Inspired by the recent performance of The Vagina Monologues at CMC, this piece is part of a series of Forum articles by women at CMC about women and sexuality. Check out the first two pieces in the series here and here. If you’re interested in contributing an article on these topics, contact us at [email protected]
Trigger warning: Sexual assault
One of my favorite childhood books taught me: If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask for a straw… and so on and so forth until the mouse is basically running your house.
A recent experience taught me: If you give a domme permission to use nipple clamps, she’s going to ask to use zip ties as well. If you say yes to the zip ties, she’ll probably propose some paddling… and so on and so forth until you find yourself chained to a stool for two hours being flogged, spanked, and caned.
The biggest difference I can see between the sweet-toothed mouse of my youth and the leather-clad Mistress of my dungeon? The mouse had never heard of enthusiastic consent.
I’ve learned to be very careful when I talk about my kinky preferences. Many people think of me as a mom-type. My purse is always stocked with tissues and snacks, I love working with kids, and I spent many a TNC holding back someone’s hair while they puked. I’ve found that in the vanilla world, someone can think of me as a mom for years, but if I mention even once that I’ve played in a BDSM sex club, that’s it: I’m the freaky sex girl. It’s scary to share your sexuality when such a tiny detail can erase the rest of your existence. Yes—I love kinky sex, and that’s a part of my identity that I celebrate. But it’s just one part. I’m also a teacher. I also have a vast knowledge of webcomics. I’ve also lived on three different continents. Talking about my kinky side should expand people’s view of me, but more often than not, it only reduces it.
On top of narrowing others’ image of me, I’ve learned from personal experience that sharing my affinity for kink (and for sex in general) can have violent results. My sophomore year, I had built what I thought was a close friendship with a guy from one of the other colleges. Along the way, we swapped funny sex stories and discussed different things we had tried in bed. One night we drunkenly made out. The first few minutes were great, until suddenly he slammed me up against a wall and pinned my arms.
“Stop. You’re hurting me and I want you to stop.” Through the blur of the booze I knew it was important for me to state my needs and limits clearly.
“I know this is what you want,” he told me. “I know you like it rough.”
Again, I asked him to stop, making my voice calm and stern to make it clear that I wasn’t flirting: I was denying consent.
“I know you want it,” he sneered. “How long until I get to fuck your ass? That’s what you like isn’t it?”
He bent me over his bed and wrenched down my skirt. At this point I was pleading with him to stop but his only reply was to keep muttering “I know you want it” as he fumbled around for a condom.
Thankfully, the search for a condom took him across the room, de-escalating the situation enough for me to get my skirt back on. He slammed me against the wall for another onslaught of verbal abuse—this time accusing me of “taunting him for months” with details about my sex life—but eventually I was able to escape. I walked back to my dorm room bruised, crying, and grateful that he hadn’t raped me.
The song “Blurred Lines” peaked as Billboard’s number one single for twelve straight weeks the summer after I was sexually assaulted. For three months, anytime I turned on the radio, I was met with, “I know you want it… I know you want it.” People defended the song as being “all in good fun,” but with a chorus lifted word for word out of my attacker’s script, I saw it as terrifying evidence of society’s disregard for consent. The logic goes: If I say nothing sexual, then I’m probably just being coy. If I have the audacity to talk about what kinds of sex I want, then I am clearly begging to get fucked. Since my assault, I have become extremely careful about what I share, knowing that as a woman who is proud of my sexuality, I am likely to be misinterpreted. When I say, “I love having sex,” sometimes people hear, “I would love to have sex with you.”
While in the vanilla world I am often hesitant to even discuss my sex life, in the back of a sex club, I have allowed strangers to completely limit my mobility and inflict all manner of torturous delights. Why this radical disparity in what I deem to be safe? Because in the kink community, active consent is the standard. There are norms for negotiating limits before scenes or play sessions, and frequent check-ins throughout. Would you like me to spank you now? How is this amount of pressure? Are you comfortable with me leaving marks that may be visible above a t-shirt? After the play ends people take the time for aftercare: continuing to ask what you need (would you like to be touched right now or would you rather have some space?) and even following up a few days later to see how you are processing what may have been a very intense experience and to see if there is anything you want to do differently in the future.
Most kinky groups have strict rules prohibiting the consumption of alcohol or drugs prior to or during an event in order to preserve people’s ability to clearly assess what is happening and give or deny consent. There is active policing within the community, and if someone is being disrespectful at an event, an organizer will throw them out and ban them from returning. There are abusive people in all walks of life, kink spaces included. Yet unlike in our society at large, in a kink community, these individuals’ disregard for consent marks them as clear outliers.
My first time in a dungeon, I was shocked that even the people who weren’t playing asked if I was comfortable with them watching. They sought active consent to engage with me in any sexual way, even if that way was just watching me. I was sitting, completely immobilized, in a room full of sadists who had duffle bags overflowing with implements to strike, to scratch, and to penetrate, and I felt infinitely safer than I do walking down the street most days.
I wish I could publish this article with my name attached to it, unafraid that someone else might wield my sexuality as a justification for violence against me, but our society just isn’t there yet. I am reminded of that daily by the songs that play on the radio, the catcalls that I get on the street, and the sexist comments that colleagues make at work. In the midst of that, the dungeon is a refuge where not even a ball-gag can get in the way of the communication necessary for true consent. The vanilla world should take note.
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