How The Girl Got Her Kinks
It’s a funny thing, the way we human beings discover our sexuality; it is a multi-tiered event, beginning in infancy and spanning across varying amounts of time, brought on by different events, sights, and feelings. There is the first time that a child witnesses two adults in the act of lovemaking, perhaps in a racy movie scene, perhaps by walking in on their parents. Such an event is followed, most often, with some sort of explanation, ranging from the old stand-by: “Mommy and Daddy were just hugging,” to the more elaborate: “Well, when two grown-ups love each other very much…” Then, of course, there is the first time that a child realizes that if they touch certain parts of their body in a certain way, it feels especially nice; until they are old enough to understand that this is called “masturbating,” and it is a private activity, this sort of self-touching can happen anywhere from the playground at preschool to the produce aisle of the grocery store. A little later down this road of sexual discovery, the child will experience their first “crush,” which typically focuses on a particular classmate or peer, and involves things like sharing cookies, throwing rocks, and, in some cases, a little light smooching. Sometimes this crush is on a fictional character, or a popular musician, or a movie star—or perhaps some wonderful and amazing combination therein, like, say, David Bowie and his codpiece-laden wardrobe in Labyrinth. These experiences are universal; whether they talk about it or not, every single person on Earth experiences such types of things in some way or another.
So then, I ask, when and how does an individual’s unique sexual identity begin to form? It is my contention that, to a large extent, we are each born with a certain amount of this part of us already thriving. It is this intrinsic piece of our specific selves that shapes the way we grow into distinct, sexual beings; this is the piece that means some little boys will always tend to like girls with freckles, and some little girls will happen to be quite fond of other little girls, and one particular little girl will feel tingly when she sees a certain British pop star dancing around in tight pants with puppets. As we grow older, we begin to realize more and more of our personal, sexual proclivities; we begin to understand them, name them, and, hopefully, embrace them. These are the interesting bits, and the bits that we don’t tend to talk about as frequently, especially when our tendencies go against what most of society deems “normal”.
Take, for instance, deriving sexual pleasure from pain and domination. It can be a difficult thing to explain, and sometimes an even more difficult thing to understand, even for the person in question; in this case, myself. I’ve done a lot of thinking, a lot of rationalizing, a lot of feeling ashamed, and quite a bit of questioning. How can I call myself a strong female when I enjoy being sexually dominated (in a mutually consenting, safe way) by a male partner? Is there something wrong with me? Am I some kind of sex pervert? To answer these questions, I revisited some of the aforementioned childhood stepping stones and examined how I have grown into the woman that I am today. It started with spanking.I have an incredibly vivid memory of the first time my mother read to me from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. On this particular day, she read me a story called “The Elephant’s Child,” which tells the tale of a little elephant who asked a lot of questions to a lot of different animals, all of whom were annoyed by this and proceeded to spank the daylights out of him with their various “hard, hard hoofs” and “scalesome, flailsome tails.” I can’t remember what the moral of the story was, but I do remember the feeling that came over me—warm and prickly and curious—and I remember thinking,You know, that doesn’t sound half bad. I re-read the story to myself many times, each time with the same result. Once, on a rare occasion that I found myself with some privacy, I pretended I was the naughty little elephant, and I smacked myself on the bum a few times with a hair brush. It wasn’t the same. One cannot really spank oneself, it turns out. A few years later, I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and experienced a wave of excitement, and a strange feeling of understanding, as I watched the scene in which a castle full of women plead the good Sir Galahad to spank them all. Other people felt this way! I was relieved, and somehow I knew then that one day I would meet a partner who was not only willing, but eager, to do the spanking.
Years passed. I grew up and lost my virginity in an appropriately awkward and unsatisfying way. I had a few boyfriends, some of whom I had sex with, in the way that teenagers do—fumbling unskillfully with one another’s undergarments and private parts, gradually learning the basics. At seventeen I began dating a man a few years my senior who, naturally, had more experience than I did. He was the first person with whom I felt I was learning anything from when it came to sex; it was exciting, and I enjoyed the dynamic of power that it presented. I don’t remember if he asked, or if I did, or if it simply just happened, but at some point a few months into sleeping together, spanking stepped proudly onto the stage. It played a critical role in our sex life for the duration of our time together; for me, being spanked was much more stimulating than making out or touching, and knowing that he enjoyed it just as much as I did was equally thrilling. He even went as far as to craft his own paddle in the wood shop, a gesture that far outweighed a bouquet or card. It was exactly as I had hoped it would be: a mutually fulfilling activity. I never once felt abused or disrespected, I simply felt as though we were performing something for one another that was as natural and loving as a back massage.
A few years later, after I had become acquainted with, and begun to enjoy, things like hair pulling and light wrist restraining, I found myself with another man, with a new set of kinks. Here is where it gets tricky: I was introduced to choking and slapping during foreplay and intercourse. The first time, it caught me off guard, as I suppose it rightly should have. Still, though I was startled, I was not frightened or upset; the slap was firm, but not so much so that I could mistake it for an act of aggression. And for that matter, I enjoyed it—so much so that I asked him to do it again, and he obliged. Later that night we talked about it; we discussed boundaries and thresholds, talked about the distinct difference between allowing him to strike me during sex, as opposed to any other time. Again, as I was learning, honest communication was going to be the key when it came to navigating these new, electrifying waters.
But communicating my newfound taste for this type of sex play to my female friends proved to be much more difficult. By then I was a fiery tempered, strong willed young punk rock woman. My circle of friends and I aligned ourselves with the Riot Grrrl movement, fighting against the gender roles and inequalities imposed on women, even in the alternative scene in which we ran; we were tough girls, strong girls, women who didn’t take shit. Explaining to these friends that I had found a way to feel empowered by way of being dominated sexually was all but impossible. Their opinions ranged from outright disapproval, to moderate concern, to simply not being able to understand how on Earth what I was doing could possibly be pleasurable. It made me question myself, and in turn question why it was that feeling dominated felt so good. I was never abused, I was not raised in a brothel. My father is a good man, and my mother is a tough and intelligent woman. I had had my share of “tender” sex—the kind in romantic movies where people do things like stare into each other’s eyes and see how slowly they can bring one another to climax—but when it really came down to it, I generally just found this variety to be boring. Eventually, I just learned that most of my friends and I just simply could not relate; they liked Classic Vanilla, I liked Rocky Road.
More recently, I met another man with whom I was able to further explore. It was as though we sniffed one another out, somehow intuiting that the other would be the perfect person to discuss with, experiment with, and investigate this balance of power. With him, it transcended that which had come before—effortlessly combining the elements we each knew to be the most enjoyable for us, and weaving it into an intensely pleasurable experience, continually growing and morphing with each encounter. And it was in doing this that I began to finally come to terms with who I am and I what I enjoy, in a way that makes sense to me as a woman that would never tolerate or delight in being talked down to, disrespected, or controlled in day-to-day life. It is imperative that the boundary between sex life and normal life maintains a firm distinction; it is only within the perimeters of sexual intimacy that I enjoy any form of masochism. Above all else, there must be respect—without it, there can never truly be affection; without affection, the line between pleasure and pain ceases to blend comfortably, and becomes something malicious. It is the balance of power that truly defines a healthy, dominant and submissive relationship. I have found my power, and I enjoy it proudly.