Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘non-consent

The Paucity of Play Partners, or Unreasonable Expectations

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SMS to the Lover: “The door’s on latch. See you later.”

I rinse a bowl, turn off the tap and turn for a tea towel. I almost scream. He’s moving towards me, silent, fast, hoodie up, face grim, one hand in his pocket, the other reaching for me. There’s a thud of pain as he swings me round by the shoulder. He grabs my hair, wrenching my neck. I try to pull back—“what are you—?”—but something cold and hard is shoved into the flesh under my jaw. I’m absolutely still. We stand in the kitchen, a tableau of fear and pain. A bus idles at the traffic lights outside.

He yanks my hair and I squeal. Pushing the gun* harder into my jaw and pulling at my scalp, he drags me into the hallway and throws me towards the ground. I go down gratefully, out of his grasp. My elbow hits the doorframe, vibrating my arm to my wrist, and I graze my forearm on the carpet. As I cover the broken skin, rough under my palm, he pushes me down with his weight on my back. My arm’s trapped under my chest. Pain shoots up it as I try to wriggle free.

His weight lightens and I see my moment—he must be undoing his fly. I kick and twist up, but he presses down again. I continue to struggle, although I’ve missed my chance, then the cold metal pushes at the back of my neck, and I freeze. He flips me over, grunting, and shoves the gun hard into the bottom of my ribcage. It will bruise, the barrel thrusting in like a bullet through shards of bone. The idea of bloody shattered ribs does a lot for cooperation. I don’t squirm away from his hands. He worms his fingertips in the joints of my jaw and speaks for the first time. “Open your mouth.”

That wasn’t entirely gratuitous. I think about scenes like that, you see, when I wonder why I don’t get more play. Perhaps there aren’t that many people who are interested in raping girls at gunpoint. But then, my rape-at-gunpoint quota is mostly fulfilled. Being caned for not having learnt my Latin verbs is where I feel a lack. Or being half-drowned. Or abducted by slavers. Or looked at sternly and told that I need to learn my lesson, and it will be taught with a hand spanking, over his knee. Any applicants?

When I moved to Manchester, which has a sizable fetish scene, I thought these wouldn’t be difficult to achieve. They are hardly niche fetishes (well, maybe the drowning). I might have an easier time if a bottle of Chardonnay and a rented DVD made me weak at the knees, but I’m not hoping to find people who want to eat my hair, put me in nappies or watch me impersonate a duck. And even those people generally find someone.

However, these activities, from the guns and the drownings to the hand spankings, do need a fair amount of trust. I’m chasing vulnerability, and there’s a lot that can go wrong. I want to be nearly saying stop at every moment, but forcing myself to continue. I have to trust the person I’m with to not do anything stupid, because I can’t constantly reserve half my mind to assess safety or subtly advise repositioning. That would be half my mind unable to engage in saying, “Oh God, no, please, no!” Worse, I have to recognise that, playing so close to the border between what I want and what I don’t want, I may find myself on the wrong side of the ability to safeword with someone doing something I genuinely wish they wouldn’t do. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, but only with someone who has the emotional nous to help me pick up the pieces afterwards. Oh, and they’d better know how to aim a cane, because I like parallel lines in carefully chosen places. And they should have an excellent stern look. And education and intelligence and a sense of humour and… Oh dear, this list is getting a bit long, isn’t it?

The more I think about it, the longer the list gets, and the more it sounds as if I’m looking for a life partner or a unicorn, not a playmate. I was surprised, therefore, when I signed up for discipline from Miss. Prim a couple of months ago without a qualm. She was offering a Muir Academy style role play at the SM Dykes conference, and once I’d put my name down I spent more time worrying about my uniform than whether I could trust a lady I’d only met that morning. I was nervous about my first caning in front of an audience, but not enough to curtail the doodling and origami frog making during class that was provoking it. And when I leant over the desk I was worried about the pain, not her competence. It hurt. It hurt enough to make me jump off the ground with both feet on the third stoke, causing a titter from the onlookers and a pause while Miss. Prim asked if I’d ever been caned before, but it didn’t hurt so much that I tore off my blazer and ran from the room. I trusted her knowledge, experience and sense of propriety.

But where does that leave my hunt for play partners? I can’t advertise for, “Extremely experienced semi-professionals. Must be willing to give lectures on the history and uses of the cane before scenes and have an aesthetic more appreciative of straw boaters than leather and studs.” Standing on the sidelines at clubs watching people with floggers (no thank you) or needles (I’ve been sent home unpricked from doctor’s surgeries due to faintness at the sight of them) doesn’t seem to be achieving much. So what am I to do? Lower my standards? Be contented with my lot? Or commence a serious search? How do all of you with full and busy kinky lives do it?

*In the interests of those who might try this at home, I should note that it has been clearly demonstrated to me that the gun doesn’t have any of the insides to make it work, that they are in fact in another county, and assured that in any case this really isn’t the sort of gun that you would use for shooting people anyway.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

August 6, 2011 at 12:03 am

Consent, Non-consent, and “Get The Hell Away From Me!”

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Kinky people tend to have, or say they have, a profound belief in consent. When playing with fire (hard limit, no thank you), a nuanced understanding of how people agree to things is reassuring. Exploitation and coercion occur even when people seem to enthusiastically say “yes,” but consent’s a good starting point. When you’re seeing people tied up and beaten, and feeling reluctant to intervene, that’s valuable.

As a group, we’ve generally agreed that consent is an ongoing action, and might cease at any time. This destroys the, “she was wearing a miniskirt,” defence, but raises some difficulties. You can’t withdraw your consent to be on an aeroplane mid-flight, but you can mid-kiss or mid-beating. In the fetish community practices like safewords are encouraged so that withdrawal can be communicated. I know a man who likes to gag people, but always gives them little cymbals to drop if they want the scene to end. Then, what if you enjoy being pushed beyond the point at which you seriously say, “no”?*

At this point you’re sure to encounter a self-appointed member of the consent police. He admonishes those who dare to play without safewords (I find them useless, because by the time I need to use them I’m too far gone to speak), and reprimands those who don’t hide their kink well enough, for involving unconsenting members of the public (he’d probably outlaw kissing on buses). I prefer him, though, to the hardened criminals: those who believe that explicit consent provides a license to do anything. Beaten to within an inch of your life? Well, you said it was ok beforehand! People don’t always act in their own self-interest, experience certainly shows that I don’t, although I intend to in future. All of this means that the precise boundaries of consent are constantly debated in fetish forums, usually by people who aren’t going to do anything more dangerous to life than tap each other with sticks while looking menacing. It’s an academic squabble after we’ve agreed the central points.

Sometimes, being mostly surrounded by people who have a nuanced view, I struggle with people who don’t. I forget that there was a time when I felt that if sex began, I had to see it through to the end, and that I had a tendency to swallow because I thought it would be rude not to. I begin to believe so thoroughly in my way of doing things that I can’t see it from another perspective.

I’ve had to confront that other perspective twice recently. The wanking man didn’t touch me, but he still left me feeling abused. Another man provoked a similar feeling, this time with lips. We’d kissed, and I’d told him I wasn’t going to screw him. I said I’d like to use the bathroom before I left his house. As I washed my hands, he lurked silently on the other side of the door. When I emerged he wrapped his arms around me and dragged me to the bedroom. I put up mild resistance, surprised and confused—until we reached the doorway—about what was going on. He toppled me down on the bed, lay heavily on top of me and kissed my neck. This time I resisted wholeheartedly, pushing as hard as I could against the weight of his body and repeating, at increasing volume, “Stop! I’m serious, stop,” but I couldn’t shift him. When he stopped of his own accord, I scrambled to the edge of the bed and berated him for his behaviour. “I wasn’t hurting you!” he objected.

“That’s not the point.” I told him.

Aside: If you’re thinking, “that bloke had a sexual abuse problem, not a differing understanding of consent,” stick with me, we’ll get to the point. If you’re thinking, “sheesh! Bloody women with her mixed signals, she deserves all she gets,” you’re in the wrong room, you want, Not Becoming a Rapist 101, down the hall.

A couple of days later the lover came to call. When he kissed my neck I felt I was back in that bedroom with peeling paper, under the weight of the man who wouldn’t stop. I told him I was going to ask him to do something, and I’d prefer he asked no questions. I said I didn’t want him to kiss my neck. “I’d already decided not to,” he replied, “I felt your reaction.” Before bed he gave me a hug and said, affectionately, “I’m going to rape you in the morning.”

The lover and I play with non-consent a lot, it’s a central kink for both of us. A recent highlight was the day I sent him a text message simply saying, “the door’s on latch.” The grazes have now healed and I’ve resolved to hoover the hallway before trying anything like that again. We both know it’s only a game, but it isn’t pretty. When it’s happening, my fear and pain are real.

Rape in the morning is a slightly different matter. I don’t say, “oh, yes please, I’m looking forward to it,” because I’m not, and because we both consider that I can’t give consent eight hours before, for an act to be performed on me while I’m unconscious.** My reaction varies, from sleepy acquiescence to squirming away in pain, but even at its worst, on the day I had a migraine, thrown down so that my head was split by a square of sunshine on the pillow and I could not imagine, on any level, deriving sexual satisfaction, it did not occur to me to reprimand him. This is who we are, this is what we do.

My question to myself is this: Why am I angry with the man who didn’t get my consent to kiss my neck, and not with the one who rapes me? Why do I think of that man’s lips on my neck with such disgust, but look back on many mornings of actual pain with, if anything, affection? The only answer I can think of is that the lover, unlike the other man, knows that consent is important. He never would (never could) justify doing something by saying it didn’t hurt me. And he knows that there’s something beyond explicit consent, where he has to be extra-specially careful, and read my expression, my eyes and my breathing, for all the things I can’t tell him. He knows the rules, so he’s allowed to break them. That is pretty close to an incoherent position.

I’m curious about how other people resolve the inconsistencies of desire and consent, because it seems like a tangle. And how, from the kinky perspective which so privileges consent, does one deal with the heavy-handed tactics of the vanilla world?

*There’s an interesting meditation on no limits play at SpankingCast. http://spankingcast.com/spankingcast-episode-14-no-limits

**Yes, this means that many medical procedures are non-consensual. I don’t think we should give up surgery, and I do find the inconsistencies in my system mildly troubling.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 18, 2011 at 12:01 am