Self Care / Self Love: My Exploration of Kink and Submission as a Tool for Self-Love and Self-Discovery

These last few months have been challenging, but they have also been  revelatory in providing new direction in my personal growth journey.  I’ve focused my reflections on my journey thus far around my mental health and self care practices. However, there is one facet of my life that I am beginning to invest in with new experiences and learning opportunities–my sexuality. My sexuality is an aspect of my identity that I am proud of and constantly seek growth in. I identify as a cisgender, Black, bisexual woman. I am also kinky, a hedonist, and a submissive in training. I am delving into kink and the BDSM lifestyle at this time of my life because I am deeply committed to learning about myself and growing into the person that I feel I am destined to become.

So, how did I come to this decision to explore kink and BDSM more fully? While growing up, I devoured articles, personal stories, and books on sexual health, consent, kink, and identity. I educated myself on sex and sexual health, and developed an understanding of the myriad ways that sexuality is expressed. I experienced a personal sexual revelation during my time at college after spending a semester in a sex education workshop and later facilitating and coordinating the workshop–I felt powerful, informed, and in control. After ending a long-term relationship that spanned half of my time in undergrad, I found myself single for the first time in 4 years and rapidly indulged in many new sexual experiences. I began changing sexual partners frequently, and went through phases where I developed a roster of casual partners, dated, settled down in relationships, broke up, and began the cycle again. I was never completely single. I enjoyed that period of my life, but soon became bored and sought unconventional relationships and experimented with non-monogamy.

During this time I was also highly driven by my “I do what I want” attitude, underlined by my love of instant gratification and new, exciting experiences. This year, however, I decided to shift my focus away from romantic relationships with men; I find that these relationships often drain my energy, and also distract me from investing in my friendships with women. I realized I needed to get to know myself on a deeper level, since I was also using my sexual practices to distract myself from processing my emotions during rough periods of my life. I played with the idea of practicing abstinence many times, but I ended up always listening to my hedonistic urges, and finding myself unwilling to compromise my sexual gratification for a chance to soul-search. This pattern led me to fully consider a BDSM practice and begin a journey of self-discovery.

I first began to explore my own kinks and desires. I researched BDSM practices and identities.  I’ve incorporated kink into my bedroom play before, but my partners did not share the same enthusiasm that I did. I read personal writing from Dominants and submissives, and I took kink personality quizzes. I’ve included my results from a test I took some months ago that solidified my interest and helped me identify myself in the lifestyle below (these quizzes aren’t very accurate, but they can serve as a useful introduction for many people)..

== Results from http://bdsmtest.org/ ==

96% Switch

96% Brat

92% Voyeur

83% Experimentalist

83% Exhibitionist

81% Masochist

81% Submissive

80% Rope Bunny

61% Rigger

58% Vanilla

55% Dominant

51% Primal (Prey)

51% Degradee

49% Degrader

47% Girl/Boy

46% Sadist

46% Non-monogamist

38% Brat Tamer

37% Primal (Hunter)

23% Master/Mistress

18% Daddy/Mommy

12% Slave

12% Ageplayer

3% Pet

2% Owner

d types type

other type

I am currently a submissive-in-training. I am beginning to learn a lot about myself and my Dominant. In terms of my own personal growth, I am focusing on strengthening my ability to communicate my needs and desires clearly, my self-esteem, pride in my sexuality and self in general, my ability to care for others and act as a good partner and friend, and my use of healthy outlets for stress and anxiety. In general, I’ve found that there is a disconnect with what I think I communicate with my partners and what is actually understood by them. Clear and open communication is critical to BDSM power dynamics, and healthy relationships in general, so learning how to explain my needs when I experience them is very important to me. I believe that this ability to articulate my needs, concerns and desires will roll over into other aspects of my personal and professional life. I also see myself learning more about how to care for others through my submission. I enjoy feeling helpful and useful to my loved ones, and I would like to work on my empathy and becoming more in tune with what my Dominant’s needs are. I can often become stuck in my own mind and not understand how and when I’m needed by others.

I also see submission as a potentially healthy practice for me. When I feel out of control, I often seek control in other aspects of my life that are unhealthy. Sometimes this involves me using substances to control my emotions and physical sensations–to induce feeling; distract my mind; induce hunger. Sometimes I binge eat or develop restricted eating patterns to make myself more aware of my body. But most of the time, my need for control in my personal life has resulted in me becoming involved in sexual relationships that do not add to the quality of my life. I believe that my experience with BDSM will help me strengthen my connection to my body and its sensations, and deepen my understanding of my spiritual and emotional needs.

My submissive journey is going great so far. I have an amazing Dominant who I trust and feel close to. I do not think I would go on this journey without them, because complete trust in my partner at this stage of my life is absolutely crucial, whether in a BDSM dynamic or not. Our friendship is growing and our understanding of each other is deepening. It is still the beginning, however. I receive assignments from my Dominant (one being this blog post) which I enjoy because they give me the motivation to practice deep introspection and communicate my thoughts. I know I have a lot of work to do in terms of learning and following protocol, in presenting myself to my Dominant, and in relinquishing power. I am a bit of a bratty submissive because I am used to having my desires and demands met by my partners. Having partners that did not submit to my every whim often incites a bit of a power play where my goal is to figure out how to get those desires met, which ultimately kept me intrigued and excited about my partnership. I can also see this playing out in my BDSM dynamic, but I know that my Dominant will not  tolerate my brattiness too much, which is even more exciting. I’m beginning to learn what I can and cannot get away with. I am also very excited to experience more play and punishment. My Dominant has introduced me to impact play with a riding crop, and wax play, and we began to search for a flogger that will be used on me during our next session.

I have a range of kinks that I am interested in which I’m sure will evolve over time as my Dominant and I try new things, and I’m very much looking forward to discovering new insights.

 

Currently Reading & In My Feelings: “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” by Audre Lorde

I’ve read Audre Lorde’s speech “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” several times over the past 3 years and each time I’ve read it, it’s resonated with a new part of me unearthed by life. Every. Time. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) is “a black feminist lesbian mother poet”, a woman celebrated for her poetry and radical womanist writings. Her speech, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” was originally given during the Modern Language Association’s Lesbian and Literature panel on December 28, 1977 and was published in two of her books, The Cancer Journals and Sister Outsider. My instincts told me to reach for this text today, as I’ve made some personal breakthroughs that have encouraged me to seek the light at the end of a long, dark, tunnel.

I’ve been sitting in silence and darkness for months. Some of it was intentional on my part and some of it was crafted carefully for me by people who I originally believed deserved my trust. I became tired of the sensations of anxiety, triggered by Mondays, emails, and text messages; hated the feeling of dread pulling my chest and stomach taut. I am still tired. I spent months in silence. During the day I pulled back at work, went through the motions, ended my struggle for change, and felt defeated by bureaucracy. I sought the quiet of my room at night, avoided watching television, sat in the dark with my thoughts and worries. It became meditative. It was also healing, at first. But I soon became too comfortable living in silence. I withdrew from conversations with my closest friends, kept details of my life to myself. I felt unsure of myself, and my path. I doubted my instincts. I sought answers from the stars and in planetary alignments. I sought answers from my silence. I found peace. And I found apathy. Continue reading

The Mythical World of Lina Iris Viktor

Art has the power to breathe life into us. When I first ran across the awe-inspiring work of Lina Iris Viktor I saw something that I didn’t know I needed: a reflection. Lina Iris Viktor is an accomplished conceptual artist and painter, whose work was showcased alongside Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Sachs, Ryan McGinley, & Peter Beard. Viktor’s work is loud, striking, and unapologetic. It is ornate and minimalist; realistic yet mythical; and she strictly adheres to a color palate of royal blue, black, white, and 24 karat gold.  She is her own muse, and many of her paintings and performance art pieces are centered on her own body acting as a canvas, sheathed in rich fabric, or dripping in black and gold paint.  She places a great importance on photographing herself with her work: she aims to create an ongoing record of her world and the way she interacts with it. Often, these self-portraits feature Viktor posing and voguing alongside of her completed paintings. On her website, she wrote of her self-portraits:

There is often a certain abstraction – an otherworldliness – to her photographed work which moves between the real and the imagined, the concrete and the geometric. Viktor approaches her photographs with a compulsive perfection, and with a very succinct vision.

She encourages her own myth, reinforcing the impression of a perfectly sealed off cycle of existence in which elements of the work and her life become virtually interchangeable. This myth has been so fostered by Viktor in the way she lives and works, arranges her workspace – through her choice of attire, and the concepts she conveys in her paintings.

Her deeply held philosophies and her essence resides in her paintings, but her photographs offer a clear picture of how Viktor experiences her work and the world she creates. Her goals extend beyond a simple documentation of her paintings – her real ambition is to create a visual record, a time capsule, a memory of her own experience of it – of a period, a body of work, a time. She provides an account of her life and her art, which is inseparable from life itself as she lives it.

Lina Viktor’s work is so striking to me not only because of her pure talent for capturing her image and imagination, but because I see myself in her work. A certain quote by art critic Jon Updike comes to mind when I try to articulate what Viktor’s pieces do for me, “What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit.” There is something magical about Viktor’s presence in her work: as a black woman, she unapologetically takes up space and her energy is magnetic. Viktor’s work captures my gaze and engulfs me in her graphic, elaborate creations. In her self-portraits, Viktor peers back at me expectantly.

Viktor’s work appeals to my secret aesthetic. Anyone who knows me well knows that I adore toeing the line between classy and gaudy; I like extravagant textures, loud patterns and bold colors with classic shapes. I  do not show this woman to the world often. I am aware of the way others perceive me and carefully curate my outward appearance so as to not attract too much attention. As a black woman often occupying spaces where modesty is highly valued, I have to scale back, especially since my blackness and womanness garner enough attention alone. However, I refuse to hold myself back fully: I cannot resist fur scarves and coats; my royal blue and gold-studded trench coat; huge statement necklaces and earrings; richly patterned headscarves and pants; and high heels. In contrast, I am deliberately silent; observing the people and world around me carefully. When I do adorn my body boldly, I am comfortable in others’ gazes. Experiencing Lina Viktor’s work is seeing her living in her truth, and it’s a beautiful sight to see. I feel at home when I see her world, and it inspires me to want to live unapologetically in my own truth.

You can experience more of Lina Iris Victor’s work on her website, here.

On Repeat: The Internet

I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. I haven’t yet mastered the balancing act of pursuing goals that are sometimes in conflict with each other and I’ve fallen in and out of love with many aspects of my life. One thing has stayed the same, however. I find an incredible amount of relief and introspection during the hours of my day spent listening to music. The Internet is satisfying my need to vibe and ride out my emotional ups and downs for nearly three months now. I think this is the longest I’ve ever listened to an artist and I’m so grateful that I stubbled upon them again. One of my closest friends tried to put me on to The Internet years ago by playing their first album Purple Naked Ladies for me back in 2011, but my musical tastes needed to develop before I could appreciate their brand of sound.

Again, I am a lover of contemporay R&B and hip-hop and I was drawn to The Internet’s soul and funk influences. The Internet is a soul band formed by Syd tha Kid and Matt Martians, two producers and members of the Odd Future label. I started off listening to Ego Death, their most recent album and was immediately struck by Syd’s sultry voice and the melodic jazz band. Their music is a perfect match for my energy at the moment–I love listening to Ego Death while walking through Wissahickon park and traveling; their second release Feel Good complements my calmer, more melacholy moods, and Purple Naked Ladies is perfect when I feel an inspired energy vibrating around me. Check out their most recent video for “Special Affair/Curse,” which I absolutely LOVE. I’ve also linked below their full albums for your listening pleasure.

 

On Repeat: Jay Prince

I’ve had two different people approach me in the last week and ask whether I choose my music individually (favorite songs); by the artist, or by the album. Now, a few years ago I wouldn’t even know where to start in answering that question. I’ve never been a “music-head” and I’ve only begun understanding my personal music tastes this past year. And since I’ve started my job with Parks and Recreation, I’ve been spending time listening to music on a daily basis. I don’t usually listen to music unless I’m working/writing, traveling, or pampering myself. So when these two people asked me my preferences I was so excited just to be able to reflect and give an honest answer.

If you’ve been following my “On Repeat” posts, you’d notice that I’ve recently been posting full albums, and it’s because I’ve discovered that I am definitely an “album person.” I thoroughly enjoy being taken on a full melodic ride with a consistent flowing vibe. Music really influences my mood now, so when I find an artist I like, I need to be able to listen to their full album several times a day for me to truly love them.

So, of course I’ve found another artist that I’ve fallen in love with: Jay Prince. He’s a UK M.C. with two recent EPs out: Befor Our Time and Beautiful Mercy. I love his storytelling and the electric and funk influences throughout his work. I’ve been listening to both albums every single day for the past month and I still haven’t stopped smiling, rapping and bouncing to my favorite song, “AfroPhunk” since i first stumbled upon it. Listen to “AfroPhunk” and “Bump That” from Beautiful Mercy below, and the full album Befor Our Time below.

 

Essay / Academic Rant: Closing the Next Frontier: An Analysis of Offshore Oil and Wind Exploration Along the Atlantic Coast

The United States is moving to close the next great American energy frontier: the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This move is part of an overall energy agenda to increase the United States’ energy independence through domestic energy. Since President Obama took office, the nation’s dependence on foreign oil has been at a 20-year low, and he has formed policies aiming to increase domestic energy production.[1]  In January 2015, President Obama proposed a plan for the Department of the Interior’s 5 Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that has the potential to reopen the Atlantic coast for oil and gas drilling.[2] While this plan could stimulate domestic oil production and further the President’s energy independence political agenda, opening the Atlantic to drilling also has the potential to create serious negative externalities. Similarly, the Atlantic coast is a goldmine for offshore wind production with North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia holding 82 percent of the total Atlantic coast wind potential in the OCS.[3] Under the Obama Administration’s Smart from the Start initiative, Wind Energy Areas are being designated for development of offshore wind.[4]  The development of renewable domestic energy has the potential to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels it also faces several technological and political barriers to implementation. Below, I will compare the policies and politics surrounding oil exploration and wind energy development in the Atlantic OCS, and determine which energy source can be considered a greater contributor to the United States’ goals of achieving energy independence. Continue reading