The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Gathered Together

cross posted

This is a slightly weird day for me. Today, something I’ve been fighting for for years is going to come to pass. The Marriage Equality bill is going to pass its third reading. What will I do tomorrow?

Obviously, the answer to that question, for me and hundreds like me, will be  ‘groan, wince, and think “I really shouldn’t have done that”.’ Tonight is for celebrating, with like-minded individuals.

It’s days like this when I really wish we could all be together. Not that you could fit all the people I’d want to spend this evening with into the same bar, but you understand the sentiment. The closest I will come is Twitter, where I fully expect to see the people I love making sarcastic remarks about ParliamentTV’s hold music.

Out in the meat-space, there are events all over the place. In keeping track of this, I am even more than usually indebted to gaynz for constantly updating this page as things have changed through the week.

Starting with Christchurch, because that’s where I am. There will be afree concert at the Pallet Pavilion from 6pm, featuring Anika Moa. The third reading will be shown.

I will not be there, and given the forecast and the venue, I won’t be the only one. Luckily (and contrary to what was reported in The Press) it’s not the only game in town. A bunch of us will be heading along to join Tony Milne and the Christchurch Campaign for Marriage Equality upstairs at the Pegasus Arms from 7pm for viewing and drinking. It’s always nice to have company when you’re yelling at the television.

Wellington, where they really know how to celebrate some legislation. Legalise Love has a lunchtime picnic planned on Parliament’s lawn from 12-2. Again, the weather is probably going to be a factor there. For the reading itself, the public gallery is full, but there’s now overflow space in the Legislative Council Chamber. On the other hand, Back Benches is also filming that night, right across the road. The official after-party is, of course, at San Francisco Bath-house, and it’s free.

You can also watch the debate and the vote at S&M’s and Ivy.

Auckland. You can watch the debate at Caluzzi, or The Zookeeper’s Son. The latter venue would like you to RSVP. I remain convinced there must be more going on in our northern city. Let’s not keep it a secret. EDIT: Gaynz have added an event at Family, from 9pm. That’s more like it.

The gaynz page also has details of events in Hamilton, Palmerston North, WaihekeIsland and, yes, Blenhiem. Nothing for Dunedin. Yes, it’s cold, but I know y’all have bars down there.

The debate will be on Sky and Freeview, and you can stream it here.

In the midst of all this celebration, I can’t help but spare a thought for the legislation’s opponents. They’ve found themselves a minority in our society that some people feel it’s okay to say mean things about. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. And imagine the strain of maintaining the cognitive dissonance of continuing to believe they were right when all around them, society fails to fall apart.

On the other hand, maybe they’re right, and I’m wrong. Maybe I really will wake up tomorrow gay-married to my cat while fire and brimstone rains from the sky. All the more reason to party hard tonight.


(Always gay-drink gay-responsibly and all that.)


A Reasoned Discussion of Trans* Issues. Please.

A brief summary. Suzanne Moore wrote a column in the New Statesman. In it she made what I’ll unhesitatingly call a “poor decision” to invoke the image of a “Brazillian transexual”. People objected. Instead of apologising, she doubled down, and some of the things she went on to say on Twitter were… really appalling. Abuse went both ways.

Good things came out of it. Stella Duffy wrote a post which generated a lot of useful constructive discussion. She followed it up with what I found a much better one, talking about what she’d learned. There was this response. And I found it good to be reminded that it actually wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t know what “cis” meant, and I hadn’t heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

And then Julie Burchill wrote a piece [trigger warning for stunning transphobia] that would be in stiff competition for “stupidest most offensive thing ever to appear outside of 4chan”, and The Observer decided to publish it. Today they undecided to publish it, and of course this being the internet, it’s vanished without trace.

I think the Burchill piece is actually hugely useful. It’s the very simple answer to the question, “Why are these people so angry?” Why did people react so strongly to the Moore piece? Because it was written against a background where people feel okay saying things like:

To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look.  That rude and ridic.

We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.

On the other hand, this is going to be the last website to pretend there aren’t jerks in any demographic, including trans* activists. I’m not tone-argumenting, it’s just a fact from years of experience at web moderation that the best results come when people try to express themselves reasonably even when they’re offended, and people try to listen and respond even when they’re angry.

People like Burchill and Bindell and Greer and our own Rosemary McLeod should be challenged on their transphobia. Their attitude that it’s distracting from the “real issues” and their refusal to acknowledge their own privilege is… well, it’s ironic to say the least.

But there are a whole bunch of other people, people like Stella Duffy, who are prepared to listen and to learn. We all had to learn at some stage, and we should offer others the same patience and help we needed.

Girl on the Net put it better, talking about a time when she was Called Out by a transwoman:

But I promise you this: I will never deliberately say hateful, horrible things that ignore my privilege and make life harder for you. I will always try to empathise and – if you correct me – I’ll try to clarify what I’m saying, or apologise if I’m wrong. If you tell me about my mistakes I can correct and clarify. If you call me a hateful psycho bitch-whore, I’ll never fucking learn.


On Geeks and Privilege

So yeah, another tech conference, more problems with racism and sexism. BritRuby has been cancelled. (And yes, I’m as startled as you are that it’s a Jezebel article that gives the best run-down of the issues. You can also read here, but please, for the love of bunnies and sanity, don’t read the comments.)

You may at this point be idly wondering, “Why should I, weighing everything up here, bother giving a fuck?” Because the otherwise pointless fuckuporama produced this: Geeks and Privilege.

The reason we’re seeing such vicious anti-equality bullshit in the geek community over the BritRuby situation and other conference type stuff is because the very existence of societal inequalities (against women, racial minorities, gender/sexual minorities) threatens the whole idea that hackers got where they are because they are super-fucking-smart.

That piece is a really good run-down of unacknowledged privilege in the geek community. What I want to add to it is basically, “Because Intersectionality.”

Intersectionality is a long word, but not a difficult concept, at all. One day I might strip it back to its bare bones for Public Address, but here I’m going to assume people have a grasp of it.

One of the reasons that geek men are resistant to having their privilege pointed out to them is that they perceive themselves as outsiders. Not so much for geeks my son’s age, but for my cohort, people who were interested in (or, more accurately, obsessed with) science and computers and role-playing were not the Cool Kids. Part of the whole Freaks and Geeks stereotype is being the socially-awkward outcast. Hardly the recipients of social privilege in the adolescent hierarchy.

So like Pakeha women and gay men, if you’ve been on the receiving end of social bigotry and put-downs and people making life hard for you, it’s much harder to recognise that not only do you have privilege over other people you’re not aware of, but you might actually be exercising it against them.

And no, privilege is not luck. Finding ten bucks on the ground is luck. Having a family with money is privilege.

I don’t feel guilty about being a man but I do realise that it has certain benefits that women don’t get and certain opportunities I get that women have to fight much harder for. This doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. But denying that this is the case in order to preserve my illusions makes me an ignorant person.

Now, I’ve seen conference organisers, and other people too, try very hard to find willing female voices, and fail. But they’re not pretending that diversity and privilege aren’t problems. These guys really were. And, y’know, fuck those guys. Don’t be those guys.

Submission Pun Goes Here

Cross Posted from Public Address

Submissions are now open for Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. They close on the 26th of October. If you want to make a submission, this page contains all the relevant information, and if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, a button for making an on-line submission. If you’re wondering whether or not you have anything useful to say, I’d recommend reading this post at The Lady Garden.

The bill has gone to the Government Administration select committee. That committee consists of:

Chris Auchinvole – NAT – voted yes at first reading

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi – NAT – voted no

Ruth Dyson – LAB – voted yes

Trevor Mallard – LAB – voted yes

Eric Roy – NAT – voted no

Holly Walker – GRN – voted yes

If, like me, you’re considering submitting in person, that list of names may give you pause. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to let me do it alone with Holly Walker…

Anyway, this is the body of the submission I will be making. (Just the body: check the links for formal formatting boiler-plate, etc.) Supporters of the bill have one almost unfairly huge advantage in making submissions: we can speak about how it will actually affect our lives. Its opponents cannot.

I am bisexual: sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women. Gender is one of the least important partner traits for me, yet currently it defines my options and rights in choosing the form of my relationship. I support this bill partly because it would finally give me equality not just with heterosexual people, but with myself. I would have the same relationship choices with a woman as I would with a man. Currently, I do not.

 My current (male) partner and I chose to formalise our relationship as a civil union. The chief reason for this was that I would not choose marriage when I could not marry a woman. I would not enter a relationship form I would not have the right to replicate with a future partner, should something happen to my current relationship. We are not married because marriage is, as the law currently stands, a discriminatory institution.

I have actually been married. When I was at university, I married my then-boyfriend so that he could have access to a student allowance. That marriage was entirely legal. I fail to see how my loving and committed marriage to a woman would be more damaging to Marriage itself, or anyone else’s marriage, than that marriage for money.

I have two children, one male and one female. Today, no-one would argue that they should have different rights on the basis of their genders. Given the roles of both genetics and environment in determining sexual orientation, there’s a significant chance that at least one of my kids will be gay, lesbian or bisexual. I want my children to have the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that includes the right to marry.

I also want them to have an easier time of growing up than I did. I was a teenager in Timaru in the 1980s. I was closeted, because I firmly believed that if I came out, I would be beaten up. Bisexuals have higher rates of suicide, depression, bullying, drug abuse and poverty than heterosexuals, but also higher rates than gays and lesbians. Bisexual women have higher rates of domestic violence than lesbians or heterosexual women. For us, sexuality-based violence is not a theory. It’s a very real risk we run all the time, simply by being who we are.

This bill is not a silver bullet for homophobic bullying. But it would keep our government from saying to our persecutors, “You’re right, you know. Those people aren’t as good as us Normal People.” Those in favour of legal discrimination may not condone homophobic violence, but I certainly believe they allow it room to thrive. How can we expect teenage bullies to treat LGBT people as equals when our State doesn’t? We need to support our LGBT teens by showing them we believe they’re just as deserving, just as much a part of our society, as anyone else.

Review: d.vice advice

d.vice advice

Ema Lyon & Wendy Lee

Penguin Books

Disclaimer: My copy of d.vice advice was given to me by Ema Lyon when we appeared together on the Lust panel at LATE at the Museum.

The subtitle of this book is “real questions and answers about sex, for adventurous everyday people”. And that’s who this book is for: people who, as Girl on the Net said about 50 Shades of Grey, say ‘maybe’ to anal sex. Not those who shudder at the suggestion, or those who are already practised hands. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. (Note: there is no way to say “there’s nothing wrong with that” without making it sound as though there’s something wrong with that. Neither my intention nor my fault.)

I did learn something from reading this book, though, and there’s so much breadth in it that I think most people would. Subjects like anal sex, g-spot stimulation and pregnancy sex are discussed without coyness or shame. There’s a lot of Science, which is presented without being condescending or (gods forbid) too dry. So it’s not just what to do, and what happens, but why it happens too, which is the kind of thing that makes me happy.

Most of each chapter is in the form of answers to questions the authors have genuinely been asked. Because of this, there’s some repetition of information, and perhaps it’s a better book to skim or dip and out of than go through end to end. Like d.vice’s shops, there’s an air of being couples-oriented, without being erasive of less-conventional sexual encounters.

The whole book is written with a breezy air of sex-positivity. There’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of communication. Most people, I think, would feel better and more comfortable about sex after reading it, and I can’t imagine anyone feeling worse. Unless, perhaps, they’re that woman with the cherry. She might be mortified. It gives a good idea of the range of “normal” for things like physical size, physical response, time taken to orgasm, etc, and in only one case did this make me go, “What, really? Shit…”

I will comment on the final chapter, on BDSM. Like other practices detailed in the book, BDSM is made to seem like a bit of unthreatening, fun experimentation. There’s some good advice on things to try just starting out. There’s no mention, however, of the profound emotional reactions – positive or negative – that BDSM can produce. While I wouldn’t want to put anyone off, I think it is advisable to warn people that this might take them apart, and I always do.

This is a great book for couples looking to add variety to their sex lives. It’d also be good, I think, for, say, your kid heading off to varsity. Okay, maybe someone else’s kid. I’ve given it to my (male) partner now, and when he’s done, I’ll add any comments he has.

Guest Post – How to Make a Select Committee Submission

FotLG Oliver has graciously agreed to write us a post on how – and why – to make a submission to a select committee. 

So, it may be of some minor interest to a few of you that something called the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has been referred to a select committee of Parliament. That committee, the evocatively named Government Administration Committee, may well ask people to tell them what they think of it. So a couple of the Ladies thought it might be useful if I wrote a little bit on how that works and some tips on doing it well.

The short version is: It is definitely worth your time to make a submission, even if it’s just to say that you approve of the bill. (Or indeed disapprove, though if that’s you, you might be in the wrong place) The committee is likely to get a lot of submission s on this one, so everything you can do to make it easier for them to consider yours is a Good Thing. Make it readable, make it memorable, and keep it focused on the Bill.

The mechanics of making a submission on a bill are fairly straightforward.  You can make a submission through Parliament’s website once the Committee has agreed to receive submissions. As I write this, the select committee page says “submissions not called for”. Don’t worry, that’s just because the Committee needs to formally agree to receive submissions.  In theory, they don’t have to, but that’s not very likely. Use the web form, because it’s free and easier for the committee staff, but attach a nicely formatted document —the text box on the web form produces ugly courier type text.

Once submissions close, they’re all bundled together and sent to the members of the committee, and to the advisors, who will be people from the Ministry of Justice, most likely.  The advisors will read and summarise them for the committee. One very important thing is that submissions become the property of the committee, and are published on Parliament’s website.  After written submissions are all in, the Committee will make arrangements to hearoral evidence. For this one, they’ll probably do at least a couple of sessions out of Wellington, as well as hearing some people by teleconference. Being heard in person can be an extremely daunting experience. The committee knows that, and will bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable. They get you to summarise your submission, and make any extra points, and then they’ll ask questions. If you want to be heard in person, say that in your written submission.

The booklet published by Parliament is the best guide to the details. (Warning: .pdf)

Having read a lot of submissions, I can assure you that the most important thing is to make your submission readable, and the most important part of that is to make it short. The Committee is going to receive an awful lot of submissions, and they’re much more likely to read yours if it is a page.  The officials will read nearly all the submissions, and at least skim over the rest, but if your submission is more than three pages, no one will read it, unless you happen to be the Law Society or similar. I could talk for a long time about the writing, but the best tip I can give you is to get someone to read it and tell you if it makes sense.

The most common mistake I’ve seen in submissions is irrelevance. Keep it focused on the Bill. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk generally about the effects such a measure will have, and stories about despair and suicide are some of the most powerful. It does mean you shouldn’t talk about how people shouldn’t be allowed to get married unless both parties are present; or about how the marriage license form is too difficult to fill in, or how marriage is just an evil plot to encourage breeding and thus hasten the End Times. I’m making up examples, but not exaggerated ones.  Also, don’t be mean about anyone. Committees don’t like it, and I was at a meeting a few weeks ago where a committee decided to expunge someone’s evidence from their record because it was potentially defamatory. Focus on why you think it’s a good idea.

The Committee is made up of humans, and what they will be most concerned about is how a proposal affects actual people. If you have a personal example, use it. If you want to get married but can’t yet, say that. If you had a civil union because you weren’t going to get married unless everyone could, say that. Those very personal stories are good to go and say in person, because the committee will remember them, and often refer to them in the next stages of the debate.  But even if you have nothing to say except, “This is a wonderful bill, and I think it should be passed immediately[1]”, say that. Those submissions are counted, rather than considered, but they are counted, and the only thing every politician agrees on is that numbers are the most important thing there is.

And that’s about all I have to say. It’s worth your time — make a submission. Make it readable, personal, and focused. Participate in your democracy, so that, in the brighter future, when the children ask, you can say, “yes, I was there, and I told them they should make the commencement a month after the Royal assent, so that people had time to get new forms printed”.

[1] “Immediately” in government time means within a year.


The Morning After

I don’t think there’ll be anyone reading here who doesn’t know that last night, our parliament passed Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill through its first reading. I say “our parliament” quite deliberately: the margin of the vote was two to one, the same proportion by which it’s supported by the New Zealand public. Our elected representatives represented us: all of us. There is no sane and reasonable way to pretend that what happened wasn’t democratic.

I’ve been openly arguing for this for three years. And I think last night was the best demonstration of why it matters. This is beyond the actual legal rights granted. It’s beyond the people who will, once this becomes law, be able to get married and adopt. Some laws transcend their texts. They’re about who we are, and who we want to be, as a country. This is one. I have never seen so many people saying they are proud of their country as I did last night. We are New Zealand: we believe in equality and justice, and we reject pointless cruelty. Go us.

It’s a long way from over yet, of course. I have select committees to submit to (shush) and letters to write thanking MPs – particularly Paul Hutchison and David Clark, who would have made my mother very proud. But this right now? Is time to take a moment and say, Fuck Yeah! We did a Good Thing.

Dear Garth George, I Love You

No, seriously. I was getting really sad about the lack of complete garbage being written about marriage equality. I’d even been to NZConservative, and it’s a bit sad when you can’t rely on Lucia to bring the frothing crazy.

But George has saved me. I love our morally-bankrupt moral guardians. And at least he’s honest:

So, again, why set out after same-sex “marriage”? The answer is it is another step in a decades-long campaign to convince everyone that homosexuals and lesbians are no different from the rest of us and deserve all the rights and privileges known to mankind.

That’s pretty clear, right? “Gay and lesbian” people (the existence of bisexuals being obviously far too confusing for Garth) are different from “us”, and NOT deserving of the same rights. Not just different, but lesser.

Garth trots out the tired, stupid old “marriage is totes for having babies” argument, but even that isn’t sufficiently stupid and restrictive for him. Marriage is for people who want to “have children and to bring them up in a traditional family environment.” It’s not entirely clear what that means, but I’m pretty sure it’s “the 1950s”.

Thing is, that’s clearly not what marriage is for. Sort of accidentally, my children have been raised in a two-parent two-child two-cat household where the man goes out to work and the woman stays home and cooks. And we’re not married. Marriage and breeding are obviously two different things that function independently of each other.

I’m also not entirely sure whether Garth thinks I can have kids. Because I’ve had sex with women, and “by their very nature, homosexuals and lesbians cannot reproduce”. I really would like to see Garth asked the question, “Should bisexuals be allowed to get married?” because I suspect he might apoplexy. Having sex with someone of the same gender is a thing you do. Having a child is a thing you do. Neither is a thing you are. Gay people have kids. Straight people have kids using IVF or surrogacy. If this is your best argument, it’s obviously, simply, clearly wrong.

Garth is honest enough to admit that he “doesn’t understand” male homosexuality. It appears there are rather a lot of other things he also doesn’t understand. For instance, “it is disingenuous to complain about rights being taken away when they have never existed in the first place”. You go tell that to Kate Sheppard, Garth. I want to watch.

Also, if you’re quoting stats on civil unions, and you use a bunch of solid, concrete numbers, and then you say “a fair number of which have since been dissolved”, we can work out that you don’t want to tell us what the number is, and therefore it’s probably approximately “buggery fuck all”. (Also, note the comment where Garth is totally taken to school on the stats, it’s a piece of genius.)

Garth, I’d missed you. I’d assumed you’d been tucked away in a little home somewhere, with a blanket tucked over your knees, writing (or cut-and-pasting) furious little columns which your nurse sincerely swore were being published somewhere, honest. I liked to think of you, in a tiny darkened room, watching educational videos to try to understand male homosexuality, and stroking your Services to Journalism.

Turns out you’re still being published. Who knew?

Bisexuals: Doing It Wrong Since Ages Ago

Dear Julie Bindel. Where would we be without you? Oh, yeah: vastly better off.

Yes, in case anyone was getting too complacent, and thinking we were all on board with letting people get on with whatever floats their boat, Bindel is there, still being published, still making sure we realise that our sexuality is

a)      a choice, and

b)      the wrong choice.

Those of us who grew up in a time and context where there was a political analysis of sexuality were able to make a positive choice to be a lesbian. I believed then, and I believe now, that if bisexual women had an ounce of sexual politics, they would stop sleeping with men.

Now, I’m a bisexual woman who sleeps with men. Ergo, I must have no sexual politics. According to Bindel, that makes me a hedonist, “where the only thing that matters is sexual pleasure and desire”. To which I can only reply, “That’s beside the point. There is no amount of cock I can rub up against that will stop my brain from functioning*.”

There are some things that make this column actually worth reading. Firstly, it makes things like this, and its comments, make more sense. This is the context, of some lesbians being deeply uncomfortable with bisexual women, and making them feel unwelcome.

Secondly, there’s the deep, ironic pleasure of watching Bindel criticise Camile Paglia for doing less than Bindel is doing herself. Paglia says, “You know I’m not telling lesbians to stop sleeping only with women,” but Bindel IS telling bi women to stop sleeping with men. On a related note, that link to the research she quotes? Isn’t a link to the research she quotes.

Mostly, though, there are the comments. No, seriously. Read the comments. Four pages. Not one in support of Bindel’s argument, which is that for me to have any feminist credibility whatsoever, I must have sex in the manner Bindel dictates. To which I can only say, seriously, get fucked. In whatever manner you please.

Desire is not a choice. It’s there or it’s not, it doesn’t confine itself to the politically appropriate. Yes, I could choose to only have sex with women, but why would I? Bindel’s demands make just as little sense as homophobes saying I should only ever have sex with men. I’m not a lesbian, and I can’t see a single reason why I should pretend to be one.

And if the price of admission to Proper Feminism is to never give head again? I’m quite happy outside the tent, thanks.

*Permanently. Obviously I’m not actively thinking about sexual politics during the sexing, but even I’m not having sex all the time.

My Saturday Night

I’ve been thinking a lot about Constance’s post, and how it actually relates directly to my last Saturday night. And I’ve mulled whether or not I should talk about this, because it’s personal. Repeatedly, though, I’ve found that I’ve managed to get through to people from different backgrounds and mindsets by relating personal experience. It bridges the gap in a way detached theory can’t. I’m going to take the risk. You don’t have to take it with me.

See, I want to go further than Constance.

But when we default to yelling “sexism!” at images of women in submissive sexual positions, I would argue that we are actually being oppressive ourselves.

I agree with this, completely. But I’ll go further. It’s not just oppressive, and erasive, it’s dangerous. Reading BDSM as abuse is dangerous. And to explain why I think that, I’m going to tell you something about my experience of being a female sub in public. And to do that, I’m going to have to reveal what might be the worst-kept secret on the internet.

For the last while, I have been in a Male/female (M/f) Dominant/submissive (D/s) relationship. The scope might be referred to as “in the bedroom”, but that would be misleading. It extends beyond the infliction of pain and the use of restraint in conventionally “sexual” situations, and into psychological submission. When we are together, I am always his sub, and he is always my Dom.

In this relationship, it’s actually never occurred to me to wonder if I am respected or valued or seen as an equal. I know I am. In the past I’ve been sexually and physically abused, and I’ve been in relationships that were psychologically abusive. I know when I’m being abused, and when I’m not. Anyone who wants to suggest I don’t, go right ahead. I have no problem with other people coming across as patronising ignorant fuckwits.

What fascinates me is how other people react to me when they realise I’m a sub. Oddly, there’s significant cross-over with how people react to my bisexuality.

I’m talking about fairly liberal, open-minded, licentious people who are (for the most part) not kinky. People who have spoken to me for the couple of minutes it takes to realise that I know my own mind and speak it. (I don’t really understand why so many vanilla people think subs are weak, and are surprised when they turn out to be strong. You don’t think this takes strength?) On Saturday night, I openly subbed for my Dom at a party. I wore my collar. There was enough “behaviour” for people to realise what I was. Overall, this was an enormous amount of fun for everyone, and something I was massively glad to be allowed to do. And I know some people would be disturbed by the sight of a woman being undressed by a circle of her lover’s friends, but that unease fails to take into account how I felt about it, which should be the most important thing.

There were a couple of times during the night, though, when the reactions were interesting.

Sometimes, just like when I tell people I’m bi, there’s the Jaded Disbelief. My sexuality isn’t real, it’s a put-on, a desperate attention-getting device. (My Dom gets this too, the whole “Oh yeah right” thing.) I’m acting, and if pushed far enough, I will crack, and react like a Normal Person. And that? The urge to make me Prove It? Is dangerous. If people in general both knew and accepted more about BDSM, for a start I wouldn’t have this pain where someone hit me in the small of the back. You know, over my kidney, right next to my spine. Something my Dom would never, ever do because it’s stupid and dangerous. A good Dom knows how to inflict pain without causing damage. He has no desire to cause serious injury, because BDSM is not abuse.

And then, just like when I tell people I’m bi, there’s the Salacious Fetishisation. This guy (it’s almost always a guy) simply can’t believe his eyes. He’s come into this believing it’s not real, and when it turns out to be genuine? He thinks it’s Christmas. The woman is doing what she’s told. She’s enjoying being beaten. He can, therefore, do anything he wants to her. Because he can’t tell BDSM from abuse. And he’s dangerous. If you read BDSM as abuse, you can’t read a boundary between the two, so you’re going to cross it.

Those are the more obvious and serious dangers. But let’s not forget about the quiet sneering, the concern-trolling, the fake pity. The theoretical discussions that erase my experience to my face. The things that ensure I won’t be coming to them for help.

I’m proud of my Dom, who kept me safe in difficult circumstances, who read little shifts in facial expression or small touches to realise when I was uncomfortable and needed rescuing. The nature of our relationship means he shows more active care for me than a vanilla lover would have to, not less.

I’m proud of what I am. It brings me peace and surety: the opposite of the effect of abuse. The nature of our relationship means I need to be stronger than a conventional lover, not weaker.

There are photos of me that perhaps resemble some of those White Ribbon ones. The idea of anyone seeing those as sexist, as abusive, makes me feel sick.

Someone else’s inability to tell the difference between a M/f D/s relationship and a sexist abusive one should be their problem, not mine. Yet that’s not how it works in practise. My life would be easier if more people were at least aware of the possibility that what they’re seeing might be consensual. In the meantime, if you’re really worried, can I suggest quietly coming to me and saying, “Are you all right?” In BDSM circles, we call this a check-in. We do it all the time. And when I say yes? Believe me.