[Guest Blog] What Cats Can Teach Us About Boundaries by Quenby

It’s a rare gem of a guest pitch that can say something incredibly important and make me giggle my ass off at the same time. That’s why this idea from Quenby went into the instant “yes!” pile. As a consent nerd and self-obsessed cat lady, I love the way they manage to nail the essence of both cats and boundaries in this piece. Let’s dive in…

What Cats Can Teach Us About Boundaries

Recently I was discussing boundaries with my datemate AJ and they said something that stuck with me. “When it comes to physical affection, I’m a bit like a cat!” (no, this isn’t a piece about kitten play!). This was a cute moment between the two of us, but the more I think about it, the more I think cats actually can teach us a few important things about setting boundaries.

It can take time.

You don’t walk straight up to a cat and pet them, you give them space and let the cat come to you. Whether it’s your first time meeting someone, or you’ve been dating for a while, sometimes you need to give your partner space. As someone who tends towards physical affection, this took me some time to get used to, and it’s something I still try to check myself on. But I try to come in without expectations, and give a partner time to relax and adjust to my presence. Letting them come to me can help ensure they’re comfortable and helps build the trust needed for us to feel safe lowering our inhibitions and exploring different forms of affection. And otherwise you’re just chasing a disgruntled cat around the house.

If a cat wants to be stroked, they will let you know.

If they want a belly rub they will let you know, and if they want food they will definitely let you know! Affection must be given and received on terms that everyone enjoys. You have to pay attention to your partners verbal and non-verbal signals, and take cues from them. As part of this we can also draw in the idea of love languages (the different ways in which people show that they care for each other.) Ultimately you need to communicate with a partner and find the ways you can express affection in a way that everyone appreciates. Because otherwise it’s not about your partner, it’s not about sharing a connection, its just about taking what you want from the other person.

Sometimes when you’re petting a cat they’ll suddenly stand up and walk away, because they’ve decided that they’ve had enough.

For consent to be meaningful, it must be continuous. Consent is not a singular moment, it doesn’t mean agreeing to something and then being obliged to stick with it. If you stop enjoying something, it’s always ok to stop. It can be hard to remember this when you’re in the moment. When your partner is right in front of you, excited for something that you also really wanted moments before, it can be hard to speak up. But (and lets say it together this time) if you stop enjoying something, it’s always okay to stop! And if your partner doesn’t respect that, they are in the wrong. And that leads us neatly to the final lesson.

Cats aren’t generally aggressive unless provoked first

But if you don’t follow these rules they will lash out, and those claw marks on your face will be your own fucking fault. If somebody fails to respect your boundaries, then you are entitled to be pissed off at them. Whether or not they crossed that boundary intentionally, they’ve fucked up and must take responsibility for pushing those boundaries. You have a right to establish boundaries and you have a right to enforce those boundaries.

This is intended as a light-hearted take on a serious topic – obviously human relationships are too complex and nuanced to be comprehensively explained by cats. But I think that the core lessons I’ve drawn out in this piece are a good starting point. Make time and space to develop trust, listen to what each person is saying. Above all respect the right to boundaries, and respect that those boundaries might change

However, it is also important to recognise that cats are not perfect models for consent practices. Below is a non-comprehensive list of lessons my partners cat really needs to learn on this subject.

What cats CAN’T teach us about consent:

– You should ask before showing someone your asshole, I’m sure it’s lovely but that’s not a dynamic I want to explore with you.

– Stabbing someones thighs should be discussed ahead of time. There are nicer ways to ask for attention you vicious little cutie.

– Climbing into bed while a couple are having sex is considered rude. Yes, we both love you, but in a very different way to how we love one another.

Quenby is a queer perfomer, writer, and activist. If you liked this post you can check out their blog, or follow them on FB and Twitter @QuenbyCreatives.

The Hard Limits That Changed

It’s #KinkMonth this October. To celebrate, I’m writing a post a day inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project.

Today is all about limits. Kayla and John ask:

Do you know what your hard limits are? Are there a few things you’d like to try but you’re a little nervous? They’re such a big part of D/s and kink, it’s never a bad idea to think about them no matter where you are in your relationship.

Hard limits are an interesting thing. In a nutshell, a hard limit is a thing you absolutely will not do under any circumstances. We all have them and we must respect and honour our own and our partner’s.

What people won’t often tell you, though, is that hard limits can change. Some will never change, and that’s okay. But some will shift over time. A “fuck no” might become a “well, maybe…” From there, it might go back to being a “no,” or it might become a firm “yes.”

Mine have certainly shifted over time. I have a few that will almost certainly never change (DD/lg, ageplay, scat, cutting, to name just a few) but others, like those included below, have fluctuated and evolved over the years.

Anal sex

I’ve had a turbulent relationship with anal sex over the years. Pressure to engage in it long before I was ready made me shut down and close myself off to the possibility. For a long time, I declared anal a hard boundary and made it clear to anyone I had sex with that butt stuff was off the table.

The secret to cracking this limit was that I had to come to it in my own time. I had to be in a situation with enough love, trust and intimacy to enable me to explore it safely. In other words, I needed a space where I could peek around this particular door, knowing it’d be safe and okay to slam it shut again if I needed to.

I’m only engaging in it with Mr CK at the current time, but anal sex has moved from a hard limit to one of my favourite activities in the space of a few years.

Topping

Yep. Your card-carrying Twue Switch over here once insisted that she would never, ever Top or Dominate somebody under any circumstances. I once safeworded out of a threesome because the guy tried to Dom me into Domming the other woman.

And then, well, I got curious. I wanted to see what it was like. For science, you understand. To better appreciate the other side of the slash. What I didn’t expect was to like it as much as I did. (I wrote a little about that!)

I’m still about 80-99% sub (percentages vary on any given day!) but switchiness is a pretty key component of my sexual make-up and how I like to play these days.

Play-piercing

For years I simply could not understand the appeal of this. The idea of it viscerally squicked me the fuck out.

So why did I try it? Mainly, I think, to say I had. I thought it might be a funny story, a crazy anecdote to share about that time I explored a super edgy activity. And also, a little bit, because I was annoyed at myself for being so afraid of it.

It’s still very much in the “soft limit” category – a very occasional activity (literally three times ever) and one I have to be extremely careful with, for mental and physical health reasons as well as obvious safety concerns. Not to mention, of course, the sheer amount of trust required and the fact that I wouldn’t let anyone do this to me who hadn’t been trained in at least the basics by an expert.

And one that changed back: 24/7 D/s

For years, I insisted I would never do a 24/7 relationship – the idea of letting somebody have that level of control over me was, frankly, too terrifying to comprehend.

So why did I decide suddenly, in my early 20s, that I wanted it? Why did I ask my sometimes-Dom boyfriend to be my Master? The answer to that is complex and multi-faceted, but sadly the kernel at the core is this: I did it to justify to myself the fact that he already had pretty much complete control over my body, emotions, heart and life. I already barely breathed without permission, so why not stick a collar on it and call it kink?

Of course I understand that not all 24/7 relationships are abusive. There are some great and wonderful ones out there! (Hi, Kayla & John!) But that experience was valuable for me, if only because it taught me that that life isn’t for me. I don’t want to answer to anyone except in very limited and negotiated capacities. I certainly don’t ever want to hand over control over my entire life again.

Remember: limits can change! And that’s okay!

I now have three categories of limits: hard limits (NOPE NEVER ABSOLUTELY NOT,) soft limits (sometimes, under certain circumstances, with lots of negotiation,) and only-with-Mr-CK limits (things I won’t do with anyone but him.)

Your limits will change over time too. We’re humans and change is part of what we do. What’s important is to check in with yourself regularly, and keep communicating with your partner along the way!

Kinky item of the day: Jute 5mm, my bondage rope of choice. The smell, the feel, the tightness across my skin… mmmm! (This is not an affiliate link and I have no connection to the company, I just love their rope.)

Self Care for ‘Con-Goers

Mr CK and I are off to a kinky Convention for the weekend tomorrow, so it seemed like a good time to revisit this piece I wrote last year on taking care of yourself at a Con(vention/ference,) update it with some new things I’ve learned and share it with y’all.

‘Cons can be an intense time, as anyone who has been to one will know. All the fun things to see, do and learn, plus the late nights and the heady feeling of being among Your People can be quite a potent cocktail. (And that’s before you mix in a few actual cocktails, which many of us do partake of when at events.)

Things can also go from “Awesome” to “Burnout” really fast, and I’ve been doing this long enough now to learn a few tricks to come out the other side still physically and emotionally intact. Follow these seven easy steps for your best ‘Con ever.

1. Biology Comes First

Sleep. If you know you need six hours of sleep to not be a walking zombie, don’t try to get by on three. Take a freaking nap if you need to.

Eat. A lot of events provide food, so you really have no excuse – but even if food isn’t laid on there’s bound to be a lunch hour. Don’t forget to make time to have dinner between the day’s activities and the evening entertainments. Carry snack bars, nuts, fruit or chocolate in your bag for a quick pick-me-up. And for the love of all that is kinky, eat breakfast.

Hydrate. Beer doesn’t count. This is especially important in the hot weather we’ve been having lately!

Carry any medication you need or think you’re likely to need (more on this in point 5.) Find out who the First Aiders are and who to go to if you need urgent medical help. In an emergency, any passerby can run for help for you.

In short, take care of your body and your physical wellbeing first. The rest will follow.

2. You Don’t Have To Do Everything

You know how it’s better to leave a really awesome scene going, “wow, I would have loved to go further!” rather than, “holy shit, I went too far?”

‘Cons are the same.

You do not have to go to Every Single Session. Promise! You do not have to scene with every hot person you meet. If you’re there with a partner, you do not have to do every single scene idea you’ve ever come up with or try every single piece of kit the venue has to offer. You do not have to be the first to arrive and last to leave each day.

There’s always other events. There’s always next year.

By all means, immerse yourself and experience your event to the max… but know your limits and don’t try to push yourself beyond them in service of “Must Do Everything.”

3. Have Someone Looking Out For You… And Look Out For Them In Turn

If you’ve come with a partner, partners, friend or group of friends, you’re in luck here as you’ve got a ready made support person/network. Look out for each other. You don’t have to be glued to one another’s sides, but check in and say, ‘hey, how are you doing? How are you finding it all?’

If someone’s struggling, ask what they need. It may be a hug, a snack, a chat about what’s bothering them, a nap, or even just some quiet time. If you’re struggling, ask for what you need.

If you’re there alone, never fear! You’ll soon make friends and if you click with someone, don’t be afraid to ask if they’d like to agree to look out for each other and maybe check in later to see how you’re both doing.

If nothing else, make yourself known to an organiser or crew member as a nervous newbie and/or solo attendee. Any good event staff member will help you find your feet and look out for you as best they can.

4. Think About Your Boundaries Before You Come

You know how you shouldn’t renegotiate established boundaries mid-scene? The same is true mid-‘Con.

If you’re coming with a partner, discuss beforehand the kinds of play you might like to do together and anything you definitely DON’T want. Is play with other people on the cards or not? Under what parameters? Are you going to do everything together, or go to separate workshops and compare notes later? You don’t need to structure your weekend super rigidly, but even a basic game plan can help you feel prepared.

If you’re coming alone, think about what you might want to do and not do. What workshops interest you and which are a “FUCK NO?” Which are a “maybe, if I’m in the right headspace?” Do you want to play? With specific people? Are you open to casual play? Casual sex? Nudity? Hugs, physical touch?

And, crucially, stick to these boundaries. Don’t suddenly change your mind in the heat of a moment that you could very easily regret. Again, you can always push yourself further next time.

Honour your own limits the way I hope you’d honour anyone else’s.

5. Carry The Things You Need (Or Might Need)

Bottled water or sports drink? Healthy or sugary snacks? Medication? Simple painkillers in case of a headache? Notebook and pen for journalling? Cuddly toy or other comfort item? Favourite blanket?

Whatever it is, if you know you will need it or feel safer or more comfortable having it on hand… have it on hand! Or at least know where it is and how to instruct someone on where to find it.

6. Have An Aftercare Plan

‘Con drop is real, y’all. When you get back from a fantastic, physically and emotionally intense time, you’re likely to feel tired, drained and possibly even a bit fragile.

Just like you’d make aftercare provisions for a big scene, do the same thing for the ‘Con.

I always take the Monday following a weekend event off work – I know there’s no way I can be fully functional again so quickly and my job requires me to be on top of my game. I typically sleep late, take it easy and possibly do some nice or fun things for myself and my partner.

If you can, don’t be alone straight after the event. Try to be with a friend or partner who understands and with whom you can decompress and talk about your experiences. If you must be alone, reach out on FetLife or Twitter as it’s very likely others will be experiencing the same things.

Eat nice food, cuddle your partner/friend/pet/stuffed toy, have fun things on hand that you enjoy doing. Relax.

7. And finally… HAVE FUN.

Try not to worry – everyone’s at a ‘Con to have a great time and the organisers and crew should be on hand to help with any problems you may have.

Breathe, pace yourself, and ENJOY.

Go forth and be kinky, y’all.