“Is this okay?” she asks, as she ties the old Aeropostale scarves around my wrists.
I nod, allowing my mind to drift away from my body, until I am just a prop in the musical she is orchestrating. A musical that always ends with her thanking me for my performance.
My 8-year-old body kneels, awkwardly, in the church pews, stumbling through my prayers. Fearing that God will take “I want a new puppy” too literally and my dog Lindsay will end up sick. I wonder if the rest of my family feels the same sense of hesitation.
The music starts, and I have to stop hiding my face behind my hands and stand up. My father looks at me sternly.
“Remember what we talked about. I need to hear you sing today,” he declares.
I try to force a smile but instead the side of my mouth just twitches, as if my body is buzzing to expose just how insecure I am. Before I can look away, tears begin to leak from my eyes.
I know immediately that I am going to disappoint my father, and feel the repercussions for doing so. My anxiety renders me barely able to whisper the lyrics to a song about love and forgiveness, and I know that I am not making the cut.
When mass is finally over, we head home and I’m sent, shaking, to the room where the karaoke system has been set up.
“Come on, Britt, after you sing dad will leave you alone,” my brother encourages me.
My favourite Uncle Kracker track is playing in the background, and I am about to miss my cue. The mic in my hands shakes violently, as I raise it up to my tear-stained face and dislodge my teeth from where they have buried themselves in my bottom lip. I know my father and his guests are listening intently downstairs to hear my voice, and mock the awkward girl who can’t sing at church. To shame me when my shyness prevents me from doing what I am told.
I open my mouth, my self-esteem crumbling as the reality of my voicelessness becomes nauseatingly apparent.
“So. You mentioned that you wanted to try things,” my partner asks, smirking at me.
I feel naked as I explain my desire for submission. I talk about the memories of my childhood, of the pressure to sing like someone I am not and the pain I felt after having control so frequently taken away from me. Because in those circumstances I did not ask for it. She suggests that we use this opportunity for exploration as an opportunity for me to heal.
We discuss the complicated reality of being turned on by something that, in a different context, was destructive. We discuss consent, and safe words, and fears and kinks, until we just want to get started exploring this wild, new and exciting part of our relationship.
“Is this okay?” she asks, as she pulls the pink kitten blindfold over my eyes.
I nod, ready to relinquish control to the person I trust. I trust her, not only because we have rules written down on paper, but because even when I’m giving her control, I still have it. She constantly checks in, because my comfort is her priority and in this moment I realize that I don’t just want to submit — I want to be taken care of. I want to have someone ask if I am comfortable, rather than having to scream for my discomfort to be heard. I want to be able to speak my mind without hesitation, to someone who I know will not misconstrue my words.
My body vibrates, scarves biting into my wrists, as I allow myself to be pushed by her. I can feel her body stimulating mine, and can hear her laboured breaths, battling fatigue and arousal. She is sucked into the energy that her dominance and my submission have created, and I know just how much she is enjoying it. I realize then that I am not the prop in the musical, but the center of the show. Her attention is on me, and my pleasure fuels hers. And when we’re finally at the climax — one of many — the moment where I am most vulnerable is the moment where I am the most powerful.
“Thank you, love,” she says, combing her fingers through my hair. The blindfold and restraints are tossed aside and I am now in her arms. She massages my sore wrists, grounding me back in reality before we curl up for bed.
“Is this okay?” she asks, as she moves to spoon me while I turn on an episode of Scandal.
I nod, smiling at the woman who always asks and never assumes. The one who sees my vulnerabilities and does not try to capitalize on them. Most importantly to me, she knows that consent continues even after the scene ends.