Before we begin, I’m going to say that this post might deserve trigger warnings. I do so wish life had those, so I’ll be giving you some. If abuse from a partner isn’t something you can read about, maybe give this one a hard pass. And not in a play or scene sense. I’m actually going into detail about some parts of my life that I prefer to keep close to the chest, but I think it’s time I get them out in the open and keep moving on. That being said, maybe this will help somebody else out there realize that maybe they’re being taken advantage of and they can pull themselves up.
My loves, I did some thinking this evening. A big part of many college level theatre programs is the outside adjudication that happens after a performance. Someone completely unrelated to the team comes in, watches the show and then lets the performers, creatives and tech folk know what they thought of the production as a whole. They discuss everything from lighting choices to text analysis. One of the big moments of the show comes where the father, a cheating, philandering type, is driving and then hits his wife who is sitting beside him in the front seat. His children are the back seat looking on.
The violence is shown in a very stylized manner and is then repeated many times before flash forward scenes of the kids. The respondent had a very interesting take on it and discussed the stage combat connotations of striking someone with the front of the hand versus the back, which is what the man did. He used words like aggression and anger and said that to hit someone in that fashion is basically telling the other party that they’re almost subhuman and that they have no regard for them at all as a living being.
One of the most interesting parts about the show is that there are so many different life topics discussed; almost everyone in the audience can find something to connect with. Homophobia, racial themes, infidelity, being cast aside, not having enough. But it was the relationship between the parents that really got to me the most. Having been in an abusive relationship, this outside perspective from a man I’ve only met twice got me to thinking about parts of my life that I thought I’d moved on from. But apparently not. This isn’t something that I talk about, but I’d really like to take a moment to get it out of my head. Biff and Sister know most of the things that happened, but not really to the extent that they did. It’s not something one casually discusses even years after the fact.
You hear about people staying with partners who hurt them and you think things like, “How could they be such idiots? If someone’s hurting you, why don’t you just leave? How difficult could this be? Stop letting someone take advantage of you, it doesn’t matter if you think you love them or not!” And I was very much one of those people. I’m a woman that can stand up for herself and takes a view on relationships that comes across as much too logical for some people’s tastes. I mean, I ended things with the Nerd and he was easily the best man I’ve ever dated.
An added dimension of confusion is that I really like being hurt in some situations. The difference is that a lot of the time in this one particular relationship it was against my consent. And instead of being hurt, I was being harmed. There’s such a massive difference and I don’t think I grasped this at the time. I was new to the BDSM lifestyle and thought it was just how things worked. I mean, I’d been into the rougher side of things in the bedroom and loved the psychological aspect of dominance, but I hadn’t ever had a partner willing to explore the things I wanted.
There are times when it can be hard to be a little redheaded girl with a smile for everyone who also wants somebody to take her boots off for her. It’s hard to be soft spoken in every day life and then tell a prospective partner that you’d love to take a razor to their skin because wouldn’t that be so pretty to see? And when you find someone who agrees, you jump at the chance. One of my favorite partners would say this to people: “I could take a two by four to that girl and she’d still call me a pussy.” And as flattering as that is, that’s why we never got farther than sleeping with each other, we didn’t want the same things. But then I found the one I wanted and he was more than I could have ever imagined.
He was charming and funny and his brain was wired just like mine. Or so I thought. We’d known each other since we were in high school (apparently we both had mad crushes one each other as kids), lost touch and then got back in contact when I was a junior in college. Things just went from there.
And this man was beautiful. I thought he was so far out of my league it was stupid. He was built like a Greek statue, cheekbones for days. Literally one of the most stunning men I’d ever seen. And for some reason he wanted me. And didn’t think what I wanted to do in the bedroom was strange.
But it was the comment on backhanding from the respondent that got me thinking. That was one of his favorite forms of starting off a punishment. It’s far more personal than a whip or a paddle; bare skin has a grounding that a lot of implements just can’t deliver. But I don’t think he ever once hit me like that during a scene. Instead, I’d be repeatedly struck for taking a turn too sharp while we were in the car. Or because I hadn’t been paying attention well enough. Or for no reason at all. I’m a firm believer that punishment is never an option unless there are well-defined sets of rules that both parties have agreed upon outside the confines of a scene. I feel like this is one of the basic tenets of safe, sane and consensual. Nothing is sexier from a partner than consent.
I used to have a scar over one of my eyes from where he missed with a flogger. He was aiming for my back, I hope, and hit too high up on my shoulder. Some of the flails wrapped around the side of my face and when he pulled back, the braided leather tore open right above my eyelid. And instead of acting like a proper Dom in a scene that wasn’t about blood letting and stopping, he just continued. I don’t even know if he noticed. I started wearing a lot more eye makeup after that.
This was the kind of man who probably was a legitimate sadist. He liked pain and blood and fear and it didn’t matter if the other person wanted it or not. The kind of man who scoffed at safewords and didn’t think they were necessary. The physical mark faded after a couple years, but that’s not just something you can easily forget. As much as I love making someone hurt for me, if both people aren’t in agreement on what’s going on, then that’s tantamount to assault in my book.
The second time I was with him he got me drunk and handcuffed me naked to a floor safe. Then he left. After putting American Psycho on the laptop he set next to me. I barely knew this man and he was leaving me alone in the most vulnerable way you can to another person. He was his own version of Patrick Bateman and I guess this was his way of letting me know. And it might sound silly, but I was terrified. And not in a fun way. I was in a strange city with a man I barely knew and he left me in the dark, all alone.
The only times I’ve ever hit subspace were with him. And it was breathtaking and scary and everything I ever wanted, but when the drop would hit afterwards he wouldn’t be there with me. I’d be shaking and crying without being able to stop and it was like he just didn’t care. Sure, he might hold me for a bit while I came down, but it was never something that was discussed. I was just being a pansy for not being able to control myself.
He didn’t personally drink, but he loved to get me completely plastered and do things that I wouldn’t consent to sober. If I said I’d never done a certain thing or didn’t really feel like what he wanted, well, a couple shots of whisky will fix that right up. And I loved him so much that I went along with it. He even used the classic lines like, “You might have said no, but your body was telling me yes the whole time.” I was so intoxicated I could barely move, how was this telling him that I was totally down for anal when I’d never done it before? Thank god I was drunk, though, he didn’t seem to understand the kind of prep that should go into that particular act.
I ended up adding numbing creams to my overnight bags and just using them preemptively because I never knew what he’d be doing despite the fact that I told him that wasn’t something I personally enjoyed. And then his friends would laugh in my face while he called me a whore. A little humiliation in a scene is fine with me if my partner has said they’re a fan, but out in the every day sphere of things? No, thank you.
My scalp would be sore for days from how hard he would yank on my hair. Using a brush shouldn’t be a painful experience, but with him it was par for the course. I used to wear the bruises he left like a badge of honor. Look at how strong I am. Look at what I can endure for the man that I love. I thought they were so beautiful and hated having to cover them up; he had given me a physical reminder of the fact that he wanted me and I craved that. But I wasn’t allowed to mark him. I looked like a victim of domestic abuse because, as I’ve come to figure out, I was, but if I left the tiniest mark on him there would be hell to pay.
And it wasn’t all physical. He controlled what I ate, how I looked, lots of things. And in the most subtle, passive aggressive ways. I’m a human being, I really enjoy the finer things in life. Like cookies. And, I don’t know, bread. But he was just so perfect and stunning and could strap almost two hundred pounds to himself and then do pullups. So I wouldn’t eat for three days at a time and then when I was dry heaving in the middle of the night, I’d have a handful of cereal and then go to the gym for two hours. I’m five foot six and weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds. And I still wasn’t good enough. I was anorexic, depressed and so stupidly in love.
And now that I’m shaped more like a normal human, I have to deal with my extended family asking what the hell happened to me, I used to be so lovely. I don’t know, maybe now I’m actually happy with myself as a person and don’t feel the need to look like a starving child soldier. One of my students jokingly called me fat the other day and it was like I was 21 all over again. I know he didn’t mean it, but mental scars fade just as slowly as physical ones.
And yes, sometimes our relationship was amazing. Sometimes I could hold his hand in public and it would feel like the biggest achievement of my life. Sometimes he would say I looked all right. Sometimes he could be everything in the world I actually needed instead of what I just thought I needed. My friends all assured me that even though he never said the words, what he did for me showed that he was just as in love as I was. We were the perfect couple.
And then in my reverse fairytale life, I was dumped the day after the ball. Literally a ball, we would go to those. Military. (Sidenote: He saw my dress that night and asked me why the hell he’d want to be seen by his colleagues with a stripper. Because my BCBG gown had a low back.) He asked if I was in love with him. We’d been together for almost two years by this point and known each other since we were 13 – of course I loved him. He was everything and I told him as much. I was then informed that he’d never loved me and never would, I was silly for thinking the way I did. He told me how pretty I looked while I was crying and not to do anything stupid like lose my job because I was too heartbroken to leave my apartment. Then he got in his car and drove away.
And my life as I knew it fucking ended. How could I be myself without him telling me who that was? What had I done wrong? To quote the show I just came from, “He does not love me. Why does he not love me?” Even that one line from a monologue hit me as hard as he used to. I would send him messages once a week telling him I was still in love. “It’s Tuesday, so I still love you.” I never got anything back.
The last time I saw him it was because I was moving up the coast and he wanted his things back. So I had to come to him, be on his turf, and then I was scolded for not bringing everything he wanted. And I could never be what he wanted. I was almost 23 and having a panic attack, bawling in my car because he was still just as beautiful as I remembered. And I would never have him again.
I say I’ve subbed before, but looking back, that’s not what it was at all. Yes, I was submitting. I was giving everything to the man I loved, but I was getting nothing constructive in return. A good Dom/me is looking out for their sub, protecting them. He wasn’t. Even just a good person wants what is best for their partner. He didn’t. He didn’t want a sub, what he wanted was a punching bag with stars in her eyes. And I was such a willing volunteer because I just didn’t know better.
And sometimes I miss the Nerd so much it fucking hurts. I know we shouldn’t be together, he deserves someone who can actually be there for him and ten thousand other reasons, but it was so nice to be romantically with someone that I could trust. Who actually thought I was a perfect human being just the way I was and would only hurt instead of harm, just like I wanted.
The Nerd was actually the first man I’d dated after the one who tore me down like no one had ever done before. There were a couple years between the two and I never really told the Nerd about the one before. Maybe I should have, who knows. What is, is. Can’t change the past and there are parts of it I wouldn’t change for the world. Even some of the bad parts. They made me who I am today and for the most part, I’m pretty ok with myself. I have my horrible moments of self-loathing and doubt like every person out there, but there are a ridiculous amount of things in my life to be thankful for. I know I’ve come a long way since then even despite tonight’s trip down the rabbit hole that memory lane has become.
And now I want nothing to do with that man. We haven’t spoken in years and I’d love to keep it that way. I don’t want my friends to get in touch with him after reading this, I never want him to know how things looked like from my end of things. I’m sure his viewpoint is completely different and that’s fine with me. I’d like to keep the past exactly where it is even though it can still come back at the most inopportune times.
Sorry this got so introspective, team, I can honestly say it wasn’t my intent. The comment the adjudicator made didn’t even sink in right away. It wasn’t until halfway through his talk back that it hit. I am strong, independent and self-sufficient but there are occasions and comments that can make anybody flash right back to a place they never want to be again and I suppose that happened to me tonight. I wish that life could come with trigger warnings, I really do, thus the one I posted up at the top.
But anything can be combated with angsty word slinging, the Avett Brothers and a nice bottle of tempranillo, so thank you for sticking it out with me. I’m sure I’ll bounce right back tomorrow once I get to work, my students are really good at cheering me up. B gives great hugs and T will say something sassy while M is productive and lovely, thank goodness for all of them. But for now I say goodbye and you’re all beautiful regardless of what anyone has ever said to you, don’t you forget it for a moment.