I caught up with a friend today. After a few texts, I dialed her. We talk every couple months, or every couple years, depending on the mood, where we are in life. A lifetime ago, or so it seems, we were roommates. She knocked on my door, sent by a friend, who had bumped into her in the crossroads of the cafes of town. "Knock knock", she was outside the screen. She introduced herself as an axe murderer. I said, please, come in, I think I may need one of those.
She and I have never been much alike in most of the obvious ways, and yet have never had trouble getting along. Our paths rarely intersect, and that's fine. Some friendships are just made of different fiber, after all. Still, after years of not seeing her, I drove three days to visit her in Wyoming and stepped right in like we were neighbors. We're both pretty good at the social, the staying connected, the keeping in touch and reaching out. She fills me in on people I used to know, I fill her in on people she used to know. And still, it doesn't really matter. Our friendship is up to date, not stuck in the past.
Anyhow, we talked of blogs and interests, and she says, well, you know I am into the BDSM thing. I guess I had never really known it, and never gave it much thought, but I accepted it as "sure" because it didn't not fit and frankly, so what? She is one of the few people I can actually talk about anything with, so I was glad to know she felt she could tell me about it. Over these years, she has developed a passion for erotic photography, of others, of herself. Her partner ties beautiful knots and ropes all over her, and they take photos. And play. This does not faze me at all. I think of the friends I have now, and wonder, how many of them would get into this stuff and never have the balls to admit it? Certainly, I can think of her as probably the only person I would be able to share that with, if the ropes were around the other feet.
We talked of life and love, her marriage and divorce, her recent breakup. I talked of cohabitation and step mothering, she talked of being the only mother for her ex's kids that they had really known. Neither of us knew we'd end up where we are. I, of course, thought I would end up with the traditional marriage and 2.3 kids in a slightly alternative universe with lots of gardens and homemade preserves. She probably thought she'd end up running a Goth bar in Seattle and instead got the husband and kids. We talked of relationship and responsibility. Mutual care. People pleasing and narcissism. We talked of our fear of being tied down and stuck with the wrong somebody.
So, naturally, going out of her way to get tied up might seem like the last thing she'd want. Already she had broken free of so many controlling relationships, she has the spirit of a colt. She told me that this is different, after all. Her whole life, her whole marriage, was her having to take charge of everything, of always having to be the boss. This interesting burden of having a man who demands everything and returns little, leaving the responsibility of the relationship upon her.
Now, she negotiates and arranges and is in charge and lets go. She gets to leave when it is done, and go back to home. Her partner is not her boyfriend, and she realizes she may just need to not have boyfriends for a while. They keep wanting her to be in charge of everything, and give so little back. Maybe she can't be any other way with someone, yet. Or, maybe her freedom is making this relationship one of mutual dominance and mutual submission, negotiated and respected. Her photos are beautiful, so I am just more proud of her for making her art and her passion merge. There is some small irony in her family's history of cattle ranching, and the pictures of her body trussed and roped in beautifully patterned knots.
She didn't mention 50 Shades of Grey, and neither did I. I am not sure I would find it interesting, after all, to read about trying to persuade a narcissist to love me by submitting myself entirely to his control. Maybe the books aren't about that, I am not sure. She certainly seemed clear that this is about erotica and play, trust and safety, control and relinquishing control. Love is not an issue, but respect is. And maybe, just after too many years of having her heart burnt to a crisp in the inferno of romantic entanglement, love is not what she is after for self satisfaction.
In high school, riding the New Wave post punk scene, most of us had purchased a pair of handcuffs and wore them somewhere on our person as a form of suggestive jewelry. Metal studded leather belts, cuffs and collars suggested a possibility that most of us would never admit to trying. "Sid and Nancy," was a warning as much as a love story. My brush with bondage, now over 20 years ago, lasted about 5 minutes, with a rather conservative silk scarf. My boyfriend was as uncomfortable as I was, and it was never suggested again. I am a different woman now, certainly, and life has changed by many degrees of naivete since then. Still, I recoil at the idea of rough or controlling relationships. I'd freak out if someone held my hand too hard or had their arm around my neck when walking or snuggling. I feel easily smothered by suggestion alone.
Friends will talk of some of the ways in which sex changes in marriage, but mostly how marriage changes sex to an almost joyless exercise of mutual backscratching. I wonder how many are more focused on getting their partners to please them or make a trade, than to open up and explore more ways in which to inspire the erotic fantasies of their spouse. Perhaps the BDSM crowd is a little more honest in the roles they are playing - and the demands they are making- than your average married couple. I had never thought about why a strong, smart and independent woman would choose to get tied up until today. And found that the answer, for her, was a way of feeling free.