Foreword: I binge-watched the first season of Bonding today on Netflix. It was only released yesterday but, you know, each episode was only sixteen minutes long. That makes it far too easy to get stuck in. Although I’m not personally a member of the BDSM community (and don’t intend to be, even though I would absolutely watch), I’m still fascinated by the power dynamics of dom/sub interactions, and what it means for each person involved. Watching this gave me the idea to write this story.
An Obsequious Tendency
No-one special. Well, even if there’s one person who says I am, I’d like you to at least pretend I’m not.
Just roll with it, okay? Can you do that for me?
Sexually, I identify as a submissive gay man on the BDSM spectrum, and I’ve had intimate relationships with doms over the past couple of years.
My previous master, Master Thunderbolt was something of a let-down. He didn’t discipline me anywhere near enough during our sessions, and as a result I became lackadaisical, easily irritated and a nightmare to deal with. I was always making Master Thunderbolt’s life more difficult than it needed to be. Yes, I understand that I’m the one who has the means to control the way I behave. But there’s a problem. I don’t know how to do that. It’s precisely why I pay someone to tell me how I should act. It means there’s no need to think.
I can relax knowing that everything is being taken care of.
The boundaries of work constrain me every single day. Around ten months ago, I got lumbered with running the family business—a tiny bookshop slap bang in the middle of a provincial town. Honestly, this place is chock full of people who seem to have been residing here for centuries. The shop gives me nothing. Absolutely fucking nothing. Except stress and boredom. And as someone who hates reading, this feels just like hell on earth. I never could understand the appeal, but there’s a clause in my father’s will stating that I will not sell the bookshop until I retire. It’s legally binding for fuck’s sake. What can I do? People just aren’t as interested in physical print anymore. It’s not the way I run things, it’s just part and parcel of the zeitgeist.
When I came to the realisation that I no longer wanted to obey Master Thunderbolt, I instinctively knew there was a reason behind it. I was sitting in the bath one night, looking up at the mould that had accumulated on the ceiling, when everything became clear to me. There was little point in giving money to someone I had lost faith in. The initial trust and goodwill we fostered together had been damaged beyond repair. What good would it do to become more vulnerable than was necessary? Wasn’t it simply a fantasy? No, to me, being a submissive is more than a mere act. On the surface it might appear temporary, only an hour each month, but in my mind it’s a lifestyle. It’s how I am.
Still, I’m always conflicted about this. After the initial consultation, the first few weeks with Master Thunderbolt ran surprisingly smoothly, but eventually I started to kick up a fuss whenever we were in the same room together. I was a bratty sub, like some frustrated teenager on the brink of total mental destruction. It wasn’t healthy. Certainly, he’d quite rightly punish me for being such a nuisance, but I never felt any better for it. The punishment was never enough to numb the feelings of anxiety that would have been welling up inside me for days. Pain, humiliation, the relinquishment of power. The sheer anticipation of these things is what keeps me ticking through every heart-wrenching second I remain alive.
So I wait…
and I wait…
and I wait….
I wait for what seems like an eternity. And then it comes back around again; that sweet smell of relief, the moment I can finally lock up for the night, slip on my coat, and glide right through the door of this antiquated and rapidly failing bookstore. Handing someone the keys to the metaphorical padlock stopping me from moving forward is an activity I would thrust myself into anytime.
But today is a special day. I’m meeting with my new master. I’ve been to one session already. He’s a self-confessed ‘Sir’—a title that, quite frankly, I’ve never tried addressing previous doms by. To be precise, he’s known to his subs as ‘Sir Spandex’. I laughed out loud the first time I heard this. I confess to having imagined some scrawny man wearing Marigold washing-up gloves with his boxers on display over a pair of skintight PVC trousers. Perhaps even wearing a Batman mask for a nice, brave-looking edge.
That was the preconception I had, but oh-ho-no! I couldn’t have been more wrong about this one. As a bookseller, I should be the first to quote the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’, but since I’m what I like to call a ‘bibliophilistine’—hater of all things literature-related—the covers are the only aspect that remotely interest me. Say what you will about the irony of the work I do given this fact, but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. Books are rubbish.
Sir Spandex, contrary to the image I had in my mind, is someone I knew I could rely on from the get-go. That’s because he happened to be the English teaching assistant at the high school I attended and he’s the one who encouraged me to officially come out as gay. If I remember correctly, his name was Mark. From now on, though, I will only call him by his professional name. I admit, usually I wouldn’t go near someone I already know with a barge pole when it comes to seeking out sexual services. For a start, there’s still this ridiculous stigma in my mind around BDSM—something like a sharp pang of guilt that’s been laced with the sweet taste of freedom. I know being a submissive helps me, but I’m scared to learn what other people would think if they found out. Even two years into my experience with this fetish, immediately after a session I get hit by a wave of anxiety that I just can’t seem to shake, no matter how many times I try and calm myself down by using some strong visualisation techniques.
Still, when I think about what a significant effect Sir Spandex had on my personal narrative, it’s only fitting that I’d choose him for this very important role. It’s early days, for sure. But I have a hunch, a strong intuition that this partnership will be a sturdy one.
What I like most about Sir is his sense of no-bullshit practicality. He knows how to tie a rope in a way that makes it impossible to have any wiggle room, let alone the chance to escape. Not that I’d want to run away even if I could. The feeling of those coarse fibres digging into my skin, leaving the evidence of their impact on me—it just fills me to the brim with joy.
Of course, he also lives up to his name by dressing in a Spandex play-suit that so neatly outlines the contours of his rather generous bulge. Actually, it’s made from PVC, but you know, whatever…let’s go with ‘Spandex’ for the sake of argument (and I don’t want to argue with him). He even goes as far as providing matching costumes for his submissives, to build up a false concept of equality between him and them. In actual fact, he is so high above us, mentally and emotionally. I wouldn’t dare challenge him, not even with a confused look in my eyes. His word is quite possibly the most sacred script to ever reach my ears. When he was reciting his conditions to me last time, I had nodded along with every syllable as though his voice was some new brand of catnip.
On the other hand, Master Thunderbolt never took the time to fully understand my desires. He’d always shove me into a corner of the room and whip me senseless even when I was yelling out the safe word we’d agreed on in advance. There was a considerable amount of abuse happening between us and it left me traumatised. I still have the scars to prove it, and that’s not something I’m proud to show off, apt as I am to receiving pain. Master Thunderbolt was unprofessional and uncaring. If the term ‘BDSM’ sounds like nothing more than abuse to you, I promise it’s so much more diverse than mere glorified sadomasochism.
When done right, it provides a sense of security, of belonging. It’s all about bonding, vulnerability, and reassurance. There’s a feeling that the visceral pleasure has been made visible on the flesh.
As soon as Sir discovered my distaste for literature, he actively made me face the wall with my hands fastened behind my back while he threw open books at me, one after another. The sensation of the pages as they made contact was something else entirely. During the five minutes or so this lasted, all the pent-up hatred gradually dissipated. This was almost laughable considering he used to be an English teaching assistant. In any case, he was more than willing to indulge me and address the issue. But when our session was over, and I stepped outside, that feeling of dread crept back again.
I suspect it will take a good few meetings until I can say I’m not afraid of starting to read a book. If I could truly learn to love my work and the person I’ve become, it would mean I don’t have to deal with the legal repercussions of disowning the bookstore following a bout of mania in which I destroy everything I own. That could absolutely happen.
But with the right guidance, patience and the will to submit to Sir Spandex, I know can change.