|seriously, I needed an image that didn't
(trigger warning for discussion/personal stories of nonconsent/abuse/rape)
Due to having enough stories needing to be told to warrant two posts on the subject, here is Part 2 of the Safe/Ward blog carnival, and one story from a porn performer that I felt deserved a Part 3. Part 1 is here.
I am deeply saddened and yet also honored that these people are brave enough to come forward with their stories and experiences, especially as most of them aren't bloggers themselves. It's a scary thing to have something happen to you- even scarier, sometimes, to admit that what happened was abusive. Thank you to all who contributed.
About a year and a half ago I was briefly involved in the BDSM scene in New York City. I had come from a rather puritanical upbringing in the Midwest and gone through adolescence and college thinking that sex was this sort of dangerous and bad thing. It never occurred to me that the fact that I didn't try to avoid it was because I was, like most people, a sexual person. I thought it was because I was self-destructive; I experienced a lot of depression and mental illness because I felt like I was broken, corrupted by my sexual desires. I dated nonmonogamously because I needed sex, but I didn’t feel I could find it in a traditional monogamous relationship.
The BDSM scene felt like a community where nobody was going to complain about me wanting to have sex or not wanting to be monogamous or anything like that. I finally felt safe. I started to date a male dom a few years older than me. For me, it was the first time that I had dated a guy who self-identified as feminist, and that felt really amazing. He told me how disgusted he was that other people in the scene didn’t take consent seriously, didn’t take rape seriously. I continued to date multiple people, but my focus was on him—my other partners didn’t explore sexual stuff with me, didn’t give me an adrenaline rush in the same way.
Even though I told myself I felt safer, I was in this weird state of constantly feeling anxious, but constantly feeling like he was the only one who could lift my anxiety. Unlike other guys I had dated, he really seemed to relish the role of caretaker/comforter. The other women he was dating were, like me, survivors of sexual abuse. It didn’t turn him off the way it turned other guys off. But then it started to feel like he only knew how to deal with me as a “broken person,” when I did things that asserted my independence, or questioned his decisions, he would emotionally withdraw. There was a lot of tension in the relationship, but I had fallen in love with him, and he was my only partner who was willing to explore s/m. All of our mutual friends, even the non-scene people, had recommended him to me as being incredibly nice. I felt like I must really be crazy if I had stopped feeling safe with such a nice guy.
He was a knife fetishist, which we had explored a little. He was interested in doing an insertion scene with me (you insert a knife into a vagina, but you don’t cut anything). I felt scared, but I didn’t give him a hard no, I said maybe I’d be ready in a few months. He used to insert his finger and tell me it was a knife, and be amused when I freaked out. One morning, he inserted something, and it really was a knife. We finished having sex, and my heart was beating so fast and everything seemed so far away. He said, “I can’t believe I got you to do that.” When I left his apartment that morning, I went to a Starbucks, waited in line for the bathroom, and then, finally, I threw up.
I started having panic attacks. My brain couldn’t form the idea that this person had done something scary. I trusted him so much. When we met up for drinks a few days later, he told me that he had decided not to date me anymore because I was too emotionally unstable for him to trust with his feelings. I brought up that he had made me feel really scared with the knife thing, and he got angry and said “I’m not going to apologize for anything I’ve done, because I know I’m leaving you better than I found you.” I hadn’t even said “rape” or anything like that, I just said he hadn’t checked in with me, hadn’t made sure I was ready.
I stopped being able to have sex without having panic attacks. I fell into a deep depression. He told all his friends that I was this crazy chick who had wanted him to be monogamous when he wanted to be poly. I lost pretty much all my scene friends.
I am so scared to rejoin the scene, even though I want to, because so many people respect this person as a nice guy, an activist, and that means that maybe there are a lot of people who are even worse, and I have no way of knowing. He is in positions of authority at organizations that are supposed to be safe spaces that prevent this kind of stuff, so even safe spaces don’t feel safe. I am so scared that he will do something to his current partner, and it will be my fault, because I didn’t speak up.
I am doing ok now; I am in a really healthy relationship and I am recovering from a lot of my anxiety about sex. But I can’t trust people the way I used to.
-F, NYC, early 20s
I'm a submissive male with long hair, and I drop off into subspace at the drop of a hat, or more commonly at the tug of my hair. It is something that I love about myself, actually, how quickly I can be dropped to submission. Used to love, rather.
Many people have seen how fast I drop, and have found it (hot|funny|amusing|curious). It would be common for someone I was with to, in the middle of a conversation say "watch this", grab my hair in his or her fist, and I'd feel the world shimmer and fall away beneath my feet. It was like a little moment of heaven.
Unfortunately other people who saw this over time thought I was fair game, a party toy to be tricked out like this for their amusement whenever they wanted, even if there was no other involvement between us.
The first time was awkward.
The second time was uncomfortable.
The third time was panic inducing.
I didn't know these people, in that head state, I become pliable - and generally limit myself to playing with those I know and trust (or those known and trusted by those I know). But I didn't have that with these people. So my reaction shifted. When a lover grabbed my hair in public I'd tense and fight against the drop.
I hated it - and in the moment I couldn't explain why, even out of the moment I couldn't explain.
I thought I was overreacting, it was just hair pulling.
It has been years, my reactions to those I love have gotten a bit better, but I still have that tense moment of "wait, what, who is that, stop!". I'm starting to think I always will.
-even the little things, M, 38, bay area now, Boston when this happened.
I am sharing my story in response to the request for stories about non-consent. I believe the more we speak up, the stronger we be. My story is not a typical D/s scenario. It involved my husband and myself- neither one of us really identify with any group or labeling except maybe we are heteroflexible and curious and occasionally play with others. I am open to just about anything… just about. My #1 rule (unless committed and tested together) is no condom, no penetration. Period.
I fancy myself to be a strong woman. I stand up for myself and for others if I see or feel they need support and I’m not afraid to speak up when I see someone being treated poorly.
I’ve never identified myself to be a submissive or Dom (in the bdsm world) but if I had to, I’d lean more towards the Dom side there (I’ve actually been paid for (light) Dom work a few times) and at home, more submissive in the way of serving my husband food, filling his needs and making him know he is the Man.
So my husband, who is my best friend and I implicitly trust with my life, and I are always exploring together and he had a fantasy in his head whereas he would invite his friend over and I would serve him and his friend beer, dress sexy, and basically play the sub. I’ve never played that role in my life and nobody had ever given him the opportunity to explore that in his self. We have done some things, like he’s thrown me in the field and “raped” me, stripped me and degraded me, etc.
Everything went ok for a while but (we did A LOT of learning from this) alcohol, combined with someone who has never subbed or dommed, and a friend who had no knowledge of that world, period, was a cauldron of bad brewing.
Without going into too much detail, something in my head changed. I can’t pin down when it happened but I somehow handed over my wellbeing, life and spirit when I slipped into “sub”. In doing so, I lost the power to speak, to say no. I was owned. I had no mind. “It did as it as was told”. Before the night was over, someone had unprotected sex with me and was the last person I’d ever have sex with sober. I was repulsed. I only left my room to go to the bathroom. I was scared to leave the house. I started having feelings that were familiar but couldn’t put my finger on it until I finally reached out to someone and they helped me realize those feelings were familiar because I had been raped at 18 by knifepoint. It was confusing because my husband, the one who protects me, was actually he instigator. All the trust I had in him was gone in an instant. Was my gut wrong the entire time about him? Was he this guy or that person?
After I was able to sort my thoughts out and also get my friend K’s opinion, and to lean on, I was able to start communicating with my husband about it. The more we talked, the stronger I got. We haven’t done anything like that since nor has he asked me to. He is very aware of how badly that affected our relationship and me and We are more important than his exploring that side. At this point, knowing what I know now, I’d consider more light play but if we ever did anything like that again, I’d definitely research it and involve someone with experience.
I’ve also learned the term aftercare, and believe that had we talked about it right after (he just went to bed having no clue I was in a state of shock), it might not have taken so long for me to heal.
I’ve been to enough parties to identify “that” douchy guy who uses the label “dom” to abuse and take advantage of people, my husband is NOT that guy. Anyone who knows my husband, knows how kind, thoughtful and sweet he is and he IS that person. This story is different in that we aren’t major players in the scene. We just tried to play out a fantasy at home and got into something neither of us realized the head change that happens.
From the husband.
I would say that every guy has this fantasy at one point or another. Watching your wife, or girlfriend with another guy. I found that for me, it was a third person perspective. There are views that you just can't see when you are the participant. Well, my wife is everything to me, and we're not a part of any group, or full on into any real fetish; just dabble here and there. My wife is submissive to me in our own special way. And she agreed to fulfill this fantasy for me, but with some set rules. We agreed that sex would not happen. Just some fun, and play.
One thing led to another, and we all got drunk. She passed out in bed or very close to it. Reactive, but not able to really say "no". I was too drunk to read the signs, to know what I would have known if I were sober. (Drunk is no excuse- it had an affect on the situation.) Sex ended up happening, and unprotected at that.
Almost a year later, and I still hurt inside when I think of the pain I caused her. It was not violent, but it was a violation. She may forgive me, but I will carry the regret in me for the rest of my life. We learned, and carry the lesson on to the next adventure.
She knows in her heart that I'll never let anything like that happen again, but that night a little part of my wife that she gave special, to me, and no one else, was lost forever.
We headed into my room where he slammed the door shut behind him and tossed me to the floor. He pinned me down and started groping me aggressively. He grabbed a blindfold that was proudly hung on my door knob and roughly put it on my head. The harder I fought, the more he laughed. He slapped my ass and bit my neck.
Now. This was TOTALLY something I was into. And? He was pretty to look at. Only thing was – I had no freaking idea who he was. He had not asked about any safewords, limits or heath issues. We had known each other for all of an hour and a half aside, from some drunken flirting at the party where we met.
Had he bothered to get to know me, he would have known fun little facts like, where I kept the good toys or where I kept the safer sex supplies or that I had an abusive ex-husband and was not a fan of being unexpectedly pinned to the floor and laughed at.
Luckily, even with his hand across my mouth, I was able to get the point across that he had about 2 nanoseconds to get out of my house before I screamed for my friends who would come and kick his ass in less then safe, sane and consensual manner. And thank you for dinner.
From the speed at which he exited, I’m pretty sure he believed me.
-From Dead Cow Girl, who linked me to her blog
Fizz, another blogger who's been thinking a lot about consent culture, sent this in to be included- keep an eye open, as Labcoats and Lingerie will have some Consent Culture Sex Stories upcoming to highlight when consent goes right (also incredibly important in this work!). This piece talks a bit about what it's like to negotiate when you're not great at figuring what you even want or how to ask for it, much less how to safeword:
And that’s the point: we never talked about D/s. He never said “I want to submit to you” and if he had I wouldn’t have known what that meant. I never chose to step into the complementary role; I just fell into the vacuum left behind by his passiveness. Accepting exchanged power, without ever feeling in control, is not dominating. I couldn’t give informed consent to D/s because I wasn’t informed, either about what he intended and wanted or about its alternatives. Remember that this wasn’t just my introduction to kinky sex; this was my introduction to sex. For all I knew, touching someone who never touched back was all I could get.
This is why I have a special hatred for the “ice queen” stereotype–the dominant who gets all the satisfaction she needs from touching others. I’m not that dom, never was and never will be, but I have played the part unwillingly for someone I wanted to please because neither of us knew how to articulate what we’d rather have. To this day I don’t know if that’s what he genuinely wanted from me, or if he wasn’t comfortable asking for something else, or if he’d been looking at femdom porn and thought that what it showed was just how this was supposed to go...
We’re still in touch, and have been close on and off. A few years ago, after a lot of maturing but still before I knew much about BDSM, we wound up fooling around a bit at his place. The day after, he told me he was still feeling sore from something new I’d tried, and described how it had felt as “about a four.” When pressed, he clarified that it hurt enough that he didn’t enjoy it, but he would do it for his dom. (A five would have been what I’d now call a hard limit.) I was incensed. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t tell me at the time if it was that bad, and then expect me to intuit the scale he was using as if there were a standard I should already know. It hit all the same buttons that our silence had in the past, and I threw up my hands and gave up on the idea of trying to connect with him honestly.
About a year later, I told that story to a mutual friend, venting some frustration that the memory brought back. “I just wish he would tell me these things, instead of expecting me to read his mind!”
“It sounds like he was trying to,” she said.
That stopped me cold. She was right, of course. When we’d talked the next day, he was giving me exactly the kind of feedback I wanted–just later and in a different format than I expected. And I’d yelled at him for it. No wonder it was so hard for him to talk to me about sex!
The next time I saw Galen, I brought it up. “I don’t know if you even remember that,” I said, “but I’m sorry for getting mad about it. I know you were trying.”
“I don’t,” he admitted, “but thank you.” I knew from his smile that he meant it. Words may be hard, but at least there are some ways I know that I can read him.
-Read the full post by Fizz over on Labcoats and Lingerie
And finally, I wanted to add a bit of this piece from Adele Haze, who cherishes her safeword and is fierce about using it when she needs to:
I couldn’t help but notice that where the ease of safewording is concerned, I am, let’s just say, unusual in my local community. This makes me quite cross. You may have heard me rant about this in person, as it’s a pet topic of mine. I’ve also written about it in a less blunt way over on The Spanking Writers. I’ve found my dedication to safewords quite difficult to keep or defend on a few occasions.
I’m going to give you some direct quotes I’ve heard in the scene just in the last 3 years.
Said by tops:
“If you’re just going to safeword, we may as well not start.”
“She’s a serious player, she doesn’t safeword.”
“It’s not a punishment if you safeword, is it?”
“But I was so looking forward to this!” (Unsaid: “Until you safeworded and ruined everything.”)
“You’re being difficult.”
Me: “Safeword.” Him: *Flounce*
Me: “Safeword.” Her: *Tears*
Said by bottoms:
“I know I have a safeword, but I wouldn’t use it.”
“I don’t like safewords.” (Times many.)
“Safewording just doesn’t feel very submissive.”
“He doesn’t deal well with safewords.”
“I didn’t safeword. It wasn’t an option.”
Let me tell you, then, how easy it’s been to remain the sort of safe, responsible bottom who can be relied upon to safeword when she needs to. Let me tell you about the sulking divas with canes I’ve had to deal with, until in the last couple of years I drastically limited the circle of people I will bottom to. Let me tell you about comforting friends who aren’t quite as bloody-minded or determinedly blunt as me.
Do you know what’s interesting? None of the scary shit ever happened to me in my professional spanking work. It has to people close to me, but never to me. Go figure.
-Read more on The Safeword Dilema by spanking model Adele Haze
I believe we can live in a world where safewords work, where people respond to them with a gracious "thank you for taking care of yourself" rather than a tantrum. I really do.
And that's what I'm working towards. That's why I do this shit. Because I know we can hold ourselves to higher standards. I know we can do better.