I discovered Xan West as an e[lust] judge. Their informative, layered and sexy writing always got to the core of me. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I am the current stop for the blog tour of their new release Show Yourself to Me. Without further ado, I will let Xan show themself to you…
I wrote rough body play before I did it. I’m not talking about erotica stories. I wrote rough body play for the first time during cybersex. Cybersex was one of the first ways I started writing explicit sex, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without starting (and getting a hell of a lot of practice) from a place that was about getting us both off over the distance in the glow of a computer screen.
I’d gotten very excited about cybersex from reading Kate Bornstein’s and Caitlin Sullivan’s novel Nearly Roadkill (which I highly recommend, by the way, though it may be hard to get your hands on it). Right at the tail end of the chat years (when people still went onto websites to meet up in chatrooms), around 2001, I exuberantly entered the queer chatting universe, hoping to have an arena for the kind of gender play and D/s I was aching to explore.
It turns out some things are easier to translate to textual interaction than others. Folks in meatspace BDSM communities are quick to scoff about online BDSM, and they have a point about a good portion of what goes on. But there are some things that live textual interaction can create more space and ease for, especially at first. Gender play is one. And there are some kinks that you can do online and get to really beautiful hot places. Psychological play and role play being really good examples.
It’s risky to go to some places with a stranger, even over the internet. I definitely learned that in those explorations. And, there are some places you can try to go in your mind, over text, but if your body doesn’t know them…it just doesn’t even come close.
So, I was doing a dream of a pirate captain/cabin boy scene, bottoming to this hot butch in a private chatroom. It felt so visceral, so real, such a gorgeous intense exchange, that when she started the rough body play, I went with it. Even though really I had no idea what it would feel like to get punched in the chest, or kicked in the thighs. I didn’t know what boots driving me into the rough wood of the deck of a pirate ship might be like, what would happen in my body when she placed her boot on my neck and looked down at me. I just tried to imagine it: visceral, intense, jarring, hot. I guessed that it would probably make me feel so alive and aching, so full of sensation and feeling. She thought I could take it, wanted me to take it for her, and there was nothing like the confidence of a Dominant to capture my stubbornness and my sense of my own strength. I wanted to take it for her, and in this online arena, nothing could stop me from doing so.
As it turns out, my last scene as a bottom was with that very same butch. She turned out to be so damn handsome and tough and I didn’t even think to say to her that I wasn’t sure I could bottom that hard, that I didn’t know if my body could do in life what it could do in my imagination, in a chatroom at midnight. I was a novice in so many ways, and one of the things I didn’t know was what my physical limits were, how much I could take. I’d had chronic pain conditions for years and had survived a hell of a lot of bad pain. I thought if I could do that, good pain was no problem.
I wanted to take a lot of pain. Not for her, but for me. I’d emerged from an abusive D/s relationship just a few months before, and I wanted to show myself that I was tough, a survivor. And I did. For years, I could think back to that scene, to how it felt to recognize my own toughness in what was a combination of strength, endurance, and stubborn will. I could think back, and draw from witnessing my own courage, in choosing to bottom again, in choosing to bottom in this way, in choosing to take way more pain than I ever had in play before.
Against a wall, in a public dungeon, I felt the things I’d only imagined feeling when I was cybering with her imagining myself on the deck of a pirate ship in front of the whole crew. It did make me feel so damn alive, so deeply in my body, like I thought it would. I stuck my chin out and took it, and reveled in the intensity of the sensation, what it felt like to take punches and kicks, how deeply queer and gorgeous this kind of play was. How it was so close to what I’d dreamed it would be.
I was riding this amazing wave of adrenaline. All the while I was marveling at how play like this, that looked so much like violence, could feel like care and respect and joy, while something that looked like sex and sweetness could feel so much like terrifying soul-killing violence.
My skin blossomed so fucking fast. I think that’s why she called the scene, because I was so damn black and blue, so damn early. Or maybe she guessed that I was too high from the play and too fucking stubborn that I wouldn’t have done it myself. I’m not sure. I just know that she wrapped up, and that she was still so full of adrenaline, she was almost shaking.
Calling a scene is not easy on anyone. I respect her for doing it, and thinking on it now, I have so much compassion for both of us. I was not able to support her as a bottom in the ways she needed. I didn’t know how or even know it was my job to do that, had shitty models for BDSM and little education outside of books. I had orchestrated my own transformative scene, but I hadn’t given her the information she needed to be a partner with me in that. (And she hadn’t asked me much of anything, had done quick and dirty negotiation more appropriate to an experienced heavy player than a novice like me.)
I stopped bottoming after that scene. It changed me, felt like it had washed me clean, given me a touchstone memory of bottoming that was wholly different from the abuse I’d endured. So that I didn’t feel like bottoming had been stolen from me by my abusive ex. I had taken it back for myself. Stopping after that scene was a way to stop from a place of strength.
I don’t recommend this path for transformative play, or rough body play. I became a kink educator to help people find other options. I have written story after story about rough body play, transformative play, and edge play in order to offer multiple models of doing this differently from how I did it that night. Models that are more careful and mutual and caring and risk aware. Because I know that so many people, especially trauma survivors, go to sex and relationships and BDSM seeking transformation and intensity and healing. Because I want people to dream bigger than I did. To dream up ways to meet their desires that can include more trust and honesty and care for each other. To dream of ways to play where they can bring all of who they are and be recognized in the fullness of themselves.
Show Yourself To Me is a collection where tops get to be vulnerable and bottoms get to support them. Where sadists get celebrated and honored. Where submissives are recognized as strong and powerful. Where folks work hard to create arenas for pushing edges that feel like safe-enough containers. Where tops and bottoms support each other in seeking transformation through BDSM. Where queers create play that is deeply mutual, clearly negotiated, intensely intimate, and full of courageous honesty. Where you get to see the gorgeous possibilities of rough body play, from the inside.
(If you want a taste of how I write rough body play, here is an excerpt from the bottom’s point of view, and here is an excerpt from the top’s point of view.)
In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.
Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.
Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.
Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.
This is Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.
Do not miss the other stops on the blog tour:
October 1: Xan West
October 2: Book Birthday!
October 3: Heather Elizabeth
October 4: Sinclair Sexsmith
October 5: Hermia Swann
October 6: Dilo Keith and Cecilia Tan
October 7: Kinky Brits
October 8: Stella Harris
October 9: F. Leonora Solomon
October 10: Tasha Harrison
October 11: Benji Bright
October 12: Tamsin Flowers and Karida
October 13: Cassandra Perry
October 14: Peep Scoop and Radical Access Mapping Project
October 15: Sugar Cunt
October 16: Emily Byrne
October 17: Oleander Plume
October 18: K. A. Smith
October 19: Giselle Renarde
October 20: Butchtastic Kyle
October 21: Lisabet Sarai
October 22: Syrens
October 23: Anna Sky
October 24: Jade A. Waters
October 25: Kal Cobalt
October 26: Rebekah Weatherspoon
October 27: Malin James
October 28: BD Swain and Jillian Boyd
October 29: Kaleigh Trace
October 30: Kiki DeLovely
October 31: Xan West and Annabeth Leong