Saturday, October 17

If you've nothing good to say...

With 'Love our lurkers' day having just passed I've been reflecting on this time last year. I had just signed up to Spankfinder, the previous month and was taking my first shaky steps from lurking to chatting.

Back then I was in a marathon emailing session with Caroline Grey discussing kink the moon and the stars. I was also chatting to her partner Topcat and we were but one week off meeting for the first time! They would be the first of many online folk that I would happily go on to meet in person.

Caroline's was the first blog I commented on with any regularity. And between the blog and my email exchanges with both her and Topcat, I built up a picture in my head of what they'd be like. I'm sure they did the same with me.

When we met some things about them were exactly as I had expected, and others were different. I hasten to add not in a negative sense at all and this process of reconciling preconceptions with reality is one I've had to do again and again.

For example, in my opinion, Caroline is even more mischievous in real life but is often very thoughtful and reflective too. While HH is not at as scary as I thought he'd be and is really very sweet in person and Abel is not nearly as dominant, but just as friendly as I expected. (Although HH and Abel can both be very scary and dominant in an actual scene!)

I'm thinking over all that now as I look back on nearly a full year in this scene. Put somewhat into focus by recently meeting another new friend and us both candidly talking of how the other did and did not meet expectations.

It made me think of how we create an image of ourselves online through our site profiles, comments on blogs and public chats, on sites like IC and Fetlife. The things we say on Twitter, the pics we show of ourselves and those of us who blog, what we say on our blogs. All of these allow people build up an expectation of what we'll be like in person.

I've also been thinking about how that image can be altered by what others tell us. How often someone has told me, "just wait until you meet so and so, you'll really love them." Which I find very hard, being afraid that I won't like them at all, disappointing everyone concerned. Although I have to admit to being a lil guilty of this myself!

But it's the opposite side of it that's more concerning; the negative recommendation. "I doubt you'll like that person at all, you don't play the same way" or "you'll have nothing in common."

I understand this is only human and not limited to kinky people at all. I also know that most of the time my friends are looking out for me. And of course I would want them to advise me of someone who broke limits, ignored safewords and was unsafe to meet. But in general I like to make up my own mind on people.

And blogs are another factor in image building and breaking. When I started my own blog I intended to honestly record and assess my experiences in the scene. But I quickly found myself self-censoring to some degree. I leave out some details and sometimes I refrain from discussing an incident at all.

One form of this censorship is that I don't write in any detail about my sexual experiences or partners. It's not that such things don't happen or indeed that I don't enjoy them but for me personally it's not something I feel comfortable about discussing on this blog. Partly because I don't want to write about the intimate details of what I get up to with people in the scene, something they may feel even more private about than I do.

But also because Emma Jane is just one step removed from the real me. She has the same personality and approach to life, just enhanced through my core kink of CP and discipline. The things her more depraved alter ego may get up to distract from who she really is and what she wants. I don't want to meet other people based on that alter ego.

My other form of censorship is that I try not to write anything negative about someone I have played with. The scene is too small. Even if I don't name the player, it can be pretty easy to work out who I'm talking about.

I'm a firm believer in the bottom taking as equal responsibility for the scene as the top. For me taking responsibility means facing up to the difficult conversations, being honest with the other person and not blaming them for a scene not working out. Or not telling them the scene was great when you really didn't think it was. And this works both ways, the top needs to give honest feedback to the bottom too.

If I have a problem or an issue in a scene then the only person I really need to talk to is the person I'm playing with. And even if I don't get the courage to interrupt the scene itself or even speak up directly post scene it has to be said afterwards.

This post scene communication can take many forms. From a gentle "I'd prefer if you did X this way" to a "please don't do that again" or "I can't read you well enough for you not to safeword" to a more serious "you broke a limit I set in stone and I don't want to play with you anymore."

Like all things in life, or perhaps even more so, reputation is a very important ingredient in this thing we do. Therefore we must be very conscious of how easy it is to harm one. But we also need to bear in mind that one person's rubbish is another person's gold. Just because you don't click with someone or like how they play, as long as they weren't unsafe or reckless, then don't affect their chances of playing with others.

As my grandmother used to tell me, if you've nothing good to say about someone, then don't say anything at all.


Caroline Grey said...

Ten hundred thousand gold stars. Amazing and important post.

catherine said...

@Emma Jane: Being a contrary creature, I'd heard so much about you before we met and so many people had gushed about how well we'd get on that I was really put off, worried about meeting you and convinced you'd be horrendously irritating. And then I met you, and let's just say you kind of grew on me ;) - an unexpectedly nice way round for the whole "expectations" thing to go.

As for the communication thing, it's vital. Of course, with some people, you will just click, and that's great. But it's too easy to play a scene with someone new, for an aspect of it not to click, and then to mentally write that person off as being not compatible. I think you really limit your potential pool of playmates that way. Far better to discuss it with them once the scene is done, and who knows - the next time you play together, it could really work. That does take courage but it's what you'd do to grow and deepen a relationship with a vanilla friend, so why do we worry about (or avoid) working at our kinky relationships?

Of course, not everyone is compatible in the end, and the differences may be so fundamental as to make the situation unworkable, but it's a shame not to try - there are few enough of us players that I think we have to be prepared to work that little bit harder.

And yes, the last sentence says it all. It was a favourite with my prep school headmistress too :) Great post Ems, thank you.

Graham said...

A lovely thoughtful post, Emma Jane. Interesting to read your observations after a year in scene - and helpful to those of us who are newer and (much) less experienced. Particularly your points about the importance of honesty, communication and mutual responsibility.

It is interesting, the whole meeting-in-real-life and breaking-of-the-mental-image that goes on in this world. There's always something gained and lost. (I kind of have to giggle when I think of some of the preconceptions I held at one time - sometimes years ago - about bloggers I've since met in person!)

Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with your decision to leave drama and negativity out of your blog. Yay for your grandma : )

Master Retep said...

From someone who only "came into" the scene one year ago, by your own account, this is a remarkably perceptive and mature analysis. It contains excellent advice for any Newbies, and plenty of Oldies, who may not have paused long enough to consider the intertwining of fantasy and reality. Reading, writing and playing in this scene is a bit like visiting a grand house which is open to the public, but where the residents still live. One must respect the corridors or garden paths marked "Do Not Enter" and resist the temptation to focus a camera lens on the windows of the private area.

This is one blog post which should be compulsory reading, but don't worry, I won't print it off and leave it on the tables at Nimhneach, much as I believe someone should.

Paul said...

EmmaJane, an excellent post, your Grandmother was a wise woman.
That is a rule that I devoutly follow.
Warm hugs,

Eliane said...

I think communication is so important, especially from "bottoms". It's very easy of us to be annoyed when a top does something we don't necessarily like, but at the end of the day, if we don't communicate that back to them, they aer not going to know that anything was wrong. No one is responsible for our safety and satisfaction but us.

TC said...

Holy God has it been a year already? You've come a long way in the last year. So have we all, I guess.

Not surprisingly, I have nothing but good to say about you and your fine blog. This internet thingy can be such a boon for opening minds/doors and finding new people for play or otherwise. At the end of the day though, a time comes to switch the computer off and start interacting with fellow humans in the flesh. Web personae are great and I love conjuring up pictures of these massively interesting people yet they are only projected images that can never encapsulate the whole person. Leaving the play element aside for a second, until we sit down and break bread or share a drink together and eventually discuss non-spanking life stuff, it's somewhat harder for really strong bonds to form. And when they do form, they're worth keeping alive. Even if only sporadically and not as often as one would wish due to geography etc.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is this. Like EmmaJane did a short year ago, connect with folks online of course but try to get out there and become actively involved in whatever scene is close by. There is so so much to gain. Because others are only too happy to give. And give everyone a fair crack of the whip at first and make up your own minds about people when you do finally meet in person. Then the real business of becoming firm friends can take off. In fairness, it seems many commentators here do all that pretty well already :)

Erik said...

Again one of these posts so wise so wonderful

Abel1234 said...

If anyone ever creates a site to store the very best posts from various blogs with advice on life in the scene, this should be on it. A thought-provoking "must read".

Abel (pleading guilty on the "I think you'll really like..." front!)

catherine said...

@Abel: Guilty? Not strong enough. More like chief culprit. Not so much "I think you'll really like" as "oh, I'm so looking forward to meeting Emma Jane, you're so going to love her, she's fabulous, you're so going to get on, oh, I really hope you like her..." - no pressure then! ;) xxx

EmmaJane said...

Thanks for all the comments guys, great to get your perspectives too.

@Abel, yes you are a serious offender indeed, but as I admitted I can be guilty of this too.

And anyway it is by far the least serious of the two offences, you are afterall saying good things :)

Cerys said...

A very thoughtful post, if you don't mind a quick "and me!" additional comment in the same vein.

And what a wise grandmother.........

Zille Defeu said...

"I'm a firm believer in the bottom taking as equal responsibility for the scene as the top. "

Exactly! *During* the scene, the bottom needs to let the top run the show (with the obvious caveat that the bottom must speak up in a timely manner with an vital information that the top needs to know!) but before and after the scene, the bottom is just as responsible as the top for giving the top correct information, and honest thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

Both people need to be strong people, for kinky stuff to work and not blow up into disaster! "Bottom" does NOT mean "weak"!