Author’s Note: I wrote this post last night (this morning?) and published it at about 4 am. This morning, I am less sure it was something to be shared. When I write I generally give a piece time to settle before I hit that little blue button that sends it out into the universe. I give myself time to return and refine, to smooth away the rough edges. I did not do this here, I don’t think I could have. I’m leaving it as is, but I encourage you to read the comments, for a bit more of the story and also to share your own thoughts.
Today I watched a friend deal with the pain of an experience for which she wasn’t prepared. I won’t tell her story here, it isn’t mine to tell. I know she’ll share it if she wants to and somehow turn it into something much more lovely than I ever could. Our story here begins when I told her one of my own – the story of me and Jack, or rather, the end of me and Jack.
It was a story I’ve never told in its entirety and it took me close to three hours to push the words from my mind onto the screen. Even still they were disjointed and raw. I’d tried, once or twice, to write parts of this story here; but no matter how eagerly they clamor for release in my mind, the words always seem to dry up the moment I start. I won’t tell that story now, either. It isn’t ready, I doubt it will ever be.
What I do want to talk about is why – why the words have been silent, why things sometimes go wrong, and how we handle them when they do. I’ll warn you right now: I do not have answers. This post will not be tied up with a neat little bow at the end. I am very interested to hear your thoughts, I will be happy if I can encourage you to consider and share.
Somewhat over two years ago, my six- year relationship with Jack imploded in one spectacularly bad scene. For months after I couldn’t even think of spanking. I would try, laying in bed at night, to call to mind fantasies that had once been comforting and comfortable, but moments later they would end in anxiety and panic.
At the time, I blamed myself for what had happened. I worried I hadn’t been clear in my needs. I worried I had misunderstood his intentions. I worried I wasn’t submissive enough, or a good enough partner (even a good enough person), that I was too needy, that I simply wasn’t worthy of his kindness. Sometimes I still worry all of that is true, but I prefer now to accept that my failings are equally to blame for what went wrong. The key word, I’ve decided, is equally rather than entirely.
Some days I wish I could blame him for everything that happened. There are nights I think of his promise, uttered just before he tied me down, and how as soon as I was physically helpless he revoked it. Nothing will make that OK, but I struggle with the question of consent. Was my consent implied by my silence, by my allowing myself to be placed in such a position – even if that decision was based upon false information? If I had said “no” would that consent have been revoked?
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned on this blog my interest in consentual non-consent. I sometimes need to know that when I say “no” my partner will understand that I mean “I want this, but can’t ask for it.” There are other times when I think I really do mean no, but a partner attentive to my needs and limits can help me push past the stumbling block and open me to new experiences. And then, of course, are the times when no quite simply means no. How can I expect someone else to know the difference, when often even I don’t? I can’t.
Jack and I didn’t have a safeword. Perhaps that would have helped us both navigate these situations better. Clearly I was responsible for ensuring I had such safety measures in place, but to what extent (if any) did that responsibility extend to him as well? Equally? More than? Less than? Does the answer change if we consider that when we first met I had only been spanked by one other person while Jack was both much older and more experienced in this? I had read voraciously on the subject, but had little life experience from which to draw. And, in the beginning, I didn’t seem to need one – it was me pushing us forward much more than he. By the time that dynamic shifted we had been together for so long it seemed odd to suddenly negotiate all of the things we should have before. Quite honestly, I trusted (and expected) him to know and respect the difference between causing hurt and harm, and thought that was enough.
What if I’d done everything right: set up a safeword, communicated perfectly going into the scene, etc., would it have made a difference? I honestly don’t know that I had the capacity to communicate what I needed to once we’d begun and the situation changed, even had all those resources been available to me. There are times I can be pushed too deep inside my head to protect myself. I need my partner to recognize these situations and to act in my best interest, even when I can’t. At the same time, I understand the impossibility of asking someone to read me correctly 100% of the time.
What I’m truly curious about is this: when things do go wrong, when mistakes are made, how do we share the responsibility? Playing like this is risky. I accept those risks because I need the experiences they provide; but do we, as bottoms or submissives, take these risks all on our own? This dynamic necessitates one partner making him or herself vulnerable to another – either physically, mentally, or both. To what extent is the person capitalizing on that vulnerability (hopefully for the mutual enjoyment of both parties) responsible for the well-being of his/her partner – not just theoretically, but in real terms?
Even as vaguely as I have here, I find this difficult to write; both because I try to keep this space positive and because I am very guarded with my feelings where they may be controversial or unwelcome. The story I’ve danced around telling here simultaneously reinforced and shattered these ideals, and I’m still trying to find my path with what is left. I still struggle to find the balance between protecting myself and letting my guard down enough to enjoy someone else’s control.
I’m lucky to share the internet with so many amazing people, all unique in their interests, desires, relationships, and style. We can all look at a situation and see something no one else does. Even when we share an experience with another person, we both walk away with a slightly different view. I’m realistic enough to know that if Jack told our story, it wouldn’t sound the same. Over on his blog, HH wrote some time ago, and quite eloquently, about the differing ways he and Emma Jane viewed their respective responsibility for the outcome of a scene, in response to a post by Emma Jane wrote on standing in the way of control – now I’d love to hear what you think.