Just got off of the phone with my Mom, and listened as she opened the package that has been sitting and silently holding the little secret gift I’d ordered weeks ago, so that I wouldn’t forget. She seemed to really like the gift: 4 little hand-crafted silver pendants with the initial of each of her 3 daughters, one for her granddaughter and a bird-shaped pendant that said “Mom” and “Grandmother” on it. Apparently MomsÂ LOVEÂ shit like this. :-) I’m just glad to be able to bring a smile to her face.
â€œI donâ€™t understand it,â€ my Mother said.
â€œI donâ€™t entirely understand it either, Mom,â€ I replied, sitting on the edge of my bed, phone cradled to my ear as I fiddled with the enormous stack of papers that always threatened to bury me under its formidable bulk â€œthere is a lot that no one really knows. But Iâ€™ll do my best to tell you what I know.â€
â€œOK,â€ my Mom sighed, â€œcan you tell me why you do it? Avoiding pain seems like a natural thing. But you donâ€™t do that. You seek it out on purpose? Why would you do that?â€
I stretched my feet into the patch of sun that was warming the hardwood floors in my flat, nudging one of my cats out of the way in the process. I took a deep breath.
â€œThatâ€™s a great question, Mom. And youâ€™re lucky that your firstborn happens to be the kind of pervert who runs around talking to people about exactly this kind of shiÂ¬â€” Â¬stuff. So, I can tell you what Iâ€™ve learned about myself in the past few years…â€
I hadnâ€™t expected to come out to my Mother about being involved in BDSM on this particular Saturday afternoon. In fact, my Mom and I had been a bit distant for several years. It doesnâ€™t really matter why anymore, but we, like many mothers and daughters, had our disagreements. But we were awkwardly, tentatively, reaching out to one another again, and had been having an amazing discussion about much that had gone unsaid for many years. Toward the end (or what I thought was the end!) of our chat, she asked me a rather pointed question about a convention Iâ€™d attended a few years prior. Iâ€™d avoided providing her with any detail about the focus of the event and now, years later, she was all curious. I took a deep breath, asked her if she really wanted to know, since it had to do with my sexuality. She said yes, she did want to know. So I braced myself and told her Iâ€™d been in Washington DC to teach a class at Black Rose… a kink and BDSM convention.
â€œBondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission Sadism & Masochism. You know, the whips and chains people.â€
â€œOh! Wow. And here I though you were a lesbian and were embarrassed to tell me.â€
I laughed silently. But I figured now wasnâ€™t the time to lay on the outing myself as bisexual as well: if my high-school triad hadnâ€™t given it away, she didnâ€™t need this additional data point right then!
She asked me some surprisingly challenging questions, and when she asked me how it was to give people spankings, I realized I had to come out to her again… as a submissive.
â€œNow that is a surprise. I would have though you would be a dominatrix!â€
â€œYeah, Ma, so does everyone else…â€
We had a really great discussion that ranged in so many directions. Her most pointed questions were about how I could deal with being black, a descendant of African slaves, knowing our history, and yet â€œplayâ€ within this world where â€œmastersâ€ and â€œslavesâ€ acted out roles that looked and sounded a whole lot like the horrible atrocities perpetrated against our ancestors.
â€œItâ€™s a consent thing, Mom. We have choice. I do it because it fascinates me, it scares me and…â€ I hesitated. Was this just too much info for my nice, middle-aged Baptist church-lady Mother? â€œ…and it turns me on.â€
I wasnâ€™t sure she did, but that is a far thornier thicket than we needed to machete today on this, my Coming Out Moment.
â€œBut…so you deliberately let people hurt you? On purpose.â€
â€œYeah, Ma. Thatâ€™s one of the things I do.â€
The eternal question, isnâ€™t it?
One of the things I talk about when I present on BDSM is knowing your whys. So many people live unexamined lives: lives circumscribed by fear, by the rules, by the morality thrust upon â€˜em, balking from their darker shadowy selves because they donâ€™t want to risk ostracization, because they fear losing control.
The allure of Leathersex was, to me, exactly this risk. The depths of cruelty, the paradox of masochism spoke deeply to me. And I spent several years unraveling my â€œwhyâ€ before I made the conscious decision to step into the world of kink, Leather and BDSM.
Most of us are raised to think of pain as something to avoid. We are not taught that submission and dominance, as sexual expressions, are healthy. Only recently has the medical establishment declassified the participation in consensual BDSM as a paraphilia that required treatment. We have a lot of training that tells us that BDSM is â€œsickâ€ and only people who donâ€™t respect themselves or others, damaged people, sociopaths… only they would deliberately inflict agony on another or permit themselves to be subjected to pain.
But I wasnâ€™t acting out on some desire for actual destruction. I didnâ€™t think I deserved to have the world treat me like shit, I didnâ€™t enjoy trips to the dentist, and I still launched into a stream of invective when I stubbed my toe on an aggressive table leg. So, what was this masochism thing all about, anyways?
Knowing why I am the way I am isnâ€™t vital to enjoying a spanking, or relishing my submission. But it is vital to my peace of mind when it comes to insuring my emotional health and wellbeing. For me? Knowing that my masochism comes from a place of desire and lust, not a place of fear or self-loathing, helps me to know Iâ€™m on the right path.
I took another deep breath.
â€œWell, Mom, I will tell you what I know about my â€˜why.â€™
First, because I simply enjoy it. You know how some people have differing tolerances for sensation? Mine is just extra high. Although I think I probably inherited that from you and dad! Remember that time he cut his hand open to the bone and sewed it back up himself, with a sail-mending needle?â€
â€œOh my goodness, that was horrible…â€
I laughed â€œYeah it was, and thatâ€™s pretty unusual, frankly. But I also remember you reaching into a pot of boiling water to pull out a spoon youâ€™d dropped in there and immediately turning to me and saying â€˜Donâ€™t you ever to that, Mo. That is very dangerous!â€™ and I remember thinking you had super powers!â€
My Mom laughed. â€œI remember that! I was sure you were going to try it right then and there. You were always getting into something…â€
â€œItâ€™s true. Itâ€™s still true! So yeah, maybe some of this is nature; just a higher tolerance for pain that runs in the family. Some of it is just being the sort of person who needs to have everything turned up to eleven in order to have it feel right.â€
â€œBut why do you go back and do it again and then again?â€
â€œWell, Mom, maybe you can answer that question for me. You being pretty darn masochistic yourself!â€
â€œYep. You always told me how terrible it was when you were in labor with me. How long was it? Almost two days?â€
â€œOh no, well, it was about 38 hours…â€
â€œAnd that had to suck.â€
â€œIt was very difficult! The pain was terrible, and you wouldnâ€™t come out! You kept crowning and then going back in!â€
â€œWell, I had to make an entrance. Timing is everything.â€
My Mom laughed. â€œYou always were a ham.â€
â€œDamn skippy! And yet, even after all of that, all of that pain and suffering, you went and had another kid. And another one. What were you thinking, risking that pain and suffering all over again?â€
â€œOh you donâ€™t remember the pain. Once the nurse put you in my arms, and I saw you there, and how beautiful and perfect you were, I loved you so much, and I forgot all about the pain because I had this wonderful little baby right there with me.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s kind of like that for me, too. See, when I am in the middle of the pain, it transforms me. I become…different. More. Not just me, I am me in the middle of an amazing transformation, an experience that pushes my body and my brain. It is difficult, and sometimes it is so excruciating, but sometimes you get kind of high off of it, like a runnerâ€™s high, you know? And then afterward? I have this incredible sense of bliss like…like I pushed myself to experience this and I won. I won, because I survived. And I can hold myself in my arms and see how beautiful and wonderful I am. And I donâ€™t remember the pain, not really. But I do remember the journey.â€
â€œYou know, that…I can kind of see that.â€
â€œAlso? To keep it real? It just turns me on.â€
â€œWell Mo, this is a lot to think about. Iâ€™m going to talk with my prayer partner about it too.â€
â€œHow funny! You have a prayer partner, I have a play partner, and the Lordâ€™s name gets invoked a lot in both cases…â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry Mom. I couldnâ€™t help it.â€
I wasnâ€™t sorry though, not really…and you know? Iâ€™m very proud of us. Of me, for being able to share this part of myself with my mother and of my mother, for her willingness to love me â€œno matter what.â€
So why am I a masochist? Nature, nurture, freakiness?
Whatever the reason, I am content to be so.