I had a great time last night at the Queering Power Dynamics workshop put on by Sinclair Sexsmith. Sinclair is a friend and a kick ass writer, as well as, a very smart and savvy teacher. The workshop was at the Seattle Center for Sex Positive Culture, marking my first visit to that establishment.
Trigger warning: if power play involving parent/child role play disturbs you, feel free to stop reading now.
This is the first time Sexsmith has led this workshop which is based on her own exploration of Daddy/girl dynamics and previous work teaching and learning about gender, sexuality and kink. Sexsmith’s model for being a Daddy to her girlfriend comes from the leather community. A leather Daddy/boy relationship doesn’t necessarily infer incest play and that is why it appeals to her. Her Daddy style is more about nurturing, care-taking and mentoring. Not that there isn’t sex… have you read the blog entries? Hot.
Power dynamics are hot, fertile, deep play grounds for discovering more about yourself and your partner. Power dynamics come in sexual and non-sexual varieties but they all employ an imbalance of power between the participants. Daddy/girl or boy, Mommy/girl or boy, Teacher/student, Coach/player, Uncle Lester/impressionable young Kyle. So many combinations, so many ways to play and get dirty and have fun. And non-sexual, you ask? What’s that about? There were some people at the workshop who liked having a relationship where they could be ‘little’ (young, innocent, small), as a way of being more playful, of being cared for, coddled, spoiled, but not necessarily in a sexual way. The idea of getting ice cream became a theme through-out the night. And yes, sometimes Daddies need ice cream, too.
Playing with power dynamics, playing with the power distance or PDI between individuals, has a long history in the kink community. Sexsmith was particularly advocating queering that dynamic. What does she mean by ‘queering it’? “Intentionally pushing boundaries of gender and sexuality, by incorporating smart gender and smart power dynamics.”
Sexsmith emphasized the importance of being intentional. You can sometimes fall into a power dynamic with someone, but that doesn’t necessarily yield the best results for all involved. One partner being over-bearing and controlling without discussion and negotiation on the part of all participants does not make for smart power dynamic play. Her recommendation is that you work on the scene ahead of time, being conscious of the fact that power play, especially age play, can unearth a lot of emotional friction, some previously unanticipated.
Speaking from my own experience, talking about it won’t reduce the hotness. Roxy and I have spent a lot of time talking about what we do and do not want to have happen in a power play scene. We’ve done some role-play sexting, trying out different scenarios, words and characters. We’ve played with those dynamics enough now that we can flow into a scene without a lot of preparation, but we have the vocab and the experience to do that — we know the right trigger words, or actions, and we read each other well enough to know — even without being told — if we’re going in the right direction or not. You’ve got to be OK with stopping, or slowing down, or changing direction. Messing around with taboos like age play and incest require trust, at least for me. Build trust by communicating, listening, responding quickly and with a positive and supportive attitude. OK, that’s from my experience, now back to my notes from the workshop.
Sinclair is a big believer in experimentation. “Sex play and kink play should be seen as an experiment”, as in, use the scientific method (very appealing to this science geek).
- Conduct the experiment, consider the variables you’ve got to work with (location, context, time of day, energy levels)
- Collect the data: what happened, which variables made a difference
- Debrief: what worked, what didn’t work, what hit a soft spot, what made you hard
- Check-in continually during the experiment: you’re attempting to find something that works for both of you, don’t expect it to work perfectly the first time, leave room and flexibility to change things up, to pause in the middle, etc.
Age play and power play isn’t necessarily about non-consensual sex play or incest play. But sometimes it is. I’m going to talk about that part of the discussion, so if that’s a trigger for you, please feel free to stop now or skip ahead.
The conversation turned to incest play, the kind of Daddy/girl play that Sinclair admittedly doesn’t have interest in. She acknowledged that this is a very taboo area for some people, and that there is a lot of misinformed opinion (readily available to you if you express interest or attraction to age play amongst the less tolerant). There was a longish quiet pause when she looked to the audience to see if anyone wanted to chime in on the topic, so I took the plunge.
I shared some things from my experiences with Roxy. Yes, we have done some age play: Daddy/girl, Older Neighbor Man/younger guy, Coach/player, Teacher/student, Uncle Lester/nephew. Each of these has its challenges in terms of dealing with what those roles call up in us emotionally — during and after a scene. The Daddy/girl incest play is both the hottest and most problematic for both of us. I saw some nods from other folks when I talked about the conflict between being the parents of young children and wanting to play a scene of parent/child incest. I have no problem drawing the line between playing an incest scene with another adult and the real crime and horror of actual incest.
And it is truly hot. The way Roxy and I play any of our scenes, it’s a collaboration. One of us starts with a direction for the scene but we’re always paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal cues given by the other. Sometimes by the time we’re finished, lying exhausted and satisfied in each others arms, we’re both surprised by where the scene ended up, and all the twists and turns it took to get there. It’s a bit like sexual improv, each of us playing off the other, glorying in our mutual skill and range.
As for justifying why I can get off on age/incest/power differential play and still be a healthy parent and good member of society, I’ll just say this: I know the difference and I know what gets me off and I decided a long time ago that I shouldn’t play critic to my desires. Sinclair had a great quote from Corey Alexander (erotic writer, educator and smart guy): “You don’t have to know why something interests you.”
In other words, you don’t have to dissect it and get inside it and discuss it and be a geek about it… though that’s what Sinclair (and Roxy and I) certainly like to do. Roxy and I get so much out of our ‘post-game discussions’ that I can’t imagine not spending hours and days rehashing and revisiting and, *sigh* reliving the scenes we do.
Let’s see.. lots more in my notes, but you really should go to this workshop by Sinclair if you get the chance. My advice is that if you’ve wanted to try power play, you should. Trying is not the same as dedicating your life. Experiment, make it fun for you and your partner. Even if you think you may want to get into some extreme power play at some point, start out easy — especially if your partner is less enthused. Start with assignments, start with each of you getting a chance to be in the power position and figure out what works. The results may surprise you. Roxy and I have had some weekends when we move so fluidly from one role and character and power vantage to another that we have a hard time charting all of it afterward. And be flexible in yourself. To me the ultimate release is not over-controlling myself. For example, there was a scene that surprised both of us: Roxy came at me as a Very Bad Man with one hand on my throat and another holding a gun to my head. She expected a boy response from me, I responded as a girl (like I said, surprised the hell out of me, too). We went with it, it was a seriously hot scene. Afterward, we recognized how awesome it is that we can go with that kind of unexpected twist.
Another aspect we talked about in the workshop was the idea of giving direction in mid-scene. That can be hard, it’s usually easier to pause and discuss before continuing. However, both Roxy and I manage to do a little subtle co-directing from the sub position, usually without breaking the scene.
Other twists come in the form of gender queering. You might assume that when Roxy is playing the elder role, she’s a Mommy or Aunt, or something like that. On the contrary, when she plays older, she plays male. She is a cruel and devastating Uncle Lester. She is a persuasive and perverse Neighbor Guy. She is a very bad Daddy with a sexually precocious son. In short, we queer the hell out of our power dynamics. We move in and out of gender and role as suits our mood and energy level. I love that flexibility, it feels like power, it feels like the best sexy partnership ever (and it is).
Sinclair emphasized communication over and over again and I agree wholeheartedly. Communication and trust. Taking your time and talking through a scene, and before the scene, all builds trust. Respect your partner and stop or change direction when needed. Don’t see a stopped scene as the end of all power play scenes, maybe it’s just not a good night/day/location/mood. Talk it over, work it out, build trust, try again.
Sinclair did a great job with this workshop, it was well worth the drive to Seattle and the cost of the class. I highly recommend it, even if you’re already playing with power dynamics. Sinclair has great information to share from her experiences and from the classes she’s taken and given on gender and sexuality.
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