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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: “my partner and I have a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell agreement, and it’s starting to feel a little weird”
we're on "don't ask don't tell" for our sorta open relationship. I want to be more open about my feelings toward others, but he doesn't, even after suggesting it. I don't mind necessarily, but it's starting to feel a bit secretive.
This is not a question, it’s just a scribbled-down statement about how things are (or were) for someone in the Smut Slam audience, but I felt like I wanted to address it anyway, because there is a question in there: "what should I do?"
If I’m recalling correctly, there were a lot of polyamorous people in the audience that night and when I read this part, a murmur rippled through the crowd. The whole room expressed a sort of “yup, been there” and then sighed one collective sigh.
Many of us have been there. Oh my lord. DADT as a policy statement for open relationships is super common, especially for folks new to open relationships who think it’s some sort of training-wheel approach, just to get started. I know I did, with both the first and second partners I tried an actual opening-up with. I had asked about it, and my partners reluctantly agreed to it, but on terms: “I don’t want to know anything about it.”
And the thing is, that works, on a purely theoretical level, in a world where all you wanna do is scratch that itch and get laid, in and out and back to your “real life” and your “real partner.” Don’t Ask Don’t Tell works there, in that world where all you want are discrete bits of time with people who aren’t asking anything from you except some time with your particular and very discreet bits. DADT works fine, in an ongoing way, when you have a perfectly compartmentalized life and psyche.
In reality, very very few people have that kind of life and/or psyche. You may say you can do it, because good lord, that person is hot and you really wanna scratch that itch! But the reality is, life bleeds out all over everything. You develop feelings for that person who was supposed to just be a no-strings-attached fuck. Or at least you like them—hopefully—so you wind up watching a movie with them that you really love and then you go back to your primary partner and say, hey, I want to show you this movie, and they love it too and they say, “Wow, that was amazing! Where did you find out about this movie?” and you’re suddenly like, eep. Can I say?
What do you do if that happens with a sex move?
No couple magically match up their free time without discussion, sometimes a lot of discussion, depending on the couple and their already existing schedules. Carving out time for other people, without mentioning those other people, is really difficult.
And yeah, those feelings. They do happen, and if you’ve already set down a DADT policy about such basic things as “no mentioning dates with other people” and “I don’t want to know their names,” you’re suddenly going to be in an even more untenable position when the feelings come up.
This is not to say that your boyfriend doesn't have the right to say, "I don't want to hear about what you and your date did in bed last night" or "I'd rather not be the sounding board for any relationship problems you're having with your other partners." Those are pretty common boundaries; hopefully the two of you can hash those out together. But it sounds like the embargo is laid down pretty hard and pretty low, so... yeah. How much of your life/time/attention/heart is wrapped up in these other relationships, and how important is it that you can be open about that?
This person isn’t asking for advice, but for any readers who may be in the same situation, I encourage you to use the Sheelzebub principle, named after a Captain Awkward reader who had some sage advice for anyone wondering what to do in a challenging relationship situation:
Can I live with this for another month? Another year? Another five years? Ten years? The rest of my life? How long?
Maybe you’d be okay with it. What about your partners in DADT-ness? That might feel a bit shitty for them too. You’re feeling a little bit constrained now. How will that feel after five years of it? I can’t answer that question for you, but as someone who tried “don’t ask don’t tell” once, I can tell you I would never go back.
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The frequent stimulation of the throat and experiencing these [throat] orgasms can lead to a better connection with your intuition and feminine wisdom, a deeper expression of your needs, creative and artistic abilities, and your higher potential.
When we regularly deep-throat our partners’ dicks, WE CAN BECOME BETTER WOMEN, HOORAY.
Yes indeed, there is much to thrill the Terrible Sex Tip fan in this article, and by thrill I mean creep you right the fuck out. For starters, it’s another article that makes orgasms feel like Pokémon: gotta have ‘em all!
Well, no, we don’t have to. We’re being told we should want them all, and should strive to have them all because… because... Guh, this is the part that makes me get all tin-foil-hat about a distracted populace being an essential part of late-stage capitalism. MOVING ON.
Let me say that I have had profoundly moving and mysterious experiences in sex. I have come just from squeezing my thighs together and listening to my partner talk on the phone. Mostly I just chalk that sort of thing up to the human mind being a strange and glorious place; I don’t feel the need to pin that down or replicate the experience.
I don’t mind if other people talk about chakras and light and transcendence. If that gives you something to meditate on, more power and blessings be on your sexual-spiritual adventures. But everyone I’ve seen writing for mainstream media about tantric practices, they can’t stop there. Like the writer of this article, they just keep going with what I consider unsubstantiated bullshit.
He makes a little bit of room in the piece for more obscure orgasms, like the nipple orgasm. “The nipples … are connected via energy channels to the clitoris.” Fuckin’ WUT. What energy channels? Nerve endings are real, and yeah, they are weird; I personally can make little sparks happen down there if I stick my finger deep enough in my belly button. (I don't do that anymore, but I did when I was eight. Don't judge me.) But I don’t assume that everyone has that same neurological bridge.
The author put something called a "urinary orgasm" in here. It’s relatively rare, he says. Just drink a lot of water and release it mid-fucking, he says. Put some towels down, he says. That’s called water sports, dude, and relief at getting to pee is not the same thing as having an orgasm.
In classic over-generalising style, the writer dismisses the clitoral orgasm as “shallow” and something to avoid whenever possible—“It just doesn't serve you and charge you like deep vaginal orgasms do,” fucking WAT. He then goes on to describe other types of orgasms that originate deeper into the cunt, with the orgasms supposedly getting correspondingly better until—surprise, surprise!—we reach the cervical orgasm.
Yes, that's the one that you “probably haven’t heard of,” the one that you can’t really have when you’re being a floozy and sleeping around, the one that requires you to fucking get pounded on your cervix… the cervical orgasm is the holy grail for many tantra people, based on what I've read. Like many an article about the cornucopia of female orgasms, this guy pretty cavalierly dismisses clitoral orgasms as being shallow compared to vaginal orgasms, and then vaginal orgasms are like an ephemeral breeze compared to the cervical orgasm.
Please, can you just let people explore themselves and not assign any inherent value to whichever methods and holes and dangly bits they like?
Speaking of holes, this writer went to a lot of effort to hit all of them. I will buy anal orgasms, because when someone is having a good time down your back alley, there’s a LOT going on, sensitive tissues moving back and forth, etc. But throat orgasms? The pleasure I get from deep throating is entirely from being in a certain subby head space, very little if any from the physicality of it, because the uvula is not a clit analogue. The author says there is a minor chakra back there that you can pound, er, stimulate, which he says results in a different orgasm. Don't worry if you start gagging, or “if some fluids come up. You’ll get better at it over time.” And you want this, yes you do! Because…. Wait for it…
“The frequent stimulation of the throat and experiencing these orgasms can lead to a better connection with your intuition and feminine wisdom, a deeper expression of your needs, creative and artistic abilities, and your higher potential.”
When we frequently deep-throat our partners’ dicks, WE CAN BECOME BETTER WOMEN, HOORAY.
To be completely honest, I should probably stop looking at any article that talks about tantra. I experience deep connections, but the spiritual shit sends me right up the wall. I’m sure there’s a way that people can write about those deep connections without COMPLETELY raising my hackles, but I haven’t found it yet. In the meantime, the mainstream articles are going out there, about getting past those cheap floozy clitoral orgasms and being smug about being BALLS DEEP IN SOMEONE'S CHAKRAS.
I mean, is that what tantra is all about? Spiritual deep-dicking? That's what I'm seeing out there, and that's what this article feels like. If not, then please, my tantric friends: get some other writers, maybe even yourself, to WRITE IT BETTER, because your current PR volunteers are not repping you well.
Also, if sex tips leave people feeling bad about the good things they already enjoy, those tips are not transcendent, they are Terrible.
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My hottest epiphany was, in itself, not hot. It was the opposite of hot. It was the coldest that I had felt in my life up until that point, and it happened in my counselor’s office when I was rocking back and forth in a chair that was not designed for rocking, sobbing and doubled over from the psychic pain. But eventually it led to the best sex I've ever had.
Let me explain.
I had gone into counseling because I had cheated on my longtime partner, a woman, with a man. Although my awareness of my bisexuality had been sneaking up on me, to the point where I was starting to feel a little weird at office parties (I had a crush on my male editor at the newspaper), I thought I had it “under control.” When I subsequently went to a newspaper convention, drank two margaritas the size of my head, and rather aggressively pursued a male advertising sales rep from Sacramento… I realized I had nothing under control and sought out counseling.
There in the comfortably bland office, I dissected and discussed my craving for "male company," after nearly nine years of avoiding that shit like the plague. That was not the epiphany. I knew that I wanted cisgendered men back in my life, at least for the bouncy fun bits. The hard part was weighing that desire against everything else in my life.
Because I was still with my partner, and I still loved her, and I knew that pursuing my sexual desires was going to throw everything into chaos. She was already hurting, and I didn’t know how to make that stop. My new-found mantra for that period was You can’t unknow what you know, but saying it didn’t really help.
I felt guilt for what I had already done, and guilt for what I hadn’t even done yet, and deep, deep shame for all of it. It took me months and months to drill down to the core of it, something leftover from growing up in a large religious family with scarce resources and scarce love and sex being a perversion anyway: I felt that I wanted too much. I wanted more than I “deserved.”
Of course this goes back to always being a little bit hungry, and never being able to ask for more because there wasn’t more. But the current-day psychological upshot was that I felt that my wants, of any sort, were excessive. I was "greedy" for wanting what I wanted, and my happiness was nowhere worth near as much as other people’s. I could feel the desire—so profound that it transcended mere tingly bits—and at the same time I could feel my horrified recoil at my own selfishness, so I had been going around and around like a gyroscope, balanced in this endless push of lust and self-loathing.
I don’t know how exactly I broke that cycle. My counselor coaxed me down the path multiple times, as I made little baby steps and then waited for God to strike me down. I had to brace myself against the sure knowledge that yes, my choices would affect my partner, and try and fail and try again to be ethical, to be caring. I had to weigh, over and over, the risks and potential outcomes. I had to be at peace with the nature of my sexual self, and with the knowledge that it shifts and changes.
This is a process more than an epiphany. I still don’t always know how to proceed with my passionate pursuits. I still definitely worry about how those pursuits affect others. But at least I know that I must pay attention to my desires. I can’t always fulfill them right away or at all, because the world is not that kind of place, but my desires are valid and important, and they are definitely not too much.
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As I’m gearing up for more Smut Slams in Europe (get in touch if you want one in your city), I’m thinking again about the Smut Slam Code of Conduct and the idea of safe(r) space in performance contexts.
Specifically I’m thinking about what safer space looks like in my context and why I do it the way that I do, and why I’m really glad that I decided to do it that way because holy SHITBALLS things can get weird otherwise!
All Smut Slams have the Code of Conduct read out loud, a statement of community standards and beliefs that has gotten hashed out and elaborated over time (I think another review is coming soon, in fact). I wish I had kept records of what the Code of Conduct used to be at the beginning of Smut Slam; oh god, I learned fast on that one!
Behind every rule there is a story, they say, and this is especially true with the Smut Slam Code of Conduct. In this living, revise-able document, every specific type of “friendliness” that is explicitly stated, or line of text in the “what not to say” paragraph, every element included in the bit about consent, it is all there because someone told a story that skirted the spirit of the code, or got through some unspelled-out exception or loophole, and we are trying our best to lay it out as clearly as possible.
If we have any sort of “community standards,” then it is on us as creators, hosts, and producers to articulate those standards. I was in a performance room once where the host said specifically that it was a “safe space,” but that was all. Maybe they thought it would be obvious. In any case, one of the performers went on to do a racist bit that had some audience members looking at each other and shaking their heads and muttering. Even the host looked completely taken aback—they clearly knew it was a problem—but nothing in the their statement about “safe space” included any mention of racism, so in the moment the host didn’t seem to know how to even talk about it.
We have to articulate these things, but even more importantly, we have to put down a process for how to deal with those things when they happen. Because they will happen. Shit still gets weird.
Smut Slam is an open mic and it takes place in drinking environments mostly, and people arrive late and don’t hear the host reading the Code of Conduct out loud AND people have radically different and variable ideas about what constitutes consent, for example, and racism and sex-worker friendliness (“I want to tell you about all the wild hookers I met in Thailand” = probably not going to go well).
I can tell you, those are some of my least favorite moments about running a Smut Slam, when I can see the car crash about to happen, when I can practically smell the smoke coming off the opening lines of a story and I know a dumpster fire is headed for my stage.
But the great thing is, Smut Slam has community standards spelled out and they include our process for responding to violations and close calls (“educational moment from the mic” after the story is concluded).
Before we included that component into the Code of Conduct, we had a really clear vision of what we did want and what we didn’t, but we had no way of enforcing it. Smut Slam hosts would have to step in the breach on their own, which is intimidating as fuck. I know I was pretty chickenshit for, like, the first four years of slamming.
But since then, Smut Slam has the institutional response built in. We know, as an event, as hosts, and as a community of sorts, how we deal. We know that stories may occasionally still slip through and go against our code, but we also know what will happen if they do.
(At some point I will write something about how those educational moments are actually a good thing. As someone pointed to me, that is actually where education takes place, if a storyteller isn’t clear about consent or why their specific behavior in an anecdote is misogynistic, for example, or involves nonconsensual objectification.)
For now, though, I will leave my readers with this: it’s not enough to set boundaries. You have to know, ahead of time, what you’re going to do if someone crosses them. Without the follow-through, “safe space” is only safe for the offender, not anyone else.
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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: How and how soon do you bring up the relationship style/DTR question without putting the other person on the spot/under pressure?
I have written about the concept of “home” frequently and at length. As a touring artist, I am understandably a little obsessed, while at the same time trying to be chill about it. I’ve tried to be all, you know, I’m tough, I only need a couple of suitcases to get around. If I can make theatre out of a toaster oven and a cordless phone handset, surely I can make home out of my old Pike Place Market apron and a mini-screwdriver in my makeup bag.
This has worked. For the past seven years this has worked. Less well over time, I mean, I regularly have to fight off the undeniable appeal of knowing where one’s container of flour is, but mostly, I have been able to stay light on my feet, and have felt that to be an important part of my M.O., if not to say my actual identity.
Home was always the hardest thing to shake when I needed to travel: boxing the stuff, transferring the utilities, packing up the room, arranging the sublet, forwarding the mail, finding a foster home for my cat… it was all a source of additional gravity, holding me down, pulling me back. In many ways it was a relief to let those things go, bit by bit.
But all of this was predicated on being a solo agent, a person who, of necessity, had to move through the world and launch myself in various directions on my own. I talked like I wanted to, but the reality was, I had to, or so I thought. I had to hold my relationships lightly because I was never going to be there. What kind of lover would want to sign up for that? I had to learn how to be strong on my own, because no one would ever be there for me in the bad times. Yes, I found support among friends and a few lovers, both on- and offline, but for the deep-down core moments of both pain and joy, I did not think I could not expect anything more than that.
Sometimes I wondered if I was afraid to ask for anything more than that, if I was afraid that my new life was just too full of drama and complications for anyone else to really want to share it. I didn’t have much luggage, but I had a lot of baggage around my desire for home.
And now that all is changing again. I still have the baggage, but I’ve found someone to share it with. I still have the touring, but I am in a long-term, core-deep relationship with a man who thinks I’m a joy, not an inconvenient weirdo. I have met my match and my muse, who proofreads my posts and asks if I am drinking enough water and knows exactly when I am going on stage without having to ask more than once.
More of my stuff is in storage near him than is with me in Berlin. What if I need to get at that stuff, I asked when we moved it there. “I’ll figure out a way to get it to you,” he said, and I exhaled a sigh that felt like it had been held in for years.
What I call home of course includes logistics: it’s the boxes and the insurance source and whatever visa I posses that gives me access to being in a place. But “home” is so much more than stuff. It is where I want to come back to, at the end of a late-night, exhausting show, or a far-traveling tour. It is the cup of tea he will make for me. It is the joy in his eyes to hear my triumphs, and the strength in his hand holding mine when he listens to my frustrations and fears, and knowing that I can do the same for him. Home is, in short, everything that I already know how to do for myself, but I don’t have to do it by myself anymore.
The only shadow is we don’t have our physical home space yet. But the feeling is already here; that, at least, doesn’t take up any room in a suitcase at all.
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