A couple of nights ago, Mina, Miranda, our friend Jack and I went to a play party. [Moment of self-congratulation: Jack is named for Jack Pumpkinhead, of the Oz books - a character who is, essentially, a walking innuendo. I think he'd appreciate that.] Mina and I have been hanging out with Jack a lot lately, often to practice rope ties, and at the last party we all went to, we asked Jack to play with us. This was a really good decision. Jack is a big rope enthusiast and a big goofball: as soon as he had tied my wrists to the legs of a sawhorse, he took the first opportunity to tickle me. He's a lot of fun, very careful about limits, and respectful of my relationship with Mina.
Disclaimer time: I don't want this to turn into one of those blogs that's about my sex life and how totally awesome it is, and how the other night I did this thing that made me feel sooooooooo submissive, and isn't pain super fun? Still, I think that a few concrete details are going to be important for illustrating my point. So: I'll try to keep it tasteful if you try not to get too titillated.
Based on Jack's general awesomeness, we asked him to play with us again at this last party, which was hosted by a group that I hadn't interacted with before. It was a very chill group of people - dorky in the best possible way. In fact, this party seemed like the perfect setting for Mina and me to try out something that we'd been hoping to do for a bit: Mina and Jack got me tied down on a bed, and then Mina scoped out the room and asked a man (a stranger) who was watching us if he would like to get a few hits in. As the session went on, Mina invited a couple more people (both men) to join in as well. Then blah blah edited for content, and I had a really good time.
I was actually surprised by how smoothly things went. I expected to enjoy it, and I felt safe with Mina running the show, but there were quite a few things that could have gone wrong and had to be dealt with, and none of them did. I am interested in enumerating as many of those as I can and trying to pinpoint what we did right, since that's going to be useful in the future. And! It means that I get to write about good things! You want to read about abuse? Read Fugitivus! (No, really, do it.)
Okay, first of all, there is always a danger that I will feel unsafe and vulnerable, and that the bad feelings will completely take over. There was even a brief period during the party where that could have happened, but Mina and I stepped outside and had a little chat and a cuddle, and then things were excellent again. So, to state the obvious: communication is good. We did that right. Being able to be neurotic in front of each other is good. Then, once the actual play started, I not only felt safe in general, but I'd been recently reminded that Mina is totally prepared to handle any freakouts/triggers/neuroses, so I felt safe on that score in particular, and thus a lot less likely to panic.
Next, I reminded myself that we play like ourselves, and not like anyone else. Yes, I am the broken record for the concept album Obvious Things in Obviousville (1973). We had just watched a young couple we know hit the hell out of this girl. There was blood, tears, and intensity. When Mina and I play - and particularly when we play with Jack - there is a lot of laughter, punning, and me swearing elaborate vengeance. This other scene was pretty lovely, and I began to worry that I would be unimpressive in comparison, since I was pretty sure that nobody was going to make me bleed, and certain that nobody was going to try to make me sob. As it turns out, there is an audience for giggly, masochistic exhibitionists, and I'm glad that I didn't let myself get hung up on wanting to be someone I'm not. (This lesson has been brought to you by the letter G.)
In terms of our play partners, Mina chose remarkably well. I couldn't always see them, but I found out later that she went for older men who weren't trying to look tough and domly. (The idea was to find people who wouldn't try to take over with their big domly egos.) She made it clear that she was in charge of the operation and stated a couple of ground rules. Girl's got some poise, basically.
Most importantly, everyone - Mina especially - paid close attention to my reactions. I could tell that they were, because every time I started to feel uncomfortable with something, or like I legitimately disliked a sensation, or like I needed a different intensity, they changed what they were doing to accommodate me, even before I felt the need to articulate something being wrong. When they tried something very different, they would check in with me. The strangers would ask Mina about my likes and limits. The play went on for a long time, and then Mina stopped it while I was feeling very good and very exhausted, before I had to ask them to stop. The whole experience was obviously about making me feel good, and I couldn't have asked for more conscientious people to do it.
This really boils down to: it is good to find partners you can trust, and whose judgment you trust.
I'll go back to being rageful soon, I'm sure.