When I Knew: One Kinky Click Moment

Before I fully understood how I connected to kink myself, I found myself drawn to kink spaces. I thought if I were only brave enough to make it to a party, someone else would step in and help me figure out what to do there. But after spending a few devastating parties waiting for a revelation that never came, I started to wonder if I was wrong about belonging in kink space. Then one night, I met Her Majesty.

We talked through dinner, and then, when we moved to the party, the conversation shifted toward play. “What are you into?” she asked. The question intimidated me. I had ideas about the kinds of dynamics I wanted in my play but still couldn’t quite imagine which set of acts would evoke them. Besides, the question presumed I had a repertoire of kink acts that I’d already done, which, to my great shame and disappointment, I didn’t.

The answer I gave was disjointed but honest: I wanted to top but was open to bottoming (I identified as a switch at that point, and it’s hard to know now how much of that came from genuine desire to bottom and how much came from believing that bottoming was the only acceptable way for a newcomer like me to play). I’d come to kink because I cared about consent and healing, and because I wanted to intentionally create my own sexual practices. As far as what I liked to do… this was where I grew vague, stammered, and threw up my hands. Her response was slightly incredulous. If you think about it like that, she said, “You’re missing out on all the fun parts.”

It was the first of many condescending things she would say to me throughout our several-months’ involvement. When I gave her contact information that included my given name, she practically sneered, “Yeah… you might want to change that.” When I filled out a yes/no/maybe list at her request, she zeroed in on the no answers. “What have you got against that one?” she asked of one item on the list. At another, where I’d detailed my discomfort with a different act in full sentences, she scoffed, “You think about things too much.” And sure, I’d used an academic word or two to describe my reaction to the act, but only because I couldn’t figure out how to express the way imagining it made my body shrink and go still.

She scoffed at my clothes, at my cooking, at my not knowing how to smoke pot from a particular pipe. She scoffed at the way I handled books (I’d bent a spine). Later, when she set up a date for me to co-top the boy who was submitting to her, she scoffed at my hesitancy to receive his service. The date taught me, in retrospect, that I needed to feel a connection, or at least an attraction, to someone I was topping. The date taught Her Majesty and her boy that I wasn’t a real top.

It’s hard to imagine now why I stayed involved with someone who clearly had so little respect for me. But in the kink world at the time, I felt worthless. I was hopelessly out of place in kink venues, woefully inexperienced, and desperate for things to change. Her Majesty was willing not only to play with me but to teach me the skills I needed to top. That someone would indulge my floundering seemed generous beyond anything I deserved. If I noticed Her Majesty’s condescension, I took it as a matter of course. I wasn’t impressed with me either.

A few months into our sporadic courtship, Her Majesty took me to a party. It was a private play party, an all-night gathering in someone’s apartment, and I remember thinking, as I had thought so many times before, that this would be the time that things really changed for me. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to happen there, but Her Majesty had my checklist, and I was certain she would come up with something.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Her Majesty told me afterward (exasperated, of course), that I barely spoke a word the whole night. Looking back, there isn’t much of the night I remember. I remember that Her Majesty and I had plans for her to top me, and that I spent much of the party waiting for her attention. I remember watching her top someone she had just met, thumping his thighs with a heavy plastic bottle. I remember someone I recognized as a local big-name kinkster entertaining a crowd in the living room with stories of discovering his first fetish as a child. I remember Her Majesty leaving sometime in the wee hours, and me staying behind with a handful of other all-nighters to sleep amidst a jumble of sheets and mats.

And I remember the scene that was. Her Majesty announced that she was helping me learn to tie someone up and requested volunteers to bottom. A girl, Beta, raised her hand; she was small, talkative, a self-described exhibitionist, and, unlike Her Majesty’s boy, someone to whom I felt an attraction. Her Majesty brought us to the host’s bedroom. Beta lay on the bed, and Her Majesty knelt above her. Her Majesty asked a few perfunctory questions about where she might put ropes, and in their exchange, I saw intangible agreements pass between the two of them.

Maybe Her Majesty described what she was doing with the ropes as she did it. Maybe she even offered to let me try some of the tying myself; if she did, I don’t remember. What I remember is that the moment the scene began, it felt different. I felt different, drawn in, breathless, my mouth gone dry. As Her Majesty tied, taunted, and slapped, I watched Beta yelp, grin, and grow hazy. I was hyperfocused, outside my body and yet deeply in it, aware of nothing but the girl on the bed and the room’s taut silence. I lost all sense of time—maybe it was minutes later, maybe hours, when Her Majesty moved back and gestured toward Beta, offering her to me. “Your turn.”

In a few moments, I would again be stuck. The wordless negotiation hadn’t included me, and I had no idea what Beta had and hadn’t consented to. Nor was I versed enough in my own desires to think up on the spot what exactly it was I wanted to do with her. And perhaps some part of me also saw what is clear to me now: Beta consented to playing with us both, but the energy of the scene was between her and Her Majesty; Beta’s submission wasn’t Her Majesty’s to offer me, nor was it mine to take. Kneeling over Beta, I would fumble and freeze again, and Her Majesty would sigh and pick the scene back up herself, taking my failure to act as one more piece of evidence that I was wrong about my desire to top.

But in the split second before all that, something slid into place. My body lit up and turned on, feeling Beta, helpless, suddenly in my power. I was nine again, telling myself bedtime stories where armies of girls with fists and machines batted for domination. I was five again, gleefully replaying scenes in my head of a cartoon cat tormenting a cartoon mouse. What I felt in that moment, I hadn’t felt since childhood, not in sex and just barely in fantasy. What I felt in that moment, that was why I’d come here. I belonged here. Whatever anyone said, I belonged here.

When I think back to the events surrounding this moment, so many of them disturb me. The shoddy way Her Majesty treated me. My certainty that I would go into play without knowing what I wanted and come out the better for it. The way we treated Beta, like an object to be passed between the two of us. That this flash of rightness came to me in a scene that does not, in retrospect, feel entirely consensual. And yet, looking back, I can’t help but see that click moment as a moment of triumph. Everything—my internalized shame, Her Majesty’s condescension, a string of painful parties—told me I was wrong about who I was and what I desired. But something in me knew. And I was right.

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4 thoughts on “When I Knew: One Kinky Click Moment

  1. I would argue with some of your conclusions here. Clearly Her Majesty’s treatment of you was inappriate and cruel. But I think you need to give more compassion to yourself in your learning process.

    First, it sounds to me list Beta did consent, both to the scene and to being part of your learning process. A “teaching scene” is very different in feeling from a “normal” scene (if such exists). It’s like being a demo bottom for a class. It has its own energy and thrills and awkwardness.

    I’ve bottomed in a teaching scene a couple of years ago that was really satisfying for me. The top was a complete novice. I interupted the scene several times to correct the location of a blow or point out something that could be improved or point out a safety issue. I didn’t find my normal bottom headspace in any way – I purposely stayed anchored, gave feedback, processed the clumbsy moments.

    In consenting to the scene, I knew that I was consenting to mistakes, to someone who hadn’t found her power and was still fumbling for it, to working through that with her. And we had a grand time. So maybe Beta knew exactly what she was consenting to.

    When I try to negotiate with inexperienced players, they are almost never able to answer most of my questions about what they want or how they want it. They don’t have the vocabulary to express what they do know or the experience to have learned what they don’t. Those negotiations have a distict, consistent flavor to them. Everyone starts there. No one knows exactly what they want or how to ask for it in the beginning.

    It is unjust to demand from yourself the experience to know what you want before you’ve had the experience.

  2. Leah,

    I’ve been mulling over how to respond to your comment. I think you and I are coming from some pretty different places.

    The experience you describe of your teaching scene sounds very intentional. I don’t have any way of knowing whether Beta had similar intentions—she did consent to be part of the scene, but I felt I had very little information from her as far as what brought her to the scene, what her desire looked like, or where her limits were. I also didn’t experience her as anchored in the way you describe—maybe she was, but if so, she didn’t communicate that to me, and it didn’t feel possible at the time, or encouraged, for me to find out by asking. You say “Maybe Beta knew exactly what she was consenting to.” But for me, consent is only meaningful if 1) each party understands what acts/dynamics are being negotiated and 2) each party knows that the other parties understand what acts/dynamics are being negotiated. So, for me, “maybe she knew…” isn’t enough.

    You say “you need to give more compassion to yourself in your learning process.” I’m not sure if this is what you mean, but it sounds like you might be equating giving myself compassion with assuring myself that this particular scene was completely consensual. Certainly, it is uncomfortable to sit with the possibility that it may not have been. It is uncomfortable to me as a person who values consent. It is uncomfortable to me as someone with a history of being coerced into sexual acts I did not want. And it is uncomfortable to me as someone connected to a set of erotic subcultures (kink/leather/bdsm) for whom the idea of consent is fundamental to what we do.

    And yet… my ethos around consent tells me that I must be willing to sit with the possibility that I have—through negligence, misunderstanding, insufficient self-confidence, wishful thinking, or willful disregard—violated someone’s consent. I have to be willing to do this, because to do otherwise—to explain away those moments that feel off in my memory—is too dangerous. I want to be able to learn from my mistakes. I want to be open to hearing it if someone comes to me to tell me I have indeed violated them somehow. I want to take power responsibly as a dominant, which means doing as much as I can to make sure that all parties are getting what they want (and not getting things that are beyond the letter or the spirit of their agreements).

    I’m not saying that I am exceptional in having, somewhere along the line, violated someone’s consent. I suspect most of us have, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that even in communities that (ostensibly or genuinely) value consent, meaningful, enthusiastic consent is a process and one that takes a lot of work. And it’s imperfect—we can only know each other and ourselves so well—so part of the process is being open to the possibility that something has gone wrong, and being willing to take responsibility for it when it has.

    I don’t mean to lecture. But it is important to me to make clear that being compassionate with myself and being willing to imagine that I might have crossed a line are not and should not be mutually exclusive.

    As for your last paragraph… my heart aches to read it. For many years, I believed what it sounds like you are saying: that I could walk into kink space and find a partner who would hold my hand through figuring out what I wanted. I felt like I’d worked so hard to get where I was, and all I wanted was for someone else to come along and take on the burden of figuring out what I wanted for a while. But what I found over and over—what broke my heart to realize—was that no one was coming to save me. What happened when I tried to hand over responsibility for figuring out what I desired was either that no one came, or someone like Her Majesty did.

    I have compassion for myself and the time I spent waiting and hoping and accepting whatever shoddy treatment came my way. But I don’t have much faith in depending on other people’s goodwill and patience when it comes to learning about my own desires. And I wouldn’t recommend that path to anyone else, even if sometimes one can be lucky enough to have it work.

    • Part of the reason entering the scene as a new top is so difficult is because it can be hard, as a bottom, to sign up for a scene with someone who you haven’t seen play before. Who isn’t yet experienced at negotiation and doesn’t really know what they want. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. And that can be okay. Co-topping is a good way to set up a scene so that the bottom is safeguarded by the participation and oversight of an experienced, known player. The new top is safeguarded from making serious mistakes, like unknowingly violating consent. At that time you didn’t have the skills to get Beta into her bottoming headspace alone, so Her Majesty leant her skill to that goal. The transfer of energy in the scene from one top to another is part of what co-topping scenes are set up to facilitate. That momentary rush of power you felt – as a bottom in that situation I’d count that as a success, not a violation.

      If Beta consented to the co-topping scene and participated in negotiations, she has an ability and responsibility to openly withdraw consent if the scene violates her comfort levels. It doesn’t sound like you did anything that violated what she’d agreed to, even if you feel much of the negotiation was nonverbal. You do need to learn from scenes that go wrong or feel wrong. You do need to be vigilant about consent. But you are taking on more responsibility here than I think is appropriate.

      As for Beta’s experience, whether or not she’s grounded and present in the scene as a teacher to you is a choice of approach. If I’d been bottoming to both a new top and a top I was comfortable with, I probably wouldn’t have felt that I needed to be as grounded or give direct guidance. That’s what the experienced top is for. It’s unfortunate that Her Majesty didn’t provide you the guidance you needed to feel capable and comfortable, but I still don’t see that as evidence that the bottom did not consent.

      By saying “you need to give more compassion to yourself in your learning process”, I don’t mean that you should ignore consent or things that make you uncomfortable. I mean that it is unjust to demand from your inexperienced self the skills and knowledge of an experienced player. Give yourself room to be a beginner.

      On the second subject, no, I’m not saying that you could walk into kink and find someone to hold your hand through figuring yourself out. I’m saying that for the space of a negotiation, the space of a scene – perhaps only a couple of hours – that if an experienced, good player offers to play with an inexperienced player they should be willing and able to help you through that negotiation and that scene. Figuring your big picture out is up to you.

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