My anxieties have anxieties

It’s 23:54 and I’m alone in my mother’s maternity ward room. While she goes through pain I cannot imagine, birthing my new sibling, I’m hunched up in the bright blue pleather rocking chair they have in each room. Literally biting my fist. The past two weeks have drained me, between worrying about my mother’s comfort levels at every step, I’m juggling pressures that many people in my life constantly tell me are back-breaking. My brand of anxiety, of course, continually tells me that I am not enough, don’t do enough, will never be nearly enough.

In that moment I had a painful, almost crushing realisation that I needed someone to hear me. Someone to just rub my back, allow me to wallow, feel as much as I needed to. To simply listen. I can barely remember all I felt, but the struggle of trying to figure out why I felt that way is still overwhelming – because what’s a more fun way to try manage your mental illness but to attempt to diagnose what causes every feeling you’re experiencing? I knew that most of the anxiety was being caused by the birth of my new sibling. I had been with my mom all day, watched as her doctor induced her labour and stayed by her side as her contractions ripped through her body. I had held her hand through most of them, so much so that the nurses joked that I was her doula. And after hours at the hospital my father took my sister and I home – hospital hours had been long over and we were essentially kicked out – the anxiety of leaving her alone kicked in. I had never felt that terrified to leave my mother alone and not being able to return to her for hours after. I was in such a state I could not express it. I couldn’t bear it. After sneaking back into that hospital and trying to calm myself down, I realised how much I need to learn to reach out.

Yup, that long ass intro leads to the simplest (not so much impressive as it is difficult) light bulb moment: that I need to learn to ask for help.

I knew that anxiety had been a part of my life since primary school. I knew that the painful “gunshots”, as I told my mom then, had been tearing through my chest for years. I was painfully aware that it was not normal to run out of breath, feel an impending sense of doom and an abnormal heartbeat when I felt like I was going to run late for something. I went to multiple doctors who tried to diagnose my sore knees, wrists that couldn’t handle weight, and creaking shoulders that would freeze and throb.  I saw it manifest in my sleepwalking into dark roads, in my drinking, in my memory loss and in the way I hurt people and punished myself in ways I still don't understand. I struggled through admitting how anxiety impacted my work. How one typo could cause a day’s plans to go up in smoke, running a couple minutes late for something could end in me sobbing in the cubicle of a public bathroom and how anxious thoughts end in, “yup, death. I’d prefer death” so often that people simply took my comments as jokes. I knew the pain I felt the time I had a panic attack in front of a loved one and had them walk past me while I cried on the floor, and even now, I have no idea how to explain that hurt or how to teach others how to help me through this. It hurt me deeply (and continues to do so) when I went into the darkest parts of anxiety, unable to reach out to people and had streams of communication go dead because I was no longer the one making the effort. I was familiar with exactly what triggered me and was vigilant in my attempts to control situations to make sure I could prevent attacks – a whole lol to that. But even now as I think about this, soon after re-watching Laura Mvula’s documentary Generation Anxiety in tears, I feel as though I’m exaggerating.

Ha. I’m hyper-aware of how all this is viewed by others. As though everyone who hears me speaking about this agrees. That I’m a baby. That asking for help and support is burdening others. Man, my anxieties have anxieties. So I grin, barely bear it and work through it alone. I almost always have at least 5 tabs open that relate directly to anxiety, personal essays of other people’s experiences, googling my own symptoms, remedies, exercises and ways to cope because I can’t afford to see someone about all this, let alone pay for any medication they may prescribe. I’m so conscious of my anxious feelings that I need endless validation that it is indeed anxiety. The irony.

I try calm. I try affirmations. I try to remember. “You are not being a baby. You are not blowing things out of proportion. Right now, this is a big deal. Don’t shrink how you feel. How you feel is real. You’ll get through this. You’ll get through this. You’ll get through this. Repeat. Breathe. Use your meditation app. Relax your jaw. Talk to a friend. Take your vitamins. Try to write. Go to gym. Get out of bed. Get out of bed. Take a painkiller. Respond to that text. Make something to eat. Leave the house. Reach out to someone. Brush your teeth. Drink some water. Call your mom. Just open the damn email. Bath. Eat. Make your bed.” Every day is a negotiation.

Everything comes with a few more breaths, another to do list and more often than not, more worries. Some days I’m able to complete each new line of my growing to do list, I'm able to explore new ideas and feel fierce excitement and inspiration at opportunities while other days are riddled with fear, breathlessness, and exhaustion that only multiplies with each nap. And so I thought I’d share this with you. I’m not only trying to own how I’m feeling but I’m also hoping to connect to other Black women and femmes who struggle with their mental health, those who doubt it, own it, survive and struggle through it. Those who need some form of help and those who are willing to offer an ear, a shoulder, a space of healing and listening. I’m developing something. I’ve been developing something since I tweeted this.

To those who reached out to me, I heard you and I’m sorry it’s taken this long. I've read all you've shared with me and cried through the majority of it. But it is coming. So I’ll be getting in touch with those who got in contact but am also looking forward to speaking to many more of you about this. Women. Femmes. Non-binary. Trans. Agender. (Yes, that means no cis men.) Let’s hold each other through this.

[My mom is happy, healthy and with painful nipples. Baby Tshimega is a joy, barely crying unless you fuss. Thank you for all the love and light sent our way <3 ]

Laura Mvula's documentary Generation Anxiety

AM I a writer?

I’ve been struggling a lot with writing. I write, I discard. I write, I leave pieces unfinished. I write, then wonder why anyone would even bother reading anything I have to say. But eventually something need to go out into the world. I was listening to an episode of Another Round last week. Tracy and Heben were speaking to Ashley Ford about how they go through the same thing a lot. When Ashley was asked about what she learned about herself through therapy, she spoke about being a perfectionist. She says that she never thought she was a perfectionist until she went for therapy. She slowly began to realise that her perfectionism translated into paralysis, in terms of wanting to do something and having such high standards for herself that she couldn't even get started. Girl. When I heard that sentence I swear my soul harmonised a hallelujah chorus. "This is exactly it!", I thought to myself. I haven't been writing because I not only doubted the importance of what I wanted to say but I also didn't believe it was good enough for me! 

I’m published. I wrote an essay about two years ago about being submissive (in terms of kink, not patriarchy) and one amazing woman, Yolisa Qunta,  felt it was good enough to be included in her book of essays, Writing What We Like along with other great writers. I really and truly did not understand why she wanted this but I agreed. I went as far as not editing the piece because every time I read that piece now I can look back at how my writing was when I first began exploring my thoughts more. I love how honest it is. I love the voice I used it. And oh my Beyoncé, I am a published writer.

Even writing that sentence I wanted to say I’m technically a published writer when the word that should be there is literally. I’m about to have my first piece of academic writing published in a Feminist journal. It hasn’t quite hit me yet. Why and how is it that all these writer things are happening at the same time and I’m still struggling to put out my writing because I believe it isn’t good enough? My co-supervisors are pretty excited and proud of my paper but I’m still so damn uncertain of my self. My writing. My voice. Basically, I'm still unsure of the importance of having this voice, as Panashe Chigumadzi spoke about in an episode of Frank. I’ve written for online magazines, hosted incredible women on my blog for the My Feminism Looks Like Series and am learning to trust the importance of my words.

And with all this, I still squirm when people call me a writer.

Do I have a case of Imposter Syndrome I need to overcome or is it what Stacy Mari Ismael refers to as the fact that, “women never praise themselves as often as men do”? I hate that it may be both of these. I hate that they're even a thing. But I am learning to do better. I'm learning to embrace my doubts and my failures to do better. Let's not get too philosophical here. This shit does suck. But I'm going to try power through it - and trust me, sometimes that means allowing myself the tears and working my way through the panic attacks - in order to get these words out. I'm terrified of failing, not only other people but also myself. I'm terrified of putting my words out there. But, once again, I'm trying to do better. I surround myself with Black women, I listen to Black women speak, I read things like this by Black women (in that last case, Melissa Harris-Perry). I'm trying to do better. 

In the episode of Another Round, Tracy shares a quote by Thomas Mann, "a writer is something for whom the act of writing is harder than it is for other people" which is something a writer friend of mine, Dasia has also shared on her blog. That. Shit. Right. There. Talk about writing through your feels, cross-referencing with things other writers have said and finally coming to terms with a noun that makes you anxious. I guess I am a writer. 

I’ll be attempting to follow Jane Smiley's advice and be aware that the magic of the first draft is that it simply exists. I need to allow more of my writing to exist.

P.S. If you are in Joburg and are able to come to the Joburg launch of Writing What We Like tomorrow, please do come through? I have a slight (understatement) fear of public speaking and seeing familiar faces would be amazing. 

A love letter

I have a whole relationship with Google. Even my partner knows that if he ever tells me anything that I’m uncertain about the first place I’ll head to is Google. We often forget the power that the internet has and the way social media has brought us closer but one thing I stay appreciating is that my thirst to constantly learn new things stays being met with exactly what I want via Google Search. Whether it’s about a new kink I’m unfamiliar with (I found out that I was curious about knife-play via Google), a concept for a poetry class that I need clarity on (what even is a neologism?) or simply avoiding awkward silences by double-checking the definition of a word before I use it. One of my favourite responses to give people is, “Google has the answers”.

Hell, the reason I’m studying what I am is because Google had the answers. People who follow me on Twitter know that I have a huge love for South African Sign Language (SASL) and am currently in my first year of my masters in the same field. One of my favourite classes during my undergrad were the Deaf Culture ones, where we were taught Deaf history as well as the dos and don’ts of being a hearing person within a relatively new area of study in South Africa. One of the stand-outs of these classes was when we were taught about linguistic human rights – how Deaf people have for so long struggled with accessibility to many basic services (such as going to the doctor) as a result of violations on their linguistic human rights. 

I, of course, took to the Googles to try figure out what this was and why I felt so strongly about it. At the time I was a third year student, taking Psychology, English and was a part of the International Human Rights Exchange program at Wits. The IHRE course challenged and opened me up in a way that I didn't realise until I was on Google searching for a way to join my love for Sign Language and human rights. This went on for months, with me discovering how little research was do with and for Deaf women - being a woman who was slowly discovering my way in Feminism, what better way to live that than to work with other women? 

Come 2014, in my first research class for my honours degree in SASL, I was the most prepared student. With my notes on why I wanted to begin researching the experiences of Deaf women with human rights in South Africa - something that was never done before – I was able to share with my classmates and supervisor why this was necessary. I went on to find out how important this research was when the answers I found on Google were confirmed by the Deaf women I worked with. Many of them struggled with accessing basic services, struggled when reporting anything to the police and they also found education to be a hindrance. I was constantly on the Googles, finding which research methods work best, the ethical clearances of my qualitative research as well as how to position myself within the research as a hearing (and thus privileged) person. This was during my honours year, I'm currently in my first year for my MA and I can only imagine how much work I have to do with a bigger group of Deaf women for the next two years. Google is by my side though and I know that the answers will keep coming via searches, explorations and the questions I never run out of. 

You must be wondering why I keep weaving Google in my post. No fronting but I adore Google. And the people over there asked me to run a competition. Just as I’ve told you this story, I’d like you to share your #MyGoogleStory with me and win a dope Google hamper, worth over R5000. All you have to do to stand a chance of getting it is tell me about a time Google did the damn thing for you - did Google Maps help you get to a date you were sure you'd be late for? Has the Google App ever helped you avoid embarrassment by malapropism (Google it)? It doesn’t need to be as long as mine, but do make sure it’s great, the winning stories also stand a chance of getting featured in Elle magazine. You have until the 16th of May 2016 to @ me in your stories, make sure you don't leave that #MyGoogleZA hashtag out! Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - get at me. 

This is what will be in your hamper:

·         R250-00 Google Play Vouchers

·         Google Cardboard (https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/)

·         Selfie Stick

·         Power banks

·         Google Headphones

·         iKnow Board Game

·         Sony Xperia device

My winner has been confirmed! Congratulations to Ayanda Nene, I hope you love and enjoy that amazing Google hamper, not to mention your brand spanking new Xperia device. Xperia - more than a smartphone! Innovative technology, packed with entertainment, powered by Android.

Meet. Greet. Kneel.

It’s been almost five years of calling myself a kinkster and I still consider myself to be quite the novice. I’ve written quite a lot about my journey within The life, everything from first learning how to be a sub, falling in love with my first Dom, being basically screwed over by an awful Dom, what it feels like to be a Black woman kinkster and I once wrote a bit of a BDSM 101 piece. In all those five years the most common craving I had (along with a lot more bondage in my life) was being able to be in a space of dirty, curious people – even thinking about it now makes me want to cross my legs.

All the learning that I’ve done about kink was done on my Twitter timeline, some brave DMs, some even braver (and by brave, I really just mean dirty) Whatsapps, even better Skype sessions as well as a few interesting websites and Tumblrs along the way. The thing that I wanted, that wasn’t as easy to find, was real human contact. Being part of a short-lived “Let’s make it dirty” Whatsapp group had my hope alive for a while but with people spread around the country, we only met once while the rest of the time was spent exchanging nudes and sexual escapades as well as questions about things we were all curious about.

Wanting a space that would welcome people that were more than just what you get from the Google results of “bondage” I decided to take it upon myself to create one. Toni Morrison would be proud. Along with Dineo and Kgothatso, we were able to host an event that felt safe and was a space of sharing, learning and experimenting was more than I could have imagined. The space offered a lot of discussion, beginning with introductions as well as sharing progress in individual journeys. Dineo and Kgothatso, having a lot more experience than I do were able to share their own experiences, both speaking on the impact of being a Black woman within kink. 

I probably came into kink about six or seven years ago, quite by accident. While I’d already experienced some elements of kink in sexual encounters, I hadn’t really put a name to it. Stepping into the world of BDSM shifted my perspective in an incredible way, and probably helped me gain a better understanding of my personal power.

There are many nonsexual ways that BDSM affirmed and empowered me. The power of choice and engaging in a D/s dynamic gave me a sense of control, even when I was a submissive. In fact, I could even go as far as saying I felt most powerful in that position.

I made a lot of mistakes when I started out and, while I had people I could trust, I would have appreciated having the kind of support that I have today. I have people from all over the world who have my back and are always watching out for me. That is important.

But as a black kinkster, finding people who are like you is difficult. Most kinky spaces in SA cater to a particular demographic. I understand why, and while it’s frustrating it also highlights the need for online dialogue and spaces where we can get together and talk about why we do what we do.

The roles I play are different and I still need guidance. I need spaces where I can learn from people who are experienced and those who are still starting out. I’m hoping that this munch will break the ice and open us up to more positive spaces for discussion and learning. Not only that, but they’ll provide some sort of guidance for anyone who is starting out in kink and needs reassurance.
— @DeesseDee

Our experiences are different but incredibly similar in that we all yearned for this space, we've been frustrated at what was currently on offer and were anxiously awaiting being able to share our experiences. Being able to be in a room of so many Black kinksters - both experienced and others simply curious - was the happiest I had felt in a long time. Being able to speak about that frustration was a release I could only compare to being choked.  

Being the minority in the minority in the minority can really suck. A lot. Black. Woman. Queer. Kinkster. In this country I so love, people who identify in these ways still struggle to truly be themselves without looking over their shoulders or having to defend why the also deserve to prosper.

I didn’t have to think twice about booking a return to Joburg just to attend ‘Meet. Greet. Kneel’ a safe space where people who are interested in… let’s call it ‘alternative forms of pleasure’, can talk and engage with like-minded people. A space for kinksters. As a black kinkster, I’ve found it to be challenging finding spaces that allow me to stimulate this part of me, never mind the freedom to be able to speak openly and freely about the interesting journey my mind and body has been on since I started embracing it. Because we are such a minority, basic things like access to information and access to spaces is very limited, and it has become necessary for us take initiative and create an environment we would want to frequent ourselves.

The play parties I’ve attended, contrary to popular belief, were not set in dodgy basements where the entire floor is covered with naked bodies swinging ropes and floggers around everywhere. From my first event, I was rather welcomed by a space where I could unapologetically wear my love and appreciation for pleasure and the different ways the body and mind can experience it. There, my curiosity was encouraged, my fetishes adored and my fears and questions laid to rest. I could speak to people about enhancing my experiences in the lifestyle, how to be a better and considerate partner or play mate, and receive guidance on maintaining physical and mental health while engaging. All of this with no judgement no matter how different our kinks were.

There is something about sharing of one another’s experiences that allows you to learn so much and have the option of being or doing better. It’s no different with this necessary space. With more and more of these spaces becoming accessible, I personally hope to see society starting to better embrace and understand sex, sexuality, gender and pleasure, and not demonise or shy away from these topics so much.

I may be a minority, but even I deserve to live my best life.
— @Lyricnotic

The sentiment at the event was a similar one, everyone who attended was there to live their best life. While describing different roles within The Life, one of the guys who were in attendance figured out that they identify as submissive for ages, two couples in attendance were there because they were trying to learn about what their partner was interested about, Black women thanked us for creating a space were they could speak on what they loved without being fetishized, discussions on consensual non-consent were brought up and analysed, it really and truly was a dynamic group of people that I hope to see and play with again very soon.

Upon hearing about the event, the amazing people at Matildas sent us through a Kink Box containing a clitoral vibrator, bondage material, a vibrating butt plug and lube for days. As a side note, their delivery is amazing, I got my package the day following the offer. This was, of course, the perfect prize to give to whoever replicated Kgothatso’s mini bondage lesson. One of my favourite things was seeing how happy those who were being tied up looked. Feeling safe and protected while dressed in rope, I wasn’t at all surprised at how their faces were glowing.

So thank you. To all those who attended, even those who weren't able to come but sent through their love over the interwebs. We'll be doing it bigger and better soon and I cannot wait for the things that come from it. Cough.  

 

 

Abortion Provider Appreciation Day

I was going through my Twitter timeline a couple of days ago and happened upon an account that I found very interesting and necessary. The End Abortion Stigma Initiative (EASI_SA) shares information on abortion and where one can go for a safe abortion in South Africa.  In a country where just earlier this month two women in Port Elizabeth were arrested in a case linked to illegal abortions, where girls and women are shamed and denied access to safe abortions by way of social and economic inequalities and being someone who had a negative experience with abortion, I'm so happy to see a space like this. Keen to find out more, I had an interview with Kristen Daskilewicz and Phumelele Trasada, who are volunteers at EASI. 

1.       What is the End Abortion Stigma Initiative?

EASI (The End Abortion Stigma Initiative) is dedicated to being a public voice in support of abortion as a normal and common pregnancy option. We unify volunteers committed become activists that support the end of abortion stigma in South Africa. We honour people who have abortions and who provide abortions. We share unbiased, non-judgemental and accurate information about abortion and where to access safe abortion services in South Africa.

2.       What is abortion stigma?

Abortion stigma is a social process that marks abortion as bad and morally wrong. There is a lot of academic literature devoted to explaining stigma and in the last several years, literature on abortion stigma specifically has grown. Although we know that abortion stigma exists in most places in the world, it should be understood and worked through within local contexts—meaning that abortion stigma in South Africa may be different than abortion stigma in Botswana, Kenya, Ireland or El Salvador. We recommend inroads on our website as the best source for learning more about abortion stigma on a global scale.

3.       Why did you feel like this initiative was necessary?

For so many reasons! Many—though not all—of our volunteers work in abortion services as abortion providers, researchers, advocates and more. Many of us have experienced abortion stigma first hand and are also concerned about how stigma impacts abortion seekers.

While South Africa has wonderful legislation regarding abortion, we know that it's not always enacted in reality. There are many people who don't even know that they have the right to access free and safe abortion services and be referred if their local health facility doesn't provide TOPs on site. There is no easily accessible, accurate resource where people can go to learn about what abortion is, the types of abortion services provided in SA and where they can access them.

Stigma means that there are few safe, legal clinics with clear adverts for abortion and few friends and family members in most of our lives who are easily identifiable as abortion-friendly. To make matters worse, crisis pregnancy centres masquerade as services to help pregnant women in distress, while actively working to dissuade women from having abortions, even using misinformation and deceptive tactics. When you are pregnant and don’t want to be there aren’t many places clearly marked as safe and abortion-friendly to turn to—and we at EASI wanted to change that.

4.       How does your process work? What do you offer?

EASI is young—less than a year old! We are still finding our way and our process is not set in stone. For now, we are an all-volunteer group meeting once a month in Cape Town for discussion and activism planning. This week we launched our Twitter and Facebook accounts to help be more accessible to the broader public.

What we are able to offer is largely driven by our volunteers. We aim to be a trusted resource for accurate information about abortion. One of our volunteers has been working on compiling an updated list of clinics providing abortion services, because the Department of Health’s list is outdated.  Another volunteer is working on developing an abortion doula (basically, abortion support people) training. This week we are celebrating Abortion Provider Appreciation Day by delivering cards and flowers to abortion providers in the Cape Town area, which was planned and implemented by our dedicated volunteers. We really encourage anyone with a stigma-busting idea to contact us about volunteering.

5.       Do you work with specific clinics/ doctors that offer abortions?

We would love to! One of our dreams would be to offer support (and training, if desired) to providers. This is difficult without funding, but we are working towards that dream regardless. As a first step, we’ll be distributing our contact details to local providers so that they know we are here.

6.       What response have you received since you've begun?

You might be surprised to hear that the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far! It has really warmed our hearts to see the outpouring of support on Twitter for EASI. We’ve also been hearing a lot of very justified anger about the lack of support for abortion seekers and state of unsafe abortion in South Africa. We’ve also been hearing compassionate messages supporting abortion seekers, people whom have had abortions, and abortion providers.

7.       What are you hoping to achieve?

We want to normalise discussing abortion openly and freely and shift public narratives around abortion. Abortion is a legitimate medical procedure/option that people can choose for any reason. We want people to know that abortion is common. All types of people have abortions and that they are not 'evil' or 'baby killers'—they are everyday people.  If you have had an abortion, you are not a bad person and you are not alone. If you provide abortions, you are not a bad person and you are not alone. If you are seeking an abortion, you are not a bad person and you are not alone. 

8.       What sort of public support would be beneficial to you?

We love getting support via social media. We’d love to see more discussion about abortion, for people to share their stories about having abortions or why they support access to abortion and for abortion providers to be appreciated and supported, rather than demonized. To have people advocating for abortion to be including as part of comprehensive sexual education for young people. To advocate for abortion to be part of the curriculum for medical students, rather than an elective.

For people who want to be more involved in EASI, they can become volunteers. You don’t have to be an abortion specialist to be a volunteer. Everyone has their own skill—whether it’s graphic design, cooking, communications, fundraising—that they can contribute to the cause. Email us at endabortionstigmaSA@gmail.com for more information about how to get involved.

Thank you to the EASI volunteers, Kristen and Phumelele who took the the time to answer my questions as well as for the work you're doing. 

You can reach the EASI in the following places: 

endabortionstigmaSA@gmail.com

Follow and like them on Twitter and Facebook.

Please also read, sign and share their petition to government on intervening and preventing unsafe abortions here

Women  On Sex also made a call for women who would like to share their experiences with abortion a while back. Please do get in contact with them so that we can use such opportunities to take charge of how our own stories are told. If you haven't seen their first web series, have a look at the below trailer and find the rest of their videos here



Confessions of a sub

So a little over 2 years ago I discovered BDSM. Ha. I had spent years contemplating that little corner of my mind that was always curious about these white women in spandex and leather who wielded crops and whips and had men tied up on the walls of a dark dungeon. I was intrigued. And equally terrified. Because that’s the impression most people have of BDSM, right? Don’t lie to me. Little did I know. So it was only when I started having sex regularly that I began to investigate this. I started watching, reading, asking questions, exploring why this interested me so much. I was lucky enough to be with a partner who was well–aware of how explorative I was and together we created a safe space where I was able question what, how and why I enjoyed sex, the things I loved doing and those that had me curling my toes. I wanted more. In true hedonistic curiosity, I wanted to find more things that brought me pleasure.

As I began my journey into The Life I read up on spanking and choking and name-calling and humiliation and all the things that now make me swoon. I was overwhelmed by a super white community of people who painted kink as an extreme sport. Soon after I got onto Twitter and started interacting with black kinksters (WHAT? I thought this shit was for white people?!) I fell further and further in love with this part of my life that often left me bruised and smiling. I had never felt so comfortable with my body and the things it wanted until I started exploring kink. I had never felt so happy with the things I thought and even happier with the fact that I began to be comfortable with verbalising them after years of, “Jeez, Tshego your mind is disgusting”. I adored reading about kink and learning from other people, absorbing everything I could. I relished at the thought of masturbating and was affirmed every time I could guide someone to lead me to orgasm because I knew what my body liked. I loved being able to laugh in the faces of people who called me a slut and ADORED being able to watch their faces collapse when I agreed with a smile. Man.

When I speak of kink I speak of it with such love that most people tend to get confused because they have one idea in their minds and I have another. As with most things though, right? So most often these conversations that involve kink are me explaining my own experience of it, letting people know of the elements of complete vulnerability and romance that don’t live in the Bondage tag on Pornhub. But this is beside my point. I enjoy sharing this with people; I could talk about sex and kink all day if I could (as most people who follow me on Twitter could tell you easily). I love being able to see how interested people get once I explain that I’m submissive. I especially enjoy watching their expressions turn to confusion when they find that out because I supposedly give off Dominant vibes. While I am exploring the Switch side of me (being able to partake in both Dominant and submissive roles in kink), I adore being a sub.

On that note… being a sub is fucken difficult. Holy hell. They don’t tell you this often. They tell you that you’re strong and you’re in control and nothing happens if you don’t want it to and it’s all very incredible. Knowing that you’re able to be in control by handing over the control to someone else is an amazing theory and feeling once you get into it. But what they don’t tell you is the internal crisis (sliiiightly dramatic) that comes with the introspection and constant self-evaluations that hide in the corner of the pretty bag that holds your attempts to process these strengths, these limits to your consent. Boundaries. And ways in which you may allow someone else to cross them in a way you never felt yourself comfortable of doing until you met this person who seems to take care of you better than you ever knew you could taken care of by another person outside of yourself.

They forget to tell you that part and parcel of this comes the strength in handing over your insecurities in the most vulnerable manner and having someone cater to them in a way that cradles you so warmly that you feel slightly displaced when it leaves. They don’t tell you about admitting things about yourself that you aren’t comfortable with outside of your position as a sub, that these admissions might haunt you and your future relationships when they aren’t quite up to standard and you can’t quite articulate it because you just felt deeply without taking much note. They don’t tell you that that strength is what allows you to become a complete baby who sputters and sobs without any thought that what they’re doing and saying may make them seem weak or that they aren’t allowed to explore these feelings. They don’t tell you about how good it feels after sobbing and your cheeks are dry after being damp for almost an hour and you’ve called yourself a baby that they’ll respond, “My baby” and you’ll feel like you’re being cradled in the warmest part of the most genuine smile you’ve seen.

The sides of BDSM that few people speak about (or maybe this is my ignorance speaking. Slight rephrase: the sides of BDSM that I haven’t heard or read much of) are the ones I hold closest to me. They are the ones that keep me from sharing too much about my sub experiences (ah ha! Perhaps we’ve figured out why there are so few accounts easily accessible) because I found them to be slightly too dear to me to share. Those experiences include things that go way beyond the scope of leather and spanking. They’re the experiences that give you just as much pleasure without the need of being physically touched. They’re the experiences that make me wish that everyone is able to find and swoon in their own brand of romance.

In lieu of the current (fucken pathetic) 50 Shades obsession going around, one might have to consider the fact so many people are now out here believing that BDSM is for them. No problem, right? Wrong. It’s not only annoying that being a sub is now associated with that badly-written, soaked-in-abuse book but it targets people who are going through what we call “sub-frenzy”. In the Life, once someone notices that they may a sub, they tend to go on some sort of rampage to find a Dom- I went through this too, I just wasn’t aware back then that it was even a thing. Because obviously you want to get into it as quick as possible and learn and feel as much as you can ASAP, right? Right. Problem is when you put yourself in harm’s way by opening up to being vulnerable to someone who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing. The problem surfaces when this person that you’re having to relinquish your control to doesn’t care much about making you comfortable but rather bases the interactions on their own pleasure and nothing else. All the things I just described above? Yeeeeah, that shit isn’t possible with one person who is desperate to learn and another who’s taking advantage of that fact.

What one might have to do when entering a D/s dynamic is learn as much as they fucken can about the inner workings of the kink. They need to be strong in their sense of autonomy, because it takes a lot to get a point where you can hand over your body and mind and allow an outside influence to lead you in a way that you hope is good for you. And it takes also takes great responsibility in taking someone else’s control and making them feel at ease and safe when they do so. It’s difficult. I keep saying that just to emphasise how true it is. And maybe that might be because I’m sensitive and get hurt easily when someone is in that position in my life, maybe it might be because I’m a hard ass and handing that trust over is incredibly difficult for me. I’m uncertain too. But either way… I want people who are interested in kink to be safe about it. I want people to be able to explore without being coerced or taken advantage of or hurt in any way. In a nutshell, I want people to be able to get the sex and love they deserve.

Anyway. These have been some things on my mind for quite sometime so it had to get out there. I’m obviously no expert, everything I share roots from personal experience so I’d love to hear how others experience kink differently. If you’d like to chat about this or correct me, or just teach me things, please do? If you have anything that you maybe don’t understand and would like to clarify please don’t hesitate to ask me? I don’t bite unless I’m asked to.

Let’s Call This a Rant

I tend to shy away from calling any opinion anyone has a “rant”. Mostly because this word is commonly used to refer to the opinions that women have (which, of course, we shouldn’t. Right? Holla at me fuckboys). Shout out to @pixiestateomind for one of my favourite things to say, something along the lines of the fact that most men want women to be exceptionally beautiful and nothing else; that most men see women as trophies, and as soon as that trophy is does anything but look pretty –read: have an opinion- it loses its value. Once you have something to say –that they disagree with- you are deemed unattractive. They want you as a trophy that will sit pretty and serve no other purpose. So using the word “rant”, especially as a woman ties in to the sexist silencing method that I know most women have experienced: you say something of substance that they disagree with and you’re called angry and emotional. Silencing tactics aren’t as transparent as many may think. It is indented in many that when you write someone off as emotional, their opinions no longer hold substance. When energy levels allow, I’ll write about that too.

I digress. Anyway, I’m calling this a rant because ranting is linked to emotion by way of its definition. This is something that I hold very dear to my loins as someone who is on her own journey of unlearning harm and violence. It’s a tricky road, a difficult one if we’re being frank. I’d never write myself as some sort of martyr who’s dedicating her everything to social justice and how much of a toll this has on me- because that isn’t the point. We all stay learning and I know I tend to go through times when I’m literally overwhelmed at how little I know. This, of course, sets off a flurry of trying to take as much as time I can afford to borrow from my schooling and read. I keep learning because I want to. I learn because, to me, I cannot afford not to.

Now, something that I’ve been learning a shit load about is the power of the words I use. To many people who use certain terms they’re just words. You hear a word, you fuse it to your own vocab without a second thought to the connotations that may be attached, the history behind the word, the pain it may have caused. Slight generalization there, possibly, but let it be known that the “you” includes me. I’ve been guilty of using harmful words and wasn’t aware until I was exposed to people who taught me better, I educated myself on why and was steered towards words I could use in place of those. My issue had always been the why. Once I understood what I needed to about the power struggle that may be invisible to those in places of privilege, I was able to work those words out of my vocabulary.

The first time, I think, I was first confronted with this was in my first year of varsity. Being completely excited by my choices in subjects when first registering at Wits for a BA, I took Psychology and three languages as my modules for my year. English, Italian (this is still a regret of mine, to be honest. I remember nothing) and South African Sign Language (SASL).  I had learnt a couple of signs back in high school and was excited about the possibility of learning the complete language. Now, in first year, you are taught Deaf (note that capitalized D) Culture as part of the course. We were all hearing students in our first year, taught the actual language classes by Deaf staff members but Deaf culture was taught to us by a hearing lecturer who made it clear that we had hearing privilege.  It wasn’t until I was in my third year that I actually looked into this and realized that this was a thing; the privilege of hearing. The reason for this was that in our Deaf culture classes we are taught that Deaf people do not see themselves as deficient of something. They view themselves as a community that simply uses a different language and the fact that they were deaf (note the lowercase d) is not their primary form of identification.

(I feel as though I need to put a disclaimer here: I am hearing and because of that I’m not the authority of SASL or Deaf culture. I’m just sharing the things I’ve learnt and am in no way speaking on behalf of Deaf people. )

So I’ll share what I learnt in my first year was the importance of a simple letter when referring to Deaf people, the community and the culture that holds them together. I do hope I’ll be able to write more about the richness of Deaf culture, but for today… the power of word usage. So, before when I made note of the difference in the lowercase d and Capital D- this is where the power of word usage links. Simplified the lower and uppercases differ because of the perception those who are hearing have of Deaf people. When one refers to Deaf with as “deaf”, you’re placing their deafness as a disability first, something that placed them at a disadvantage in a hearing world. On the other hand, the term that the Deaf community prefers is just that, Deaf; with a capital letter. The reason this is important to someone who identifies as Deaf is that it doesn’t focus on the medical model that Deaf people need to be “fixed” and learn to speak in order to fit into the hearing world but rather a social model that acknowledges them as a community with a language and culture as important as individuals who identify as Ndebele or Pedi.

The power of words. I think this concept has become incredibly important to me this year because having done my honours research with several Deaf women who strongly identify as Deaf, rather than deaf, I was shown the effect of the words we use as hearing people. It extended further as I thought about things that we say from places of privilege, it took unlearning as I worked to provide an environment in my research that ensured that the Deaf women were safe and never felt at all at a disadvantage in our communication. It extended to other realms of my vocab, not just when dealing with the Deaf community. It highlighted to me how many things I took for granted being able-bodied and cis (to name a few).

I’ve just made a conscious decision to be aware of the words I use and I try to even take note of the word usage of those who interact with me, these words include calling people “lame”, “retards”, “idiots”, “dumb” (the way people tend to say “Deaf and dumb”, ‘dumb” referring to mute) etc. When one looks up the background of these words, how they came about and how they’re used to now insult people… man. Cleared off my vocab list real quick.

Anyway, I just was writing this to get it off my chest and to let those of you who make time to read this to be aware. And the bonus was being able to speak about what I’ve learnt from my research. Which is awesome.

Say hi. Let’s chat if you have questions.

Consent

This is a post I wrote for umuntokanje.co.za earlier in 2014 and it’s still close to my heart.

Disclaimer: Littered with triggers.

In South Africa, the continuous occurrences of rape and sexual assaults are impossible to ignore. And yet you barely see people discussing this problem head on (unless you have these discussions with people you know personally, as I often do). When rape isspoken about, it is always in a manner that I disagree very strongly with. In SA, it is usually in a way that makes it seem like it only happens to a specific type of person, by a specifically monstrous being that couldn’t possibly have human qualities and, of course, the discourse involves blaming the victim for their own assault.

Can we talk about rape culture? I have to link this to my own politics, feminism (and consequentially, patriarchy) because without this, I don’t have a full-grasp on how people can be tolerant of systems that hurt vulnerable groups in our country. You can’t begin to look at the circumstances of rape and the resulting dialogues around it without looking at the society in which it occurs. Unpopular opinion: our society does not regard women on the same level as men. Looking at this, I immediately understood why the majority of sexual violence victims are women. We (and by we, I include myself, and you dear reader) trivialize a brutal form of assault because it’s happening to people we don’t regard as important. Don’t gasp. You may not think you trivialize it, but you probably do.

Rape culture is:

**  My friends walking out of a difficult exam and saying that it “raped them”.

**  My mother telling me about the possible sexual assault of a family friend’s daughter and asking me, “but what was she wearing?”

**  Dudes saying, “I’m not paying R500 for a date if she isn’t gonna fuck.”

**  Countless people not being aware that they’ve been assaulted because we make it seem as though men can do whatever they want to whomever they want and   something must be wrong with YOU if you don’t want it.

**  The “he doesn’t look like a rapist” or “but he’s such a nice guy” commentary. First, what on earth does a rapist look like? Do they have horns and a nametag? Second, of course they seem like nice guys. They’re human. They can also “seem” heroic, funny, romantic… A nice rapist is still a rapist.

**  People wanting you to take your assault like a hero, to forgive a person who hurt you like no one could, or else your words mean nothing because they’re dripping with anger.

**  The joke “If you rape a sex worker is it rape or stealing?”

**  Entitled men thinking it’s alright to touch and treat you as they please, even in the street as you walk.

**  Women having to consider their outfits before leaving the house ie. check if they’re showing “too much” skin because if anything happens to them, they’ll be blamed for dressing too provocatively and therefore having brought the assault upon themselves.

**  A man being raped being thought of as less than a man because it somehow “doesn’t count” as rape when the victim is male; he’s just supposed to always want it. Or worse, because he’s supposed to be “manly” enough to defend himself against the rapist.

**  People not being aware that most victims know their rapists. It’s not some creepy man in a dark alley.

**  The phrase “Real men don’t rape.” So who are these people being raped by? Ghosts? Human beings rape, not “monsters”.

**  People wanting “to hear both sides of the story” REGARDLESS of the fact that very few rape accusations are fabricated when compared to those that are left unreported.

**  A conversation overheard where a woman was telling another, “Just give him what he wants. You know how men are.”

**  ‘Corrective’ rape being considered okay because the victim is lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or intersex.

**  People making light of someone else’s rape because that person is open about their sex life.

**  Grown men sleeping with underage girls and saying “but she wanted it”.

**  The highest position in our country being held by a man who was accused of rape and during that trial the focal point being the victim’s sexual history. And that being okay.

**  The joke “don’t drop the soap” and “get some Vaseline” when referring to men in jail.

**  Plenty of people not knowing that even if you’re dating or are married to your rapist, it is still rape if you did not consent to it.

**  People asking me why I even cared about fighting for justice for rape survivors:  “but you haven’t been raped before, why do you care?”

**  Me asking a male friend to keep an eye on me because I become hyper when I drink and him deciding that what I meant by this was “rape me while I’m drunk.”

**  Me denying the title “rape survivor” because I wasn’t even aware that it was rape until I told a friend of mine.

**  Me telling an ex that I had been raped and him asking, “Are you sure? You flirt a lot when you drink.”

**  Me not having admitted much of this to anyone because I feared being shamed.

Out of all the points I’ve expressed, the one that gets to me the most, that many don’t seem to consider in between all their slut-shaming, victim-blaming ways, is that they have made the basic assumption that men are incapable of rational thinking. Think! Why are we condoning things with “that’s just how men are”? No. That is not how men are. That is how callous, entitled human beings with no consideration for the consent of others are. Men are capable of cognitive thinking and empathy. Men are capable of controlling their sexual urges. Men should not see a woman dressed as she pleases and immediately rationalise that forcing himself on her is okay.Her clothing is not invitation or consent. Consent is consent. Men’s innate programming is not stuck on “rapist”. Rape culture doesn’t only hurt women; men are hurt in it too. Why are we allowing our boys to all be assumed to be potential rapists? We need to do better. We need to get to a point where we’re able to be comfortable around men without worrying that they’ll harm us. By teaching them that they are not entitled to women’s conversation, time, body we’ll be able to work towards a society without men who hurt others when they feel rejected or unwanted. This feminism is an act of love.

Playing down rape doesn’t just mean that you literally do not care about it; it means you aid the systems of thinking that do not care about violence towards women. Let’s change this. Let’s educate ourselves. It should not be okay that people are being violated and you’re going on with your life, fuelling the culture that makes their violation okay and more difficult for them to get justice for. Why is it okay that rape is a form of violence that results in the victim being questioned rather than the assailant? We need to tackle this.

I wrote this because I’m angry. I’m angry not only at the lack of justice that victims are getting, but also at the fact that not much is being done to prevent this. We can’t keep pretending that rape is some phenomenon that we have no clue about. We are raised not to drink, not to provoke, not to dress as we please. The rapists? No one bothers to teach them not to rape.But by identifying this root, we can move toward eradicating the problem. We need to be teaching our boys about this. We can’t keep speaking of “be a man” and “a REAL man protects his mother/ sister/ daughter” without looking at the roots. These people being hurt are human. Boys and men hurt too and they should be allowed to express it in a way that is not aggressive. We can’t keep condoning that men are violent as a way to “deal” with their problems without offering them a healthy way to express this hurt. We can’t keep identifying these hurt people as “mother, sister, daughter” as if the mere fact that they’re human isn’t good enough to keep them safe. These hurt people are human. We’re all being hurt and we need to address this practically.

So practically, how do we get the problem resolved? Definitely not by fuelling rape culture. Definitely not by refusing to educate ourselves about the realness of this crime. Definitely not by teaching children that abstinence or condoms are the only important points within sexual discussions but never teaching them about consent. Why are so few people talking about consent when they speak of rape culture? How are we to look at the problem of rape when so many people aren’t even aware of what the concept of consent is? Let’s start teaching girls that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. Let’s start teaching boys, not only that “no means no” (because they clearly aren’t hearing this much), and that no does NOT mean “try harder”.

See, some of those statements aren't things that I knew when I started having sex. We can't expect miracles when so many people have no clue about this. When so many people probably don't even know that they've violated others and others aren't aware that what's been done to them is a crime. Let's learn. Let's teach our peers, our cousins and cmpletely random strangers. Let's work on changing the stats rather than just reporting them. I am a part of an initiative that's trying to educate people about this. And if you're interested in joining forces, exchanging ideas, moving forward together, contact me. Let's keep this conversation going. We shouldn't have to be abused into silence.

Social Media: An Ode to Self-Discovery

So, hi. First off. I have opinions and stuff and when I share them with the few people who have the vagina (we say vagina, because balls are too damn sensitive a sexual organ to be so strongly related to courage, in my opinion) to claim me as friends, they say these opinions are worthy of sharing. So here I am. Wasup.

I’ve always wanted to blog but had no idea what I’d say. I’m one who tends to keep most of her thoughts to herself, even on Twitter at times (shock horror gasp). I’ve opened and closed two Tumblr accounts, rambled over and over about how I’d love to formulate my mess of a mind into something cohesive and coherent and actually start a blog. I’ve constantly asked writer friends for advice on writing and they encouraged my thirst (hehehe) for it but I then stayed disappointing myself in not putting time aside to actually write shit down. So let’s give this “Social Media: An Ode to Self-Discovery” thing a nickname. I bestow upon it the nickname: An Ode to Getting My Shit Together.

I’ve always had opinions, right? I’ve always had more than my fair share of pissing people off with my verbal diarrhea and lost more than a fair share of friends because I wouldn’t tolerate them encouraging certain behaviours that I strongly disagreed with. It literally was not ‘til 2012 when one of my friend bullied me into getting Twitter and I found people who thought the way I did that I realized that it wasn’t because I was being conceited in cutting people who said certain things out of my life. Oh, so there’s a name for this? Voila. Feminist Tshego leapt out the damn ashes and found healing in tears that I had shed years earlier for losing friends over my big mouth (I’m no Phoenix but hells yeah Harry Potter references).

To say that I had found MY PEOPLE when I started interacting with feminists on Twitter would be a sick understatement. I thought I was happy with my life, intellect and opinions before? Guuuuurl, I had no clue that asking questions and being reassured by (especially black) feminists would lead me to realize that there was nothing I would lose that wasn’t worth losing as a result of affirming my opinions and backing them with feminist theory. Now, the first thing I did (which is apparently the last thing on the minds of anti-feminists; more on that much later) was ask for books to read. I had always loved reading, I was literally a child whose parents’ form of punishment comprised of taking away my books (bad parenting, that) so when I found resources that put me in space where I felt safe to speak out against the sexism I had yelled at people for in high school; a space that altered the slut-shaming I was guilty of as a first-year virgin who judged friends who had had sex; a space were I could learn to not only develop my own thoughts but learnt that I was not an outlier for having strong opinions and questioning bullshit.

So this is my damn ode to social media (and in this context social media means Twitter because the corners of Facebook I’m confronted with are dark and scary and not in the masochistic ways I prefer) for being the portal to my self-discovery, yo.

Gotta send love and warmth (and gut-wrenching orgasms) to these women who taught me that there is strength and ineffable power in knowing that your opinions are necessary. You know damn well the reason I doubted my opinions and thought them to be conceited was because women are taught not to have such. I was a late bloomer to this fact and if there’s one thing I’d want to teach my 13 year old sister (who is, unfortunately already falling into the sexist, heteronormative and patriarchal ways of thinking) is that her being a girl is no reason to ever undervalue the thoughts she carves for herself. (Fear not, I’m not great at these big words so I really doubt I’ll be using them much in blog posts.)

Shout out to the right side of Twitter (hashtag Feminist, hashtag IdRatherBeFucking, hashtag FapNation, hashtag TeamLayATowelDown, hashtag GetTshegoLaid, hashtag MelaninAsLove, hastag Etcetera) for encouraging a young un to speak up in ways that are more sensible than when my teachers would write “Tshego is smart but she talks too much” on my school reports each year. Here’s to attempting to put thoughts on paper. May Jesus and all his homies look down on me.

On that note. Hello, peoples. I hope I do alright at this blogging thing. I’ve been held back by the fact that I never thought I was intellectual enough to do this because I do follow the blogs and tweets of some INCREDIBLE black feminists and stay comparing vocab. Mistake number one. I’ll be typing the way I speak, bruh. I may keep the thesaurus close-by for when I say “amazing” too many times but please, I’m not here for academic awards. These are the ramblings of @mbongomuffin, only longer and slightly more verbose. Expect Feminism. Expect Black Love. Expect Kink. Expect a Damn Mess.