Vulnerability as Edge Play

S liked to grab the insides of my thighs while he went down on me, his hands simultaneously pushing my legs wider apart and pulling me closer to his face.

Sometimes he’d sit up to kiss me, and his hands would slide closer to my crotch, and I’d be scared that he’d notice that the closer to my pussy he’d get, the softer and flabbier my thighs became.

Those two or three inches were a danger zone to me.

What if, suddenly, he’d realize he wasn’t fucking a thin girl?

As if he couldn’t see me. Hadn’t chosen me. Hadn’t seen me naked, his hands all over my body, a dozen times before.

Who was responsible for this fear? Me for not successfully fighting years of societal pressure to value thinness? Or S for somehow not reassuring me that he loved all of my body?

I could dig into those questions. But this post isn’t about body acceptance. It’s about vulnerability.

***

According to Merriam Webster, vulnerability is:

  • Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.
  • Open to attack or damage.

With S, I was vulnerable enough to be naked in front of him, open to his praise and criticism. But I was never vulnerable enough to admit my insecurities.

Sometimes we think we’re being vulnerable when we’re not.

Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve opened ourselves up to the possibility of hurt.

Sometimes we don’t think we’re being vulnerable because there’s no effing way this person would ever hurt us.

***

One definition of edge play is any activity that challenges the conventions of safe, sane, and consensual.

And a valid critique of the safe, sane, and consensual guideline is that nothing is ever completely safe.

Kinksters are often aware of possible physical risks in kinky activities. If we’re exercising due diligence, we learn our anatomy, how to safeguard against nerve damage, etc. And to protect the heart, we learn negotiation tactics and dig into the intricacies of consent.

You may learn how to calculate the physical risks you’re assuming, but how do you calculate emotional risk? Being vulnerable to others, to your fears, to yourself.

What would it look like to affirm that vulnerability is, by definition, not safe?

What would it look like to consider all vulnerability as edge play?

This is what it would mean to me.

It would substantiate my fears.

Old paradigm: If I open myself up and something doesn’t work out, it’s my fault.

All too often I blame myself for being insecure. A while back, I showed a friend some text exchanges I’d had with a potential lover that had lost interest. My friend told me my texts were way too long. His response played into my fears: I’m “too much” and my “too muchness” is a result of insecurities I shouldn’t have.

New paradigm: By being vulnerable, I might get hurt. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me.

Take an athlete. Sometimes an athlete gets injured because they were being careless. But sometimes it’s simply because they were playing the game and that’s what happens.

Whenever I open up to someone, I own that there is the possibility of hurt and that I’m assuming that risk.

It would help me own my part and assess the risks of being vulnerable.

Old paradigm: The other person is solely to blame for hurting me.

[Note: I’m not talking about consent violations, gaslighting, or other abusive situations, which is a whole different scenario.]

In case you were wondering, that insecurity I was feeling with S, I don’t feel it with all partners. I should’ve heeded the red flags that left me feeling not quite comfortable around him.

Yeah, the sex was good, and I enjoyed his company. But he warned me he was selfish, and he was. Things ended poorly.

There are plenty of people I consider jerks for how they treated me, and S is one of them. Of course, at times, I’ve been the jerk, as well.

But how many times have I felt betrayed simply by expecting the very best of another person? Or when our expectations of a relationship didn’t match up?

New paradigm: I am also responsible for protecting my heart.

Any worthwhile intimacy requires the possibility of hurt, and I take some responsibility for that hurt. I have to protect my own heart, as well.

If I truly went into any situation in which I’m required to be vulnerable knowing that I’m putting myself in danger, maybe I’d be more careful with my own heart.

It would help me feel brave.

Old paradigm: I am weak for being insecure. I don’t enter relationships as strong as I should be.

New paradigm: I am strong by being willing to be vulnerable.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes, “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

What if we realized how truly brave we all were for simply being vulnerable? Each small confession, each glimpse of who we truly are, especially the hard stuff — the fears and insecurities. The shadow places.

It’s never safe to expose the our hearts to others (or even to ourselves), but sometimes it’s worth the risk.

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