public areas. It deeply irked me that even when people did spend a second with them it was in a pitying, condescending way. Yet some of these people had great stories and personalities that completely blew me away in minutes if not seconds. I felt privileged they would share these things with a dumb kid like me. It's a tragedy that more people didn't get to see and hear them, because they couldn't drop their preconceived notions long enough to smile at them and give a honest greeting. I guess I just see it in that same light.
Another thing that may color my attitude is that I'm a "yellow girl" aka half white, half black with white skin but african american features. I know my very exsistence makes certain people repulsed and angry. I've had the double takes, the mother grabing and hugging her child to her before I passed by, and the gasps. I'm not saying that it's the same thing (it isn't). I just know i get sensitive whenever I hear someone put down a group of people whether it's satanists, left handed people or racial minorities. And your comment kind of hit me that way, cause it seems you're grouping people into a category and not just commenting on your tastes in partners.

1. Holy fuck, where do you live??

2. I understand what you're saying, but what I think I might not have been clear enough. I have also had conversations with people who most people would judge. In fact many of the people I am closest with and love the most fall into groups that are shunned by society. It is not out of character for me to have a long conversation with a homeless crackhead etc.

But for me, sex is sex.

If I broke my sink, I would want someone to come over who has the qualifications to fix it. And while it might be nice to also know they're a good hearted person, that's not going into my decision making process of who to hire. Probably who I can afford is.

Sex is the same way. It has to be someone I'm physically attracted to. That's the important qualification for that situation.

With my friends, it's the opposite. The most important thing is whether they're a good person. Other important things are sense of humour, shared interests, intellect, whatever. But what they look like, how they are in bed, or whether they can fix my sink? Not important. Does that make sense?

Some people think that's cold. And you're entitled to feel that way, absolutely. But because I'm shallow in one specific context (casual sex) does not mean I am overall a shallow person. Due to recent life events I'm especially hurt that someone would think that I'm the type of person you described.
@ J

I loathe that show, so I doubt I'd be able to tolerate it long enough to get your point. Cole's notes version?

Um, qualifications. Bracing myself for the hate.

I typically stick within my age-range, I'd say I have a cap at about 30 (I'm in my early 20's). Good bone structure (cheekbones, jawline) is a big thing for me. I don't have a thing for big guys... my preference is slim guys but I'm okay with guys who are a bit more muscular but I find body fat really really off-putting. It's weird because I love curvy women and will never understand women who want to be waiflike but I just always prefer guys with as little fat as possible (I have tried several times to go against this preference but it was a horrible experience every time). That's basically it in terms of hard and fast rules, I think, but it's kind of general. I have lots of additional preferences but they're not strict rules. Oh, and as Hunter so studiously pointed out, I can't get with guys who are really well endowed. I'm just not built for it.

And since gash brought it up earlier - race is not a factor for me.
Um, only if you're racist!
I don't get why you think people would hate on you for that list. I wouldn't begrudge you wanting stereotypically handsome guys your own age for casual sex purposes. You don't have to like overweight or even slightly flabby guys.

The TV reference is about dehumanizing yourself at a certain point when you treat people as just a body type. I get that you're looking for different things from different people. Maybe you could blur the lines a bit between your categories so that it's less tempting to think of some folks as less than fully human. People are not sex toys, right?
I never understood the leap from "I choose sex partners based on whether or not I want to have sex with them" to "treating someone as just a body type" to "less than human". My brain just doesn't work that way.

Yeah, I've had casual sexual relationships with people who I actually really disliked. But I didn't think of them as "less than human" - just as humans I didn't like.

1. Arizona (where I live has actually improved a lot in the last ten yrs)

2. I think I'm starting to understand were you're coming from now. Like I said, casually going out and finding a sexual partner is outside my experience (and comfort zone) though I have been offered here and there. Anyways, even if it doesn't make sense to me sticking to what YOU know works for you is generally good common sense and I commend you for sticking to your guns. I'm sorry if I caused any bad feelings. That was never my intention. Sometimes I just get carried away.

Getting laid is easy (getting laid well, is, well, much harder, but that's a whole different kettle of fish),...

Fair point. However, I'm curious: have you not, like I have with women, found a correlation between how a man kisses and what he's like in bed? Or have you find that guys who are wonderful at kissing can still be poor in bed?

...but I am looking for a relationship deeper than a FWB, and that is proving nearly impossible.

I'm in the same situation so I understand. It's very tough to find someone you like and are attracted to and then, in return, they have to feel the same way about you. I also, though, am inclined to agree with Mr. J @ 213 when he wrote, "Whether it's real life or online social networking, men line up to meet women. Women weed through the candidates. . . That's just how the system is set up. . . . I didn't say finding friendship is easy. It is easier if you have more prospects though." I think finding a good match is, to a large extent, a numbers game; the more people you meet, and the more options you have, the more likely you are to meet the kind of person you want.

I don't know if you're atypical or not, in your willingness to be "friends first." I'm not sure what you mean by that. I don't know whether you're talking about dating to acquire another FWB or in order to get laid, or dating in hopes of finding a girlfriend, but the two goals are different, and lead to different behaviors.

While I haven't turned down flings when they've been offered, I've always been interested in a relationship/girlfriend. So when former girlfriends wanted to be "friends first", I was fine with that. Like I said before, when I've liked and have been attracted to a woman and I know (or feel) she feels the same way about me, then I pretty much know we're going to end up naked sooner or later and, maybe I'm an oddball for a guy here, but I find that anticipation sexy.

Mr J - It's not your phrasing; it's your eagerly buying into an oppressive system and nobody else challenging that that flummoxes me. We barely need oppressors at this rate.

Your trying to convince Ms Driasis she's better than she paints herself makes me think of The Depths of Shallowness.

"Your trying to convince Ms Driasis she's better than she paints herself makes me think of The Depths of Shallowness."

Could you explain what that means, please? I don't follow you.

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