“How Are the Mighty Fallen?” – A David Study, Part I

[Image description: Photo is a close-up of the face and neck of Michelangelo’s David at an angle.]

Content notice: non-graphic discussion of rape and other forms of abuse

A few days ago, I wrote an epistle called “The Story Still Matters,” a rant about how hard it is for me as a Christian divinity student to use critical theory to interpret the Bible in fruitful ways without missing the stories themselves. To keep the stories alive, I’m going back to the Text. This is the first entry of a series about David as seen in 1 and 2 Samuel–the story of the rise and fall of a wildly charismatic, passionate, and often brutal king. Seriously, Samuel could be an HBO series. 

In these posts, I will dig into who David is and the choices he makes, writing from my perspective as a queer Christian. I will use some theory to help me make sense of it over 2,000 years removed. And I will ask how a man with such faith and love can become so cruel and conventional as a ruler. How does this queer romantic hero, whose love for Jonathan is almost startling, become a tyrant, a rapist, and an enabler of rapists? What does his story say about the God that anoints him? 

Can Christians learn something from David, especially about sex and sexuality? I believe we can, but it isn’t easy. Tools and background information can help. We need to start before David and even outside the Bible itself. Let’s think about the Christian communities that tell David’s story. 

Most churches don’t talk much about sex in the Bible, especially mainline Protestant churches like mine. In fact, a friend once pointed out that fundamentalist churches often talk about sex more than mainline churches do. We’re getting more affirming of same-gender relationships and of gender diversity. We may have even done a study or two on the “Clobber Passages.” But we avoid talking about sex when we can (and we certainly don’t talk about the possibility of queerness in the Bible). We gloss over the passages where our ‘heroes’ (like Abraham and Sarah, and later David) are sexually abusive with barely a thought. We laugh nervously when anyone brings up Song of Songs, a book devoted to sexual pleasure. Academic classes have helped me to see that the Bible has a “multiplicity” of ideas about sex because it was written by many different people and that we get to choose whether we agree with any of them. 

Take these two passages for example: 

“…your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). 

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10). 

In Song of Songs (a.k.a. Song of Solomon or Canticle), we see luxurious sexual desire and love thwarted but never killed (Song of Songs 5:7). In Genesis, we see a cruel, enslaving desire, in a passage used over and over to hurt women (it can be interpreted in many ways). What variety! 

David’s story is a microcosm of that variety, with issues like rape, adultery, polygamy, and homoerotic desire all rolled into one epic saga. The funny thing is, we often don’t even notice. Normally, we see the boy with the slingshot, the great warrior king, and the adulterer. We’re not socially equipped to see much else; we live in a society that likes to edit its heroes for our comfort. In doing so, we fail to explore huge chunks of these rich, strange stories even as we use them to inspire our own choices. That’s just tragic. 

What about biblical background? To understand David, we need to understand Ruth, his grandmother. Let’s look back at the book of Ruth. If you’re feeling especially nerdy, I encourage you to attempt to draw a family tree for David (if not, I made one already :)). 

When we read the book of Ruth, we learn that some of David ancestors were poor foreigners who did things to make ends meet that would be condemned in many churches. Naomi sends her daughter-in-law Ruth out to seduce Boaz and “uncover his feet” (Ruth 2:3-3:18). Most Christians never learn that in biblical Hebrew, feet are a euphemism for genitals. Professor Brittney Cooper reveals (heh) this topic delightfully in Unscrewed podcast episode #BlackChurchSex

Long story short, Ruth doesn’t go to Boaz so that they can have a chaste courtship; she goes to have sex with him in hopes that it will save her and Naomi’s lives; women in that time and place depended on the provision of male relatives. It was not a fair system, but they did the best they could. Ruth loves Naomi, so she engages in scandalous sexual activity.

Before we look at David, who started with few options but eventually had many, let’s remember Ruth, Rahab (a sex worker), and other female ancestors whose choices were seriously limited by circumstance. Their bodies were treated like mere containers for the descendants of Abraham. 

David enters the scene in this context. As I follow his journey and the choices he makes (as a sexual being and as a person in general), I will keep in mind the ancestors who made it possible for me to live. I’ll think about my ability to make choices that they never had in conversation with David’s choices, when he rises and when he falls. 

Recommended Readings and Sources:

The Bible. I generally use the New Revised Standard Version because that’s what’s used in the academic world, but other versions are valuable too. I would urge readers to keep in mind that every English translation of the Bible reflects the biases of the translators (Ex: for clarity, why not translate ‘feet’ as genitals?). 

Bird, Jennifer Grace. Permission Granted. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015.

Hornsby, Teresa J. Sex Texts from the Bible. Woodstock: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2007. 

Weems, Renita. “The Song of Songs: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Pages 363-373. Print.

I’ll work on finding more accessible sources as I go along!

Submission is Scary

[Image description: Photo is of a freshly rained-on brick patio with plants growing around the edges and through the cracks. A pair of pale human feet is at the edge of the frame.]

This’ll be short because I’m emotionally exhausted.

I’ve heard it said that in BDSM, dominants learn power, submissives learn courage, and switches learn wisdom (I wish I could find the original source). That statement oversimplifies things for sure, but it illustrates where I am right now. Looks like I’m about to be very courageous. I’m talking with a friend about experimenting with a low-key D/s dynamic where she is dominant and I am submissive; it’s more of a mindset than a specific kind of play. Not having had any experience with actually submitting before, I’m terrified. 

She brought up the idea of D/s a couple of days ago, and my subconscious wouldn’t leave it alone (I actually dreamed about it; I pay attention to dreams). When we finally started discussing it in messages, I had a physical fight-or-flight response–pounding heart, churning stomach, etc. Having only experienced kink so far as a dominant and top, giving up control and letting myself be led is scary. But scary doesn’t mean bad, and I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t let myself be scared sometimes, I won’t grow. 

Even though I’m intimidated by the vulnerability of it, I’m proud of myself just for being courageous enough to explore this path–I feel braver already. I’m also terribly curious about what I will learn and the wisdom that this experiment will bring. 

That’s all I got for now, but I’ll have more reflections soon! 

Aftercare – It’s Not Just for Kink

[Image description: Photo is of Christ Church College in Oxford, England, originally constructed 500 years ago.]

Occasionally, something I’ve learned from kink will help me to reflect on something from vanilla life, which then influences my overall mindset for the better. This post illustrates one of those times. 

A few years ago, a dear friend and I went into the woods to play pretend, as one does. This wasn’t a kink scene, mind, just us imagining that we lived in Medieval Europe. We made up silly details as we walked along (“Ah yes, they have put out flowers because there has been a death in the family…”). We ran into a couple of  ‘journeymen’ on the path who played along for a while. I became a troubadour, and she became a duchess. I had to make up a song on the spot to sing in her honor (it was actually a pretty epic song). We must have pretended for at least a couple of hours. I still remember it fondly. 

But a strange thing happened when we stopped playing and my friend went home for some introvert time: I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had just spent the last couple of hours experiencing life as a troubadour of the Middle Ages, and now I had no one for whom to sing, no station in life. I practically could have recited elegiac poetry about the lost mead halls. 

After wandering around in that state for a while, I went home and watched several episodes of Wolf Hall (a PBS Masterpiece program set in the court of Henry VIII). Presently, I felt a little more normal, like my imaginings had finally run their course and my brain had found equilibrium. 

It didn’t hit me until more recently, when I started exploring kink, that I had that strange response because I didn’t know how to find my way back to the present day. Essentially, though I didn’t realize it at the time, my brain was scrambled by the rapid gear shift from courtier to college student. I needed aftercare

In the kink world, ‘aftercare’ is what players do after the end of a scene to find their way back to their non-play selves. They might drink some water, cuddle and chat, bandage any wounds, watch mindless television for a while, or even take some time away from each other to reflect. ‘Cruel’ master becomes doting partner, playful puppy becomes exhausted friend, etc. Aftercare continues with check-ins and debrief conversations in the following days. Aftercare is different for everyone, but many players need it to minimize and mitigate the effects of ‘drop’. (Side note–anyone can experience drop, including tops and dominants. I’ll talk about my experiences with dom drop in another post.) Whatever form it takes, the ritual of caring closure that aftercare provides helps players to transition out of whatever intense thing has just occurred. 

The concept of aftercare is something that I now keep in mind after any intense experience, no matter how trivial it seems. Watching historical dramas did the trick for me a few years ago. When pretending nowadays, I try to let people know beforehand that my imagination is wild and to have a closing check-in with them afterward (something like “Thanks for going there with me; I’m ready to go back to reality now and will need to clear my head. Are you okay? Need anything?”). 

This practice may seem excessive, but consider all the ways that humans seek closure and aftercare on a daily basis. There’s a reason that activists debrief over pizza after a protest–sometimes, you just need to feel like a person again. After a show ends, actors hold cast parties. Athletes have cool-downs. Students end their years of toil with ceremonies of praise, hugs, tears, and mementos. At the end of a long day, parents read their children to sleep.

When we don’t get caring closure, even when we don’t realize that’s what we need, we may feel strange and disoriented, unable to move forward. I don’t always know exactly what I need at the end of an experience, but I’m learning to ask. Whether in kinky play or vanilla life, aftercare has been a helpful concept for me to keep in mind as I explore.

There is Such a Thing as Too Much Lube

[Image description: Photo is of LubeTube lube launchers in packaging. Captions say “Easy to use!” and “Put your favorite lube exactly where you want it!”]

Friends, the Holy Spirit has placed a testimony on my heart. I share it here that it may be edifying to those who are curious about anal play. Have you ever read that there’s no such thing as too much lube for anal sex? That’s generally true; the anus is not self-lubricating, so lube helps make anal play safer and more comfortable. (Note: It’s gonna get a little graphic from here on out). 

My sub and I enjoy pegging, a kind of sex where a woman penetrates a man anally with a strapon dildo (I’m not sure whether non-op trans women who use their own penises to penetrate use that term). It’s great for prostate stimulation. 

We purchased a lube shooter (also known as a lube launcher or injector) to make the process of anal sex smoother and more pleasant. After an incident where our play was cut short by unexpected anal bleeding, we thought a launcher would help us to cover our bases. 

I would’ve thought it was intuitive enough. Just put the lube in the tube, stick the tube in the hole, and squirt, right? Not exactly. 

Pegging went smoothly, but my sub’s belly started gurgling part of the way through. After we finished, he dashed to the bathroom and essentially pooped out excess lube. Apparently, the next morning, more lube came out. 

Here’s what we think happened: I put too much lube in the shooter, for one thing. For our purposes, it needed to be less than half full. Then, wanting to be thorough, I stuck the tube a little farther up his butt than necessary and didn’t pull out/inject at the right pace to distribute the lube evenly. When I started pegging him, my cock probably pushed it even deeper. 

Essentially, I gave him an accidental lube enema. It was kind of embarrassing, but we can laugh about it now (especially since I will sometimes say to him “I shot lube up your butt” to remind us both that these things happen). And thus I say unto you, friends, it turns out there is such a thing as too much lube. Lube launchers are useful, but they don’t cover inexperience!

Endnotes: A guide to lube shooter application is here. A beginner’s guide to anal sex is here. A lube guide is here.

My First Munch

[Image description: Photo is of a gray tee-shirt with a red raised fist design and white block lettering that says “Introverts Unite…Occasionally in small groups for very limited periods of time”]

I attended my first munch in August of 2018, right after divinity school orientation ended. #Priorities. A munch is a public get-together of kinky people, usually at a restaurant. No whips or chains there, just people chatting over food. Especially for new people, munches are a great way to connect with the local kink community, make friends, and find safe play partners. 

I was quite nervous before I went, changing clothes three times–it was a true Lizzie McGuire montage–before settling on a skinny jean-combat boot-jacket ensemble. I had read that I should “dress for success.” 

Fortunately, my Uber driver didn’t ask why I was taking a twenty-minute drive to this particular IHOP when another IHOP was much closer. Feeling like a detective, I told the restaurant manager that I was looking for “the group in the back.” I found them, a merry bunch with black clothes and colorful hair. 

They made room for me but didn’t engage much at first. Starting to feel like a statue, I mustered the courage to say “I’m an introvert; please talk to me!” Miraculously, they did. We chatted about kink and ate pancakes. I felt a thrill as I told them I was in divinity school and wanted to work on the issue of sexual shame in Christianity. Everyone was friendly. 

After the munch, we carpooled to the local sex-positive dungeon. On the way, I learned that for some people, the appeal of kink isn’t sexual at all–some just like the rush of impact or the opportunity to relax into a different role for a while. 

In the play space, I met three or four white guys with scruff and glasses over the course of the night. It’s a little embarrassing to say, but in the dark, they looked so similar that I didn’t realize they were all different people at first. To this day, I’m still not sure exactly how many dudes I talked with as I sat on that leather sofa, though one of them eventually became a friend and play partner. 

Of course, even in the low light, the house bootblack noticed how scuffed my boots were. A little sheepishly, I climbed into the bootblack chair. I chatted with her shyly while she cleaned and conditioned my boots–they were too dry at that point to be polished! I have since learned how to take better care of my boots. It is now one of my sub’s tasks. 

I watched the play with scientific interest, somewhat overwhelmed by the effort to watch multiple scenes unfold simultaneously. It was easier to focus on one at a time. In one memorable scene with two women, the top (the sensation-giver) kicked and hit the bottom (the player receiving the sensation) with wooden spoons and spatulas. They both smiled and giggled the whole time. At the end of the scene, the bottom slid down the wall, laughing uncontrollably as the experience washed over her.

Watching their joyful play reminded me that I didn’t have to play a certain way to be kinky (nor did I need to act like a movie dominatrix). I’ve been back to the play space and to munches several times since then. When I’m feeling awkward, I remember that I can always wave the introvert flag, and someone will welcome me.

BDSM is Not Repentance

[Image description: Photo is of a black flogger draped over a gold handheld mirror.]

Content notice: possible self-harm, police brutality 

Some time ago, I read about a guilt-ridden police officer who went to professional dominatrices to be beaten and humiliated as punishment for his habit of mistreating the people that he stopped on the street. As far as I know, his kinky sessions didn’t stop him from hurting the people under his power. He was still cruel. To put it in religious terms that I understand, he wanted to burn off his sins by ‘suffering’. Instead, he just burned off his guilt and went on his way. Shame covered him like a blanket of ash. 

He wouldn’t be the first to try to use BDSM to cope with guilt and shame. Some reading this post might wonder whether typical kink ‘punishment’ activities like being caned, forced to do chores, or verbally degraded will allow them to compensate for behavior that they’re ashamed of. My answer is “Maybe, but probably not.” 

My full response would be a real treatise, accounting for the various ways that people like to define BDSM and even ‘punishment.’ I’d also have to talk about whether I think that consensual punishments are fruitful (I have complex feelings). I’ll save those for other posts and spare you the ninety-five theses. 

For now, I want to talk about repentance, something more powerful than self-punishment. The Hebrew and Greek words that we often translate as “repent” appear over and over in the Bible.  

In Greek, the original written language of the New Testament, the word is “metanoia,” “to change the mind.” In biblical Hebrew, words literally meaning “to turn” or “turn around” are common (a little more on the language here). 

Wikipedia calls repentance “the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to change for the better.”

In short, repentance isn’t just about feeling sorry. Feelings are important, but they don’t do much in themselves. Instead, repentance is about harnessing thoughts and feelings through reflection in order to change behavior. 

Let’s consider the police officer. Did he repent? No. He felt bad and used BDSM to feel better. Perhaps, he thought that because he had chosen to experience pain, he now understood the pain he had caused others. Maybe he thought that his pain (carefully calibrated to satisfy him, as kinky pain usually is) would balance out theirs.

Repentance doesn’t work like that. For those who use Christian God language, God doesn’t work like that. 

Jesus didn’t say “I was in prison, but you felt bad and punished yourself.” Jesus said “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me” (Mt. 25:43). 

This passage might sound harsh and confronting to some readers. It is. It doesn’t leave room for us to pretend that feeling bad about something is the same as doing something about it. 

But it also means that God doesn’t demand that you punish yourself to counteract the suffering you have caused. It means that you get to choose how you respond to that suffering. 

In the police officer’s case, there was most likely nothing he could do to repair the harm he had caused. The bodies he bruised (probably black bodies) would have to heal themselves; the heartache and trauma might never fully go away. He numbed them out with his own ‘suffering’. But he has the power to recognize what he has done and to make different choices, I hope with the help of a good therapist and strong community. That in itself is painful, and not in a fun way (think of a much less extreme version of Voldemort’s fractured soul).

The temporary hurt of kinky play is not a shortcut to understanding the harm one has caused, and it isn’t repentance. 

That being said, does BDSM have a role in repentance? Maybe so (and I’ll talk about that more in another post), but it depends on one’s goals and attitude. I want to practice treating others well through kink, and I want to give myself care in the play that I choose. I want what my sub experiences under my direction to have a positive impact on the way that he interacts with the world outside of our dynamic. I believe that kink can help people to reflect and grow. In the end, though, repentance is a chosen struggle, and there is no substitute.

The Story Still Matters – An Epistle on Theory

The birds had just begun to lift their songs of praise as I reverently opened my laptop. Illuminated by the glow of the screen, I sought the sacred PDF: “Postmodern Biblical Theory.” I trembled with emotion as I read, eyes welling with tears. “Yes, I see now,” I said aloud. I knew, as rosy-fingered dawn appeared on the horizon, that I now understood the Bible. Heavenly music played as I typed my ardent one-page reflection. Now fully prepared to deliver the Gospel to this troubled world, I emailed the quote “Nothing is original” to a custom bumper sticker company. I said a quick prayer to the Academy as I filled my metal water bottle, fortified by my faith in postmodernism. 

That totally did not happen. 

Closer to reality: I skimmed the PDF at 11:30 at night, my brain promptly shut down, and I slammed my laptop closed in disgust. I had hoped that going to divinity school would help me to reconnect with the Bible. Unfortunately, this New Testament class had turned out to be a survey course of critical theory. We read a whole lot about the Bible but hardly the Bible itself. I felt less connected than ever. 

That’s not to say that critical theory isn’t valuable. Theory helps us to see consequences of writing and interpretation, especially for groups then tend to be on the margins of society. It trains us to be flexible; we’re not stuck with the old “Eve sinned and now all women have to obey their husbands” nonsense that often gets repeated in churches, for example. I think that many of us find comfort in theory because we’ve been hurt by people who repeat “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Theory reminds us that nothing is actually ‘settled.’ 

But theory is a set of tools we can use to understand the Bible’s role in our lives. The story still matters. Unfortunately, my class was often “all theory and no Text.” Without the consistent opportunity to read the Bible, it was hard for me to figure out how to use these tools, let alone imagine how I could communicate the value of theory to other Christians who love the Bible and read it…religiously. 

All theory and no Text makes Fox a dull boi

I’m pretty grumpy about it. As a result, one of the purposes of this blog will be for me to read the Bible as a beloved story book, informed but not driven by theory, and to find what moves and inspires me as a Christian. What might this look like? Bible studies, spiritual practices, poems, stories, and songs. In other words, church activities minus the peer pressure (love you, Church). I’m going to start with a series on the story of David and see where it takes me. 

Be of good courage!

Perpetua Fox

She/her/hers

Fireworks

[Image description: Photo is of distant exploding orange and gold fireworks.]

Picture me at age four. It’s the fourth of July. I’m at an Independence Day celebration at the local megachurch. I’ve been so excited to see the fireworks. But when I actually see them, loud and bright and technicolor, I’m terrified. When I look up, they’re so close that it feels as if they’re coming down on me like fiery rain. After a few minutes trying to tolerate it, I cut and run, bolting across the field to my dad’s car. And my dad? He’s running with me, not after me. He isn’t mad at me for being scared. After that, we admire the fireworks from a distance. 


Even now, over two decades later, I prefer to keep my distance from fireworks and sparklers. They’re beautiful, but when I’m too close, my fear of injury and sense of “overwhelm” make me unable to enjoy their beauty. I stand a little farther back from them than most people. And that’s okay. In my life, there are shows, events, relationship styles, people, and activities that I prefer to admire from afar. That’s the best way for me to enjoy them. It doesn’t make me a coward. It doesn’t mean that I don’t respect those who choose differently–quite the contrary. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never change my mind. It does mean that I know what I need right now (like when I needed to get away from those fireworks right then). And it feels good to know that the caring people in my life respect that.

A Note on CBT and Penises as “Weapons”

[Image description: Photo is of a butter knife and a small metal candle holder lying on top of a red cloth napkin.]

Note: This epistle is explicit, with description of some of my sexual interests and activities (also, mention of outdated beliefs about virginity and biology/yucky societal attitudes about sexual violence and what people with vulvas can expect during sex). Get educated by a reputable source like Kink Academy before you participate in the kind of play that I describe in order to avoid injury and other undesired suffering. 

When people compare penises to weapons, it makes me want to do CBT. There are two major kinds of CBT, of course. One is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is pretty great in general. The other is cock and ball torture, which can be a lovely form of consensual kinky play. During cock and ball torture, the penis and testicles (the cock and balls) are squeezed, bound, hit, kicked, pinched, tickled, shocked, or otherwise treated to painful or intense sensations. The experience of CBT, which should always be consensual, might range from a pleasant low-grade hum of sensation to something acutely painful. My sub finds it intense but rarely painful. I enjoy messing with his junk.  

What does that have to do with penises as weapons? Well, weapons are inert, unfeeling, and potentially dangerous tools (I imagine the cold metal of a blade). But the penis and testicles are living, fleshy, and sensitive (as even the thought of a kick to the balls demonstrates). While I understand the easy comparison between a penis and a weapon–both can, in a way, “penetrate” or “shoot”–I don’t like the way that description fits into a broader societal narrative that casts the penis-owner (usually a cisgender man) as a weapon-carrier. 

Vulva-owners, well…many people assume we’re supposed to hurt and bleed when we “lose our virginity,” as if the act of intercourse punctures us (or “pops our cherries”). That notion, while it would conveniently fit in with the penis-weapon analogy, is not based on what we actually know about the biology of the vulva (Heather Corinna of Scarleteen explains it well in “Seriously, Enough With the Fruit Already”). Treating the penis like a dangerous weapon teaches vulva-owners that intercourse inevitably hurts, and it teaches penis-owners that they should expect to hurt or wound partners during vaginal intercourse (and I don’t mean in a consensual, erotic way). The language of weaponry matters. 

Now, I won’t resolve that broad societal issue through kinky play, but I believe that such play can help willing folks with penises to lay down the weapon idea and see themselves as regular human beings. When I dominate cis guys in play, even if I’m not doing CBT specifically, I want to remind them that they are not weapon-carriers. I want them to know that the penis, like the vulva, is a fleshy organ, capable of feeling great vulnerability and pleasure. Intense touch that focuses on the genitals, like CBT, is one way to bring awareness. 

Mostly, I spank and lightly tug my sub’s balls, listening out for the delightful little whimpers and groans he makes. I like to slap his cock like a bobo doll and watch it spring back into place. Sometimes, I grab his whole package in one hand and just squeeze, letting him know both that I’m in charge of his balls and that he can trust me with them. 

If I received vaginal penetration, maybe I’d squeeze him that way too. I once played sexually with a vulva-owner who had an extraordinarily strong pelvic floor. I double-fisted her–both of my hands were inside her vagina at once, balled up together). I, the penetrator, thought, “Wow, it’s like she could snap my wrists like twigs.” She was powerful. 

With kinky play like CBT, we can gain perspective, and people with penises can remember their vulnerability and capacity for pleasure. Instead of thinking of penises as weapons and vulvas as…things to be wounded…let’s let our junk be our junk, part of our feeling bodies. Let’s study our bodies and try new things. Let’s learn not to weaponize or victimize body parts. And let’s have some fun along the way.

An Epistle on Theatre and Kink

[Image description: Photo is of a slender white person wearing a cream-colored winter coat, dark gray button-down shirt, long, fuzzy white scarf, and fitted dark brown boots standing on the edge of a wooden stage.]

I’ve been a theatre kid since about age ten. Cast as a “merchant/servant” in a summer youth production of Aladdin, I caught the theatre bug (or rather, it caught me). I’d thought when I signed up that I would want to work behind the scenes on set design. Instead, I suddenly craved the spotlight. Eager for more “work,” I made a diagram of the ‘palace’ floor for my personal use and thought intently about my purpose in the story. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t study Stanislavsky.  

I milked my one line for all it was worth. “There would be peace in the marketplace if they would just lock him up!,” I snarled and tutted as a merchant in Act I, later transforming into a meek and gormless palace servant for Act II. It felt glorious to get a larger role in the next summer production, but even in that first, tiny role, I had carved out a space in fantasy that made me feel integral to making Aladdin’s story ‘work.’ 

Unlike me, the characters I played knew exactly where they belonged in the world, and they lived in that satisfaction. I, their storyteller, lived in their satisfaction second-hand. I started to find a role in the local theatre community too, clicking with fellow actors in ways that I never had with my classmates. I felt a sense of belonging in being among creative people working toward a common goal. No longer just the shy art girl, I was an actor–and I could be anything I chose. 

Over the years, I acted in several other shows and attempted tech work. I discovered that I was funny. I also discovered (during an Edgar Allan Poe-themed production) that I could be very creepy and unsettling when I wanted to be. 

The final curtain was always bittersweet. I wanted the magic to last just a little bit longer. I remember keeping the heavy makeup on as long as possible (yes, even the Poe makeup–I’m sure I frightened some locals during that cast party). Acting became about more than attention; acting was a retreat. It helped me feel safe to try new things, even silly and embarrassing things. It demanded that I be embarrassed, proud, menacing, hapless, and fierce, over and over. Theatre gave me space to be all those things without losing my place in the community.

Now, every character that I have ever played lives in my mind, but I am more than the sum of them. And that mysterious extra bit that’s just me? That’s what I bring to my kink life. It doesn’t surprise me that many kinksters are also theatre people. The craft, the thrill, the freedom to “play pretend” and explore without losing the respect of peers–kink makes room for all these precious things. Kink gives me experiences that even theatre couldn’t. But I wouldn’t be comfortable in kink if not for my time with theatre, and theatre is special to me too. 

It’s been a couple of years since I was last in a production; my current schedule just doesn’t allow for the weeks of consistent commitment that theatre requires. I miss it. I take what I learned from acting into my activism, my kinky relationships, my friendships, and my work. These things all belong in my life. And when I have time for a show? I’m auditioning.