content note: this article contains explicit discussion of emotional masochism, consensual misogyny- themed humiliation and degradation play.
He made me cry last night.
‘He’ being a man from the internet. He wrote an ad, I answered it. We messaged a bit, our kinks aligned, we had phone sex: it was a lot of fun. We had phone sex again the next day. And the next day, twice.
Over the last month we’ve spoken most days, for half hour mid- afternoon quickies and multi- hour late night sessions that leave me dozy and ill- equipped for the next day’s labours (although generally now he sends me to bed before it gets too late). We talk as if him visiting Berlin at some stage is a thing that will happen- it’s favourite place of his and somewhere he visited regularly in the Before Times, but these are of course not the Before Times, so there’s a fairly good chance we will never meet. The fact that he by now knows a huge amount about me and has made and heard me come loudly perhaps a couple of dozen times, but that we still might never meet gives the whole thing a weird, imaginary quality. It is a very much a fantasy but it is also extremely real and the boundaries between the two shift dizzyingly.
He has made and heard me come a couple of dozen times but I don’t know his name. I call him Daddy or sometimes Mister when we are talking, and the Bad American when I write about him. He jokingly refers to himself as a Bad Man, a Monster, and when I talk to one particular friend for whom Dd/lg dynamics are a delicate subject I call him that too: Monster. He is not a Monster, he’s just a guy in his 40’s who’s into roleplaying some fairly fucked up shit: humiliation and degradation, age- based power dynamics involving coercion and manipulation and making young and vulnerable women dress up in slutty outfits, smoke cigarettes, fuck strangers bareback, risk pregnancy.
He’s into roleplaying some fairly fucked up shit. So, it turns out, am I.
I’ve been actively exploring kink and BDSM for just over 4 years, but I’ve been thinking about it for much longer than that. I’ve written in the past about how I spent a long time labouring under a lot of misapprehensions about kink and BDSM, all of which which hinged on my misunderstanding of the concept of consent. My long- term fascination with BDSM- and that’s what it was, I was terrified of it but I was absolutely fascinated, make no mistake- was not, as I had thought, an intellectual fascination. It eventually turned out my cunt was very definitely fascinated too, always had been, but I was too in my head about whether there could ever be a total separation between the real and the fantasy in a Patriachal society to listen to my cunt. Fingers in my ears, La la la, I’m not listening to you, Heart/ Vagina! For twenty odd years. I’m a Thinky Little Fucker, and I get in my own way because of it a lot.
But once it finally became clear to me that there was nothing intrinsically anti- feminist about the things I wanted and I stopped La-la-la-ing at my cunt, it was extremely easy to slough off my past concerns. I did all my worrying about that stuff before I launched myself, running and shouting, into a wonderful place called Oppositeland, where we play with power dynamics between the genders and sometimes say and do bad, upside down things regarding equality and gender roles, things which are fiercely hot, but perhaps hottest because they are so unspeakable- and also, you know, not true. Very soon after starting my first D/s relationship I found myself reading articles about whether it’s possible to be- gasp!- feminist and submissive with a certain amount of jadedness. Of course it’s possible, I would think smugly, for all the world as if I didn’t spend around 20 years thinking exactly the opposite.
But. Nonetheless. Nonethefatherfuckingless. Although the Bad American and I also talk about hobbies and 90s Indie pop and he tells jokes in a bad German accent and does Simpsons impersonations while I squeal with girlish laughter, a lot of the time we’ve spent talking has been about kinks heavier than many I’ve explored before. Some of the stuff this man says to me, and my reactions to it? None of it is out of the blue, all of it is 150% consensual, but some of it… is just far enough outside my previous wheelhouse that I occasionally feel the pinch. Yeah, I’ve gone there: I have on occasion wondered if being into some of this stuff compromises my feminism at all.
I mean, it doesn’t, the same stuff about consent applies; it’s makebelieve, it’s Oppositeland. And anyway, here’s a fun thing he does with that: he makes me say it out loud. ‘I’m a terrible fucking feminist’, I moan, as I’m rubbing my clit with the fingers of one hand, or slamming the tip of my black glass dildo against my cervix, pressing my phone to my ear so I can hear him crooning that I need to spread my legs and shut the fuck up, that I talk too much, that my opinions are uncalled for and will earn me a slap, that I’m a bitch among bitches. He tells me I’m just tits and holes, interchangeable entertainment, that this is my role in life not just as an individual fuck toy, not just as property, but *as a woman*. He tells me, and this is a kicker, that he will decide what I wear and what I smoke and whether I use birth control because girls like me can’t be trusted to make choices. And then he makes me say it back to him, and when I do my voice doesn’t sound like my own.
He tells me all these things in a low, easy Midwestern cadence and then orders me to repeat that I’m a terrible fucking feminist for enjoying the telling so much, for squirming and whimpering and finding myself halfway to an orgasm without even having touched my cunt. When I’ve come, or often when we’ve both come, when our breathing is settling and we’re humming and murmuring and readjusting our clothing and our worldviews, I’ll laugh, and he’ll laugh, and I’ll say ‘well…’ He’ll laugh again and say ‘you liked that, huh?’ And a tiny part of me still feels like the answer should be ‘no’. 6 months ago or a year ago or 10 or 20 years ago, or with another partner, the answer would have been No: oh Jesus, no. But now? Yes. Oh Jesus, yes.
All of this feels like a natural progression from submissive as fuck toy and property, submissive as plaything made, designed and decorated for fucking, all of which ideas I have previously played with and danced around and had plentiful orgasms in response to. It is absolutely not *the* natural progression, not *the* logical conclusion, but it is *a* logical conclusion. And, just as I could not enjoy being called a fuck toy and a cum dumpster unless I absolutely believed that I was a beautiful multi- faceted creature with a huge amount to offer, I could not enjoy this if I thought he was an actual misogynist, which I don’t. Yes, he is a cis man who lives and breathes and builds relationships in a Patriarchal and often misogynist society, but I have a fairly well- developed radar for a woman- hater, and this man does not set it pinging. He gets a kick out of saying the unsayable- I get a kick out of him saying it. It’s remarkably uncomplicated.
And is it *okay*, you might be asking. Do I feel belittled in any lasting way by these trips to Oppositeland with a Monstrous tourguide? Not in the least. At this point I find his voice hypnotic- the shift in tone and cadence as we move from everyday chat to roleplay, magnified by the fact that our only connection is a phoneline, mean that subspace is only a few sentences away at any given time. To me subspace is like meditation. I am often an anxious bug, and these are anxious times: I find regular trips to subspace a very effective supplement to my current regular vanilla meditation practise- more effective in many ways, certainly in terms of silencing the tedious Talk Radio style internal commentary that regular- style mindfulness rarely shuts up completely.
Extreme Times call for Extreme Measures, and it turns out that regular Misogyny themed Collaborative Masturbation is the Extreme Measure I needed to round out my Pandemic self- care routine. I feel cheerful, resilient, and insulated from a world that is sick and on fire. I am learning to lean in to the counterintuitive, to look at the things I have always been most scared of- male violence, disdain and coercion- and relishing how much fun it is to step towards, away from and back towards those things with a person that I barely know but somehow trust (I don’t know his name!). In the end, what is there to be frightened of? It’s not the end of the world, it’s not fire, it’s not plague. It’s just words.
nb: I do not mean this absolutely literally. Words can do as much harm as a misaligned cane, more even; humiliation play is not just edgeplay but a hard limit for a lot of people. I play with both a formal safeword and the ability to say ‘actually, I’m not into this right now, let’s do something else’, and I’m able to keep track of tiny shifts in my emotional response as they happen (in part because of my non- subspace meditation practise). This isn’t a romantic relationship and distance governs what aftercare will look like, but we have talked about what will happen if things go pear- shaped in a scene and how he will remind me that he thinks I’m clever and cool as a corrective. Rather than chocolate and cuddles, our ordinary aftercare consists of the aforementioned chat about hobbies and Indie Pop and impersonations of Morrissey singing ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine; it is silly and funny and a completely different kind of intimate. And it works.
So we were messaging about that, last night, about that kind of thing, those kind of themes. And then he fell silent for some reason and I was tired and I lost my train of thought and when he came back to me I was feeling anxious because it was late and he’d disappeared in the middle of a conversation about relatively intense subject matter. When I said that I had lost my train of thought I felt a bit weird and needy, but asked if we could set up some form of communication if he was going to be distracted so that I wasn’t left floating in headspace. And that was fine, and I immediately felt better, because yay expressing your needs and having them heard.
Then, because it was late and time was short, we agreed that he would make me come and that it would be quick and intense. He told me a story, which featured a girl and a man in a hotel room, a pack of cigarettes and an absence of condoms. Within ten minutes that imaginary room was full of pain, condescension and insults; within fifteen I was sobbing. I cried hard and I came harder, loud enough that I pictured the neighbours cocking their heads and frowning. Afterwards, when asked why I cried, I just lay there, laughing and sniffling, the violent post- orgasmic pulsing of my cunt muscles slowing to stillness. I didn’t have an answer.
It’s taken me the duration of the writing of this article to work out why, and it’s almost too obvious in retrospect: Opoositeland is not just a playground, a place I go to let go of stuff that is intrinsic but sometimes feels too heavy to carry around 24/7. It’s also a place where catharsis can happen (although it’s not therapy, because BDSM isn’t therapy: therapy is therapy). It has always been a place where catharsis could happen- even if that catharsis has generally not involved actual sobbing. If it didn’t feel obvious it’s because mostly my experiences of that that kind of catharsis has come as a result of impact play, crescendos of pain and physical discomfort rather than insults and confusion. I’ve been struggling to finish this piece for a really long time, not knowing how to wrap it up, and then I re- read this piece by the astonishing Clementine Morrigan, about eroticising triggers and all the pieces fell into place. It is weird and hard getting my head round this stuff sometimes, but it is also insanely horny, and a stupid amount of fun. Seriously; it’s just so much fun.