Happy Monday! I am so pleased that Xan asked my wee little blog to be a stop on this amazing blog tour.
Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica is a new anthology out now. Check out Xan’s fanastic thoughts on kink, consent and the power of finding your words. Then run out and get this anthology!
The Spaces Between Desire and Action
By Xan West
I firmly believe that it is important to articulate desire. That there is value in naming, in speaking. Especially desire that has been silenced. To name is to create space to consider. To name is to share of yourself, to create intimacy. To name is to be more wholly you. And in naming you find potential comrades in desire, you find possibilities for action, you find out more about your desire.
We may choose not to act on our desires. Even if they are mutual. Even if the practical considerations can be resolved. Even if we are up for the potential impact and risks involved. We can choose something
else. There is a choice point here. Saying you yearn for something is not a commitment, is not saying you will do it, is not choosing to do it.
There are spaces between desire and action, between yearning and commitment, between naming what you wish for and deciding to go for it, between sharing a desire with someone and committing to act on it with them, between saying you want to do something and offering to do it.
Naming is an action. It’s not the same action as doing the thing or as committing to do it, or choosing to do it, but it is doing something. Naming desire for someone, for some action, for some possible future, is real. It is doing something, and it is powerful. Being witnessed in your desire is powerful. Sharing what you desire is powerful. Being told that someone desires you, or a particular thing with you, is powerful. Dreaming together about a potential future is powerful. Being met and seen in your desire with an expression of matching mutual desire is powerful.
Choosing to share that you desire something, someone, is an action that has substantial risk. It will likely transform the relationship. It is often a game changing choice—just to say it does something. And once said, it cannot be unsaid. So it has responsibility, and risk. It needs deep clarity. It needs care.
Saying it has movement in it, it is a vital and powerful step to the edge of the pathway. It is easy to not notice the choice point, or not believe there is one. To move from desire to action feels fluid. And naming desire, having that desire met with mutual matched desire, is a whole intense experience in and of itself, that can get you high and elide the choice altogether.
There is that moment, when you decide to explore mutual desire, to negotiate a BDSM scene, perhaps, when the negotiation is done, and you have mapped the places where desire is mutual and shared, named the boundaries of that, before you choose to act, before you are committed. It is a delicate thing to withdraw from, difficult and fraught, but I have done it. Have said, not now, not here, not up for that.
This is some of the hard stuff about consent. The layers and levels of it. The ways that taking steps toward something has momentum, and can rush you past the choice, so you are in it before you consciously choose it. And people may perceive that they are in it at different moments. For some, finding mutual matched desire means that you are going to act on it. For some, naming that you want something means you are choosing it. For some, articulating why something will not work is an invitation to solve those problems with it.
Because there are many that believe that saying you want it means you have chosen. That saying you
wish something could happen is asking for it. That there are no spaces, no choice points, between articulating desire and acting on it. So there is potential for people to assume you would not name unless you were choosing. There is potential for tremendous miscommunication here.
That is why I have written erotica stories that hold their breath at those choice points, let the reader sit in a moment of choice, and hold it. Sit in the choice to articulate desire. Sit in the moments of yes that get you that far. So that by the time you are in the visceral intensity of the edges these characters are riding, it feels deeply chosen. So that the reader notices the different moments of choice along the way, the ways that yes can be continual and part of the play. So that the reader has witnessed these characters pausing in various moments of choice, holding onto the spaces between desire and action.
Consent isn’t simple, and part of how I write about sex and desire and BDSM is to think about what consent looks like for these people, in this moment. How you find your yeses in the context of ongoing D/s relationship, and with a stranger, and in a new setting, and with new people now included. How you might sit in the moments of choice and take your time with them, even as desire is present. How holding the spaces between desire and action might serve the story, in so many ways. How reading stories that sit in those spaces might make just a little bit more room for your readers to hold onto their choices in their own moments.
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, a recent transplant to Oakland from Brooklyn, who has been doing community kink education for over ten years. Xan has been published in over 35 erotica anthologies, including the series the series, and the series. Xan’s story “First Time Since,” won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Xan’s work has been described by reviewers as “offering the erotica equivalent of happy ever after” and as “some of the best transgressive erotic fiction to come along in recent years.”