These violent delights.

He has big features. He once said that to me, over a dazed breakfast. “I have big features. I have big hands, and big feet, and big facial features. People have told me that before.” He was right. His hands could fit (almost) all the way around my

throat.

He is a chef. (Was? I haven’t had any contact with him for over 8 months). He worked as aggressively as he fucked, by the sounds of it. Keeping his staff in line with verbal backhands, rewarding with a dirty joke, drinks and a joint.

You have to know what he looked like. He was stocky, formidably strong, with a chest you could punch and kick and your fist would meet flesh and warm, solid muscle. You’d be cringing, because the look in his face was

“You’re going to fucking get it now”

But, I don’t want to give the impression that he was a ranting, angry guy. He was sharpened as delicately as one of his knives. His aggressiveness was always under the surface, and if, like me, you were sensitive to picking that kind of stuff up then you could definitely notice it. The potential for him to fuck you up was very real, very present. But, he was also hilarious. God, he would make me laugh! He spent a lot of time thinking, wrote affirmations to himself on his bathroom mirror, had 2 tiny fluffy dogs, worked out, smoked weed, socialized, travelled, had girlfriends. We went to a party together, dropped some MDMA and danced and laughed and tried to pick up women.

We brought out the darkest in each other.

He made me bleed, by holding my jaw open and fucking my mouth so hard that my teeth cut a long, thin slice into my upper lip. He slapped me until he bruised my cheek and jawbone, which clicked for weeks. (By chance, a friend of mine who was an osteopath did some work on me, and after running his fingers down the sides of my face exclaimed, ‘huh, you’re a bit out of line’, and jolted my jaw back into place). He bit me so hard that I screamed “Red” (the only time) and  the bruise, the size of my closed fist, purpled my thigh for close to a month. He would work his fingers inside me until I would

bleed

and then go harder. While I’d be screaming in pain and

ecstasy.

Now, 8 months later, in therapy. I start making the link between

the prevalence of self-harming tendencies that she began acting on in her teenage years, and

asking this man to fuck me til I cry.

Eliminate violence? Love myself.

SO GLAD! Yelling it at 13,500 ft!!

SO GLAD! Yelling it at 13,500 ft. Tajumulco, Guatemala

I wrote this during an earthquake-y November in Guatemala, 2012. I rented a second floor apartment in the centre of Xela, and spent a month lying on sun-warm concrete tiles, surrounded by car alarms and relentless reggaeton, and took stock. This was the result of that.

I have written about violence before. Fear, pain, degradation, brutality, tears. Violence that, to any outsider, is graphic, visceral, and looks incredibly real, but to a kinkster is a magical creation of careful negotiation and trust. Consensual violence turns me on, I have fantasized about it for years and I practice it with relish.

However, here I am writing about a different type of violence. One that is often not portrayed accurately in TV and movies. It cannot be neatly pegged by stereotypical images or words. For the victim it can be secret, quiet, stigmatized. For the outsider it’s uncomfortable, embarrassing, horrifying, too close, too scary to unpack in detail. I am a woman who has survived this type of violence. And I am writing this on November 25th, three days before my 25th birthday, because it is Eliminate Violence Against Women Day and, for the first time in my life, this day is for me.

5 months ago, I was raped. I want to stop hiding this in the closet like a dirty secret that can’t be mentioned. I feel, now, like this is a part of who I am. This in itself is tricky- it’s as if by saying this I’m giving my rapist more of me, more importance. But then, on the flip side, this really was life-altering, and not *just* a bad experience to be forcefully erased. I AM a rape survivor. I feel like I’m going out on a bit of a scary limb writing about this, because in my experience people don’t discuss rape in detail. People talk about other awful things: car accidents, earthquakes, fires, assault, cancer. But I’ve found that once you say the word ‘rape’, that’s a conversation stopper.

So, on this day, I’m going to write about my rape. I’m going to tell you how it happened, how I reacted in the months afterwards, and what I feel now. My hope is that, with this small and highly personal step, I can contribute to an open discussion of violence. My hope is that by sharing this, I can experience relief, it’s difficult to feel so much and keep it so hidden. My hope is that, with this piece of writing, I can honor and draw attention to Eliminate Violence Against Women Day in a real, non-abstract way.

I feel like I have already given plenty of preamble, but just a couple more things. I do discuss my rape in detail in the following paragraphs, so if you’re prone to sexual violence flashbacks then here is a trigger warning. If you’d like to keep reading the rest of my writing, you can skip the paragraphs between the lines of asterisks. Also, this entire piece is highly personal and subjective. This is my experience, this is how I feel, and I am in no way saying that any other rape victims might feel the same way as I do, or have any reason to. Neither am I saying that how I’ve dealt with my rape is the ‘right’ way to do so. It’s what’s worked for me, but I am definitely not claiming that it is superior or better than how any other person may deal with rape.

************

I was halfway through my glorious year of travel and I had arrived in a new city. I was planning on living here for a few months, so I did what I’ve done many times before, without any incident. I looked for a room on Craigslist, and found one, cheaper than most, with one male room-mate. This time, however, the Russian roulette that is internet classifieds was not in my favor. I got the bullet. My room-mate rapist defies all prejudiced stereotyping, and lends himself to others. Tall, strong, white, same age as me. Owns his own business, university graduated, close to his brother and still-together parents. Heavy drug user. Holds misogynistic attitudes towards women.

My rape was confusing. I can’t remember any of the first assault. I was being celebrated with ‘welcome to your new home’ drinks on my first night at the apartment. I was given a tequila shot, carefully poured and handed to me by him. I next remember waking up in his bed, naked, bruised and disoriented. He’s snorting a line of coke off my ass. I blearily ask where his friends were, and what was I doing naked in his bed? Did we have sex? He is defensive, aggressive. He looks me right in the eyes and tells me I seduced him. He tells me he knew he shouldn’t “screw the crew”, but I stripped in front of him and begged him to fuck me. He tells me he wanted to walk away, but I was so sexy he couldn’t help it and gave in. He tells me I wanted this. He then turns me over and fucks me, without emotion, with propriety. I’m surprised at how sore I feel, and bewildered. What was happening? Did I initiate this? Did I want it? I freeze, kept my mouth closed, submit.

He leaves for work, and I spend the first day at my new apartment lying numbly on the couch, watching hours of reality TV, not thinking, not eating, not moving, not leaving. He returns, jittery high. Obviously my month’s rent, paid in cash the day before, was going right up his nose. A friend of his comes over, and he counsels him on how to “deal with that dumb bitch”: his friend’s girlfriend. My head is pounding, nausea, trapped. I can’t stand to listen to their conversation, to the rantings of an misogynistic coke head, feeling his huge hands clenching and unclenching on my shins as he pulls my legs into his lap. I feel numb. I feel powerless. I can’t think, can’t take a step back and evaluate the situation. I do the only thing I am capable of: quietly extract myself, tiptoe to my room, and fall asleep.

He crashes into my room around midnight. He is manically high, and holding out another tequila shot to me. Thankfully my indignation at being awoken partially breaks through my numbness and I refuse the shot, asking him to leave my room. He tells me it was his room, because I was in his apartment. He tells me I’m rude for not taking the shot. He tells me I am his. He undoes his jeans, pushes his cock in my face, takes out his phone and tells me to smile at the camera while his dick is down my throat. He leaves as suddenly as he had entered, muttering about going to score. I sink into emptiness.

3am, he strides in again. This time he slaps me hard, on my cheek, and then bites my shoulder. He orders me to put on a new dress I have, and then tells me to strip. I obey him, robotically. He fucks me again, telling me that he isn’t interested in trying to pick up at bars tonight, because why would he need to, when he has a sexy thing like me at home. I close my eyes, retreat into myself, ignore his manic conversation, his panting, his coke shakes. He leaves and I keep my eyes closed, frozen on the bed. He comes in one more time, laughs and smashes my cellphone on the ground, tells me he’ll buy me an iphone, and a car, and he’ll find me a part-time job. He fucks me again, pushing inside me brutally. I am like a blow-up doll.

I can’t fall asleep when he leaves this time. He’s ranting in the lounge to someone- I think it’s his dealer- for hours. He rants about dumb bitches. He rants about his big dick. He rants about nothing. Around eight in the morning his ranting starts to drive me crazy, like a never-ending car alarm. This finally breaks through my stupor, and I look around the room at my smashed cellphone, the untouched tequila shot, my dress crumpled on the floor. I look at my body with detachment; purply-red bruises on my thighs, scratches, sheets tangled in my legs. I look smashed and crumpled too. This makes me angry! My anger is pure, quick, lifesaving. I recognize that I’m not safe. I recognize that I feel scared, and have for the last 48hours. I recognize that I don’t trust this man, raging in the next room. I wait, huddling under the covers, wishing he won’t come in again, wishing for silence. An hour later I get it. Tiptoeing I pull myself out of bed and open my bedroom door a crack. I can see into the lounge, and see his feet on the couch. Holding my breath I peek around the door a bit more. He’s asleep.

My heart is banging in my chest, adrenaline rushes through me, delicately laced with fear. I close my door quietly, reassemble my cellphone and text the only person I know in this city, asking if I can come and stay with her for a couple of days. Miraculously she responds immediately, telling me to come right now. I start crying with relief, the tears surprise me, I didn’t realize they were so close to the surface. I pack quickly, efficiently. I’m barely aware of my actions, but my body is moving on autopilot, racing against the clock, racing against the fear of him waking. I call a cab, zip up my bag. I sit on the bed and fold my shaking hands in my lap. I wait. The phone rings, the cab is here. I pull on my backpack; palms sweaty, throat dry, heart pounding, head spinning, I step out into the lounge and start tiptoeing towards the door. Like a bad dream, he wakes, sits up, pale and gaunt, sweaty with drug come-down. I freeze, eyes wide, caught. He’s between me and the door. He asks me what the fuck I’m doing. A voice, it doesn’t feel like mine, tells him I’m leaving. I feel totally detached, I’m numb again, but the anger and fear is driving something inside me and I take a couple of steps towards freedom. I tell him the taxi is waiting. He jumps up, positions himself in front of the door, starts telling me I’m crazy. He’s looking right at me. He tells me I wanted this. He tells me I begged him. He tells me I’m sexy. He tells me he’s more than infatuated with me. He invites me to lunch with his parents. He tells me he’s never connected with a girl as much as he has with me. He tells me he thought we had something.

I think of the cab, behind that door, safe and yellow, with no coke or tequila or raging men with hard-ons. I look everywhere but at him. I tell him I’m not comfortable staying here. I tell him his coke use scares me. I tell him the taxi is here. I tell him I’m leaving. I start walking again, and wonderfully, unbelievably, he steps to the side, just enough to let me pass. I keep my head down, eyes unblinking, squeeze past him. I feel his eyes burning into my face, and as I open the door I hear the last thing he’ll ever speak to me: “crazy bitch.

********

I’m a pro-active rape victim. It took me around 2 hours after I escaped to realize what a scary, dangerous situation I’d been in, and around another 2 hours for the thought to form in my head that perhaps I’d been drugged, and raped. I found a rape crisis centre, I had a forensic examination at the hospital, I connected with a support group, I spent weeks advocating for myself for free counseling (and found an awesome, kink friendly counselor). I used what skills I had to help myself process and re-open: yoga, writing and BDSM. This is ongoing work.

Since I was raped I have felt the inescapable and judgmental gaze of Victim Blame. I experienced Victim Blame initially, and intentionally from my rapist; then inadvertently (I hope to believe, anyway) from well-meaning friends, family, police, general acquaintances, Ministry of Justice. In the months directly following my rape I felt ashamed that it didn’t look more like a TV depiction of rape, that I didn’t scream “No!”, that I experienced total numbness and detachment during the assault. I was ashamed that I didn’t even try to physically fight him, that it took me 48hours before I could leave. I was ashamed that my rape isn’t as bad as some people’s, and that I should just keep it to myself, because I was lucky and have, in all intents and purposes “bounced back”. I was ashamed that people might see that talking, writing, bringing attention to my rape as a call for attention, that I’m pulling the “rape card”, that I’m looking for pity. I was ashamed that I can’t remember the first night, that perhaps I did seduce him, that perhaps I got too drunk, that perhaps I was “looking for it”. I was ashamed that I was too trusting, that I didn’t protect myself better on Craigslist, but that now I have “learnt my lesson”. I was ashamed that when I asked for financial support with counseling, it was granted on the terms that it was “more likely than not” that I was raped. But they couldn’t say definitely.

I’ve been told all of the above, in the last 5 months. I’ve written about my feelings here in past tense, but honestly, the often subtle gaze of Victim Blame cuts so deep that I struggle not to turn it on myself. I’m most ashamed that I still repeat these things back to myself, and sometimes too, when I’m feeling low and vulnerable, I believe them.

I am not angry at those who inadvertently stray into Victim Blame, the opposite in fact. I feel acute sympathy for those who I’ve told about my rape. We aren’t really taught how to respond to the trauma and crisis of rape. I recognize that in the face of horrifically bad news, some people can resort to humor, accidental blame, cheery phrases, because that can hide the sickening feeling that someone you love has been hurt, by another person. That something so horrible can and does happen to People You Know.

I have suddenly been thrown into a world where lots of women talk about rape. Generally not in the detail I’ve discussed mine here, but I meet women in my support group who have been raped, sometimes numerous times, often by men close to them. I’ve become used to women outside of my support group, almost shyly, in half whispers, telling me that they’ve been drugged before too. Or they didn’t give consent to a boyfriend, but he fucked them anyway. Or they might feel brave enough to say they were raped, but that they didn’t do anything about it, or seek help, because they didn’t want to make a fuss. Even though hearing this no longer shocks me, it still brings to the surface a swell of anger and misery- at the injustice, at the hopelessness. How dare they…how dare these men treat women in this way?! How dare they perpetrate violence through something so deeply damaging and intimate!  How can it be that in North America one in four women will experience sexual violence during her lifetime?! Isn’t this shocking, that the odds are so high it’s almost incredible I’ve made it to 24 without being raped yet! How can so much violence and inequality exist in the world?!

Mulling over this violence filled me with anger and hate. I don’t think I’ve hated anyone as much as I hated HIM. My anger was ferocious, and terrifyingly, it started consuming me to the point where I turned it on myself. I attempted to control every little aspect of my life, and berated myself with a cruelty that shocked me. And when my grip on control became too much to bear, then I’d drop into a spiral of self-destruction. I engaged in emotionless sport-fucking, I drank myself into comas and drugged myself to numbness and fake euphoria. I’d push myself physically, running until vomiting, and then spending entire days forgetting to eat or binging on junk food. Feeling so much anger wasn’t achieving anything positive in my life, and thankfully, I recognized that it brought on more misery, more despair. It was taking me to a place that I haven’t visited since I was a depressed teenager. Then I would exorcise the pain with cutting. Now, I had other ‘socially acceptable’ outlets, but they were just as harmful.

Crucially, I recognized that the anger, helplessness, control, shame, and hate I was feeling was actually pretty normal. I was following the predicted emotional journey of a rape victim, to a tee. I intuited that I would be able to break this destructive and negative spiral though a sort of acceptance, but this seemed impossible. How could I accept that this man could hurt me SO much? Who thought he had the right to use my body without my consent? And then intimidate me into believing it was my fault? In everything we’re taught, this should be unforgivable. But thinking like this trapped me. Because the more anger I felt for him, the more self-destructive I became. The more he won.

But. But. I am in a place in my life now where I feel very lucky, and very grateful. I am aware more than ever of my privilege. I am university educated and was raped in a country where I speak the language and have legal status. I hold three passports, I have a savings account, no dependents and I’m highly employable. I’ve been raised in a stable family filled with love and support, by two very sane parents who encouraged independence and open communication and expression. I have boundless choice: on my sexuality, where I want to live, how I want to form relationships, where I want to work, what I want to study, where I want to travel. I can advocate for myself, navigate bureaucracy, communicate eloquently. I have a strong sense of self-worth. I have almost no limitations on my life. My mantra for the past month has been “So glad!” and I yell it with glee and happiness from the tops of mountains.

He perpetrated horrific, inexcusable and completely unwarranted violence against me. And I responded with detachment, fear, anger, hate. It was very satisfying to imagine standing over him, having cruelly beaten him, and smiling at his tears of fear and remorse. And I could very, very easily continue fueling my anger with these images, but then, simply, I would be continuing this pattern of violence. I was responding to violence with violence. And, most importantly, this violence was not just directed at him, but at myself too- physically, verbally, mentally.

On this day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, I’m a woman practicing non-violence. I am loving myself, and by doing this, cutting the cycle of violence following violence. I am happy, strong, grateful. I’m more than surviving. In place of anger and hate I choose pure and unselfish love.

A new (or old?) coat of submission

This is how it goes:

K: Love you
Me: Love you too
K: Just remember
You’re mine
You belong to me

This is how it goes, the heart-beat quickening response, the breathy breaths, the stomach flipping Love. This is how it goes, the rejection of should and should-nots, the angst of semantics, the intellectual reasoning and double-checking and theorizing and reading and writing and endless, circular thinking…

This is how it goes. The unexpected familiarity of something deeply known, relaxing into submission. The sudden, peaceful calm. This is how it goes, full of perceived indecision when really, was there ever a decision? Didn’t I first make it, when we kissed and he tangled his hands in my hair, drawing me in and holding me? Was there ever really a question, after suddenly stumbling into him and waking up to who I really was?

This is how it goes, side-stepping the what-ifs, witnessing my frantic ego build walls, watching myself work up into a terrified frenzy and then, with three simple lines, just…knowing.

This is how it goes, this path to being owned.

Blissful nights. Toronto December 2012

Blissful nights. Toronto December 2012

 

A break-up letter, Havana, March 2012.

The view from my casa in La Habana, Cuba, 2012

The view from my casa in La Habana, Cuba, 2012

Hello my love.

I’ll try and describe this room to you. It’s pretty plain, but been remodeled in ‘antique’ style, which seems very popular in both the casa I’ve stayed at. Antique style here equals a huge billowy white satin curtain covering one wall (nothing behind it, just a blank wall), a big window with a red curtain with roses on it and a huge stand-alone wardrobe with a big mirror on the front. The wardrobe has actually been scaring me. I woke up one night totally freaked out because I dreamt that I was lying in bed looking at the mirror and I saw Miss Havisham (the creepy old woman from Great Expectations) in it, staring at me. And last night I was tossing and turning trying to sleep and I couldn’t turn my back on the mirror. I was even afraid to close my eyes in case I opened them and saw someone else in the mirror.

I wanted you here, last night.

I’ve been up and down since we parted. I’m cautiously saying I’ve been up slightly more than down, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m feeling happier, or if that’s just the glow of a new place and new adventure. I’ve had a really low day today, and I’ve been angst-ing all evening on what to do about that, what to say to you, and- this is what I’m finding the hardest- whether to trust how I’m feeling. My trust in myself is totally shaken.

I got the bus to Playa del Este today, it’s a beach about 18k from La Habana. It was pretty average, I swam a bit and read, and tried to write you. This nice guy started chatting to me- Canadian from Toronto- wasn’t trying to hit on me, just another solo traveller and wanted to hang out with someone for the day. And I rebuffed him at every chance I got! He was persistent, but friendly: asked if I wanted to get some lunch, explore the town, share a cab back to Habana, even invited me out with some of his friends tonight to a salsa club. And this is what solo travel is all about right, to leap at chances that arise, and meet new people, and challenge myself socially. And here’s my chance! And I didn’t take it. It’s Friday night, and I’m in bed writing you at 10:30pm. I haven’t been out drinking or dancing in Cuba at all yet! I couldn’t be bothered socializing with this guy. I caught myself thinking on the bus on the way back into town, if I wanted to chat with someone on the beach and explore Habana with someone, that someone is you, my partner of two years, it’s not some random guy from Toronto who I barely know.

And then I got back to Parque Centro and all I could see were couples everywhere. One sticks in my head: they were tourists, and the guy had his arm draped around the woman’s shoulder. He was pointing up at something and she was looking, and they were both smiling. And then they laughed and she snuggled into him tighter and kissed his cheek and he kissed her head. I saw that and thought, we look just like that when we’re together, and I felt so incredibly lonely then, and so stupid and confused and conflicted.

Those feelings have stayed with me all evening. I’ve been trying to write you all week, but I don’t know what to say. I need to make a decision and I just have to trust and hope hope hope that it’s the right one. My options are: A) Come to you sooner rather than later. Reconcile. We feel more like a couple, less like ‘just close friends’ (by this I mean, regular, passionate sex:)). I feel happy and content in the choice that I’ve made. Plan more travel with you. B) Come to you sooner rather than later. Spend lovely time with you, but probably more like close friends, rather than as a full on couple. You go to Costa Rica, I go somewhere close by, probably not back to Canada. We plan to meet up again sooner rather than later, but in what capacity? C) We see each other before we leave Cuba, but we know that will be the last time for a long time. I return to Vancouver, you go to Costa Rica.

I’m trying to approach this decision-making logically, which may be a bad and incredibly frustrating idea, because logically, surely, I’d want option A right? Here’s some of the things that are making this decision difficult for me.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to love you like you want me to/like you deserve/like you love me. 

I recall in one of our conversations, you said that the main thing you wanted in life was me, and that I am the top thing that makes you happy. I don’t know if I can ever say that to you, if I can ever say that to anyone. I can’t put that much trust, that much power and hope, on one person. I don’t know if I’ll ever change my mind on this, I feel it so strongly. It also frightens me, that I have that much responsibility pressing on me. I feel like if I don’t ‘give’ you myself, then I am taking away from you what will make you the happiest. That’s so conflicting, because I do want to make you happy, I do.

But this makes me feel trapped and angry! No one owns me, and no one can make claims like that on me. Similarly, I don’t believe I can make claims like that on someone else. The first person I look to in life to give me what I want is…me. And it will always be me. I’m not saying you’re wrong in feeling this way, it’s how you feel, and this is how I feel. It has crossed my mind that perhaps you would be loved better by someone who felt similar to you in this sense. I’m genuinely afraid that if I pick option A, whose to say that this won’t happen again? I left you in Varadero because I wanted something more than I wanted our relationship. I can’t guarantee this will be the one and only time.

BDSM.

It’s bizarre that I’m thinking about this, now, when I’m feeling the least horny I’ve ever been. This is tough to write to you, because I know this is something that cuts very deep with you, and something that is particularly sensitive. My recent experience with BDSM in Vancouver was eye-opening, mostly in how I reacted. The most eye-opening thing is how quickly and consciously I went against what you specifically asked me not to do. The thought of possible S and M creates an drug-like reaction in me. I wonder if it’s close to an addiction? I do things that are completely against my better judgement, I think of no-one but myself. My reaction defies all sense and logic. The second thing that surprised me is that once was never enough. If you can imagine some kind of animal tasting a certain type of meat for the first time, and then going on a feeding frenzy to get more of that meat, that is how I felt.

And the ‘meat’ wasn’t exactly quality. It excited my mind more than my body. For example, I was never shaking with horniness. I was never as wet as I am with you. I never came as hard, and as often, (and as truthfully) as I do with you. So then why did I crave it? It flicked something in my brain, something that was impossible, and still is impossible to ignore. It got closer to the core of my S and M cravings than anything else I’ve experienced, and that is something that is mean and scary. Something that is without love, something that is about pain, something that is about being used for a sadist’s pleasure. Something about being forced to submit, even though my better sense is screaming at me not too. Something dangerous and risky. Can you see why I can’t explore deeper with you? You can’t be any of those things to me, even if we’re acting.

And we’ve already discussed this, and you said something in our last discussion that made my heart leap with hope. You said that perhaps I could fulfill this separate to our relationship, with your knowledge, consent and perhaps participation. This is my best case scenario. But I’m afraid that I’m unable to do it successfully. As I’ve already demonstrated by trashing the terms of our open relationship, the promise and hint of BDSM makes me crazy and stupid. It fucks with me, more so with my head than my body. I don’t know if I’d be able to have an occasional Dom on the side, without going into a feeding frenzy, without lying to you, without hurting you in some way.

THIS is what it comes down to: I don’t know myself in this situation, and if I decide to go deeper, I don’t know how I’ll react. If I want to experiment further with BDSM, it could be unfair and hurtful to do it within our relationship. And the big question is IF: is BDSM ‘just’ a sexual preference, or is it a larger part of who I am? Which do I want it to be? Do I want to find out?

I’m no longer a stable person

Ok, that sounds very dramatic! I don’t mean that I’m ‘unhinged’. In Auckland, I was stable. I knew what my goals were, they were achievable and I didn’t question them. I knew what made me happy and what made me sad. I knew what I valued and where my strengths lay. I had a mid to long term plan that filled me with hope and excitement.

Now, I don’t know anything. The goals I have are guesses at best- I’m unsure if they’re good goals or not. I have many ideas for plans, but I don’t know how to pick one- and whether they are good plans or not. I still have some idea of what I value, but I’ve been thinking about new values too- and I’m unsure whether they’re good values or not. My strengths are still there, but mostly I sense my weaknesses, and feel inadequate. And I can brainstorm thousands of things that bring me happiness- but they are things that brought the old, stable ‘me’ happiness. With little sense of, and trust in my goals, plans, values and strengths, how do I know what I’m looking for?

I need this year. I need to develop a deeper sense of who I am through experimentation and trial and error. Can I do this while in a relationship? No. I can’t live experimentally while I have the grounding consistency of a long-term relationship, one that brings all my past actions, behavior and assumptions to the present. I have to live selfishly, and just for me. I have to travel solo. Is this goal worth it, is this goal worth forsaking my happy relationship?

Yes.

I’m so sorry, my love, my best friend, my bear. I choose option C.

On being a slut

I started having sex two months after my 16th birthday, and I loved it.

I lost my virginity on the beach my family have been camping at for years, bathed in a full moon, moaning enthusiastically, and thoroughly enjoying myself. Later, recounting this at a party with friends and hearing their stories of virginity regret, I felt awkward and mumbled something along the lines of, “Yeah, I wished I had waited until I had done it with a boyfriend.” But this was bullshit, because I didn’t regret anything about this. On a beach, deliciously doggy-style, with a gorgeous man 2 years my senior who I had only just met? Perfect! Sex was fun, pleasurable and I liked it!

Slut.

This was what was whispered behind my back, and then to my face. I was happy and excited about sex, and naturally, I told my ‘friends’. I made trips to see my beach hook-up a couple of times more, and enjoyed hours of sweaty, clinging, exclamatory sex with him. Then, I was curious to see what it would be like to have sex with someone different, so I met a man at a party and I did. I told my friends all of this, and then was surprised, and ashamed and hurt when rumours circulating my high school got back to me. I think these made it as far as my parents, because I remember my mum buying me condoms, and quickly saying to me that since we live in a small town, it’s a good practice to keep ‘personal’ things to myself. We never talked about my blossoming sexuality, I never told her about my first time. I think she just sort of knew, but not in detail.

So, I stopped talking. I had my first real relationship around this time, and this lasted 5 years. This gave me licence to explore, and I did with so much pleasure. My boyfriend was initially taken aback with my enthusiasm, but he was wonderful and open, and we experimented with spanking and hints of D/s. I didn’t broadcast all the new fascinating things I was discovering about myself, but it was a small town and word still got out. “Slut” wasn’t said outright, rather I would be referred to, with more than a little bit of passing judgement as “___’s nympho girlfriend.” This became so common place that it was said to my face, my boyfriend didn’t argue it, and I was a little unsure what it meant so I stayed quiet, smiling uncertainly. People started relating to me differently. Men would hit on me, hoping to ‘score’ me (even though I had a boyfriend), but not viewing me as a potential partner, only as a trophy fuck. Women felt threatened by me and gossiped. I was viewed as a sexual object, age 16.

However, I had the right amount of bullet-proof naivety that none of this stopped me. I was just so…driven…and curious…to explore everything that had the potential to be sexually pleasurable; with a partner, or several, or just by myself. I was fascinated by my body’s reactions, by secret little spots that could make me feel so good! Honestly, writing about it now brings a smile to my face. My exploration was wonderful!

My curiosity also spelled the end of our relationship. We separated for various reasons, but one was that I cheated. Twice. When I went to university I was madly curious to see what it would be like to sleep with this particular person? Or this one? In this way? With this dynamic? (A small, secret part of me was also curious to see what it would feel like to hurt my partner, and myself by doing this. What would it feel like to shatter trust and cause pain, to both of us? Could I survive it? This fascinates me: why was I so interested in exploring emotional pain?)

Both times I cheated I told my partner the next day, and after the second time, after calling me a slut, he understandably finished our relationship.

Sexual confidence and enthusiasm took a bit of a nose-dive. My rebound man was a marathon runner, with the most beautiful cock I have ever seen. He was right-wing, arrogant, immature. We fucked on and off for 2 months, and when he called it off he told me that I was TOO open with him, and that he wished I had been more secretive so he could work harder to get to know me. The subtext of this was that he wished I had ‘withheld’ sex for longer, so he could feel that sleeping with me was more of a challenge. He also called me a slut.

This hurt, and in my already fragile state I took this on board. I decided that there was something wrong with me, that I was a ‘nympho slut’ (in all the negative sense of the word) and that I should grow up and conform to the feminine ideal: hard to get, shyly flirtatious, make men work for ‘it’, not give ‘it’ up too easily. I decided the easiest way to do this was by cutting all penis out of my life and becoming celibate, age 21.

I stumbled into the weird world of ‘with-holding’ sex: if I told a man that I liked him but wasn’t interested in sleeping with him because I was celibate, they would take this as a challenge, and do everything they could to ‘make’ me have sex with them. It was a side to men I’ve never seen before- ultra charming, manipulative, attentive to the point of harassment, they would pursue me with vigour. Creepy. My trust in men plummeted.

It struck me as completely wrong that I could be enthusiastic about sex and met with judgement, yet be actively celibate and have men flocking to me, trying to ‘win’ my sex.

And then, thank god, in a culmination of different circumstances, I acknowledged that I was kinky. I started reading BDSM blogs, I was introduced to the world of sex positivity, to amazing phrases like “yes means yes”, and “ethical slut”, and I felt like crying and laughing and shouting and rejoicing because this was my space, and these were my people! I fit here! This was me!

Now, I’m 25, and have slightly more maturity to see through the dating, pick-up bullshit. I choose men who are attracted by enthusiastic consent, because of course, they are definitely out there. I am not at all interested in men who want to play games with me, who view sex and my body as something to be won, as a challenge to be conquered (because, of course, they are also definitely out there). I am really drawn the performance model of collaborative sex (Let’s Jam!). The term ‘enthusiastic consent’ has given me freedom, and a place where I can relax. I was reflecting that before I came across any of this the only exposure to sex-positivity I had in my late teens was Christina Aguleria and Little Kim singing “The guy gets all the glory the more he can score / While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore“. Isn’t that sad?! I’m planning to become a sex educator to work on changing exactly this, but that’s something to talk about later.

Now. Let’s turn this all on its head.

Through BDSM I explore the dark side of myself, of relationships, of sexual interactions with men and women. I go to places I’m too scared to go in my vanilla life. And one of these places has been around enthusiastic consent.

Okay…writing this feels complex and very sensitive. As I write I’m very aware of all the “Yes, buts” that can be thrown at this…’Yes, but aren’t you just propagating gender stereotypes”, “Yes, but haven’t you been brainwashed by a life of patriarchy”, “Yes, but aren’t you just giving another man a chance to ignore you as a woman and treat you like an object.” I ask myself these things regularly (and recently, I found this blog post which asks a lot of good, challenging, difficult questions). I haven’t yet been able to come up with a perfect answer to these “yes, buts”. BDSM has taught me so much about communication, negotation, trust and self reflection, more than any sex education class. And, selfishly, it makes me happy.

I’ll try to write this next part as cleanly as possible.

In my ‘consent play’, I’m drawn to scenes where I don’t LOOK enthusiastic, where I actually say “No!”,  I struggle in partner’s grasp, physically fight them, try to run away. I’m drawn to scenes where my partner exhausts me to submission, where they trap and trick me, where sometimes, they even force me. I’m drawn to scenes with physical violence and emotional manipulation. I want my partner to call me a slut, and a dirty whore, and a nympho bitch. I want them to degrade me to the point where I feel like nothing more than a vagina on legs. I want them to sexually objectify me.

But. Here is the beauty. After all this has happened, they gather me up in their arms, and stroke my hair, cheekbone. Kiss me gently all over and pay adoring attention to every inch of my tender, sensitive body. They tell me that I’m a good girl and that they’re proud of me, and make me hot chocolate and silly jokes and we giggle.

It is empowering for me to explore these feelings of shame and fear in a situation I’ve created, and I can emerge from as a whole person, with my partner’s support.

(Would I feel the need to be treated like this if I had grown up in a sex positive community? I’m unsure. My attraction to this type of BDSM wasn’t necessarily a conscious plan, I just knew I needed it. I have spent hours asking myself “why?”, but at the end of the day, as long as I feel my practices are RACK (risk aware consensual kink), then I do angst over why like I used to).

Because, I have ultimate control. I create these scenarios, I consent to being used in this way, I negotiate with a partner and have safe words I can call anytime to stop, if I’m not enjoying how things are going (and I have done this!). I now explore what intrigues me without hurting others, in a community that is as sex-positive as I could have ever hoped for. I AM a slut! And how awesome is that?!

This feels so damn good. I am very grateful I let my sexual curiosity, awakened in my teenage self, prevail and lead me to this beautifully kinky world.

Screwing Up

An introspective visit to the Necropolis, Habana, Cuba. March 2012.

I have a pretty high opinion of myself. It’s one that I’m proud of, I’ve cultivated it, because I have to be my biggest fan. I have to be my own cheerleader, and lover and look-after-er, because why would I expect anyone else to do that for me if I can’t do it for myself?I think I’m great.

And then. I screw up. I get so focused on “Go Team Me” that I overlook things that perhaps I’m not doing so well. That actually, I’m doing badly at.

These moments are…

sobering

humbling

and ripe for learning.

Continue reading

Can I let myself be a kinky, spiritual feminist?!

Me at the top of Tajumulco, a volcano in Guatemala

At the top of Tajumulco, the highest volcano in Central America. Guatemala, November 2012

Sometimes, I feel I am one giant contradiction.  Once again I’m pondering two core themes:

1) Can I be feminist and submissive?

2) Can I be masochistic, yet strive towards the practice of non-violence?

Oh tricky, tricky BDSM.

1) I know, intellectually, that I can. One of my favourite bloggers regularly teases this out:

Clarisse Thorn: I felt like: Goddamnit, I will show you that I can be an independent and rational woman who values voting and abortion rights and equal opportunity and consent — and be into S&M at the same damn time.

I’ve contributed to Fetlife discussions on this very topic, I can talk about this confidently with friends and partners, littering the conversation with words like empowerment, sex-positivity, choice and personal freedom. But. Honestly, I find the two things so hard to reconcile WITHIN myself. At the stage where I am at in my life right now, I feel proud and happy in my activism: working as a national union organiser, facilitating a network for LGBT* and questioning youth, part of a woman’s action group, and passionate about enthusiastic consent and sex-positive education. I love doing all these things, and when I’m in the thick of it, my future plans are full of leadership positions, brave travel and volunteer work, groundbreaking research, creative facilitation and radical activism. And this ‘future me’ is always transient, solo, strong and selfless.

When I picture this, I occasionally feel a “what about a partner and kids?” pang. But my pride in being so fiercely, successfully solo and totally bad-ass always trumps this.

And then. And then, as happened recently, someone comes into my life and forces me to address something else that I truly do crave, but hate (and I really mean that…hate) admitting to myself. I want to be anchored. I want to stop having to be brave and solo. I want to stop making all these huge decisions for myself and my life. I want to stop being so damn responsible and ambitious…it’s exhausting. I want to be taken care of. I want to submit to someone, and know that they will always have the final say. I want to be an ‘our’, rather than a ‘me’. I want to have someone else make the plan, tell me what to do, take charge. I want to be someone’s girlfriend, partner. I want to be a mum, and concern myself with my bubble and not gang rapes in India or shockingly low female literacy in Guatemala. I want to curl up to someone’s chest and know that they’ve got me, and I can relax. I want to be someone’s submissive, I want to be owned, I want to let myself feel pleasure in serving.

Ugh, it’s hard not to delete the above paragraph because I feel so…ashamed…at the woman it portrays. But I’m anonymous so far on this blog, and that offers an element of protection.

I … am nowhere near having the answers to this question. Of course I can write and talk about how I can be both, how a woman can be a strong in her submission, how I can easily find a partnership that will honour my submission and independence in equal parts, how I can wear a collar at home and hold a leadership position at work bla bla bla.

But, what it really comes down to, is will I let myself be both? Can I find a space in my life where I can be the ass-kicking feminist and the doting submissive? Do I need to look for a way to reconcile the two, or can I let them sit alongside each other, harmonious in spite of their contradiction?

2) I spent 2 months last year at a yoga and meditation retreat in Mexico. This immediately sounds wanky, I know, but it wasn’t. It was simple and cheap, filled with young travellers and teachers, full of love and energy and community. I blossomed there, and found much needed clarity and strength. I’ve been physically practising yoga (Iyengar and Hatha) for 8 years, but the two months I spent in Mexico illuminated my practice: I needed yoga to expand my consciousness, realise inner calm, meditate on the essence of who I am. Physical yoga was merely a crutch to higher things.

I was introduced to the yamas and niyamas, ethical guidelines by which to live a life of fulfillment while benefitting others. The yama that I resonated with the most was ahimsa, the practice of non-violence. After I left the retreat I took a tapas, which is like a spiritual vow, to fully apply myself to practising ahimsa for one month. In this month I was to end each day asking myself if I had caused harm in thought, word or deed to anyone, and if I had, extending warm and unselfish love to them. This was a beautiful time, it was challenging initially, but by the end of it I was shining.

However, I discovered in reflection that I hadn’t fully been practising ahimsa. Because, a core part of ahimsa is not thinking, saying or doing harmful things to yourself. And in that month I had a new partner, and we negotiated for him to hurt me- physically, emotionally, degrade me, verbally abuse me- again and again and again. And I endlessly fantasized about how he could satisfy my masochism, and all the different sorts of pain I could subject myself to.

So, my sexuality is in direct conflict with ahimsa.

Crap.

I can intellectualize this too. If I felt so happy practicing ahimsa in my own way for one month, what does it matter that I also engaged in deliciously nasty BDSM? But I feel uneasy, I feel that perhaps I’m only half-heartedly practising ahimsa. I feel guilty, and keep BDSM hidden from the yoga community I am part of.

Because, they just don’t fit. They are one big, fat contradiction.

This has been a pretty tough blog post to write, my brain is mushy, this doesn’t have the simple eloquence I would like. But I think it’s because this topic doesn’t lend itself to simple eloquence. BDSM contradictions are mushy and jumbled and tough.