Sunday, January 31, 2016

One Six Nine: Reports

I've been reading a piece by Ms. Flox, who's one of the best and most insightful of the sex bloggers out on the aether. I'll note that I've been reading her work in one form or another for a decade or more, and I'm quite the fan. Do read her work if you have the opportunity.

Ms. Flox writes that she has a notebook (a rather elegant one, if the photo accompanying her piece is correct) in which she and her partner(s) write down their sexual thoughts and experiences and keep an account of their encounters. She writes that the notebook is actually a "lab notebook", filled with "lab reports".

My first thought was probably predictable. I looked at the photograph of the notebook and thought that if I were going to try a similar project, I'd use a very different notebook. I'd want something much larger, something that exuded age. I'd look for something the size of an antique ledger, something in eighteenth-century binding. Of course I'd only write in it with a dip pen, in hand-blended coloured inks. I'd certainly want it to be much more a grimoire than a lab notebook or even a journal. If you're imagining me writing in it by lamplight or candlelight while dressed in an academic robe from Cambridge in the late 1700s, you'd almost certainly be reading my mind.

Ms. Flox and her partner(s) both write in her lab notebook. I'm assuming that they read one another's entries and share their thoughts. That's not something I could ever do. Remember, I'm writing in what I'd see as a grimoire. Those writings are secret and closely guarded. I'd never let anyone else read what I wrote in a journal about sexual thoughts and experiences. After all, I have read Tanizaki's "The Key".  Whatever you're writing in the journal can go bad very quickly. It may start off as straightforward reportage and then graduate to passages meant to entice and excite the other reader(s). But it can go very bad very quickly. Jealousy, envy, self-justification, mockery, spite--- all those things can appear in a heartbeat. That's not a risk I'd take.

And a "lab notebook" does make you vulnerable to the outside world. It's evidence, after all. Proof that you've had bad (or incorrect, or problematic) thoughts. Proof that your performance or enticements or fantasies failed to please a partner. Proof of failure, proof that you're a failure.. Are you willing to risk it falling into outsiders' hands?

We live in the age of the gender wars. You know this.  To have any fantasies, kinks, or particularized interests these days is deeply risky. Your kinks and fantasies may be politically "problematic". Or they may make you seem pathetic and needy or a failure in some way. To be interested in anything non-vanilla is to be at risk of mockery, derision, and contempt. Never forget that in a world of social media, you can almost instantly shamed worldwide, and you run a very clear risk that the shame will flow into the flesh-and-blood world where you have friends and employers and professional clients and contacts.

There was a time when I enjoyed talking with lovely young companions about adventures and explorations, about things we could try together. There was a time when I wanted to know how a lover experienced what we did together and how I could make it better for her. But this is the age of the gender wars. All those decades of magazine articles telling you to "communicate" and be "open" have to be erased. The lab notebook, the things in the lab notebook, would be far too risky to have around. The same, by the way, is true of love letters. Too risky--- a sign of emotional neediness, if nothing else. And if the love letters are about erotic plans and possibilities, you're back to the lab notebook. Others can find out that you enjoy things, want to try things, that are regarded as pathetic or contemptible or grotesque and ridiculous. How much risk are you willing to take?

Last week we saw what can happen on social media. The rapper Kanye West was mocked by a particularly vile ex for what he liked done to him in bed. He's no one I feel any particular sympathy for,  mind you. I dislike his music, dislike him as a person and a persona, dislike his attitudes, dislike his wife and her extended family. Be clear about those things. But I was horrified and appalled that the loathsome ex had the power to reduce him to sputtering and futile denials and subject him to web-wide shaming and contempt by claiming that he had a particular sexual kink. Remember this, here in the new century and the age of the gender wars: you cannot (and perhaps especially if you're male) afford to have any non-vanilla kinks or interests. To be safe, you cannot afford to have any interests at all. You cannot afford to have fantasies. You cannot afford to express approval or interest in (let alone arousal by) any particular things at all. You cannot afford to be in a position where you can be judged for what excites you or for your performance.  You cannot afford to have these things down on paper or on a screen.

A "lab notebook" filled with "lab reports" about what you really like, or what you'd like to try, with reports by a partner about what you do--- and what you do wrong ---is as dangerous as a Stasi dossier back in the years of the DDR.

I once told a lovely young companion that her body was like the map of an unknown country, a new land for me to explore. She was thrilled when I said that, and she kissed me and asked rhetorically why no one had ever said that to her before. That wasn't so very many years ago. I'd never say that to anyone now.  I've always seen myself as someone whose skills were about telling stories, about creating worlds for myself and a lover. I've seen myself as a gentleman of a Certain Age, and thought that the one advantage my age gave me was that I could offer up experiments and recherché games. I've had to give up those ideas. I won't risk telling anyone what I might like; I won't put myself in a position where my fantasies are derided as pathetic or poorly-constructed or boring.

Well, Ms. Flox may share things with her partner(s). But here and now, I can't afford that. No lab reports, no lab notes. No discussions about making things better, or about things to try. If I ever kept a notebook, it would be guarded as fiercely as any grimoire. The safest thing of all is to have no secrets,  to do nothing and think nothing that could be mocked. At the very least, secrets have to be protected by coded language and dead languages and clear denials to all questions. It's a cruel age, and some risks aren't worth taking.

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