The brief moment between the swing and the sting of the dressage whip spans eons. Sometimes he’s a bastard and swings it so I’ll hear it and think the pain is coming, just so he can watch me wince. Like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last second.
But not this time. I feel the whip contact my skin, sending hot searing pain through my body. I can feel welts already starting to rise at the point of impact, heat swimming to the surface. The very first time he struck me with this particular toy, I thought for sure he’d broken the skin, that I was bleeding. It always feels that way. As the pain courses through my body, I focus on grabbing the pain as though it were a helium balloon flying into the sky and redirecting the sensation to skewer my solar plexus until my blood responds and warmth dribbles into my pelvis. Converting pain into pleasure.
He hits me again, this time harder. I shake with laughter, every muscle clenched until I shudder and moan, struggling against my restraints.
“Motherfucker,” I gasp.
He grabs my face, looks me in the eyes. His eyes are dead and cold, entirely unsympathetic. He smirks. “How many letters in ‘motherfucker?’” he asks me.
I am disoriented, dazed, not in any state to be answering trivia questions. I quiver and shrink from him.
He slaps me across the face. “How many?”
I fight the surge of panic, struggle to collect my thoughts. “Twelve,” I answer.
He smiles, walks behind me. “Count,” he says.
“One!” I yelp.
By the time, we are to 10, I am running on fumes. He’s pushing me past my abilities to convert, spin negative into positive.
“Eleven,” I whimper.
I feel wetness gushing down my legs, a mixture of sweat and my own excitement.
He sets the whip down on the table, strokes my face, kisses me softly. “Good girl,” he says. He unlocks my restraints, guides me to a chair, asks one of the spectators to get me a glass of water. Another tender kiss. “You did wonderfully.”
I used to think polyamory and kink were terrible. And yet, here I am.
People who know me well are often very surprised to hear this. Because it’s really hard to change your mind. Really hard. Like really, really hard.
As Megan wrote when she found out I was breaking up with our pivot partner, “I know you’re going to do what you’re going to do, no one has ever been able to change your mind once you’ve made it.”
Except she’s wrong. People have changed my mind.
In fact, Megan herself did.
Changing My Mind About Poly
It all started when I noticed Megan’s husband Pete acting strangely with a female coworker of his, and I started to suspect he was having an affair. One night after Megan and I had both had a couple of drinks, I decided to mention my concerns to her.
I was so delicate in my delivery, expecting tears from her, maybe defensiveness.
What I got in return was raucous laughter.
“Page,” Megan said. “He’s not cheating. He has my permission. We’re polyamorous.”
They had been pursuing other relationship for years, without any of us knowing. It was stunning.
The revelation gave me pause. Megan and Pete were well adjusted, stable. They had their shit together. It flew in the face of what I believed about non-monogamy. That it was messy, chaotic, untenable. Just asking for trouble.
It occurred to me that maybe I didn’t know everything. Especially when it came to non-monogamy.
I spent days questioning my former beliefs. What was I afraid of? Losing my relationship with Seth? How did I know that would actually happen with other people in the picture? And if our relationship were so easily lost, so fragile, then maybe, I reasoned, it was something that should end.
As Carl Sagan wrote, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
And shocking everyone, I changed my mind and finally agreed to an open relationship with Seth, something he’d wanted for years and I’d vehemently opposed.
Changing My Mind About Kink
As I talked to folks on online dating sites, I started to notice that many of the polyamorous people I talked to were also really interested in BDSM.
I was initially very irritated by this.
It didn’t help matters that the first few kinksters I spoke with were high protocol. Lots of unorthodox style choices — upper and lowercase. Master this, Mistress that. Lowercase types avoiding using the pronoun “I.” This slave this, this slave that.
It was a lot to take in.
They were also understandably not that interested in being my personal tour guide to kink or explaining the customs of this strange new world.
I dismissed them as special snowflakes who took themselves far too seriously. Smug sex aliens.
And then, when I ended up in a production of the Vagina Monologues with some women’s studies students I was cruising pretty damn hard, my castmates hooked me up with a bunch of feminist literature. I was reading an anthology called Yes Means Yes when I came across the piece BDSM, The Fantasy of Acceptable ‘Non-Consent’: Why the Female Sexual Submissive Scares Us (And Why She Shouldn’t).
And when I read this piece, for the first time, it all began to click for me intellectually, what all these power games were ultimately about.
And I realized then, in hindsight, that I’d been playing them all along — just without the big theatrical touches. Without the leather costumes, the chains, the dungeon. I was plenty kinky, just not in the cartoonish way that the media portrayed.
I had considered myself vanilla. But was I really?
In college I set out on a kinky scavenger hunt that I publicized to my friends. I had to masturbate to completion at a bunch of different locations around campus without getting lost. And the list included all of my friends’ beds.
One ex-girlfriend loved it when I’d insult and demean her while she ate me out. One guy was basically domming me before I knew what that was. And another was essentially my submissive.
Suddenly, new light was thrown on my past sexual experiences.
I also came to the realization that this sense of sexual adventure, of playfulness and creativity, was something that I’d missed in my marriage to Seth, who had a very inflexible and conventional sense of what was hot and what was silly.
I mean, Seth made fun of me for wanting to have phone sex.
And it became a source of tension between us as I met more poly people, ones who were actually compatible with me, first as friends, then as more, and I began to explore kink with them.
It wasn’t until I visited an actual dungeon in Cleveland with my boyfriend Rob and felt the intensity with which the partners connected that I really got 100% of it. That I really understood the big theatrical touches.
And I was immediately, hopelessly hooked. I realized that the leather, the floggers, the cuffs weren’t something that were arousing because of the way they looked – they were something you became sexually attuned to. Erotic experience crystallized in material form after the fact. An object worshipped for what it represented. You know… a fetish.
Indeed, I used to really dislike leather, thought it was boring, overpriced, and flat – but after the first few sessions strapped to a table, struggling against the pain of impact play in leather cuffs, I found leather arousing.
And later I found that putting the cuffs on before a session aroused me. The ritual of it – my body knew what was soon to come, and it let me know in no uncertain terms just how excited I was.
And now here I am, 6 years later, no longer that doe-eyed kink newbie but something else altogether.
And I love it.
I can’t wait to see what I change my mind about next.