This was the decade of ACT-UP. Queer Nation. 1990, when being a high femme went unrecognized, at least in the homegrown streets of a small town in Maine. My secret jack-off sessions with Califia were a thing to keep silent, my face buried in my pillow, the worn pages of “The Calyx of Isis” juice-stained and damp and coveted. I was a baby femme with the darkest and deepest fantasies, trolling the dyke bar on Spring Street for a butch top to throw me down and use me. I’d like to tell you that happened, but it would be an outright lie. Perhaps that is just as well, for years would pass before I became ready for such submission.
A sometime soft butch named Julia took me to bed one night, on a dirty cot in the office where she worked. She held a plastic dildo in her hand, rubbing it on my clit, and talked about fucking me inside my cunt hard and long with it. I had never heard language like that outside of my secret erotic tales. The friction and embarrassment I felt was unbearable. How could I WANT it so badly? I writhed and screamed on that bed and came violently. I never saw her again, ignoring her phone calls and even the flowers she brought to me one afternoon in a gesture that was equal measures cocky and apology.
If I had only known then what would be awakened inside my skin by the feeling of your rope cutting into my flesh as you dragged me on my knees across the floor toward you, my mouth open and sobbing for your cock, my only desire pleasing you, the only and greatest desire I have ever known. Pleasing you. You. If I had only known then what gorgeous power lay in surrender, in both wanting to be used and debased and hurt, and in being wanted for my flesh and the pleasure it could bring you.
My first real relationship was with a Lesbian feminist named Sarah. Sarah was studious and tomboyish and far too “evolved” (her words) for my musings on femme identity. By this time in my life, I had discovered Minnie Bruce Pratt and Joan Nestle and Stone Butch Blues and I was allowing my heart and longings to slowly flower. I had the language of femme. I had the language of desire. I was beginning to embrace and explore my femme expression – and again allow myself to lust for the kinds of desire I now understood to be within my grasp. I bought a soft pink rubber dildo from Eve’s Garden and was devastated when Sarah wanted me to use it on her. This was not at all what I had imagined when I took it to her and offered it as a gift. Sarah was also my first exposure to kink, albeit indirectly. We were living with her sister Katie and Katie’s husband in the wilds of Maine. Katie and Jeff began a D/s relationship, attending play parties and enjoying lots of kinky porn. I watched it with them and became so slick with horniness, only to be met with Sarah’s icy disapproval. One night Katie shared with me that Jeff had made her stand in the corner for hours with her thumb up her own ass to “punish” her for something. She was delighted with this adventure, and I was breathless, both scared of and aching for it. Sarah was disgusted when I shared this with her.
Shortly after, I began an affair with a mean butch top named Kelly. She was borderline abusive and totally fucked up, but I was so turned on by the way she made me suck her cock and dress in the clothes she picked out for me that the affair lasted several months before I came up for air. It was my first realization that there was a fine line between consent and abuse.
I was scarred by my time with Kelly, and turned to the comfort of a kind and motherly straight woman named Susan. Susan tolerated my sexy femme attire and flirtatious behavior, but neither understood nor celebrated my femme self, let alone all the desire simmering beneath the surface of my skin. I barely understood it myself, but I had tasted it and now felt insatiable. To give Susan credit, she tried. God knows she tried. At one point toward the end of that relationship, she presented me with a gorgeous pair of leather cufflinks. I cried, I was so disappointed, for I knew she wouldn’t know what to do with them or what I even needed, and I was so frustrated at my inability to express that need. I just knew it would go unmet here.
Now. Now, here, I understand what it means to be coveted, to celebrate with you a desire so wanton and so sacred. Here, then, is surrender – the surrender I spent years, a decade, a lifetime searching for and here at your feet it lays/lies. Here at your feet it awaited me all along.
I moved halfway across the country chasing my need for submission, my need to be taken. A geographical cure it is referred to in 12-step circles; I defined it as the butch top I had been waiting for. We met online, and she would concoct elaborate fantasies we would enact when we met in person, role plays that drove me mad. She adored my femme identity, something I had never had in my lesbian relationships – so what if she was hyper-critical and cold? She fucked my ass, made me gag on her cock, spanked me for the first time in my life. Sweet god, I about came undone over this butch.
Here in the Midwest I met a true submissive who lived it daily, my friend Raven who was slave to a Dom on the West Coast. I was floored and awakened by her descriptions of their dynamic, both crying and cumming in turn later when I was alone and could truly hold what she told me in a safe quiet place inside myself. How I craved what she described. Envy and longing and grief swirled beneath my skin.
I began writing porn during this relationship, truly exploring my own desires and discovering the courage and defiance to share those desires at open mics. I felt sexy. I felt myself imploding and exploding in my femme power, a commodity I soon realized I could exploit to get my sexual needs met. I also felt unloved and unvalued. My own butch’s constant criticisms began to feel, again, like a form of abuse rather than like the dominant energy I had been trying to convince myself they were. Blessedly, I had the femme strength to leave fairly early into it and move to Atlanta. Raven’s Dom offered to be my Protector, as She saw me as a submissive alone in the world, an offer I rejected as it terrified me. I wanted to hold tight to my own fragile and blooming power. I had no understanding that to make a choice to hand that power over to someone capable enough to hold it was, in fact, the essence of power itself.
Shortly after I moved, I visited a dear femme friend in San Francisco and she and her butch took me to my first kinky event, a butch/femme social at a local club. Two life-changing moments occurred that evening. The first involved a Leather butch named Tee. Tee was soooooo leather he was flagging red left. Jeans, black t-shirt, leather chaps. So masculine, so sexy, so powerful. I was gaga. I had never seen anything like him in my life. My friend explained the hanky code and what fisting-Top meant and I was terrified. Although I ached and lusted for Tee all night, my naked pussy sopping, I avoided him like the plague, even when he flirted with me a couple of times. I felt like it was impossible for me to handle him, never understanding that as a submissive responding to a confident Top, it was not my job to handle him, but rather to give it up to him and for him.
Simultaneously, I was disturbed by the fact that I was a hot single femme alone at a social and not one butch approached me. I was doing all the damn work. Again, my reliant friend explained the situation to my naïve self. He said I exuded such powerful and confident (read: dominant) femme energy that the butches in the room assumed I myself was a Top and were not interested. My friend was proud of this for me, admiring and praising my femme strength and power. I felt a swirling storm of emotions – sadness, relief, pride, resignation. I vowed then, in that moment, that I would not waste my time on anyone who was not strong enough to come onto me, take me, demand my attention. I would not waste my time on anyone unable to top me, to look past my femme ferocity and find the fragile soft yielding creature longing to drop to her knees.
One year later, I am a collared slave on my hands and knees at 1763, the local dungeon. My Master has offered me as a table for a dessert reception, and my ramrod straight back is being used to serve cake and drinks. There is a puddle of drool in front of me, the bit in my mouth making me gag and tear up. My best friend is trying to whisper in my ear, she fears I am in pain, but I do not respond or even blink. I am a perfect service bottom, and get off on public scenes, exhibitionism, and humiliation. I am in my glory. I feel beautiful. Desirable. Wanted. I feel the eyes of the people milling about the room, the whispers. My panties are soaked. The pain is the biggest turn-on I have ever experienced, and I crave more, always more. A “pain slut,” I am dubbed in these circles, a title I have earned and wear as proudly as I wear the marks and bruises from the whips and knives and canes that are used on my body. Yes, this is play. But it is also a catharsis, a way to feel and shine and desire. A way to be desired, to truly feel it to my core. The pain is the answer to a thousand prayers, a thousand questions, a thousand years of not feeling inside my body. I have come home to myself, a journey that took me across decades and miles and now it is mine.
Never-mind that this relationship was doomed, as neither of us had the skills nor the self-awareness to make a fulltime dynamic like this work. It ended both gently and painfully. I will always cherish it as an awakening. It was the first I ever had of that lust like liquid fire I held inside me for nearly two decades, a smoldering flame ignited and embraced fully. God, we had fun. I celebrated my body as a temple to offer. Such power in that. Such joy. Such devious, beautiful, decadent pain and ecstasy.
This month at the Femme Conference my gorgeous friend M. invited me into an experience she had around her own submission. M. is my heart-sister, a bond we both felt nearly immediately upon meeting, a bond forged by the awareness that we each can hold both fierce femme power and submissive longings in our hands simultaneously. M. is radiant from a public play scene the night before, and I am so honored and touched to be her chosen confidant I am beside myself. This is huge. Precious. A sacred conversation. We are both very aware of this, whispering and giggling and crying in the corner of one of the classrooms. Listening to sweet, dear, beautiful, miraculous M., who has just discovered the fullness of her submission, and is fully and wholly in her body, my heart swells with pride and love and longing. Her marks are gorgeous. She touches them again and again, explaining in glorious detail how her skin came to be branded with them. But what really gets to me? What really tugs at the deepest core of my heart? The value and joy and beauty we both feel, and that M. expresses to me so eloquently, when our flesh is coveted and adored and desired; that richness of kneeling before someone, presenting ourselves as an offering, as a gift, and being received as such.
Mirrored in her transformative experience of what it feels like to be cherished in this particular way is my own desire, my own offered skin, my own aching need. Again, I feel awakened, something treasured inside me unveiled and exposed and blooming. I am opened, as M. has been opened. I am opened because she so graciously offered me the gift of letting me enter this sacred moment with her.
Trust. Within this opening, I think of trust. M.’s trust in me, her trust in her play partners the night before. M.’s trust in herself, for that is the prerequisite of such utter surrender. I think of the trust I place daily into the care of my new husband, into his capable, adoring, powerful and sometimes brutal hands. And I think of tenderness. For both my heart-sister and I, that is how we feel those brutal hands when they touch our offered flesh – as hands that accept and love us with exquisite tenderness even as they mark us with pain.