Playing with Fire
I wanted to maybe encourage other people, Dominants particularly, to speak up for the Blog Carnival with a story of my own. It’s a time that I violated boundaries in a scene (ignorance? not bliss, people), and discovered how complicated safewords and consent can be. I thought about submitting this story anonymously, but then I felt pretty strongly that I wouldn’t be taking ownership. To not add my own voice to this would be against why I want other people to speak out, and I think hiding behind anonymity would be a betrayal to the consent culture I want to work towards. Activism starts with you, be the change you want to see and all that.
I was playing with a woman who was younger than me by a few years, 20 to my 25 or so. I knew she had a history of abuse, having been groomed by a paedophile, and I knew that she liked some really dark play, something I have experience in both as the bottom and as the top.
Still, I overestimated my ability to hold a container for the scene… and if I felt unsure in my gut that I didn’t have enough information, I should have waited until I did. She was cute, and I was so excited to play with her that I pushed common sense to the side. We had played before, some lighter stuff, and I said to myself that we had enjoyed that so we could take it down a notch.
We discussed playing with a guy we both thought was pretty, and who was a switch, so we invited him along. We discussed limits (no vaginal penetration, anal was ok, bondage was good, sadism was good) and looked at the playspace together. I made sure we had chocolate on hand, a blanket, and a first aid kit, the practical, physical things a Responsible Dominant has around the place.
The scene maybe took an hour and a half in total. I bound her fingers with zip ties (something I had seen in a kink.com video- yeah, they are not easy to get off) and spanked her til she was pink and crying. Worried about the crying, I checked in, probably in a very mother hen sort of way and she told me she was fine. We had a safeword in place, so we kept going.
I remember he did something sexual to her- perhaps it was fingering her ass?- and slapped her face while she sobbed. I remember being really worried that she was in a place where she couldn’t safeword, and equally worried to assume she was and stop things only to have her dismiss me as a bad Dominant. I wanted to play with her again, to impress her, and him, and maybe myself. There was never a safeword used.
But I should have used my own safeword. I didn’t because I wanted to be the hard Dominant, I wanted her to want me. And I should have trusted my gut instead, because she had been struggling, she didn’t have fun, and I felt like a total shit. Even so, my first internal reaction was a defensive one- “well, she didn’t safeword, so that’s on her!” I said to myself, frustrated.
Then I stopped. And I thought about that, and about rape culture, and about why someone wouldn’t safeword. I thought of some of my own experiences, where I didn’t because I didn’t want to disappoint my Dom… or, worse, because I was scared if I did say something, and they kept going, I might get it worse. I realized I might be that person for this girl. And I didn’t know what to do.
I asked her what I could do to make her feel safe, encouraged her to talk about it with others if she wanted to, asked her if she needed space from me or to process with me. And I pulled away from Topping for a while to reflect on it all. It was one of the hardest things. I’m still processing it.
Sometimes, playing with darkness, we can discover just how dark we can go. It scares us, and we worry about it scaring other people, so we clam up and walk away pretending we never saw Mr. Hyde lurking within. To combat that silence is to admit that you’re not always entirely sure if you’re a sadist or a serial killer. I admire respect the guts of one blogger who wrote about the time he almost raped and killed a woman- he posted the story of the experience on his blog, and did an interview about it. I think it’s a horrible story. He knows it’s a horrible story. He said any comments posted that eroticized the event would be deleted and the people who posted them banned. It’s not a sexy story, it’s a terrifying one. It was hard to read, incredibly hard, not just because of the story but because I realized- this guy is talking about it… but he’s not the only one who’s been there.
What makes me sad is that now those links to his posts are gone. Why? Because people used his honesty to tear him apart, as we do to people who express their darkness. It’s extremely vulnerable to say “I have thought/done some fucked up things”. I hope he allows these posts to be public again soon, because I think they’re a HUGELY important part of the puzzle, and how can we talk openly about consent unless we talk openly about when consent is ignored/ broken, or betrayed?
Or there’s the other side- we eroticize it, present Hyde as a frightening but charismatic Dominant figure. Sociopaths are so sexy, after all. So rather than be seen as a n00b Domme, I continued to smack her while she sobbed, because she didn’t safeword so it was ok, right? But it wasn’t. Why did I not safeword myself? Because I wanted her to find me sexy, scary, fun to play with. I knew that it can be hard for many reasons for a submissive to safeword in scene and I kept going anyway. That’s hard to sit with.
Even when you know all the techniques… you can still fuck up. And it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or that your submissive is a dangerous bottom. It doesn’t mean it should be blown off as “oh, BDSM is playing with fire”- ok, sure, but that doesn’t mean we should have fire extinguishers or that we start giving matches to arsonists. It means that we live in a society that puts pressure on women to please their partners and on men to be tough and hard. It affects all of us. Of course it does. And we need to reflect on how those social norms affect us within BDSM… whether or not we realize it.
Please consider submitting your story to the Safe/Ward blog carnival. It’s anonymous, after all, but it’s a major first step in pulling back the curtain.