**Content note: This piece makes reference to a BDSM scene between consenting adults involving Daddy/girl play.
This is how I get That Feeling:
Saturday afternoon. I am face down on her bed, jeans pulled around my knees, lace shorts pushed up to expose my ass. My queer butch Daddy-for-today cracks a folded leather belt across me. My face is buried in her comforter and my muscles contract and release in cycles, in waves, and I feel It. That. A sensation that is physical but also something else, something more, something that for me only comes when I am being pushed and driven and used.
It feels a lot like having a lump in my throat before crying, except it runs the entire length of my body, deep in my core, sharp, tingling, a kind of tight swelling, sensory but intangible, real and immediate and on the verge of something, verging on release, not an orgasmic kind of release necessarily, just catharsis, maybe that is it, the prelude to catharsis. This feeling in my core like an icicle that I curl myself around. Hard and cold.
She flings the leather on me again where it already hurts. I have been, am being good but she pushes me. That is part of being good: accepting what she gives and stretching myself to take more than in the moment I think I can. The bedding soaks up my whine-moan-gasp-beg-pant-choke-scream-sigh, a sound as wound-up and taught and tangled as my insides. I hug the icicle. Cling to it, twist inward around it, coiling. The tighter I coil the more I can let go.
To say that in this moment I feel good would be an understatement and a misstatement. That Feeling isn’t pleasure. It is not suffering. It is some kind of layered and faceted fullness, highness, extremeness that does not exist elsewhere.
That Feeling is the sense of touching my hurt, my needs and desires, my past-present-future, my vulnerability, my strength, my terrors, the work that I am doing and have yet to do. And maybe that is why sex positivity feels like only the tip of the iceberg for me. I am grateful to the imperative role of sex positivity in battling shame and throwing open the doors to pleasure. That work is needed, sorely. But a narrative focused just on positivity does not always directly address my journey and my struggles.
In my experience of inching towards sexual flourishing, it has been crucial to acknowledge, pay respect to, allow space for what is dark and complex and painful and fraught. And that doesn’t just mean kink, by the way; not only is kink a wide world that can be as celebratory as it can be wonderfully wicked, but the world of vanilla sex too can provide space for shadows and vulnerabilities if so desired. What I do mean is that in our imperfect and so often brutal world I am not satisfied to prescribe positivity and call our problems solved. If we are to heal anything, if we are to live into the fullness of ourselves and each other, we might do well to carefully look at both darkness and light, connect with our suffering and our fears, hold space for what is uncomfortable, challenging, unresolved.
I have survived and I have witnessed harm, violence and ugliness. I work with survivors of sexual assault; I am myself a decade into gradually picking apart the knots of my personal and cultural traumas. I refuse simplicity. Luckily for me, I grew up with parents who spared me any condemnations of sexual behavior, desire, or variation, and I believe that gave me a head start on healthy sexuality. But puritanism isn’t the only menace and parents aren’t the only teachers. Traumas and manipulations accumulate on interpersonal and cultural levels. We may be subjected to all manner of damaging prescriptions and proscriptions, norms and hierarchies, competition, messages of scarcity, winner-loser models of relationships, ways we are constricted and divided and devalued, pitted against each other and against our own selves, told we are not right or not enough.
Beyond positivity: I encourage affirmation. I want to affirm people for the kind of sex they choose to have and choose not to have---and I want people to feel free to have and not have sex in whatever ways will affirm them. I want to affirm your sexuality and I want your sexuality to be an affirmation of you: whatever your experience; whatever your coordinates on the map, in your journey, in your exploration; whatever your relationship to sexuality in the past and in this moment; whatever complex mosaic of coexistent negative and positive truths sexuality may hold for you.
Let us begin with positivity, if we need to. Let us especially shout from the rooftops that we can and must be the experts of our own pleasure and that we deserve not just partners but a world that celebrates our pleasure---and our deepest fulfillment.
Let us not stop with positivity. Let us hold space for all the rest of it so that we can be honest with ourselves and with each other, so that we can also bring into our movement---and into our vision of a better world---those that cannot deny the difficulty, the pain, the violence they have survived and our surviving.
For me, the gift and the necessity of That Feeling is to be brought back into my body, to be slammed into the immediate and concrete physical, and at the same time feel, not just think about but feel, the entire topography of my experience. I don’t know what works or will work for someone else… but I am fighting for a world that allows its discovery.
Maddie0 is the sexytimes pseudonym of an angry and loving semifemme queer activist/advocate/artist in the DC area.