Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kinky Christian Slut

Hi. My name is Angela, or Galiana, or PlaySmart, depending on the context, and I'm a Kinky Christian Slut.

I think it's time to admit it. Out loud. Here on my blog, which purports to be about my life, and yet, has remained heretofore silent on the topic of my religious beliefs.

My Christianity is clearly non-traditional, utterly different than the Christianity portrayed in most 21st century American mass media, very complicated to explain, and deeply personal to me.

It's Easter today, a big deal in my Christianity. So to help me contemplate, I looked up the words that moved me to first truly commit myself to following Christ.

It was Winter Quarter 1989. I was in a comparative religion class. Our textbook was then called "The Religions of Man" but has since been retitled to "The World's Religions" by Huston Smith, and since it has sold over 2.5 million copies, I assume everyone else's comparative region class used it, too.

Six pages in the Christianity chapter changed my world completely. I excerpted them here: The Good News.

When I re-read those words today, I was also inspired to finally get around to reading a Biblical interpretation of the issue of homosexuality, which I was delighted to find I agree with 100%, which concludes that the Bible does not indeed condemn loving, committed, consensual homosexual romantic partnerships. The video & transcript are here:

Together, those two pieces of writing pretty accurately sum up the emotional and intellectual cores of my faith, with one addition: I believe the conclusions reached by Matthew Vines about homosexuality extend to loving, consensual sex of all types, even outside the confines of a lifetime monogamous commitment, because I don't fundamentally believe that the cultures represented by the Bible had the context for non-exploitive, consensual, respectful sexual engagement in the way we do in the US in the 21st century.

I don't want to preach to anybody. What you believe is between you and you, and your higher power if you have one.

But I don't want to hide my beliefs anymore, either.

If my vertigo clears up enough, or even if my Summer-2012-to-Spring-2013 anti-concentration fog clears up enough, I may launch a podcast, or an advice column blog, or something like that.

I see non-monogamous advice on the web and podcasts, polyamorous advice, swinger advice, BDSM advice, kink advice... But never from a Christian.

I see Christian advice on the web, progressive Christian apologetics, Christian relationship advice... But never from a kinkster.

I don't see my own voice out here. Not yet.

So if I do manage to crawl out of the hole which has been waylaying me, I have slowly become convinced that I need to include both my non-monogamous kinkster truth and my Christian beliefs, and let my really freaky flag fly.

I plan on incorporating my beliefs as part of my opinions, for context, to explain why I would approach a situation in a certain manner. I hope I won't get obnoxious or pushy about. Y'all will help keep me in line, keep me honest, keep me respectful, right? Thanks. I knew I could count on you.

So you know how 12-step programs start with you saying your name, and then admitting your addiction, like, "Hi, I'm Angela and I'm an Adult Child of an Alcoholic", and when you do that, the others in the room with the same reason to be there answer back, "Hi, (your name)!" and when it happens, you realize that at the very least, for this one moment, you're not alone?

Well, this is my first step:

Hi. I'm Angela, or Galiana, or PlaySmart, depending on the context, and I'm a Kinky Christian Slut.

... deep breath in ... deep breath out ...

I wonder how long it will take for someone to answer me back.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Awesome Island of Misfit Toys

Written for friends on FetLife, where it made it to "Kinky & Popluar", which meant a lot of people read it and commented and clicked "love" for it. It started some cool conversations. It was fun. 


At a public kinkster event yesterday, I had a thoughtful conversation with a couple of people about their social anxieties, and found out later that two people had chosen to leave the event due to anxieties. Each person's circumstances and triggers and other contributing factors were different, of course, but I've been mulling, so I thought I'd write.

Indulge me for a moment, and mentally roll the issue of kinkster gatherings and social anxieties WAY back in time to the moment when any of these people admitted to themselves they may be interested in attending a kinkster event in the first place. Who admits to themselves they have kinky desires, much less that they want to talk about them with others? People who consider themselves "normal" and strive for "normalcy" as if it were a good thing? Probably not.

(Side rant: in my fanatical-and-not-at-all-humble opinion on this matter, "normal" is a terrible thing to want to be... It represents the mathematically most commonly occurring state. Would you strive to be "average"? No? Then don't hope to be "normal" either, because they represent the same thing. I hope for "healthy", which isn't normal. Be healthy. Don't be normal. Normal isn't healthy, it's just common. End of rant. Maybe.)

So if your perspective on your life is already outside of the box marked "normal", because you've always been OCD or ADD or on the autism spectrum, or anxious, or unusually fascinated by leather, or overweight, or underweight, or a closet anorexic or bulimic or compulsive eater, or an abuse survivor, or attracted to people of your gender, or prone to acting like a kid even though you're an adult, or ... Or... Or... (Fill in anything not considered normal here), well, then you're potentially more open to follow your own "abnormal" desires and wonder if others have them too.

Summary so far: if you'll never be normal anyway, then the entire world of abnormal behavior kind of opens up as a possibility for you. Why not, right?

Result: Kinksters are likely to be people who had other reasons to consider themselves abnormal before they were kinksters.

Therefore, kinkster communities can sometimes feel like an Island of Misfit Toys.

And that's kinda awesome, in my opinion. I'll explain.

So yeah, maybe there's a higher-than-average occurrence of social anxieties even without play going on. Then when you add in play -- which we do because we really really crave something about it from a primal part of ourselves which isn't particularly rational to begin with -- the odds of people bumping into quirky, darker, rougher parts of each other go up even further.

So someone gets overloaded and has to walk out without saying goodbye. Good for them for taking responsibility for their struggles, and not barfing their challenges all over a group of people gathered for a different purpose. I vote we applaud that choice as a mark of maturity and respect for consensual interactions.

So someone negotiates a scene, but freezes up before/during/after, or has a flash of strong emotions (this is assuming everything stayed within negotiated boundaries, and the emotion is expressed in a way that's not blaming or malicious). Good for them for getting far enough to hit a wall, and good for them for learning something new about themselves. It probably took a metric ton of courage to even try whatever it was in the first place.

But these quirks, these bumps, these flashes of fear or anxiety with all these people already starting outside the normal box, you know what it gives us? The real possibility of connecting with each other in ways which are emotionally honest, deeply encouraging, and affirming down to the core of our self-images.

I think when people talk about the sex / play / kink they like, they can often end up sharing views on spirituality, family histories, emotional struggles... The stuff you talk about with your very best friends, the stuff that matters most.

And when people actually share the experiences of kink / play / sex together, it can invite others into places in ourselves that feel really honest and pure and true, and knowing that someone saw that inside of me and still likes me, and even thanked me afterward... It can be healing on a visceral level that's hard to replicate other ways. At least for me.

So then, all of a sudden, less than a year after moving somewhere where you didn't know anybody at all and you feared you'd never make friends here, you find yourself on an island so full of other awesome misfit toys who are really amazing friends that you wonder why anyone ever wants to find friends from anywhere else. Because the toys here may be missing parts, but they are unbelievably awesome to play with.


I love you guys.

Friday, March 29, 2013

50, 30, and The Identity Exercises

Here's another one I wrote for some friends on Fet


I have a good friend turning 30 soon, a good friend turning 30 soon-ish, and a good friend turning 50 soon. Got me to thinking.

When I was in college, I was in therapy for family reasons, a theater major "because I learn more about what it is to be a human through stories than I do psychology or hard sciences" (that was my standard answer, and yes, I know it was pretentious), and heavily involved in a close-knit religious community which encouraged emotional honesty. So I basically thought about myself and my emotions ALL THE TIME. It sounds exhausting now, but obviously, it was what I needed then. Don't judge.

My religious wrestlings, therapeutic processes, and artistic growth often fed each other, but never as much as the week of The Identity Exercises.

In acting class, we had to make a list of our identities: daughter, niece, sister, student, actor, lighting designer, girlfriend, friend, dancer, mathematician, tutor, teacher, comedienne... Then my acting professor had a guy named Joe read his list. It included "boyfriend". She asked whose lists included "girlfriend", and I was picked to go up to demo.

I stood on stage with Joe, and the professor asked us to talk with each other as if we were interested in dating each other. She told him to start with the question, "How was class today?" and so we chatted, flirting. Within minutes, we were well on our way to our first kiss if nobody stopped us.

Then my professor said "And now, you're father / daughter." (which, first of all, was a brutally emotionally sadistic move, because I had only recently begun talking with my father again, but hadn't seen him in two years, and she knew that... but her irresponsible bitchery is not the point of this story) It was suddenly VERY AWKWARD as we both adjusted and he asked me again, "How was class today?"

The class told us afterward what they observed - when we were boyfriend/girlfriend, we stood closer, we touched more, we met each others' eyes, we laughed more easily... when we were father/daughter, we stood further apart, stood up straighter, both our hands went in pockets, our eyes narrowed... We both looked and acted completely differently.

I took the list to my therapist. After she helped me through wanting to strangle my professor, my therapist asked me to fill out the list more - recognize positive attributes of each role, identify roles where I could borrow confidence (student had confidence to spare for daughter...), and generally ponder the complexity of human interactions by mapping how I wanted to behave in each role.

(Hooray for competent cognitive/behavioral therapy: that therapist was an amazing gift)

Then the topic for the Fall Retreat was announced, with the kickoff talk, "What Would Change If You Really Believe God Loved You?" and there were all those identity roles and behavioral choices rolling around in my head, so I spent a week in a daze, imagining God pouring love over me in each of those roles, and soaking in the understanding that I could simply... choose to believe it. Or at least, to do my best to fake it until I believed it.

My next time in therapy, I was barfing all my thoughts to my therapist, and she asked, "So, with all this information, how do you see yourself in the future?" And I closed my eyes, and I imagined.

I was 50. I knew I was 50. I was wearing a sun hat, kneeling in earth, planting things, or maybe tending things that grow. I knew I was on my own land, and I knew that I enjoyed the gardening, and I looked up at something in the sky and wiped the sweat from my brow, and grinned, and I was... So. Amazingly. Peaceful.

I wasn't a peaceful kid. I wasn't a peaceful college student. I wasn't at peace with my family, my body, my career choices, my intellect, my talents... None of it. I saw myself as a constant barrage of insecurities and facades. Sure, I was honest, but almost I was almost unbearably messy. Spastic. Chaotic.

But she... This 50-year-old. She was... well... You've met peaceful, happy 50-year women, right? They're strong and solid and trustworthy and comforting and huggable and funny and amusing and wise, and ... y'know... awesome. I grew up in a big multi-generational church with many confident, awesome women in their 50s. And in that moment of imagining, I could see myself as one of them.

And I wanted it. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be guided by her. I wanted to know what she knew. I wanted to skip 30 years ahead and go to be her, immediately. Of course, I couldn't skip my 20s and 30s and 40s. Darn it.

But that vision of my 50-year-old self has continued to be my North Star. Literally everything else I thought I wanted for my life has changed completely since then, but in every season - reconciling with Dad, losing Dad when he died, my first marriage, my unexpected technical career, my divorce, my discovery of kink, my relationship now with my husband, my vertigo, losing the house, becoming a phone sex operator, and this past crazy year of explosive polyamory - in all these wildly disparate seasons, my 50-year-old self has always looked back at me with kind eyes and a peaceful-but-mischievous grin, and encouraged me to be like her.

So I guess I've lived my life as "What Would I Do If I Were 50 And Awesome?" And then I try to live up to that, as best I can.

When I turned 30, I was "happily" married, living in a house that we were "going to be in forever", and we were going to start having kids soon. I felt good about the external circumstances of my life, but I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with my emotional realities, how I felt about myself and my increasingly angry husband.

My 30-year-old reflections on my 50-year-old self led me to leave it all, so by the time I turned 32, I was divorced, redefining my faith and romantic relationships and sexual desires, and rebuilding my sense of self-worth from the ground up.

It felt, at the time, like I had wasted a huge chunk of time, that I would never "make it up", that I would always feel stunted by the choices and mistakes of my 20s. But now it's laughably easy to see that I had so much time ahead of me to make whatever I wanted. Several times over, in fact. For that matter, I couldn't have predicted my current life 15 months ago, much less 20 whole years!

So getting older doesn't bother me. I'm excited every year. I get to be closer to her, that vision of myself. Someday, I will meet her in myself, I think, although it may not be exactly at 50. Most importantly, every year, I can see ways that I become more like her.

So, to my good friend turning 50 soon, congratulations on getting to experience the awesomeness. I'm a little jealous. You may not always be peaceful, but neither will I. But you know stuff. You make good choices often. You're full of awesome. I hope you can appreciate it.

And to my good friends turning 30, I urge you to imagine a version of yourself at 50, full of every drop of awesome that you want to become, and to think about becoming her, more than you think about what you've already done or not done, and even more than you think about who you are today. Let her love you, nurture you, and assure you that you'll make it. Because you will.

I know what she'll say: you'll be amazing then, even more amazing than you are now. But let's face it, you're pretty damn amazing now.

Happy Birthdays, friends. I'm glad you were born. I'm glad I get to journey with you now. I'm looking forward to our journeys from here.

And hey, wait a minute: why don't I own a sun hat?