Why Bottoms Should Make Notes At Kink Workshops

Stock photo of a blank, lined, spiral-bound notebook, open and with a fancy pen sitting on top of it

I want to present to you my case for bottoms who attend kink and BDSM workshops making notes on the material they learn. I notice a lot of tops with notebooks and pens, but markedly fewer bottoms with the same, and I think those bottoms might be losing out a little as a result.

But before I delve any deeper, a small disclaimer: I go to a lot of rope workshops. And very little else. So this piece will be from a rope bottoming perspective, using rope bottoming examples, but it should still be relevant for spanking workshops, protocol workshops, humiliation workshops, and any other workshop you can conceive of where bottoms might be there, absorbing information and/or being practised upon by their toppy friends and/or partners.

I’ve written plenty about how actually being tied up feels for me, and why I like it, but I think there’s a particular art to attending workshops and classes in a bottoming capacity. I’ll likely never use the information provided at these classes for topping (since I’m dyspraxic as hell and sub-leaning besides), but I like to be more than a willing body for a top to practice on when I’m in any kind of workshop setting.

So I make notes.

They’re not notes that a top could use (at least, not on their own), because they don’t feature any technical details, diagrams or instructions. Instead, I make notes on the things I’ll find useful later, for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. When I’m in subspace, I’m not likely to retain information unless I write it down;
  2. When I’m overwhelmed by being in a noisy room full of people, I’m not likely to retain information unless I write it down;
  3. The physical act of writing keeps my autistic gremlin hands busy in a way that doesn’t look too rude (unlike, say, playing Animal Crossing on my phone), so my autistic gremlin brain can focus on what the workshop leader(s) is/are saying;
  4. They’re both informative and fun to look back over days or weeks after a class or a workshop.

“But Morgan,” you may be asking, “what do you make notes on, if not technical details and instructions?”

I’m glad you asked, dearest hypothetical reader.

I primarily make notes based on gut feeling – things that make my ears perk up, if you will. I start each workshop’s notes with the title of the class, the date on which it takes place and the scene name(s) of the workshop leader(s), and then I outline what we’re actually doing, like so:

Example Workshop – 12.05.19 – Led by Example McExampleface and E. G. Forinstance

Objective(s): full side suspension; gunslinger hip harness; eat as many aftercare snacks as humanly possible

After that, I might make notes on specific ties, both naming and describing them so that I don’t have to Google fancy shibari terminology every time I revisit my notes.

Tie: Tengu (the raptor hands one that makes my boobs look excellent)

The most useful notes I make, though, are usually based upon things said by the demo bottom (who often also doubles as a workshop leader). Demo bottoms provide invaluable tips on which things are the hardest to endure and how you might go about doing so, and they’re not usually tips that tops will take note of. Demo bottoms remind you to stretch and wiggle, encourage you to be a princess if something hurts in the wrong way, and give you straight answers about how uncomfortable or painful something might be. They make the world go ’round.

TIP: keep an eye out for circulation loss/nerve impingement in the hands for this one

Another key thing I include in my workshop notes is something a top simply cannot do on a bottom’s behalf – my initial reactions to all the activities we try. This is especially important for me as I have a hypermobility condition which requires me to be careful with the positions I put myself in (or allow others to put me in), and keeping track of which positions seem to aggravate which joints is key. For instance, if I’m having a Bad Knees Day™, I can use my notes as a tool in considering whether a futomomo is a good idea.

“Morgan, don’t you just remember when things hurt you?” you might be wondering.

No, dearest reader, I do not. If I remembered every position, activity or weather change that ever made my joints hurt, I would have no room left in my brain to remember anything else. I’m always in a little bit of pain, and often in a lot – so I often block it out, and I almost always forget about it afterwards.

Thoughts: that was hot as fuck, very much enjoyed the feeling of being compact & smol. Elbow joints ache, about 4/10 pain, but worth it (and could be fixed w/ ibuprofen and care)

Naturally, bottoms who might be inspired to take notes in workshops as a result of this blog post can deviate from the formula I’ve presented here. If you think you’d benefit more from making notes on the mechanics of something, drawing little diagrams of human anatomy or anything else, you do you. I’m just here to sell notebooks remind bottoms that they’re active participants in kink, and that their insight and learning is as valuable as that of their toppier counterparts.

Chicken Wings: A Clumsy Metaphor About Race

Note: This post is in part a response to some of the issues of white privilege, fragility and paternalism in the sex ed community which are expressed super eloquently by Dirty Lola, Jimanekia Eborn and Sunny Megatron in this episode of the American Sex podcast. I wanted to introduce the slightly clumsy race metaphor that I’ve used in the past amongst friends in the hopes that it’ll help other people wrap their heads around the topic.

In the interests of staying in my lane, this post is primarily aimed at my white readers, because they’re the ones who need to hear this. However, if you’re a person of colour and you’d like to give me criticism on it, you can do so in the comments, in my Twitter DMs or at contact@akinkyautistic.com – I would hugely appreciate your feedback.

Additionally, this post makes mention of “my black best friend”, who very kindly gave me her permission to refer to her as such. I wouldn’t usually, but her race is actually relevant here, and I did check it’d be okay with her. Don’t worry.

At high school, we had a hot food vendor that sold potato wedges and chicken wings at lunchtime.

Bear with me here.

One lunchtime, I watched my black best friend point out to our mutual white friend that she’d left meat on the bones of her chicken wings. And she said, memorably, “White people never eat chicken wings properly.”

As another white person at that table, I had two choices. I had the option of assuring myself, or even arguing aloud, that not all white people leave meat on their chicken wing bones, and that I’m not one of those white people. I could have, at fourteen, soothed my white ego by distancing myself from my friend’s statement.

Or I could have, and did, look down into my own grease-stained cardboard box to examine my own chicken bones. And, wouldn’t ya know it, there was still meat on them. Not a lot, but enough – I took the point and quietly, without asking for a Good White Person Brownie Point, picked off and ate the remaining wing meat.

This story is important for two reasons.

The first, and more obvious, is that I did have meat on those bones. My friend was right. There was no use in arguing whether or not all white people did the thing my black friend was criticising them for when I had done it, moments ago, unthinkingly. There was value in examining the truth of her statement as it had applied to me. And even if I had eaten all the meat off those bones, that didn’t guarantee I’d always done so with every wing I ever ate, or that the vast, vast majority of white people ate all their wing meat. It wouldn’t have added anything of value to the conversation to have thrust my picked-clean bones under my friends’ noses and to have proclaimed, “But I’m white, and I’ve eaten all the meat off of my chicken wings!”

The second reason is this: in this story, as with so many stories about POC making “white people” statements, my black friend was trying to help us.

She wasn’t just making a broad statement about white people to be mean. She wasn’t trying to suggest that our whiteness made us inherently bad people. She certainly wasn’t being reverse-racist, whatever the fuck that means. She was pointing out an aspect of our behaviour, presumably picked up from our white and English culture, that was prohibiting us from enjoying all the meat that our wings had to offer. She was being constructive.

This extends to other criticisms of whiteness, or behaviours common in white people. When POC are calling white people out for something, not only is it useless and obnoxious to respond with “Not all white people!” or “I’m white and I would never,” but it’s churlish. When you do a white people thing like leave chicken on the bones of your wings and a POC points it out to you, they’re trying to help you make the most of your overpriced high school cafeteria lunch. Similarly, when you do a white people thing like argue that sometimes the cops are good, actually, and a POC points it out to you, they’re trying to help you gain a richer and more nuanced understanding of an issue that will help preserve your relationships with other POC and make you a better listener, activist, ally and friend.

This isn’t to say that POC criticising white people is only valid because it helps us. That line of argument annoys me when it comes to feminism (as in, “Feminism benefits men because patriarchal masculinity is toxic!” being lauded as equally important to, “Feminism stops women getting harassed and murdered”). It’s important to listen to POC when they criticise white privilege because white privilege directly hurts POC every day in complex and often horrifying ways. But if your argument against “white people” statements is “not all white people” or “your tone is mean”, you’re ignoring the fact that they are expending their limited emotional energy trying to help you be a better human being. They are offering you a kindness, even if that kindness is interspersed with swearwords and angry emoji, and you should accept it graciously.

I hesitated to put this piece on my sex blog because I was frightened I’d phrase it wrong or that it would otherwise hurt, rather than help, my readers who are POC, but I knew it was important to write. Unfortunately, issues around white privilege and the erasure of people of colour are evergreen in the sex blogging community, as they are in every other walk of life, and it’s crucial for white bloggers like me to acknowledge our privilege and do the work to counteract it. Again, if you’re a POC and you think this post could be written differently to be more helpful, please feel free to get in touch. If you’re a white person and this post resonated with you, please share it.

If you’re a white person and this post didn’t resonate with you, shut up and eat your damn wings.

Review: Mums Make Porn Episodes 2 & 3

I’m going to start by begrudgingly acknowledging that episodes 2 and 3 of Channel 4’s three-episode docuseries, Mums Make Porn, did address some of the criticisms I leveled at it in my review of the first episode. To my overwhelming relief, they discovered the work of Erika Lust (whose name the subtitles just could not spell correctly, much to my chagrin as a freelance captioner) about halfway through episode 2. They visited a set of hers and waxed lyrical about how much “better” her porn was than the stuff they’d seen thus far – “better”, in this context, meaning “more closely aligned with their own values” and also “produced with a bigger budget”. This is not to say that I don’t love and respect Erika Lust’s work – I really fucking do – but it was always placed at odds with mainstream porn, and was described more than once as more “intelligent”. I’m not sure what, exactly, they mean by that, but as a developmentally-disabled person who enjoys a bit of plotless, carnal, seemingly “unintelligent” porn, I didn’t love it as a piece of terminology.

What I did love was the fact that Anita, mum-of-four and my sole source of solace throughout this series, finally spoke up during a roundtable discussion and articulated what I’d been thinking throughout all of episode 1 – that the other mums’ continued assertion that what mainstream porn depicts isn’t “normal” is insulting to the people who do do those things. Unfortunately, after apologising, mums Sarah and Sarah-Louise continued to use a lot of the “normal” and “real” rhetoric that I criticised last time, but Emma (another fave of mine) didn’t bring those words into play again. Like the aforementioned discovery of Erika Lust, this came as a huge relief to me, a kinky weirdo who literally has “unintelligent” porn sex for funsies all the time.

Another relief was Jane’s departure from Mums Make Porn. That sounds unkind, but I wasn’t relieved because I disliked her – I was relieved because she was obviously so viscerally uncomfortable with the whole thing that watching her suffer through it would have been painful and joyless. She sought advice from her reverend, who said some unfortunate things about “dysfunctional sex” and the fact that fucking “is not a spectator sport” (I beg to differ), but who ultimately seemed to give her the validation she needed to walk away from something that she just couldn’t participate in enthusiastically. Consent is important in non-sexual settings too, and I just couldn’t imagine that Jane was actively, mindfully consenting to see some of the things she’d had to see during the research phase of the project. Her values might be wildly different from mine, but she seems like a nice lady and I was glad to see her walk away from what must have been a truly horrible experience.

Episode 2 continues with the mums interviewing prospective cast members, and I cringed the whole way through. I would be mortified to turn up to a job interview as under-educated as some of the mums were on sex, porn and kink terminology, let alone to host an interview whilst so under-prepared. Nonetheless, the interviews proceed, the interviewees patiently explain terms like “shibari” to the mums, and they finally settle on… the candidate who would be the most mainstream in any other field. I’m sure Daisy is perfectly nice, but the fact that they picked an eloquent, educated, middle-class, able-bodied white cis girl whose pornographic filmography didn’t feature any of the things they personally disapproved of struck me as a bit impotent. They spend the whole series talking about challenging the industry, but all their performers are cis, able-bodied and what they term to be “intelligent”. I will give them props for hiring a plus-size lady and two actors of colour, but they could have gone further with the “diversity” they kept promising us and they did not.

Episode 3, for the most part, managed not to elicit any new criticisms from me in terms of rhetoric and so on, but it did further showcase their lack of education and preparedness in two distinct ways. The first: whilst shooting their first scene, with girl/girl couple Heidi and Katana, they have the actors for their second scene, Romeo and Daisy, just… waiting around. For ages. In dressing gowns. I appreciate that maybe they only had their filming space booked for one day, but could they not have scheduled it a little bit better so that Romeo and Daisy could have made better use of their mornings?

The other, more irksome thing I noticed was that they kept talking about portraying safe sex, but that only seemed to appear in the form of condoms and lube. And I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the full film, but there was nary a dental dam nor glove in sight (except the gloves that Emma wore to clean the dildos) and no discussion of whether they should be included at all. The toys didn’t seem to be condom’d either, and I spotted at least one utensil of the jelly variety. The inclusion of condoms and lube in porn isn’t quite as radical as they seem to think it is, especially not when paired with those oversights, but I suppose it’s cool that they thought of it at all.

(It’s also cool that they thought about showcasing consent, but less cool that there was a whole uncomfortable scene in which a delivery man arrives at Sarah-Louise’s house and she makes a few jokes about his “package”. I really hope this was scripted, but since the bloke’s face was blurred and he didn’t joke along with her, I imagine it wasn’t.)

The theme of the whole series seems to be criticising mainstream pornography and then not quite following through on the promise to deliver the opposite. I think this can be adequately summed up by the fact that all the mums talk about wanting to portray diverse bodies (but not disabled or trans ones!) in a positive light, but Sarah-Louise ends up making a statement about wanting to see porn where “the bits don’t look quite right”. I think what she means is that she wants to see more genitals that are hairy, asymmetrical, coloured differently to the rest of the performers’ skin, featuring more prominent labia minora and so on… but it comes across as judgey.

And on the topic of coming across as judgey, one key aspect of the series I neglected to mention last time is the clips of various teenagers, some alone and some with a pal, sitting in front of some exposed brick wall and being asked leading questions to produce soundbites about mainstream pornography. I didn’t mention this in my previous review because I thought it’d be unfair to criticise kids who (presumably) haven’t engaged with much feminist or sex-positive discourse and who are (definitely) being asked pointed questions about material they don’t even look old enough to legally explore and critically reflect on. I think that, as with recruiting Jane for this project in spite of her obvious discomfort around sex and porn in order to generate conflict, Channel 4 acted irresponsibly in enlisting these teenagers to feed their narrative that mainstream porn is bad and damages children, and their desire to create good TV seems to have overwhelmed their desire to behave ethically or do any real research.

Did I hate Mums Make Porn? Sometimes. Sometimes it exasperated me so thoroughly that I mashed barely-comprehensible notes into a Google doc, such as, “Weeeird reaction to trans porn – trans people fuck!!!” and, “sarah-louise.. No”. But it did feature a few redeeming moments like Anita being brave enough to tell the other mums they made her feel judged, Emma cleaning dildos in her nice mumsy jumper, Erika Lust being her delightful self and the mums’ daughters expressing genuine excitement and pride at the final screening of Fourplay. 

Should you watch it? Maybe, if you like yelling at your TV a lot. Should I go and knit until I calm down about the whole self-contradictory, poorly-researched and self-serving goddamn series?

Fucking definitely.