Who is Rhonda Perky?

“Facebook is where we lie to our friends. Twitter is where we are honest with strangers” –via twitter

Like most writers, when I work I assume a persona, whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, blogging, tweeting, even posting on a Facebook wall. The persona is the version of myself I present to my audience, but also the role I assume in my mind as I write.

It is not a false representation of who I am, but it is selective.

I choose what to write about, what voice to use, who my perceived audience is, what to include and also what to leave out.

Take this one step further, and add social media to the mix. Rhonda Perky is an avid tweeter, but she does not have a Facebook account: that belongs to her alter ego.

For the most part on Facebook I am visible to and interact with people I have already met, and therefore, with whom I have some degree of intimacy. My twitter account on the other hand is private, yet I am followed by hundreds of people I have never met, and probably never will.

Of the two, I would tell someone, if you want to know the ‘real me’, read my tweets. But when I meet someone from twitter, I am conscious that their perception of me is only one aspect of me. It is truth, but a selected truth. This leads to some anxiety on my part, because what if the alter ego of me, the ‘whole’ me, is disappointing? I write and tweet about my adventures, about the quirks of life, the kinks and twists, often (but not always) sexual. The result is a hyper-sexualised persona version of me. I’m the girl who tweets about threesomes and bisexuality, who puts the fuck back into fuck buddy and asks for #justthecockthanks. All these things are a part of who I am, but only a part.

‘You’re no introvert’ a follower said when I tweeted about suffering from a bout of over-socialising. Those who know my alter ego will attest to my introversion, and also the fact that when I am overstimulated for too long my mental and physical health suffer. Ask my extraverted sisters who find my intense silence under emotional stress a source of acute frustration.

The problem with the perception of my persona is that I don’t tweet when I have nothing left to offer my loved ones, when I am forced to retreat into quiet, or when I cry myself to sleep because even Mistress Perky can feel #foreveralone.

Some of my friends have said to me before, ‘That post, there, that’s you, not Rhonda’. They distinguish person from persona, where sometimes I don’t. Because in many ways Rhonda Perky is the most honest representation of who I am, what I do and how I feel. Rhonda Perky has given me a way to explore a side of myself I knew was there, but that couldn’t exist as her alter ego. She was a crab in a basket, and crawling out just got too damned hard.

I don’t consider this to be any kind of psychological splitting. It’s quite natural for writers, celebrities, or internet wannabes to have personas. I’m not one to have set up multiple twitter accounts under different names to represent different parts of myself, but that is essentially what I have done between Twitter and Facebook and my blogs.

Recently my persona became an issue for me. When I was repeatedly thrown on the porn pile, one of my former lovers (those who follow me on twitter may know him as #FailBuddy) suggested I downplay my sexual side, that I let people get to know me — not Rhonda Perky — before jumping into bed with them. On the tail end of this I encountered two individuals who, having known only my online persona, I suspected were disappointed in the whole me, me ‘IRL’. Whether this was paranoia and projection of my own fears onto them in a particularly vulnerable time, I’m not sure, and may never find out.

What I took away from those experiences, however, was an awareness of my need to have confidence in the entire me, to not use my persona as a crutch, and then bleat my frustration that no one is willing to get to know the ‘real’ (whole) me.

Sometimes I am quiet. Sometimes I am sad. Sometimes I want to be held and loved, and want to love. I would say there are times when I don’t want cock, but that would be as much of a lie as saying I never want more than cock.

Rhonda Perky is me, but only a part of me. A part I enjoy, but I need to learn to enjoy and have confidence in the rest of me, too.

–me

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A square peg in a round hole

Adventure Girl learns a lesson on being ‘in like’

“If I was meant to come in a box with a label slapped across me, I would have been produced by Mattel.”

Recently I met someone I actually connect with, who I like to spend time with, to talk to, who makes me laugh until my belly aches and my makeup is smudged. Someone who didn’t just throw me onto the Porn Pile, but courted me, who wanted to know my person before knowing my body.

Quickly we slipped into chatting every day, into meeting each other’s friends, and actually hanging out, not just dating and not just f*cking.

People knew straight away that something was different. The way I talked about him, the way I lost interest in searching for someone else. I knew something was different because I didn’t want to escape the minute the sex was done. This wasn’t the heady lust I experienced with my F-Buddy; this was someone I wanted to get to know and who I wanted to know me.

Then one night as we lay in bed, enjoying simply being together, he asked, ‘So, can I call you my girlfriend?’ And then it was my friends: ‘Are you guys a couple now?’

It should be a straightforward question. Does he feel like a boyfriend? Do I want him to meet my friends and actually spend time together? Yes and yes and yes.

But when it came to answering, I stumbled.

It’s not that I don’t want to be in a relationship with him, it’s that I don’t know what that relationship will look like. Because what they mean is, ‘Are you a traditional man-and-woman forsaking all others type of couple?’ An X-and-a-Y on an invitation, what Amanda Palmer describes as ‘living on one side of an ampersand’ — a couple as they understand and define it.

He is a serial monogamist, going from one medium-long term relationship to the next, the longest of those being four years. He has told me he is not a jealous person, but he is not open to opening up a relationship, and casual sex has no appeal for him.

I can’t help but wonder if that is because he has never experienced the dead-inside guilt of your long-term partner — the person you love and share your life with — actually repulsing you after six, seven, or ten years. When the idea of sleeping with your husband feels like shagging a brother.

Sex therapists like Bettina Arndt argue it’s a matter of ‘just doing it’, even when you’re not in the mood, and ‘faking it till you make it’, but it is a whole other story when your loved one reaches for you in the night and you actually feel sick inside. When you have to live with knowing that’s how he makes  you feel, and that you can never tell him.

I am a jealous person, but I am willing to share to avoid the crippling weight of that silence.

And that’s just the beginning of how my new lover and I fundamentally differ. He is straight, while I am only starting to explore my bisexuality. Will wearing his (and their) label mean I need to shut that part of myself off again and live an unexplored lie?

I have just spent the last twelve months discovering alternative relationship models, spending time with couples and singles who are poly-amorous, in open relationships, who swing and have BDSM playmates, who are casually poly or selectively mono. Gay, straight, and everything in between. I have discovered that love and sex are two very different things. When they come together it is wonderful, but so is sex divorced from love. I have also learned that having sex with one person does not diminish how I feel about someone else, that being in lust can be as thrilling and as heartbreaking as being in love, and that I can love and lust more than one person simultaneously in very different ways, because each connection is special and unique. Most importantly I learned that my self worth is not tied to exclusivity.

This is not a case of waiting to reach some mythical end point where I come out the other side, ‘get it out of my system’ and ‘settle back down’, as though the experiences I have been having as a single girl are an aberration instead of a journey.

My travels overseas taught me that I can never go back to who I was before the journey began. Everyone else might have stayed the same, but I am not that round peg any more. I have grooves worn in different places, my shape fundamentally altered.

I am no longer who I was at 19, 25 or even 30. This isn’t a phase — these life experiences have changed the way I see the world. I have stepped outside the box. I can’t step back in and accept edges that grate where they no longer fit.

I want to continue to evolve, acquiring new grooves and ridges, while he does the same. Hopefully some of those will be shapes that fit together just so, while we continue to wear in others that are unique to us as individuals.

The important thing for me is that none of this lessens what I feel for him. Many people believe that when you meet someone you love, monogamy comes easily, and that unless you are monogamous you aren’t truly in love (1). Once upon a time I would have agreed, but no longer. If a partner feels that in being with someone else it somehow lessens what I feel for them, then they don’t understand me at all.

I don’t want to lose what we have started, but I don’t think it is fair to start something on terms I am not sure I can finish, to make a commitment of a prescribed nature under duress. That way lies a fuck-load of resentment.

Instead I want to explore what we have, which I believe is very special, free from expectations and boxes with labels, and see what happens. I might find I don’t want to play outside our relationship, but I want the freedom to choose and want him to enjoy the same. The commitment I want to make is one of openness and honesty, trust and respect.

And so even if I answer, ‘Yes. Yes, you can call me your “girlfriend” that label might mean something very different to me.’

–AG

(1) Anyone reading Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá’s Sex at DawnDossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt’s The Ethical Slut or listening to Dan Savage’s podcasts will come to realise how few people out there are living by those expectations, and just how much of a social construct traditional nuclear-family monogamy really is. It works for some, but not all people.

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Whose privates are they anyway?

‘A job is not my life, social networks don’t make me and I’m pretty damn sure that 9/10ths of the executives who are judging people have either got a lot more to hide than the average employee or are just pissed off that you are having more fun than them.’

You are probably sick of hearing people rattle on about Facebook’s (and I say Facebook because they just happen to currently be in the news) invasions of privacy and general misdemeanours; I want to talk about it from a slightly different angle. The latest freak-out comes from overseas employers who are not only screening prospective employees by viewing what they have posted on social networking sites, but asking for their username and password as a condition of employment – a pre-employment online health check, if you will. Am I the only one here thinking, ‘What the fuck????’

If it was happening in Australia (a fact I can neither confirm nor deny), I am fairly certain it would be breaking several workplace and employment laws. According to Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor quoted in The Age last week, ‘It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys’. Do they really want to see what I keep in my virtual undies drawers?

And in my case, I would have to turn around and say, ‘But I don’t use it.’

Unlike most of the Western World, I don’t do social networking. No Facebook, no Google+, no LinkedIn, no Twitter. I think the closest I come would be my Xbox Live account or Fetlife: one of which I need to get game updates, and the other which is more like an online club for a niche group of people – not exactly the mass consumption model of say, Facebook. Apart from this and a couple of other bits and pieces that don’t have my name connected to them, my online footprint is relatively small, and that’s how I like it. As far as I am concerned my details belong to me, not some marketing group.

Will this mean I am viewed as an inferior candidate in the job market for not following the herd?

In my experience, corporations aren’t about talented, creative staff; they are about conformists: toe the line, meet expectations. So how do they deal with someone who doesn’t? The larger companies I have worked for have had systems in place that quietly punish proactive and original staff for not adhering to regimented policies. And when efforts are made to implement change, the majority of managers push things aside or file them as being too hard.

I wanted to put this quietly to the test. I am about to go for a new position, so I decided to make a page for the Human Resources department to find, just so I could fill it with corporate-friendly propaganda. I created a single-purpose email address and then entered it into the social networking site of choice, only to discover that this site now requires my mobile number or a copy of my government issued ID to activate. Are they serious?

On the one hand you have employers asking for more and more personal and invasive access to your personal life, just to give you a low- to mid-level job, and on the other, you have a major multinational who wants your personal phone number just so another corporation can look you up and bitch that you got drunk once on your own time away from the office.

Screw that.

A job is not my life, social networks don’t make me and I’m pretty damn sure that 9/10ths of the executives who are judging people have either got a lot more to hide than the average employee or are just pissed off that you are having more fun than them.

Where does all this leave me except with an anti-authoritarian streak a mile wide?

I still don’t have a social networking presence. As a matter of course I make a note if I am asked for personal information that I deem inappropriate and I hold them to task. If needs be I contact my local MP, contact Fair Work Australia, threaten legal action, and in short, stick it to The Man. Because once things start, they are hard to stop, and almost impossible to get retracted. Stand up for yourself, I say. Make some noise, and above all, prove you are more than a collection of search parameters and profile pics.

–Tiger

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Getting busy IRL

Weeks 3 & 4 – Tiger Tale goes cold turkey

I have been a little lax with my updates of late, but life seems awfully busy and it has taken me until now to get enough free time to post. Ironically the busyness has been a great help as it has kept me occupied and given me less time to just laze around getting into mischief.

First a light recap: a month ago now, after much reading of online forums, I decided to give up porn and masturbation for a period of two months to see what effect this would have on me.

Week One was tough, but I was already starting to see some benefits. By the end of Week Two, I had experienced one relapse, rediscovered morning wood and was quietly hopeful that things were progressing well.

Week Two’s relapse was bad, not so much because I had looked at porn, but because it was like taking ten steps backwards. It stirred up all of the cravings I had thought I was well on the way to conquering. As a result Week Three was a constant battle. Every time I felt bored, I instinctively reached for the familiar crutch. It took a concerted effort to maintain focus and avoid slipping back into old behaviours. I even trialled using a rubber band around my wrist and every time I thought of accessing porn I would snap myself in an attempt to snap out of the desire (although to be honest I also enjoyed the sensation).

The end of Week Three and the start of Week Four were easier. My work load increased dramatically, not so much physically, but in the planning area. I was also thrown into a problem-solving role, assisting on a major incident, so not only was I kept physically busy but I was mentally challenged and fully occupied.

I actually think the more occupied I am the less interest I have in porn. In some ways it’s really just another form of stimulation. I guess the main difference is that porn is easy. But while work challenges are harder, they are also infinitely more satisfying.

Have I noticed a difference?

To quote Juno MacGuff: “Hellz Yeah”.

The sex is amazing, my energy levels are higher and my stamina has increased. In fact, I can’t see a downside.

At first I thought it might just be me, so I went once again to the Interwizzles to seek out others’ experiences on various forums. Every account I read made mention of dramatic improvement in the person’s sexual self, from those who could finally maintain an erection, to those who just felt satisfied after sex for the first time in a long time. I didn’t find a single negative experience relating to masturbatory abstinence.

Even if you don’t consider that you have a problem with porn or masturbation, I would definitely recommend laying off the self-satisfaction for a week or two, just to see what you find. Maybe try it out quietly for a couple of weeks, then see if your partner notices an improvement. Who knows, they might even thank you.

Yours,
Tiger

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Love fool

Adventure Girl learns a lesson on being in lust

‘Knowing my luck, I’ll meet someone I actually want to be with who is rubbish in bed.’

People often talk about having a ‘type’, a particular physique or other combination of attributes that they are repeatedly attracted to. For me that type is like a physical imprint in my brain that equates the way a body feels against mine, around mine, inside mine, not just with eroticism, but with shelter and security. It’s an imprint that my psyche responds to, that tells me I am loved and I am safe, even when logic tells me I am not.

Add to that a person’s scent, taste, the sound of their voice, the way they touch, all of which send messages into the brain along the same lines, and that ‘type’ becomes a powerful psychological and biochemical aphrodisiac.

Part way through my casual-dating career I met such a match: my physical and sensory ideal. My brain nearly exploded. Our chemistry was the kind that made my experiences with other lovers (with whom I had been relatively content) seem dampened, as though we now made love through a filter.

Better still, our sexual styles matched. He wanted me as his plaything, to pick up and put down, to use, briefly cherish, and then discard.

The ‘cherish’ phase of our encounters was where I was particularly vulnerable. Having controlled and defiled me, he would speak to the inner child in me while I soaked up the feel of his body around mine, as he covered my face with kisses and I inhaled his skin.

In those moments, I was utterly lost.

I longed to say the words, the only ones that had meaning, which my vocabulary equated with the chemicals muddling my reason.

‘I love you.’

I wanted him to say it, even when he didn’t, and nor did I. I didn’t care. There was no room for reason in the haze of biochemistry.

And then I would walk away, choking on what hadn’t been said. I needed to rein my emotions back in, without stifling this rare sensory afterglow. To do this I would actively try to identify what was happening in my body and isolate it from what was happening in my mind. I provided the narrative framework, the reasoning and the boundaries for what I was feeling – responses I once would have equated with love.

This was not love, this was lust. How can you love someone you don’t even know?

Worse – he was not someone I wanted to get to know. He was patriarchal in a way my feminist couldn’t abide. He was concrete where I am abstract. As Dom and Sub, tall and small, we complemented one another physically, sexually, but in other ways we were far too alike, each of us seeking the other half of ourselves, which we did not find in each other. I didn’t even particularly like spending time with him. We never messaged except to arrange meetings and we had no connections beyond the numbers in each other’s phones. He barely knew me, or I him, and I preferred it that way.

While physically, he invoked the attachment chemicals, the ones that yearn to bond, that hate to be apart, that blind, I knew that was where it ended.

He was not a good match for me.

Once I would have mistakenly tried to turn these feelings, this shadow of a relationship, into love. Forced the square peg into a round hole, and wondered why it didn’t fit, why I loved and yet didn’t even like.

Now I understand that what happens inside the body, inside the mind, is a response to a combination of biochemistry and psychological imprint. I can recognise lust and know it isn’t love.

Still my easily-fooled brain told me I was safe, and I found myself opening up, being vulnerable in a way I normally wouldn’t. I left the door open to that part of myself I keep reserved, bricked up, away from my other lovers.

But I wasn’t safe with him, not at all. I was in more danger because he was my type, because I took stupid risks and let myself be treated in ways I would normally find appalling, the biochemical and psychological response overruling my self-regard and preservation, my self-respect.

And even though I didn’t love him and I knew he wasn’t right for me, when he told me he also didn’t love me, I felt rejected, and it was almost too much to take.

We were in lust, not love, but it hurt just the same.

–AG

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The Magic Number

‘Is a girl who’s slept with 100 guys a bad person?’

This is an actual question on the dating site, OkCupid. Not, ‘Would you feel differently about a person, and in what way?’, but ‘Is she a good or bad person’? (Note: I have not yet found an equivalent question relating to guys).

At the beginning of my year of living ‘tartily’ I could count my lovers on a single hand. By the end of my year I have run out of fingers and toes on which to count. Very few of those were single-encounters. A few more years at my current rate and 100 doesn’t seem that far off.

Does this make me a potentially bad person? Am I getting closer and closer to being a bad person with each new partner? What if I had had 300 lovers? Or more? Would that make me a menace to society who needs to be locked up before bringing ruin and destruction to all humankind?

I have empathy and sympathy, I treat myself and others with respect, I try to do no harm, and to not hurt others – sometimes to my own detriment. I value my family, my friends, my work. I treat others as I would want to be treated in return.

Does that sound like a bad person?

If I slept with a thousand people or more, would I be a bad person then?

Perhaps if those partners have been lied to, used, abused, treated without respect. But that would apply equally if the number was only one.

I can say that not all the people I have slept with have been ‘good’ people. I have been disrespected, lied to, used, coerced, and abused. And each time I have had to build myself back up, remember all the people who have been thoughtful, considerate, kind, the moments I treasured, that keep me coming back for more, whether for sex alone or a little more.

Because it only takes one ‘bad’ person to make you feel devalued and one ‘good’ person, someone who treats you with honesty, integrity and respect, to make you feel cherished.

So for me the magic number is one. Because sleeping with someone doesn’t change who you are, but the way you treat them might.

–RP

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Withdrawal

Week 2 – Tiger Tale goes cold turkey

For those who missed the intro, I am trying to go without porn and masturbation for two months in an attempt to rewire my neural pathways, cleanse my dopamine addiction and rediscover the joys of real-life sex.

Two weeks in, and it’s been a mix of good and bad. I relapsed in a minor way, without thinking really. I was looking at something on TV, then thought, ‘Where do I know that actress from?’ Link followed link and before I knew it I was looking at porn.

Now, I differentiate just seeing nudity from what I consider ‘porn’ by the way I feel when looking at it. I could view the same image at different times and have a completely different response, depending on my frame of mind. In this case, I slipped back into viewing the images as porn, which in turn seemed to trigger cravings. I had thought they were all dissipated but that one weakness kick-started them.

At least I now know there is no such thing as a minor relapse, no amount of justification where you can say, ‘Oh only this one time.’ I guess it’s a bit like being a smoker or an alcoholic who’s only going to have one. You can’t just have one, and once it starts it’s a battle to stop.

I may have taken ten steps forward over the last fortnight, but after this I feel I have taken four back. Not as much progress as I had hoped.

Still, I made progress. I’m no longer seeking porn out when I’m bored; it has stopped being a subconscious coping mechanism, and hopefully I’m finding better ways to deal with things, using both meditation and exercise. The exercise productively burns off energy if I have spent my day desk-bound, and the meditation helps me relax before I sleep.

I also use the meditation to make me stop and consider. Every time I feel like accessing porn I try to take five minutes to pause and relax. Often after the initial urge has passed, that’s it. There’s nothing behind it. Once I beat a craving, I don’t need it, and so the urge dissipates.

The really good news is I’ve started getting morning wood again. Don’t laugh, but you don’t realise you’ve been missing it until it suddenly pops up (pardon the pun). It was only when it happened recently that I realised it had been a while. I’m taking heart from that and feel it’s a return to normality.

So to wrap it all up, two weeks in: one relapse, some serious self-discovery, early morning erections and $90 in the jar.

Yours,
Tiger

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