Don’t Touch Me, Asshole!

A young woman who is new to the scene complained that no fewer than three different men touched her nonconsensually at a recent party at our local playspace, and says this is a common happening for her in life in general.  A lengthy discussion ensued.  Here’s one of my posts in the thread about maintaining boundaries.

I’m so sorry you had this experience, and I agree with most of the very good advice you’ve been given.

That said, it saddens me to hear that anyone comes through the doors expecting that they do not need to maintain their own boundaries the same as they do anywhere else, and that they don’t have to be on guard for their own needs the same as they are anywhere else.

Unfortunately, it is a reality of life that clueless people who ignore boundaries and rules exist everywhere. There is no vetting process for entrance to the Citadel or any other venue or organization that I know of around here that can keep the clueless out.

While I certainly do not condone what happened to you, you really need to realize that in the end, you are the one most responsible for communicating and reinforcing your own boundaries, whatever they may be. We can tell Phil and August about transgressions until the cows come home, but to expect that they will never happen isn’t realistic. Yes, it’s much safer at the Citadel than in most places, by far – but safer does not mean perfect and that shit won’t still occasionally happen. It’s just unrealistic to think that you don’t have to still look out for your own self. Continue reading

The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey of Shelters for Women Who Are Battered

From a major national study undertaken to more fully assess the already known relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence.  Please read the full article as well as the excerpts below.

“Although an age-old issue, the relation between the abuse and maltreatment of nonhuman animals and human interpersonal violence is receiving renewed attention from the scientific community. Two recent reviews of literature (Arkow, 1996; Ascione, 1993) highlight the potential confluence of child maltreatment, domestic violence, and animal maltreatment as shown in the diagram in Figure I which illustrates how each form of abuse can occur independently or in combination with other forms of violence.”

“An earlier paper (Ascione, 1993) outlined a series of issues that pertain to the development of cruelty toward animals in childhood and adolescence, using the following definition of cruelty: “…socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal…” (p. 228). Case examples from the early psychoanalytic literature were reviewed as well as primarily retrospective research from forensic psychiatry and sociology linking childhood histories of animal abuse with contemporary patterns of criminal violence. One of the watershed events for research in this area was the inclusion of “cruelty to animals” among the symptoms of Conduct Disorder in children and adolescents in major psychiatric diagnostic manuals (American Psychiatric Association, 1987; 1994). Conduct Disorder represents a pattern of antisocial behavior that can persist into adulthood.

“Research examples included the association of animal maltreatment with cases of child physical abuse, the sexual abuse of children, and partner battering or domestic violence.”

“…we also know that animals have been abused by perpetrators to frighten their partners, as a threat of potential interpersonal attacks, as a form of retaliation or punishment, and abuse has been implicated in forced bestiality.”

“Arkow (1996) cited two studies, one of which was conducted at the Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence in Colorado Springs, Colorado and found that 24% of women (N=122) seeking safehouse refuge reported that their abusers had abused animals in the women’s presence. The other study was conducted by the La Crosse, Wisconsin Community Coalition against Violence with 72 women using domestic violence prevention services. Eighty-six percent of these women reported having pets and, of these women, 80% had experienced their partners’ maltreatment of pets.”

“Ascione (in press), in collaboration with a shelter in northern Utah for women who are battered, surveyed 38 women entering the shelter for in-house services. Using a form of the Battered Partner Shelter Survey (BPSS) – Pet Maltreatment Assessment (Ascione & Weber, 1995), he found that 74% of the women reported having a pet currently or in the past twelve months. Of these women, 71% indicated that their boyfriend or husband had either threatened harm to their animals or had engaged in actual maltreatment and/or killing of an animal. The prevalence of pet abuse by children in these families was also disturbingly common. Thirty-two percent of the 22 women with children gave examples of children hurting or killing animals. This level of cruelty is comparable to what has been found in samples of mental health clinic child clients (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1981; Achenbach, Howell, Quay, & Conners, 1991) and in a sample of sexually abused children (William Friedrich, April, 1992, personal communication). In this sample of women with pets, nearly one in five (18%) reported that they had delayed entering the shelter because of concerns about their pets’ safety.”

“The overwhelming majority of shelters we surveyed indicated that women seeking shelter mention experiences of pet abuse. A smaller but still substantial majority also reported that children have shared instances when pets have been abused in their homes. If in fact, shelters reporting that children talked about pet abuse always reported that women discussed pet abuse as well.”

“We know that cruelty to animals may be a battering partner’s attempt at control, coercion, intimidation, retaliation, and an element of forced bestiality.”


all quotes from:

The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey of Shelters for Women Who Are Battered

By Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D, Claudia V. Weber, M.S., and David S. Wood,
Utah State University, Logan, Utah
Originally published in Society and Animals, 1997, 5(3)

in The Zero – The Official Website of Andrew Vachss

Master – Who Gets to Decide?

The title of master should be given and not self appointed.

This applies on both the individual and the group scene level.  He who calls himself a “master” of anything is most likely not.  He whom *many* other people think of in those terms is more likely to be, although that’s still no guarantee, because few people know what goes on behind closed doors, no matter what a given person projects in public.

As a title, it is *earned*.  It cannot legitimately be self-proclaimed.

As a descriptor of any sort, it must still be earned, by one process or another.  It is still never self-assigned.

Yes, “mastery” in general may be an internal thing; however, when applied in a BDSM kind of situation, it is something that other people are in a far better position to assess about a given individual than he ever is of his own self, no matter who he is.

For that matter, that’s true in the rest of life as well.  We don’t get to appoint our own selves “masters” of anything, in any context.  It’s still for others to evaluate and decide – and more than one.

Just because one calls himself a “master” does not in any way mean he actually is one, or has mastered anything.

*Neither* dominant nor “master” are really self-appointed concepts, although dominant comes closer.  Still, there are those who too readily confuse domineering behavior with actual dominance, and so there are still constraints on what really is dominant vs domineering or abusive.

But the big red flag is a person who insists on being called “master” by anyone, including his own submissive, until such time as she or they feel it in their own guts and assign the label to him themselves.  A bigger red flag still is one who believes he’s entitled to the title or to consider himself a master of anything just because he continues to work on himself.  Capitalization in the abstract of a common noun like this is also a screaming red flag.

A *real* master would never dream of calling himself such, and the majority even shy away from being so addressed or referred to even by others.

People who talk about internal mastery being a function of just working on oneself are completely self-deluded and only showing their own ignorance, particularly as how it relates to BDSM.

Formatting Query – Feedback Request

I’ve started experimenting a bit with different formatting here, and highlighting some passages in different colors on longer posts, given that I’ve realized how hard these pages actually are to read, with such tiny fonts.  I’ve started looking for a new template that will be more readable, but until I find it, I’m hoping this will help.  I’m thinking it helps visually break up the page and make things less dizzying.

If anyone has any thoughts or feedback on this subject, I’d appreciate it.


Keeping Things From Past Relationships

Letters, photos, emails, gifts – do you keep these things once a relationship ends, or are you more the type to destroy and get rid of it all?  Why do you do what you do?

I keep everything, and still have every letter that even my very first boyfriend sent me. I do put emails and the like away in folders I can’t see or even find easily, and much of the physical stuff ends up in boxes or the backs of drawers or closets, but it’s all still here, just part of the history of my own life just like everything else I have, particularly the antiques and family heirlooms. Eventually the gifts and the stuff just become other things I own and enjoy for their own inherent qualities that have their own stories behind them, but that recedes from prominence in my mind unless something happens to bring it forward again.

One of the reasons I do this is not just because I’m very sentimental, but because no matter how a relationship may have ended and how I may feel in the short term, I prefer in the long run to be sure I remember what was good – because there was always at least some good, at least at the beginning, or I would never have been with that person to start with.

I also find that oftentimes reading through the whole history is both cathartic and instructive on many levels. Sometimes it’s easy to start missing someone and seeing them through rose-colored glasses indeed, and it’s equally important to remember the bad so that I don’t get caught in the same traps again, and so that I can better learn whatever I need to learn. Yes, it can be very painful – but no one ever said that growth was fun.

But when I start missing someone, and thinking that maybe things weren’t so bad after all, and gee, why did we break up and maybe we could get back together or wow, in comparison to others before or since maybe he wasn’t so bad after all, or any of a number of other fairy tales my brain has been known to create over the decades I’ve been on the planet, there’s nothing like reading old communications, various posts, etc. to remind myself of just exactly what happened to bring me screaming back into the present and reality, out of fantasyland and moving forward again, fully regrounded in reality. Eventually most of the pain fades and I can enjoy the good memories without getting destroyed again by the bad.

The old correspondence and writings can also serve as reminders of how far I’ve come in my own life and growth. I’ve had times when I’ve looked at these things and remembered who I was then, and can see how much I’ve grown and learned since that time.

It helps that I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to remain friends with almost all of my most significant others, and am at least on speaking terms with all but one even if we’ve lost touch. With some, it took a few years to get there; with others, it was automatic. I’m friendly with their wives and girlfriends, have been invited to weddings, and more. A couple of them are still among my closest friends. They all still have the same good qualities that drew me to them in the first place, and I do not easily give people up out of my life, so why would I destroy or get rid of the things that were part of our lives together?

Exes are indeed always exes for a reason – and it’s important that we remember that – but it’s equally important to remember what good they did bring to our lives for a lot of reasons.

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What To Do About a Dangerous Top? What If They Are a Community Leader?

Recently I bottomed to a well-known, fairly high-profile member of the Bay Area’s leather community, and I was very upset to find that in real play this person did not live up to the high standards of safety and consensuality I had been led to believe would be all but automatic by the person’s public statements. I am unhappy and disappointed for myself, but I am also worried for the fates of less resilient bottoms than I am. Under the guise of being my Top this individual tried to play in a way I said I didn’t want to, and pushed very hard to persuade me to change my mind even though I stated clearly that I felt doing so could jeopardize both my physical and my psychological safety. Apart from my anger and frustration, which I know how to handle, I wonder what to do with my information about this person in terms of community safety: do I accuse? do I hide what I know? How can I behave most responsibly? [italics added]

In an article entitled “Ask the Therapist: What Do I Do About a Dangerous Top?” that starts off with the above query, distinguished therapist William Henkin, PhD very ably and comprehensively addresses the question of what to do after the fact.

What I want to talk about here is the fact that such people exist, whether or not they are leaders of the community, and the trap that “saying all the right things” can lead to in general, but also particularly when they are well-known, or otherwise part of the leadership of a community – and how to avoid getting into exactly the kinds of situations described in the above quote in the first place.

It is an unfortunate fact that tops not walking their talk is not an isolated occurrence.  It is even more unfortunate when they hold positions of leadership because newbies in particular have a tendency to view such people as being the arbiters of what is right and good, and make all kinds of dangerous assumptions about how safe these people are to play with that may or may not have anything to do with reality.

What you must understand is that there is nothing about the structure of the BDSM subculture or any of our organizations that in any way vets presenters, owners of community spaces, members of the elected board of organizations or its appointees, or anyone else as safe players. No one is responsible to check any of these people out.  No one makes any guarantees about anything.  There are no tests of competence, no checklists to ensure they actually comply with what they say, no one watching over their shoulders to be sure they do it right before they are turned loose on the public.

Nothing.  Zip. Nada.

You are 100% on your own to sort how who is safe and who isn’t, exactly the same as in the vanilla world, although we do have some accepted conventions in this one that can help, if used judiciously.

People who become the community leaders have one or two qualities in common, often only that they are simply the only ones willing to step up to do the volunteer tasks involved.  When an organization is run by volunteers, they take anyone they can get to do the tasks involved, to the point that often even known problem people are allowed to participate, simply because there is no one else to do the job.  

(This is by no means true in all cases, and there are a lot of very dedicated, very safe people involved at all levels, but it comes into play often enough that you really need to not assume anything about anyone involved in the leadership of the community just because they’re there, and to check out each individual yourself, as your personal needs arise.) Continue reading


Flowers (Author Unknown)

We had our first argument last night, and he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt me.

I know he is sorry and didn’t mean the things he said, because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today. It wasn’t our anniversary or any other special day.

Last night he threw me into a wall and started to choke me.

It seemed like a nightmare, I couldn’t believe it was real.

I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over. I know he must be sorry cause he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today, and it wasn’t mother’s day or any other special day.

Last night, he beat me up again, it was much worse than all the other times.

If I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of my kids? What about money?

I’m afraid of him and scared to leave. But I know he must be sorry because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today. Today was a very special day. It was the day of my funeral!

Last night, he finally killed me. He beat me to death.

If only I had gathered enough courage to leave him, I would not have gotten flowers today…….

If you are against domestic abuse, please pass this along to everyone, NOT just women.

Being An Asshole, or Topping From the Bottom?

Thank you to Devastating Yet Inconsequential for permission to repost this post.  My comments are below the double line.

topping from the bottom

Can we please, please retire this concept?

Listen, there is such a thing as being an asshole in bed, no matter what kind of sex you’re having.  These types of behavior might make you an asshole (depending on context):

  • constantly insisting on getting your own way
  • not letting your partner finish the sex equivalent of a thought before correcting them
  • trying to force your partner to do things they don’t like and don’t choose
  • pouting or whining that things aren’t exactly to your liking
  • giving your partner long lists of changes you’d like them to make
  • refusing to play along with any idea you haven’t thought of yourself

When bottoms do things like this, it’s sometimes called “topping from the bottom.”  But the behavior listed above is equally obnoxious from a top or dom.

Listen to your partner.  Give them space to try things.  Be “good, giving, and game” (as Dan Savage puts it).  Be willing to try things yourself.  Prioritize your constructive criticism and give it at a pace your partner can handle.  Recognize your partner as a fellow human being with their own needs and desires, which have an equal claim to be fulfilled.

And, whatever side you are on, don’t worry about “topping from the bottom.”  If you’re worried that you’re impossible for your top to satisfy, work on that.  If you’re distracted by your bottom’s constant comments, talk about that.  But let’s get rid of this concept that I’m pretty sure causes a lot more stress, grief, and reluctance to communicate than it could ever possibly be worth.


First of all, I quite agree that the whole concept of topping from the bottom needs to go away, largely because of what Dev says, namely how badly it (and the fear of being accused of doing it) interferes with communication and the ability to resolve problems.  Even in a D/s relationship, you have a right to have your needs heard and respected, and that means you’ve got to be able to communicate them to your top without fear of this kind of nonsense.  Even in the most extreme M/s, TPE, etc. relationships, you ultimately still have those rights as a human being, even if you’ve negotiated them away.  A smart dominant will listen to them and take them into consideration no matter what the form of the relationship, just as any intelligent partner in a vanilla relationship will.

On the face of it, and without context, this list of behaviors can indeed be quite obnoxious.  I’d argue, actually, that many of them are considerably less appealing when a dominant does them than when a submissive does – and they are very much part of where BDSM may, and often does, cross the line right into abuse.

What the concept of topping from the bottom does is obscure this distinction, and that’s part of why it’s such a bad idea, because far too many people on both sides of the slash cannot tell the difference between topping from the bottom and protecting their own selves from abuse, between a healthy interchange of thoughts and respect for limits as well as attempts to accommodate a partner’s needs and desires, and outright abusiveness.

The notion of topping from the bottom is often pulled out by abusers to justify running roughshod over their submissives, and used as a bludgeon to shut them up and beat them into greater submission, even when so doing is clearly harmful to the sub.  It’s also used as a measuring device to compare one’s own submissiveness to that of other subs, by both subs and doms, when the reality is you simply cannot compare two people or situations, because of differences in individual needs.

Topping from the bottom is a concept that is not limited to what happens in bed, but is also often pulled out by dominants to justify all manner of abuses of their submissives in the rest of life as well, and to stop the sub from objecting.

If we remove the concept and term from our vocabularies altogether, the realities of what may be happening in a given situation are much easier to sort out.

Here are some examples of things that might look like TFTB, or being a jerk on the bottom, but aren’t – and are in fact much more abusive on the part of the top than anything else. Continue reading

25 Characteristics of a Leader

25 Characteristics of a Leader

(This also makes a great list of qualities for a good dominant.)

1. A leader is trustworthy.

2. A leader takes the initiative.

3. A leader uses good judgment.

4. A leader speaks with authority.

5. A leader strengthens others.

6. A leader is optimistic and enthusiastic.

7. A leader never compromises on absolutes.

8. A leader focuses on objectives, not obstacles.

9. A leader empowers by example.

10. A leader cultivates loyalty.

11. A leader has empathy for others.

12. A leader keeps a clear conscience.

13. A leader is definite and decisive.

14. A leader knows when to change his mind.

15. A leader does not abuse his authority.

16. A leader does not abdicate his role in the face of opposition.

17. A leader is sure of his calling.

18. A leader knows his own limitations.

19. A leader is resilient.

20. A leader is passionate.

21. A leader is courageous.

22. A leader is discerning.

23. A leader is disciplined.

24. A leader is energetic.

25. A leader knows how to delegate.

The Book on Leadership
John MacArthur
Published by Thomas Nelson
November 11, 2004



26.  A leader listens to others, and accepts an utilizes good advice regardless of its source.

27.  A leader knows when it is appropriate to comprise on issues, and how to do so gracefully.

28.  A leader knows when to back down and when to forge forward.

29.  A leader knows how to inspire others to give and do their best.

30.  A leader utilizes and encourages the strengths of others and helps them minimize their weaknesses.


Needless to say, abusers are lacking in many of these qualities.

What other qualities do you believe are important for a good leader or dominant?