I am just rereading an e-mail I sent to a friend describing my weekend. One part of it really sticks out for me. It reads:
He used a hand on my throat. Sometimes he covered my nose and mouth. He told me that I wasn’t done until he was. It was true.
A lot of the things that I experienced this past weekend makes me squirm to remember, but that statement just causes me to shudder. I’ve realized that those words hold the culmination of desires and wants that started in my early childhood. It is the same shudder of fear/thrill I feel when I read of evil, sadistic villains in fictional stories, and of the utter helplessness of their victims.
I had never really felt that before – that fine, razor-thin line between fear and lust, amplified by helplessness, and it captured my imagination very early on in my life. The idea of a person who enjoyed causing physical pain to another for the pure pleasure of it – well, that both aroused and terrified me. And now, I’ve finally experienced a brief taste of that kind of personality. Just thinking back, remembering, leaves me heady.
How can I adequately describe the events of the past weekend? Should I concentrate on the workshop, where I was tied in my first suspension, a horizontal tie that left my legs free to swing and kick and maneuver within the suspension rig? Should I go into detail on the evening, which found my back pressed hard against the far wall of a hotel bathroom, my shirt rolled up to my collarbone as I was first whipped, then punched and pinched until I had to cross my arms over my chest and slide down to the floor?
Or perhaps the evening before, when I found myself sitting between two sadists as they used my body to show each other their favorite pressure points for causing pain or for take downs. Or when a latex Theraband was stretched across my face, over my mouth and nose, so that each increasingly short breath caused my body to shake and spasm. Or the caning, the biting, the struggling to get out of rope as it was being tied around me.
Or, even, the awe and privilege of getting to climb up the limbs of a majestic, 200-year-old beech tree in the yard of my gracious host. Eating Thai food with a bunch of kinksters and geeking out about chromatin looping and computers. The first night when I started dozing off in a stairwell while the above two sadists chatted about sci-fi/fantasy novels.
Already so much of those three days has become a fuzzy blur of sensations. I wish that I could fully articulate how thrilling it was, or that I could pin down every detail of each scene and event that happened. But it’s already taken me this long to process everything enough to write anything at all. And now the last few marks on my body from rope are fading, and the bruises are healing. I am no longer so sore and stiff that I have a difficult time removing my bra. Amazing how it all so quickly dissipates into memory, isn’t it?
I have been meaning to flesh out more of the pain-pleasure play that I was starting to explain, mostly to myself. There is an aspect of this abstract desire that reaches beyond purely physical for me; that is the search for a kind of release through intense stimulation. Pain.
Emotional release is difficult for me. Starting as a child, I have conditioned myself to suppress intense emotions. In the presence of parents possessing completely opposite methods of emotional expression, I take after my father: stoic and quiet, even in his anger. I met all incoming arguments with a seemingly indifferent silence, a mask for my inability to express myself clearly.
And so the simple idea of having that carapace broken down has increasingly filled my head. If only, I surmise, I could be pushed to that point where nothing is present but raw emotion, then nothing but a tired, spent shell that has just released all the buildup of emotional burden. To free the constantly present, tight, knot of anxiety that I have always felt pressed against the center of my ribcage. What would it take to feel that, even if for a moment?
This line of thought has always kept me a bit on edge, however. It feels like a dangerous line to cross, and I wonder if it is healthy to have this craving. What mental or psychological deficiency prevents me from handling my emotions? Is this a viable method for achieving release?
It is not as though I have any history of abuse or violence. Besides the odd slap with a ruler when I was being particularly rowdy, I wasn’t hit as a kid. I keep searching for some tenuous, silk-thin thread of correlation woven from my childhood to help explain this, and I keep failing to find it. The only sliver of memory I have is of a dark, hidden excitement from seeing characters rendered helpless, perhaps tortured, at the hands of an emotionless villain, at some distant point in my life.
This pushing of boundaries, of taking me beyond my level of conscious consent and capabilities, is an act I tried to talk to my first partner about. It wasn’t as well-formed a realization at that point – I just wanted to experience an intensity of pain capable of making me cry. Thus far, this has never happened. Not to say I have a high tolerance – as mentioned in my first musings, I haven’t experienced enough impact play to define that. My level of exposure to the world of BDSM and kink is quite odd, really. I have received enemas, done puppy play, been tied Japanese Shibari style, and swallowed urine, but I have never been caned or whipped. My level of “roughness” has never quite exceeded that of “edgy vanilla,” when in actuality I want struggling, slapping, biting and sheer physical overpowering.
It is possible that this form of experience can help me break down my personal trappings and convolutions. Or perhaps this is simply the best way for the kind of person I am: to be flogged into crying. Maybe this is actually the least-destructive way for me to find release.
In any case, I’m going to end this rambling with an amazing TEDtalk of a brain scientist who had a stroke one morning, and proceeded to delve into the slow unraveling of her mind’s functions.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Sometimes I’ve survived anger only one minute at a time, by saying to myself again and again that the best kind of revenge is some kind of life beyond this, some kind of goodness. And I can lay no claim to goodness until I can prove that mean people have not made me mean.
– Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder
Can you tell I love this book? I finished it off yesterday, a copy I borrowed from the library. This is probably the only book of Kingsolver’s I hadn’t read yet, excluding her collection of poetry. (Perhaps blasphemic to admit, but I’m not too keen on poetry beyond Shel Silverstein and the odd Robert Frost).
I supposed I am terribly biased in my love of Kingsolver – I have found that our views of the world and our backgrounds echo each other in similar wavelengths, so I can’t help but see things her way. When she speaks of a childhood wracked with self-doubt and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge her own strengths, I find myself remembering the social withdrawal I went through in high school. Her essay reflecting on the struggle of her relationship with her mother is a heady reminder of what my own mother put me through, what I put her through, and how we somehow managed to wade out of years of miscommunication, generational and cultural differences, and family strife to get to where she ends every phone conversation with an “I love you” (unheard of, mind you, until two years ago), and I respond wholeheartedly in kind.
It was also in reading Kingsolver’s letter to her oldest daughter that I realized one of the predominant reasons why I want kids so badly. I see and reflect on my own childhood, on all the issues I had growing up, and I have a wildly desperate desire to give kids of my own a different, more confident life. What I don’t want is to fall into the trap of believing, as a parent, in the indomitable right to carve out a child’s path to adulthood. I want to give them a better childhood without coddling and preventing them from growing into their own decisions. Even though I have attended a college that expects me to change the world, at present I cannot see anything more important to me than raising a child. And I wonder how this has become second-priority in this country – how raising a child has become a chore or best handed over to educational TV programs.
Of course, when I talk of this to my friends, we end up agreeing that there is simply too much we should be doing to broaden our life experience to be weighed down by another, completely dependent life. We should be traveling, exploring the world, living among different cultures and bettering ourselves, before we settle down to marriage and suburbia.
Personally, I hope I never feel like I’m “settling in” for marriage. A surprisingly insistent part of me even considers refusing marriage until it is no longer tied to religion, or until civil unions are offered in its place to partners regardless of their genders. And you can bet that whatever piece of jewelry becomes the symbol of our union, there will be no diamonds present. I will not have the blood of a pointless monopolized rock on my hands.
And the quote – God, that quote. It shamed me to read that passage, because I have not always been able to forgive or leave vengeance behind. This is especially true with regards to my first ex. It is hard for me to admit that, when I found out about his fiancée and the world as I knew it crumbled around me, I wanted to hurt them, punish them, more than I wanted to pick myself up and move on. I don’t know if I hated them or myself more. It is not a stretch to say that at times the only fragile thread that kept me afloat was one friend’s particular insistence on my staying alive.
I took my inability to see through my ex’s lies as a personal failure, a source of bottomless shame and injured pride, especially in light of my mother’s warnings and final ultimatum towards this man that she never met. How could I tell her how wrong I was, when I’d spent so much breath and tears fighting in his defense? It hurt, even beyond the scale of the hurt he did to me with his lies, to admit such a lack of judgment.
This is not exactly the path I envisioned taking, in writing down some of the innumerable thoughts that came to mind while reading Small Wonder. But I suppose it’s what I’ve been wrestling with in my mind for a couple weeks now. And as I continue to delve into the community of kink and BDSM, I find myself having to continually bring up this man as the first to open my eyes to kink, and then the first to break my heart.
But perhaps all of this talking, as opposed to three years before when I refused even to explain why I had broken up with my ex, is the final healing balm I need. It has been awhile since I’ve mentioned him at all here, but it now has lost that sour tinge of hatred of previous posts, from previous years. And I do sincerely hope that he has not made me mean, as I search for my own kind of life and goodness beyond all of this.
There must be limits, somewhere, to the human footprint on this earth. When the whole of the world is reduced to nothing but human product, we will have lost the map that can show us how we got here, and can offer our spirits an answer when we ask why.
– Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder
I picked this up to accompany a friend while she sat in the bookstore, a spread of books and coffee covering the table for the grant she is writing. I’ve always adored Kingsolver’s writing, and this book – a collection of essays on everything from 9/11 to genetic engineering to conservation of biodiversity – is no exception.
It’s always been books like this one that get my mind roiling with ideas and, god forbid, ambitions to better the world somehow. I had been considering applying for a Fulbright Scholarship at one point earlier in the year, but other things took priority (like taxes!). And now I am once again free to scheme and plot all the possibilities for the grant. I love that Kingsolver also has a background in biology, but has pursued writing as a career. I love that edge where science and art intermingle, that unlikely binary that I have fought to understand the relationship of since I caught my first bug, and then proceeded to draw it in my sketch pad.
So the slow formation and coalescing of ideas has started, yet I have nothing tangible enough to put on an application. Mostly, I want to explore the interdisciplinary as a mode of living life: the idea that we cannot understand any one concept or subject without also learning everything it is connected to. Interdisciplinary, interconnectedness. Lines of relationship and definition, like the lines of a drawing defining a thing’s presence. The visual and written, somehow interwoven into a complete form of self-expression.
So many ideas! How do you write a Statement of Purpose that describes your desire to write, paint, draw, everything and its relationship to everything else?
Today’s HNT, featuring my pinktastic boxing gloves that a friend bestowed upon me last year. I haven’t found a use for them yet, but they do make a nice prop for photo-taking. I’ve also started shooting in RAW format (I know, I know, should only ever have been shooting RAW) and am enjoying fiddling around with the photos in Lightroom. I know I’m barely scratching the surface of what the software’s capable of right now.