fundamentals of athena

Helo and I had a (very) belated conversation about our preferred types of polyamory. Helo trends towards the dopamine side of things – that is, he pursues novelty. In general, he would prefer to explore things of a sexual or erotic nature, or even emotional, with his “bedrock partner” first, and, if it wasn’t possible to explore those things, to seek them outside of the relationship.

I’m not really attracted to novelty. At least, that’s not why I poly. I come at this from a completely different place. I form strong emotional bonds with people in my life… the line between platonic friend/erotic companion/lover/partner gets blurry for me. Why shouldn’t I touch the people I love, show them how I feel? It feels confusing to arbitrarily halt that. Though I suppose it’s more about expression and touch than anything else. I like to touch, hug, snuggle, kiss the people I feel close to.

After a few months of living with Mercury and Romo (Hannah is hardly home), I asked them if they minded if I touched them more, casually, around the house. i just like to touch the people i care about as i walk around. i am here, it says, i see you here, too. i feel you. my head in Romo’s lap as we take a car back home from happy hour, he gently pets me. my face pressed into the warm skin of mercury’s neck as he frowns and works at his computer, one of his hands unconsciously tapping on my shin. camille’s sharpened fingernails combing through my hair, tilting her head against mine and i smell the rich, sweet smell of her. helo tucking my hand in his pocket, fingers stroking mine, as we walk in the frigid cold. the blush on ananke’s cheeks, her eyes closed as i gently apply red glitter to her eyelids, the sweep of her cheekbones. she shivers as i breathe against her collarbone, opens her eyes and stares into me, the din of happy hour fading out for a few moments. comfort, and warmth, and love.

Going to bed with someone is another matter. I know myself and if I’m going to bed with someone, I likely already have a strong emotional bond with them, and I’m likely going to fall (more) in love with them. Knowing this makes it a bit easier to not take all my friends to bed, as i don’t have the time/energy to give that much love to so many people… and it’s also more likely that my feelings won’t be returned, which might hurt. If I don’t have sex with someone, it feels okay or less vulnerable to love them, because I don’t yearn for the same level of feelings in response.

When I think of polyamory or sexual exploration, I think of expanding or deepening relationships that already exist. I think that Helo thinks more of the things that he’d like to do. I have sexual things I’m curious about exploring, but they don’t feel that important… I’m curious rather than drawn to them (I’ll expand on one of them in another post).

In the past, I’ve described myself as polyfidelitous . Now I’m wondering if demisexual isn’t a better fit. Some things sound right, some don’t. My sex drive and interest in sex have been a persistent and driving force my whole life. But I very rarely have one night stands, and usually have to feel connected to the other person to not feel dissociated from my body during our first few sexual encounters.

the erotically-tinged relationships i have with some of the kitty pack are… really important to me. they’re part of how I show my love. to try to sharply define these relationships or to bleach them of their erotic complexities would be painful and, i think, damaging for me. this feels fundamental for me, and I’ve always had such a hard time explaining it to people. i don’t fully understand it myself, which makes it even harder to explain.

winter rain in san francisco

Thursday – the kitty pack meets for informal drinks at Dalva. Helo’s flight is delayed, so he can’t join us, but Camille, Ananke, Mercury, Romo, and a handful of other kitties are there. We are talking about poly saturation. We are talking about wearing anal plugs all the colors of the rainbow. We bar hop to the Armory Club.

I walk Ananke to the bus stop at 16th + Mission, press her against the plastic covering. It is raining, really raining, but I don’t care. She gasps when I gently bite at the skin of her neck. We laugh into each other’s mouths. I am holding her, fingers pressing over the delicate skin of her hipbones. She gets on the bus and I walk to the Armory Club. I can’t help it; happiness bubbles up in my chest and I laugh aloud in the rain.

The Armory Club’s cocktails are much tastier than Dalva’s (to me, anyway) but I’ve already had three drinks, which is quite enough, and end up giving the latter half of my fourth drink to someone else, either Camille or Mercury, I’m not sure. We are exuberant and happy – it’s so nice to have a happy hour night where no one has to worry about hosting TNG. So many important things happened at this bar for me. It’s where I met Helo, Camille, Mercury, Ananke, and Astraeus.

Mercury is splayed across an armchair. I am looking down the length of him, my eye catching on the thick leather of his belt, the cant of his hips, and warmth flushes through me. “Want to go home?” I ask. He’s ready.

Ten times.

  1. One of my earliest TNG happy hours, summer 2013. I’m on a date with S, a girl I met a few weeks ago. We are extremely drunk. A man at the happy hour I’ve talked to before somehow ends up going bar hopping with us. On the walk there, he sticks his hands down the back of my pants, and kisses me twice, without asking. The next day, I get an “apology” message from him, only to compare notes with two other women; we each received the same message that day from him.
  2. Fall 2013. Helo is hosting this happy hour. Two women I’ve never seen before are there, flirting with me. The flirting gets more aggressive. They sandwich me between them. They start kissing me, each other, pinching me, sliding their hands up under my skirt. I am so new to the scene, I don’t know what to do, or how to say no. I feel trapped, overwhelmed, I want them to stop. I dive out from where they’ve pinned me against the wall, saying that it was too much, I needed some air. I get about 2 minutes’ respite before they are on me again, one of them kissing me while the other presses up behind me and slips her fingers into my panties.
  3. At Dark Odyssey Surrender, November 2013. An acquaintance is flirting with Helo. She in her “little” role, and addressing Helo as her “daddy,” and I am watching. without warning, she starts calling me “mommy” and suggesting that “mommy” is jealous of her time with daddy, when he sneaks into her bedroom. I am immensely triggered and spend the evening crying in our hotel room.
  4. Katthaus happy hour, spring 2014. A drunk acquaintance tells Sharon that she’d look good kneeling at his feet. She is furious, bursts into tears, asks me to talk to him. I do. He’s so drunk, I doubt he understood a word I said.
  5. It’s Camille’s 28th birthday, May 2014, and the party is at the Armory Club. The same woman from above is sitting next to me in the booth. Across the table from us are two men who have given us their business card and promised us free merchandise from their new sex toy company. “Why haven’t we gone to bed together yet?” she asks in an undertone, and slides her fingers under my dress, pressing her fingers against my panties. I grab her wrist, mumble an excuse about being on my period.
  6. Golden Gate park, a “poly picnic” in summer 2014, thrown by a kinky/poly couple. Sharon, Helo, and I arrive together. We are telling the man of the couple about how when I slip and say Sharon’s real name in a kink context, I get a slap in the face, as per our previously negotiated D/s connection permits. “What, like this?” he asks, and slaps Helo in the face. Sharon and I are wide-eyed, and even Helo looks surprised. The man seems to have no idea that he’s done something wrong.
  7. Dec 2015. I am at a vanilla party hosted by a woman I don’t know well, but have played with in the past. I meet a man at the party, who turns out to be this woman’s husband. We chat about movies, and I agree to come back a few days later to watch a movie with their polycule – his wife, him, and his girlfriend. Helo can’t make it, so I go on my own. I know something is wrong during dinner, and my suspicions are confirmed when we sit down to watch the movie. I sit next to V, and her husband, C, sits right next to me, leg pressed against mine. He strokes his hand up and down my arm, leg, and back for the entire movie. I am deeply uncomfortable. I feel frozen. I don’t respond in any way, just sit wooden and tense. I leave quickly after the movie is over, feeling icky all over. C unfriends me from Facebook, and it feels like i’ve done something wrong.
  8. January 2016, at the Alchemy. A friend of mine and I are making out. Things get a little more intense than I expected as their hand wanders to my backside and gets more intimate than I wanted or we had discussed. My friend, sensing my tension, eases back. “Too much?” they ask. I nod and look away. They stop.
  9. January 2016, after a happy hour, we bar hop. There’s a new girl tagging along with us. She is very new, and very drunk. Astraeus and I exchange concerned glances over glasses of cider at Moby Dick, in the Castro. Helo, in his normal, playful self, has me raise my leg and then slaps my thigh, very hard. New girl reaches over and slaps my leg, too. “Oh, no,” I say, and explain to New girl why she can’t just hit people without asking, or because other people are. She tries to understand. She feels bad for hitting me. I explain that the hitting and the pain are not the problem, it’s the not asking that’s the problem. We practice at the bar, I encourage her to ask me, to look me in the eye, to look for a “yes.” Another man in our group volunteers to drive New girl home. Astraeus and I again exchange worried looks. I ask the man to please let me know that she gets home safely. The man messages me later that night and lets me know he dropped her off, no issues.
  10. December 2016 – At a friend’s sex party. I sit on the arm of the couch and chat briefly with a man and woman sitting there. I’ve met the man before, but have exchanged less than 50 words with him. Astraeus wanders over and we start cuddling. Long ago, I gave Astraeus blanket consent to bite me whenever he likes. He never abuses it, and always chooses his times with consideration and subtle body language check ins. This is one of those times. He pulls me forward, pushes on the back of my head, fingers curling firmly into my hair. He sets his teeth into my neck and bites, slowly, then harder. My moan builds into a squeal. “Mmmm,” he rumbles, releasing me, and we kiss. Camille approaches, timid and eager. “Did I see you biting Athena?” she asks hopefully, inclining her neck. Astraeus smiles and obliges her. We are snuggled up on the couch together, and I am gently petting Camille and Astraeus. I feel another hand stroking down my back and along my arm. It is the man sitting on the couch nearby. I am surprised, disoriented, creeped out. I freeze for a few moments, try to ignore it. After about a minute, I turn to look at him, and shake my head, no. He stops.

 

untitled

In the fall of 2015, I was not having a lot of sex. I was still experiencing debilitating panic attacks, and my relationship with Helo was rocky. Helo and I are non-monogamous, and we have “poly rules.” They’re pretty simple. We want to let the other person know before we engage in sexual behavior (aside from kissing/spanking) with someone else.

I relied a lot on my community during that time. I was a mess. I had a friend who I’d gotten closer to over 2015. We talked frequently, sometimes on the phone. He would come over and eat dinner with me while on a work break. We had great sexual chemistry and occasionally made out. My friend was there for me when I would cry about my fears, and would comfort me. My friend made it very clear that he was interested in having sex with me. I was interested, too, but not enough to talk to Helo about it or act on it. My friend was aware of my poly rules.

One night, after a small group of friends had come over, my friend and I were the only people left. We were sitting on the couch together. We started making out. We lay down on the couch and kept making out. It felt great. It felt familiar, it was something we’d done before.

My friend reached down and touched me through my pajama bottoms. I was so shocked, and so turned on. Confusion, surprise, betrayal, pleasure, all flickered through me at lightning speed. it took less than 2 minutes for my friend to make me come, with my pants still on, on the couch in the living room. I remember gasping in his mouth as he kissed me and held me down.

“oh my god,” i kept repeating. he wanted me to blow him. i shook my head and shakily went upstairs to my bedroom. he didn’t check in with me. he didn’t care that what he had just done, what I had just let him do, went against not just my relationship rules but my own personal set of ethics. my mind was buzzing with anxiety and i could barely look at him. i felt afraid. i felt like i had betrayed helo. i felt afraid that my friend would tell other people about what had happened, would tell helo. i didn’t feel like i could trust my friend, but i didn’t know what to do or what to say. Eventually through the mix of emotions, shame became predominant.

I didn’t tell anyone about this for months. Out of fear, I stayed in contact with my friend for a month or so after, then slowly stopped talking to him. In early Feb this year I tearfully confessed to Camille and Ananke.

It took a few more months for me to work up the courage to tell Helo.

I should have stopped him.

But it doesn’t matter. Even if I had stopped him, what he did was wrong. He shouldn’t have tried to touch me without seeking my explicit consent. I live in a culture of explicit, enthusiastic consent. People ask each other if they can touch or hug each other. I am so thoroughly entrenched in this world that I startle when people in the vanilla world touch me, even if it’s a tap on the shoulder or touching my arm or hand. My friend moves in this culture, can mimic it, even if he doesn’t follow the rules. He knew better. He knew he was breaking my rules, crossing my boundaries. He didn’t check in and he didn’t stop and he didn’t care. He was my friend, and I trusted him. I trusted him to be intimate and sexual with me in the way that I had defined as acceptable and to not cross that. I have similar relationships with many of my “pack,” and they are capable of navigating these complex interpersonal, erotic interactions by frequently checking in and expressing enthusiastic consent, over and over again.

I know on some level that it wasn’t my fault and that I ought not to feel ashamed. I don’t know if I believe it.

my house

mercury makes lamb for dinner. it is delicious. drunk on good food, romo makes us cocktails. we settle down to watch psycho-pass, a japanese anime. i steal some of mercury’s drink after i finish my own. he retrieves the leather slapper from my bedroom and while we watch tv I am casually subjected to violence. romo sighs and rolls his eyes and then gets his singletail out. i’m already bruised from “kitty’s choice” this morning. i am a purring kitty.

the next day, we are all excited to go to a friend’s birthday/sex party. maya arrives from santa cruz and we order sushi and try on lingerie to wear to the party.

~

later, much later, I am in in mercury’s bed. we are kissing, biting, moaning, pulling hair. i straddle him and brush just. there. heavy breaths and heartbeats. mercury reaches for a condom, pushes me down and yes.

i’m getting spoiled by all the amazing sex at home. there are no words for it other than fuck, he fucks into me, stroke after excruciating, lovely, deep stroke.

‘i’m sorry,’ i breathe. ‘for what?’ mercury asks, confused. ‘for being greedy. i just want you so much.’ a low, warm laugh from him. ‘you’ve got me. i’m inside you right now.’  i gasp, mind gone blank with the whitehot knowing of it. ‘oh god.’

kitty’s choice

“would you like some pain?” Helo asks. We are snuggled up in his bed. It’s a rainy Friday morning. “yes!” I say without hesitation. It’s been a rough year for me and Helo, and it’s been a while since we’ve had sex. I lost my masochism mojo for a little while, but it seems to be back. “what would you like? Kitty’s choice.” I choose the razor strop and the stick. the leather leaves thick swathes of reddened skin in its wake. the stick… ah, how I’ve missed it. it’s like fire on my skin, and i can feel it for so much longer. not to mention the pretty marks. it feels fantastic to be pressed under Helo, grasping at his shoulders, moving with him.

we have to take a break briefly; i scramble out of bed, grab a pair of pajama bottoms, and run out to move my car before street sweeping. oh san francisco. my legs are a little wobbly,  like a newborn colt. i come back and we finish. my hair has curled into gentle, sweaty corkscrews at the nape of my neck.

dreams.

I was a sad girl last night, so i brushed my teeth, put on face lotion, and changed into a flowing white nightgown. I climbed into bed and mercury played minecraft next to me and we fell asleep that way. he held me in the night. at some point it likely got too warm for him (or my cats sat on him too much) and he returned to his own room.

I woke from a dream that helo moved me into his house, but it was cold and lonely. G+A were visiting but i didn’t get to meet them, and G ate baby mice (?) and hated me. there was no love for me in his house.

dreamed that sharon was pregnant and it was basically killing her, her petite body stretched past capacity, stretch marks turning into gaping tears that ripped across her body. our men were in prison and my car was impounded, so i broke helo out, and resurrected sharon’s partner from death, and stole my car. helo and i drove to a hotel and agreed that we probably couldn’t go back to his house. but it was okay, because helo had paid the landlord 8 months advance rent, the landlord was nervous about helo’s previous jail time.

woke from dreams feeling sad today.