Fall, in the Pacific Northwest.

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Puget Sound from Discovery Park. Seattle, October 2012.

The USA.Talking, talking, talking. SO much talking. Self-importantmen, harassing, trying to pick up, always trying to pick up, looking for sex. Women, walking, ignoring, harassment, stares. A feeling of being consumed.

Seattle passed in a blur of dancing and dubstep. Syncopated bass in my hostel dorm room, carefully applying eye liner, hair in bunches, tapping parts of my body to the dissonant beat. It’s lunchtime and I’m getting ready to go to a boat party, where I will dance for 3 hours while cruising around Lake Washington.

I meet people- the woofing New Yorker, the new Dad with a constant smile and funky moves, the smoking photographer, the Oregon Burner with holes in her fishnets and purple sparkly eyelashes. Splashes of conversation, Facebook contacts exchanged. I see two of them again.

I spend my last day hiking, out on a windy bluff, heated just enough by late summer sun, jutting bluntly out into the Lake, with views of Mt Rainier on the hazy horizon. Eating peanut butter and Ryvitas I lie in blissful solitude on the shore of the lake, kick my shoes off and read a book about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for over an hour. I hike almost the whole park, and feel bizarrely close to tears in the military cemetery. All these bodies. All for…what? An ongoing mess in the Middle East? Defending a country with high levels of unemployment and low levels of personal responsibility? I realize I’m being unreasonably cynical and leave the cemetery, silently kicking autumn leaves, taking with me lingering sadness and regret. I arrive back at the hostel and realize I haven’t spoken a word to anyone for the entire day. Wonderful.

I dodge offers of socializing and travel plans from the hostel’s resident alcoholic- Jesse, age 25, unemployed, never shuts up, reeks of hard liquor and resignation. I catch a ride to Portland with a wonderfully open and lovely female driver, a musician and a comedian. The car is filled with laughter and snacks, and when we arrive in Portland we go straight to see the comedian perform. It’s a sparse venue, filled with Portland hipsters: plaid, skinny jean, long hair, nose piercings, inky dark tattoos. And that’s the men. The show is more hit than miss, but the beer is cheap and I revel with my new found friends. We enjoy the novelty of only having known each other for a few hours, and that’s enough to give a special sparkle  to the evening. We bar hop: a hip hop club filled with hipsters and gangsters. It’s incredibly eclectic, incredibly beautiful and incredibly trendy. I shimmy to the bathroom to tuck my white tshirt into my short, navy, 60s style skirt, push my hair up into a higher quiff and apply a bold coat of red lipstick. I may not be in heels and a sparkly dress, but I know I can dance.

Delighting in my body. Circling, gyrating, undulating my hips. Watching my body move with wonder and pleasure. Making love to myself, flirting, drawing myself in. Fuck, I am sexy! Closing my eyes, feeling my chest conduct a beautiful roll, opposite circle to my hips. It feels so good I draw out the movement, playing with the rhythm, almost off beat and then double time, opening my eyes, smiling slyly at my play. This- THIS- feels so good. I amaze at my body’s ability to move so right, in such good time. I trust in it, and it moves, directed from a place within, rather than from my head. Different club, different music…dubstep! The syncopated, distressed, warped bass brings with it a rush of adrenaline, a high that makes me laugh out loud, grin broadly at myself as I ride the air with my hands, fingers twisting delicately with the electronic treble, feet planted widely and broadly on the ground, knees spread and hips grinding with the beat. I pick up and drop off at exactly the right points, feeling where the DJ is going, matching my muscular rhythms with the electronically produced beat, that blasts out and is absorbed by the seething crowd. My new friends head home one by one. The last one, the comedian, tries to kiss me and I shrug out of his embrace with a small smile and determined lack of eye contact. Then I’m free again, to dance completely alone in a crowd! Bliss! I’m aware of the stares of men, but there are always stares of men and in my alone state I view them from underneath half closed eyelashes, delighting that none of them will enter into this space, no-one will know how blissful it is to be in my gyrating, undulating, shimmering bubble. I am self-love.

Portland continues much in this fashion. The Wednesday night comedy and dancing combo turns into Thursday hookahs, Friday dubstep with acrobats added, Saturday MDMA fueled naked hot-tub and better than average sex with a hotter than average man (“So…you like it rough, do you?”), Sunday backstage passes to The XX and better than average foreplay with a more considerate than average man, Monday a dinner date with the smoking photographer from Seattle…followed by a collapse into bed with fever, chills, and a awful head cold. Wipe out. Portland kicks my ass.

After dosing myself up with rash-enducing amounts of Emergen-C, I grit my teeth and embark with cautious excitement on the next leg of my journey- the road to San Francisco. I hit road-trip gold, finding Adam on Craigslist, a dieting trimmer who is driving Jezebell, a green VW van. He’s keen to make it a two day trip, sticking to the coast road, delighting in a lack of agenda. I’m not the only one attracted by this proposition and at the train station in Portland I meet Steve, the traveling, guitar playing Texan with a love for alcoholic Australians and Paul, an organic farmer from the East Coast. Again, as I’m discovering happens on the road, we connect instantly and intensely, and our two days blur in total delight at finding each other. We camp on a desolate, wind swept Oregon beach. Light a bonfire, play and sing nonsensical music, drink cheap local beer, laughingly kick up the sand to see the sparkling phosphorescence under our feet. Adam pops the top of the van and we fall asleep in Jezebel, sharing two sleeping bags and a blanket between us. No one propositions me. I’m thankful for that, for the first time in a month I can relax around men, not feeling their eyes silently watching and devouring me.

We enter California, and the majestic redwood forest. We turn off the destination focused main highway and drive parallel, though a story book road called The Avenue of the Gods. In a spark of traveler frivolity we throw open the side door to Jezebell. Paul and I lie on the floor of the van, our heads out the door, whooping with total delight as we watch the towering trees pass over us. The enthusiasm grows and Adam suggests we lie on the roof. He drives the twisting, empty road and I brace myself on the roof of this van, grinning widely, laughing and shouting with pure pleasure. I feel giddy with freedom and recklessness, passing slowly beneath these giants, the california-blue sky barely peaking through their ancient foliage. We swap, and I find myself in the drivers’ seat, steering, braking and clutching while Steve beside me changes gears. The idiocy of me driving on the right for the first time is equal with Adam and Paul on the roof, and like two negatives, both cancel each other out and we’re so, so positive. So glad.

We charge down the motorway and hit the Golden Gate bridge late evening. It’s perfect. Paul tries to hold his breath, Steve is playing and singing, Adam leaning over the wheel like a trucker, baseball cap on backwards and I’m reclined in shotgun, painted toenails bobbing with excitement on the dash. I couldn’t arrive in San Fran in more style, with better company. The night passes in a blur, a fitting end an epic road trip, in the true sense of the word. Parked in the gritty Tenderloin district, Hazzard, a friend of Adam’s takes us from a grimy Korean bar with the giggling waitresses matching the drinkers shot for shot, to a transvestite strip club: a happening place on a Wednesday night in the Tenderloin. The boys are hesitant, and then with growing admiration, attraction, boners (and confusion) approach the stage. I smile a redlipsticked smile at everyone and enjoy the show and the blurring of gender and sex in equal parts.

I wake up early Thursday morning, in Jezebell, on the side of a Tenderloin street. My hangover, combined with the growing effects of my ‘too-much-fun-flu’, motivate me to do what’s best for my body and in an organized half hour I find a train to my Uncle’s in Northern California, where my own room in a hay bale house awaits.

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This Is What I Know (or…How I Came to Realize I Love BDSM)

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Barbie (Photo credit: C Simmons)

When I started consciously acknowledging to myself that I enjoyed submissive masochism, it was emotionally turbulent to say the least. I felt so fucked-up, and found myself searching back in my past for any instances of abuse at the hands of others (there were none), or wondering how I could ‘fix’ what was causing me to enjoy this type of kink.

The coming out stories from other BDSMers were incredibly helpful- they made me feel far less weird and broken, and more like I was one of the lucky ones with a key to an amazingly kinky world. So, I decided I would write my own story. It is basically instances in my life that I look back on with curiosity now I identify as into BDSM. Perhaps I’m taking self-analysis way too far, but it makes me feel comforted thinking that seeds of BDSM have always been with me, rather than ‘just’ being a particular sexual fantasy.

This is very personal. But! Maybe it will help someone else!

*******

He pulls me to him across the bed. Thrusts one hand roughly between my legs, forces his fingers inside me. My breath catches, I turn my head away and scream into the pillow. His free hand twists in my hair, and he forces my face within centimeters of his. You are going to come, and you are not going to look away or close your eyes. He snarls this and I nod, already feeling tingly orgasm about to overwhelm my body. He pushes his fingers in deeper and I can’t help it, it’s too intense and my head snaps back, my eyes squeezing shut. Look into my fucking eyes! I’m scared by the anger in his voice and bring my face back to his. Fucking come! I obey, violently. Time slows…I’m staring into his eyes, dark, glittering. I see his pupils dilate, in slow motion, and I’m trapped, I can’t look away. That’s the chance he needs and then he’s there, he’s in my head, he’s dominating my thoughts, he’s got me. He’s won.

This is what I know.

I was brought up in rural New Zealand, in a well-rounded nuclear family. Both my parents are still together, and I have one younger sister. I was shy at school, but I had a close group of friends. At age 10, ‘playing horses’ was the game of choice. Every break-time for a year, you would see giggling girls cantering around, holding imaginary reins in our hands, and gripping tightly onto riding crops (or, rather, sticks. Bamboo was a favorite). The stick seemed the essential prop, we didn’t need reins, or a saddle, or even a pretend tail. We HAD to have a riding crop. The summer of that year I made an interesting self-discovery. It was one of those long, hot, dry summer evenings. I had taken to galloping around on my own for the last week, making neigh-ing sounds and jumping over things. I remember very clearly that one evening I decided I was riding a particularly troublesome horse, who needed to be ‘tamed’. I began whacking my own thigh, harder and harder with the riding crop, and becoming engrossed at the sound of the stick strapping my bare skin, at the red stripes appearing on my leg. Even more surprisingly I remember enjoying the pain. I didn’t recognize this consciously at the time, but this was monumental. I wasn’t known for having a high pain tolerance. Everyone called me a wimp, and I often didn’t try things my friends did because I was scared I would hurt myself. Then why did I enjoy this so much?

The following year my sister and I discovered a new favorite hobby. It was the winter holidays, raining and windy. We had Barbie and Ken dolls that a more conservative friend had brought me years before. I had worshipped that Barbie, partially because of what she represented. My mum is a strong, proud feminist and a manifest of this was that she only bought us gender-neutral toys as children. Barbie was so ultra-feminine and I would spend hours dressing her and brushing her hair. Ken was interesting for a little while, and then I left him in front of the fireplace and his ridiculous abs melted and formed a sort of penis shaped blob on his crotch! By the time I was 11, both dolls had lost their appeal. So, my younger sister and I decided to make a Barbie-cube. We tied Barbie and Ken together, back to back, at the neck, waist, wrists and ankles. My sister made the knots, and I remember closely supervising and checking the ‘bondage’ was secure enough. We dramatically drowned them in an ice-cream container of water, and then locked them in the freezer overnight. I remember gleefully fantasizing about Barbie struggling against her bonds, trying to break free from Ken and her captors. The next morning we ran to the freezer, with Christmas morning-like excitement. My sister carried the Barbie-cube outside with reverence, I climbed up onto our jungle gym, and from the highest point we could find I ceremoniously smashed the Barbie-cube on the concrete in our front yard. To our delight Ken split completely in half! We threw him up onto the roof of our house (seriously! I have no idea why we thought that should be his final resting place), and then turned our attention to Barbie. Only one of her legs had fallen off so I popped it back in and (fatefully), she lived.

My sister soon became bored with my new favorite game (“Let’s torture Barbie!”) and stopped playing, but I continued with growing cruelty. I cut all her hair off, tied a rope around her neck and dragged her behind my bike, alternatively drowned her and then stomped her into the mud, threw her out the window and dragged her behind the car. Funnily enough, my parents saw all this going on, and never once stopped me. I almost got the feeling that my mum encouraged it. Eventually Barbie was swallowed by a rain swollen stream, and I didn’t look for another toy to replace her. My days of torture (to others) were over.

My interest in horses quickly waned too, although I did continue galloping around hitting myself with a stick until I was 13. I remember one incident where I found a particularly whippy riding crop, and thrashed myself until I raised welts. My mum noticed these, and I can’t remember her making much of them at the time. Years later we were recalling my horse days and she brought this back up. I laughingly brushed it off, “Oh yeah, I used to get so into character when I was playing, what an imagination etc etc”. I was surprised she remembered this. I wonder if she had much of a clue as to what I am now?

My high school experience was painful for the first 4 years, and awesome for the last one. I was so shy, intellectually stimulated somewhat but bored too, desperate to be one of the cool kids and at the same time desperate to carve my own niche. Probably not dissimilar to every other teenager. 14 to 15 was volatile, turbulent, fraught. I ended up carving into my skin. I wasn’t suicidal, but I enjoyed the rush of the sharp, intense pain and then watching the blood rise to the skin, extreme contrast to the white of my arms. I would never cut deep, I restricted myself to the depth on the sharp point of a protractor, and would drag it again and again across my skin, then just sink into the pain. I would lie back on the mattress, feel the pain wash over me, radiating out from the cuts like light across my body. It was horrible, I was filled with misery, hopelessness, despair. Self harm didn’t solve any of that, but it did, for a short period of time, make me feel invincible, in control, powerful. The rush it would give me was euphoric.

I was drawn out of depression and self harm partially through various kinds of therapy, and mostly by a very stable and loving boyfriend. The Puppy. We were together for five years- the last two years of high school and almost all of my university. He’s a salt of the earth kind of guy: enjoyed fishing, power tools, kids and a white picket fence. Writing this now I’m surprised we lasted as long as we did, but as teenagers, we loved each other. We would spend hours together laughing hysterically, eating junk food, drinking way too much, going on dusty road-trips in the mountains behind our town, exploring each others bodies, learning about ourselves. I discovered an insatiable appetite for spanking. I loved the shock of his hand smacking my ass, the jolt it would send up my spine, the stinging pain, how it would make my head swim with arousal. We grew apart, the cracks started to show at university, and after multiple infidelities on both sides we broke up in my final year. When I was 19, a lesbian friend whispered to me mysteriously at a drunken party: “Literotica”. I had an inkling of what she was referring to, and the following day, horny and hungover, I googled it. I masturbated until I was exhausted, until there was a giant damp patch on my sheets, until I actually, physically, couldn’t come any more. I also made the ground-breaking self-discovery: the two categories I was most drawn to were “BDSM” and “Non-consent/Reluctance”. I told no-one. Not even the Puppy.

22. I graduated from university, honors first class, and in a whirlwind 2 weeks was offered a prestigious job in Auckland, ‘the big smoke’ and at the completely opposite end of the country. Of course I jumped at it. I was single for the first time since I was 16, in a city where I knew no-one, totally out of my depth and loving it. At a music festival I found myself gently kissing Fred, the surfer. We danced, talked, laughed and ended up naked in his tent. As he fucked me he pinned one arm above my head, firmly grabbed my chin in his free hand and forced my head to the side. I tried to bring it back to kiss him, but he forced it back again, whispering to me “I want to see your face in the moonlight as I make you come”. He did, and I did, hard and endlessly. I never saw him again, but that night something clicked in me. That subtle domination provided a tenuous link in my mind…that the erotic fiction I masturbate so furiously to could be more than a hidden fantasy. I was exceptionally turned on.

I met the Bear a few months later. He lived next door, our eyes locked across the weeds, broken beer bottles and moldy concrete. Or, more accurately, our pelvises locked. He was like no other man I knew. From the beginning he impressed me with his honest communication, his ability to eloquently describe how he felt about me and our relationship, his emotional availability, and his own lack of drama and indecision. It was simple. He liked me and wanted to be with me. He fed me: food, love, orgasms and compliments. Almost straight away we began pushing our sexual boundaries, quicker than I both think we realized. We were watching a lot of porn together, and I developed a noticeable taste for rough, humiliating, gang bang porn. We played with light bondage, double penetration with a dildo, more spanking, and rough, hard sex. Yet! Neither of us had consciously connected any of this to S and M. My tastes in erotic fiction were becoming more violent and depraved that I felt embarrassed by them, they were still my secret.

We were looking for a threesome, or a rendezvous with another couple online when we came across Master Mark. Reading his profile in the Bear’s bedroom I became very still and focused. “Master knows what you want and how to give it to you. Stop wasting time slut, and contact your Master.” I could feel wetness immediately between my legs, I unconsciously started grinding a little into the mattress. A cold shiver ran down my back. My stomach felt very light, my breathing was shallow, my palms were sweaty, I could almost feel my pupils dilate. I wanted this. I fucking WANTED this.

And I got it. The Bear and I met this ‘professional’ Dominant, had one incredibly unprofessional encounter, and I’m not even going to write about it because it makes my skin crawl. It was exceptionally sleazy, and I can only see that now with distance and slightly more maturity. Still, as gross as it was, it provided the catalyst. The Master Mark incident brought my BDSM desires, that I had never consciously acknowledged to myself, to the light of day. We had to address them. And as we discovered, they definitely weren’t going away.

The Bear was right on board. I think for him the sight of me, ravenous, almost foaming at the mouth for this particular type of erotica, made a big impression on him. An animal in heat is close to describing how crazy I was for this…thing…that had been awoken inside me. The Bear and I started experimenting. I started to develop my likes and dislikes. I enjoy stinging slaps all over my body. I enjoy being blindfolded and gagged. I particularly enjoy cruel dirty talk. Emotional masochism? Yes please.

For lack of knowledge and terminology, I self-identified as submissive. I’ve since found more enjoyment as a masochist. The two aren’t completely separate, and often in scenarios I become naturally submissive. I’m also discovering that certain types of pain make me submissive, while others make me mad and want to fight and struggle. I fight, but not wanting to win? I fight with the knowledge that I’ll lose, but grappling with my partner brings so much enjoyment.

I wish I could say everything in my life is clear and easy now that I’ve accepted this part of myself. It isn’t. I still feel some inner conflict about my masochistic desires, and recently I’ve been drawn to polyamory, which is bringing up a whole new load of stuff. I’ve had some awesome encounters with awesome men (the experience in the starting paragraph can be credited to one I call The Hyena;)). The Bear and I aren’t together anymore, for many reasons, one of which is differing priority we individually give to BDSM. But! I feel like I’m an onion! The core of this onion is who I really am, free to live in a loving and kinky world. And I’m getting closer and closer to that core, peeling off the layers of self-judgement, guilt, societal expectations, saying ‘no!’ to my desires, trying to be vanilla, shame, fear…

And that feels very good indeed.