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.

The No Good Very Bad Day

I shared a bit about the end of my last relationship and my own mental health struggles in one of my previous posts and I did so with the intention of opening the door to some more personal blog posts. Despite my efforts to find a way to flesh out my personal struggles (pages and pages of notes and ideas that never made it to this blog), I’ve fallen flat. At its birth, this blog was intended to be a place where I could finally delve into my heart and soul and express parts of my identity that I felt I never could before. For that reason,  I purposefully created the categories “personal identity”and “sex & relationships” (later changed to self care & relationships) on the blog as encouragement. They remained empty through these past months of me blogging– I prefer to distance myself from my blog by uploading academic papers, photos and anecdotes about Philadelphia and updates on my music tastes. It’s a defense mechanism that I employ in my everyday life: me shielding my innermost thoughts and emotions from public scruitiny. I chose, time and again, to ignore the pulling sensation in my gut telling me that something was bothering me and that I needed an outlet to express it. Today, I decided that it was time to stop.  Continue reading

Hello…It’s Me

It feels like I blinked and it was suddenly December. I’ve been gone for a minute and neglected to post on the places I visited through the end of the summer. The change in seasons (summer to fall to winter) brought so many changes in my personal life and I’ve been spending a lot of time nurturing myself and adjusting to my new life. This fall I broke up with my partner of almost a year after a difficult transition to long distance love and both of us needing self care to recover from episodes of depression. I threw myself into my new job, a temporary position as an Outdoor Experience instructor with the Parks and Recreation department. Since the day I accepted the position I had to defend my decision to my parents and peers and it definitely caused me to question myself and my career path.

However, interacting with kids and with my colleagues and role models in the Parks and Recreation department has been so rewarding that I know I should never doubt my intuition again. I’ve also dedicated myself to expanding my almost non-existent social circle by joining a womanist collective (like our page on Facebook for info on our events) and joining a friends effort to build a black literature centered college preparation organization for Philadelphia high school girls. I put a lot on my plate and I’m excited to continue documenting my life on this blog. The purpose of this blog isn’t to gain readers or popularity but to actively reflect on my life and challenge myself to be more outspoken and engage with the world a little bit more. Anyway, thank you for sticking with me through this blogging dry spell. Here’s some pictures from these past months, which include visits to:

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Benjamin Franklin Bridge

Springhouse Farm

Mixto Restaurant

Graffiti Bar

Wissahickon Park

Philly Trans March

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Mount Moriah Cemetery

Logan Circle

Canoemobile on the Schuylkill River

Rooftop beekeeping in South Philly Continue reading

A Year in the Making

Roughly a year ago, I decided to start a blog as a way to find an outlet for my thoughts and feelings pertaining to my identities and interests.This post was originally written on July 15th, 2014 during my stay in Menomonie, WI for a research project last summer. My blogging journey began with this one post, and a list of sexist, racist, and classist experiences in the small town that I didn’t want to forget, entitled “Documenting my experiences being black in Wisconsin.” It seems fitting to me to start my blog with this journal entry, and to continue looking at the world around me through a critical lens. Continue reading