Trigger up: Coming to Power


Dear reader: this writing is about BDSM, surviving relationship violence, catharsis, and trauma. These are really hard topics to write about, and so you may find reading it triggering. Please take care of yourself and read at your own discretion. Click away if needed–you can always read this when you’re in a safer space. If you ever wanna talk about this stuff, gimme a holler, ok? Love and light, RD

The woman I used to call my girlfriend, who I now call my Miss stands before me. She crackles with powerful energy even while her face twitches between seriousness and mischievous glee. I am trembling. This has not happened before. We have played before, I have played before with other people, but not like this. In the past my primary relationship to BDSM (even when I was bottoming) was as a switchy top. I held all the cards, all the power.

The past year has brought a lot of changes to our lives: broken hearts, dreams deferred or altered, friendships and relationships starting and ending, redefining home, travels, being laid low by illness…just to name a few. Shortly after I was assaulted, I was invited on a bike ride by a friend. While news travels fast, people can assume a lot at times, so I asked, “Can you please make sure that [the manarchist] won’t be there?” Turns out someone else had invited him, in a spurt of good faith they had assumed it was someone else by the same name who had assaulted me. After all, [the manarchist] is such a nice guy! (I mean, he is when he is, but that’s another story, right?) I walked outside past the orchard and let loose a howl. I can’t remember if it was audible or not, but I felt it, and hot tears threaded my face in messy columns. Miss followed me into the yard. Of all the words that passed, most prophetically she told me “RD, you need to learn how to be laid low and trust that others will carry you.”

I am not so good at being laid low, or even sitting still. Like my mother, who watches movies in 20 minute spurts while she does the ironing, I feel like I have to be productive at every. single. moment. of the day. I have recently begun a new effort to admit that I am as a matter of fact, human, and to take care of myself physically and emotionally.  My body has a lot of bad memories stored up right now, and I am trying to work through them so that I can let go. Many of these memories are things that happened years ago, but recent events post-Manarchist (and all the little triggers that followed…) have jarred loose that trauma again. I think the trick of surviving trauma is not climbing over it like it is a hill and saying oh yes, I am so over that now, it is the act of getting up every day and being brave enough to live in my body, sometimes even being able to trust other people enough to share my body with them.

But we were talking about BDSM, weren’t we? There is an incredible surrender that takes place in the D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationship that I have never really encountered before. On some level it is the kind of relationship that I wish I had with my parents as a kid (ooh, that sounds spooky-weird, but hear me out!). I am being groomed for greatness. When I screw up, my Miss punishes me, and then, the real magic: I am forgiven. I trust her enough to give myself over to her discipline. I trust myself enough to make that choice. I am her boi.

I love pain, and I am a natural masochist. I remember as a child making lines in my legs with my nails, scrawling flesh calligraphy, on a road trip. My mother glimpsed it from over the seat and gasped in horror. what are you doing, RD? I think I said, “making lines!” For all the chaos of my possessions, I find numbers and geometry soothing (the knitting instinct is strong with this one). It’s the order of the thing, see? And, too: the powerfullness of knowing my body will miraculously heal. Maybe that’s childlike, that I still wonder at that–bruises one day, and gone the next. I can take a lot of pain if it’s pain that I like.

But taking pain from my Miss is different because it is, at essence, discipline. It is not solely for the pleasure of being launched into space (we call it “sub space”) after being whacked around for the while, then returning to earth dizzy and rushed–this pain is visceral and difficult. Not permanent damage-causing visceral, but the kind of pain that makes me cry, or want to. And there’s the fear of: can I take this? I want so badly to be able to take this. I want to please her. I want her to giggle deliciously afterwards, to touch me and feel the heat rising off of my bruised body, to tell me I have been good.

These things are so different, abuse and trauma, BDSM and catharsis, but for me they are a complicated twining. When we play I remember in some sense what it was for someone to use my body for purposes I did not consent to (an outlet for their rage, their sex, etc), because I consent to this play, now. I have a safe word and if I invoke its powerful spell, we stop.

Here: I have come to power by allowing myself to be laid low.

Additional suggested reading:

    • Coming to Power (out-of-print), by SAMOIS collective
    • Melting Point, by Pat Califia
    • Macho Sluts, by Pat Califia


One Response to “Trigger up: Coming to Power”

  1. […] the ~6 month after-the-break-up post-mortem coffee with A yesterday. When she got up to order something I almost stood up and walked out. Not because […]

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