Penance, Part 7

Catch up on the entire series here. I’m exploring some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance” using this experimental semi-fantasy flash erotica series. It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. This installment (a bit long for flash) is a response to the Masturbation Monday blog meme.

After a few days’ thought, he washes the handkerchief and hangs it to dry on a tiny shoestring clothesline rigged across the Monstera plant. It seems like the right thing to do. He’s filled the first notebook with writing about anything and everything he can think of. His secretary looked at him like he had grown an extra head when he asked for paper (what she doesn’t know is that he first tried to filch it from the printer, accidentally breaking it in the process, and had to hire a repair worker from his own pocket as a result). 

He knows the Dominant will visit this evening. The Agency sent a confirmation message yesterday. He felt relieved–he’d half-expected that they would drop him altogether after last session’s disaster–but somehow more nervous than he was before the first session. He is, as his mother would say, ‘a wreck,’ pacing the condo, fluffing pillows and such. He’s even set out a carafe of water and two glasses. He has a feeling that last week’s behavior won’t go unaddressed. 

The Dominant appears in his doorway empty-handed. No implements, but the electric blue streak in their hair today makes the back of his neck prickle. Danger? Arousal? Who knows. He lets them in without fanfare. He wills his hand not to shake as he pours the water. The Dominant makes themself at home, once again going through their papers. He sits stiffly and waits. Finally, they fold the papers and take off their glasses.  

“There’s something different about you today,” they say. “You’re all pulled in. Like your wings are folded to your sides.” 

He looks down at his lap. He’s never thought of himself as a bird before. 

“Tell me what you’re holding in.”

He looks up at the command in their tone. He senses that he has to answer. “I was disrespectful last week,” he says after a moment, in a small, brittle voice. He can’t say anymore, can’t bear to look at that furrow in their brow, so he focuses on the handkerchief, still hanging. 

“Yes, you were,” the Dominant says after a beat. “I see that it’s affecting you.” 

To his horror, tears spring to his eyes. Before anger can claw its way up through his shame, the Dominant speaks very quietly. “Good.” Good? Unable to trust his voice, he fights to sit up straighter, wills the tears to dry under the breeze of the air conditioner as he stares a hole through the cloth. 

“I see that this is hard for you.” He can’t speak. “Here’s what I want to happen,” they say. “Look at me for a second.” He does. They point at the floor between their legs. “I want you to take this cushion and sit here, facing away from me.” 

He doesn’t think to disobey. The floor creaks as he fits himself into the small space between sofa and coffee table, drawing his knees up. He feels the warmth of the Dominant’s legs on either side of him, the hard boots bracketing him. They’re a bit scuffed-looking up close. 

A soft voice floats down from above. “Lean back a little.” As he does, he feels their hands strong on his shoulders, holding him in place. He swallows, again finding the handkerchief in his vision.

“You cleaned that for me, didn’t you,” the Dominant says, pressing on his shoulders gently. “Thank you. That pleases me.” 

He nods. He feels surrounded, enfolded, so close to the ground. He tilts his head back, feels their shirt brush against his hair. 

“I want to stroke your hair.” 

“Mmyes,” he replies, feeling mellower in spite of the tears starting to track down his face. They cup the back of his head and massage, occasionally catching enough hair to tug on his scalp, just a little. One finger finds its way to his cheekbone, collecting a tear on its way. 

“Good,” he hears again as his eyes fall closed. He stays there, resting in that pocket of warmth, for the remainder of the session. 

-To be continued-

Masturbation Monday

Penance, Part 5

Read the entire series here. I’m exploring some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance” using this experimental semi-fantasy flash erotica series. It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance.

The next session begins one long week later, on a hot, humid evening. The doorbell rings at seven on the dot. This time, the man is prepared. So this Dominant is cautious? Okay. He’ll just have to be clearer and more confident about what he wants. With that in mind, he opens the door and folds to his knees without a word. The Dominant pauses, a wiry sketch of black and silver in the doorway, scraping their boots on the welcome mat. The man shifts restlessly, wishing he had a cushion. He looks up at the Dominant’s face. 

They blink at him, expression neutral. “Are you going to let me by?” 

“Uh, yeah.” Honorific intentions forgotten, he shuffle-rolls to the side to make room for the Dominant. Only when he clambers to his feet do they give him some hint of expression, a slight smile. He feels himself stand a little straighter. 

They ask for water again, this time seated on the sofa. He fetches it with a flourish. Along with their papers (the same as last time?), they pull out a handkerchief to cushion the glass on the coffee table. 

Are they going to do the same thing as before? He has to do something; this is ridiculous. He drops to his knees again, right next to the Dominant. 

They look…displeased. What is wrong with them? 

“I want you to sit back down in the chair while I go through these papers,” they say.

“What? Don’t Dominants like it when clients grovel?” It comes out more indignant than he intends. They raise their eyebrows over those steel-rimmed spectacles. 

“Sorry,” he mutters, moving back up to the chair in a tangle of embarrassment and arousal. 

“Thank you. First of all, we’re not a monolith.” They tick off the item on their fingers. “Second, I haven’t discussed a kneeling protocol with you. Third, I asked you to sit by me in the chair.” 

The man’s breath hitches as it clicks into place. So his kneeling was seen as disobedience. Maybe they’re closer to punishing him than he thought; this could work. 

Before he knows it, he’s fetching the blue notebook and asking the Dominant to read. 

He watches their eyes narrow as they page through his entries, all some variation of “I don’t need to write in this; I just need to be punished so I can move on.” 

He waits for the explosion, an order to ‘assume the position’ or something. 

They close the notebook. “Would you rather make audio recordings?” they ask, smooth as ever. What? “I notice you said you want to move on,” they say, removing their glasses, “and yet you wrote the same thing over and over. Perhaps you need a different medium and more time.” More time?!

“No!” he blurts, wondering what parallel universe he’s just entered. “What do I have to do to get you to just punish me?!” 

The Dominant’s eyes harden, like black marbles set in their face. They stand, temporarily looming over him with glass in hand. He braces in the chair, aroused but sickened by sudden fear of what he’s provoked. Maybe this is it, he thinks. 

But the Dominant walks past him to pour their remaining water onto the thirsty Monstera plant. Frozen in place, he watches them walk to the front door.

“Try again,” they say. And then he’s alone.

-To be continued-

Penance, Part 2

Read the first series installment of this semi-fantasy flash erotica series here. I anticipate this’ll be a slow-burning series, gentle readers. 😉 This fiction explores some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance.” It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. This installment is a response to the Wicked Wednesday blog memeFor some of my more realistic short erotica, see “Stay Like This.”

His mouth runs dry, stomach twisting. Penance. They? Vague memories of workplace sensitivity trainings ooze through his molasses mind. She–they–shake out their umbrella and sling a black messenger bag off their shoulder. 

He stutters “Are these–” 

Now, they grin outright, nodding. “The implements of correction.” Their voice is soft and low, cello-like. 

“Uh,” he replies eloquently, still stuck in place. So much for his plan to fall dramatically to his knees in greeting. That idea seemed so much more intuitive in theory. He looks down at her–their–shoes. No stilettos here, just chunky black boots like his teenage nieces wear. Or like the sisters in his parish growing up used to wear. Or army boots. What a weird overlap. 

“Look up, please,” they say. He does. 

“Let’s have a little chat. Let me get these wet things off, and we’ll sit at the island, alright?” 

“Alright…Miss?” He winces as it comes out. 

“Actually, I prefer Sir,” they reply, dark eyes gleaming. “But we don’t need to worry about that right now.” 

But I’m not attracted to… he thinks as he juggles their belongings to the closet. 

He turns back to them, already perched on a stool and unlacing their boots to reveal socks marked “Ineffable.” Their movements are purposeful and contained, not at all like the whip-slinger he expected. This Dominant wipes rain off their steel-rimmed glasses. 

What on Earth. He must have stood there a little too long, as the Dominant–or interrogator?–raps the island’s granite top with their glasses case. 

He feels himself step forward, blushing. It’s a move he’s used on subordinates before, summoning. Whatever, he thinks, in a fit of pride. His steps sound loud on the wooden floor, even louder when he arranges himself on the stool that’s really too small for him. 

They watch him quietly. Like a lightning rod that deflects noise. 

He tries for board room-level confidence, pasting a dime-toothed smile onto his face. “Well, you found me,” he says with a lame little chuckle.

They smile. “Yes, I did,” they say, pulling some papers out of their bag. Instead of passing them over to him, they adjust their glasses and start to read silently to themself, annotating with a red gel pen. 

For what feels like a long time, they leave him with nothing but the sound of the rain. He crosses his arms. What does this person expect from me? Shouldn’t I be tied up by now? Won’t this ‘Dominant’ do his-her-their job? He feels the words build up inside him, rushing to the surface like hot magma. 

“I’ll have a glass of water, please,” the Dominant says, oblivious. That knocks the wind right out of his sails. He gets up robotically to fill a glass with ice. And then he gets one for himself. 

-To Be Continued-

Told ya. Slow.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Penance, Part 1

[Image description: Photo is of a pair of lace-up black leather boots.]

Hello, Readers! I’ve decided to explore some of the ideas I discussed in my recent essay “BDSM is Not Repentance” through fiction. This is the first part of an experimental semi-fantasy flash erotica series. It is not intended to model realistic or healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. This first installment is part of the Masturbation Monday blog meme sponsored by Kayla Lords. 

He runs his hand through salt-and-pepper hair, drums fingers on his desk to drown out the feeble patter of rain. He grimaces at the cleaning he’s done. She might not show, he thinks. If this day turns out to be a waste of his time and money, he’s leaving a one-star Yelp review and jerking off to Brazzers. 

He was very clear in his inquiry letter to the Agency: he wants to suffer for his actions. He filled out their required spreadsheet of soft and hard limits in a bluster of clacking keys; yes to humiliation, yes to cock-and-ball torture, no to tickling, yes to single-tail, etc. 

He selected a generous three-day time window, signed off with his electronic signature, and procured his background check. Now, it’s just a question of when; it has to be some time today. He waits for her, whomever she is, to waltz into his spartan condo, order him to his knees and slap him around, make him feel powerless. That’s fine. More than fine. 

He chose the “mystery” option to let the Agency assign someone to him, but he’s poked around enough online to have a pretty good idea what she’ll be like: a goddess in stilettos, dark, streamlined slickness over icy pale skin. She’ll beat the devil right out of him…if she shows up. The thought shoots straight down to his cock, and he just catches his hand straying down his khakis. He groans, irritation rising in tandem with arousal.

Just as he’s about to unplug the air freshener and heat up the leftover buffalo wings, someone knocks at the door. He freezes. Somehow, his legs carry him over. He peers through the peep hole at a short, slight woman with asymmetrical hair and a rainbow umbrella. She must be lost, he thinks, wondering whether she’ll go away if he ignores her. But he opens the door. She smiles at him. Her eyes crinkle at the corners. Staticy heat skitters through him, the sensation of thawing after a trudge through the snow, as he realizes that this person isn’t lost at all. “Hello,” she says. “My pronouns are they/them/theirs, and I’m in charge of your penance today.” 

-To be continued-

*Yes, he accidentally misgenders them.

Masturbation Monday

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.