Another Halloween has come and gone, and the goblins must be safely back in their caves under the hills. That particular holiday is mostly just silly, campy fun, at least for adults, but it’s also a journey through the harmless border regions of the sinister. Every Halloween we rediscover the exhilaration of playing around with imagery that taps into some of our primal terrors – the walking dead, monsters that blur the line between human and beast, things that go bump in the night. A hint of dread, divorced from any possibility of real harm, can be a wonderful intoxicant.
Halloween is, of course, popular among BDSMers, for more than one reason. People who enjoy dressing up in extravagant leather, rubber and latex outfits (a subset of the BDSM community that doesn’t include me or, as far as I know, My Lady) probably find that slipping into a costume at the end of October comes naturally, but I think there’s also a deeper affinity based on the idea of safely exploring the darker side of human experience. A dominant sadist, like a Halloween vampire, is cloaked in an aura of exciting menace but can be trusted not to pose a real threat to life and limb. However, the average party-goer in a vampire costume is unlikely to sink his or her teeth into anyone, whereas a sadist presented with a willing victim just might – metaphorically, and perhaps at some point quite literally.
Being taken on that kind of journey by a sadist, as I know from personal experience with My Lady and others, can involve a heady and bewildering mixture of sensations and mental states. Pain is the key ingredient, at least normally, but it can be accompanied by things like discomfort, degradation, helplessness, vulnerability, and even desperation. For me, however, the prevailing emotional texture of such adventures is defined by various kinds of fear, at every stage – fear of the sadist herself, and of what she might do to me. It begins with the nervous anticipation of knowing that a skilled and enthusiastic tormentor is going to make me suffer, an ominous feeling that rises to a crescendo as I find myself being prepared to receive her cruel attentions. There might be a slow walk to a well-equipped room in a suburban basement, a casual order to strip partly or completely naked, an implacable tightening of cuffs around my wrists and a gentle caress of dark fabric settling over my eyes. Nudity, blindness and physical helplessness bring a terrible and wonderful sense of vulnerability, an inescapable awareness of being in someone else’s power. As blows begin to fall and strong fingers begin to pinch and prod at the most delicate parts of my body, the agony is mixed with an inevitable fear that it might get far worse, that I might end up shrieking and sobbing and pleading desperately for just a little mercy. Certain cues can induce a more immediate terror: the swish of a cane from somewhere behind me, a threat whispered or growled into my ear, a hand meandering across my thigh towards my defenceless crotch. And when the torment is over, for the moment, I can start to worry about what ordeal might come next.
My Lady’s ability to scare me isn’t limited to the rare occasions when she can get her hands on me in person. I don’t think I’ve ever, since I first surrendered to her control, opened an email from her without at least a little thrill of trepidation. Subject lines such as the dreaded “Instructions” and the thankfully infrequent “Punishment” ratchet up the tension, but even messages with totally innocuous headings can contain alarming surprises. My Lady is, after all, a whip-smart and wickedly inventive dominant who has had a few years to get to know me and figure out how to push my buttons, and she doesn’t hesitate to use her knowledge and imagination to come up with unexpected ways to make me squirm. A few quick lines of text is all she needs to torture my naked flesh with clamps or clothespins, slide a plug deep into my submissive ass, harness my cock and balls in that tight leather and metal restraint she made me buy several months ago, or impose new restrictions on my culinary and masturbatory pleasures. It would be a miracle of complacency if I wasn’t scared of the woman.
What makes my fear of My Lady exhilarating and arousing, instead of miserable and debilitating, is that I know I can trust her not to go too far. She’s not going to kill, maim, infect or traumatise me, and she’s not going to send illustrated reports on my submissive side to my friends, family or coworkers. My dread of the suffering she inflicts so expertly and gleefully is quite real, but knowing that I won’t be harmed in the process (at least, beyond the odd welt or bite mark) prevents any slide into the sick horror I imagine I’d feel if I were kidnapped by mobsters or terrorists. The great paradox of my inner erotic life is that suffering at the hands of someone like My Lady is also tremendously exciting, and the fear both fuels the excitement and combines with it to create an irresistible cocktail. I’m sure that I could get something out of submitting to a dominant who didn’t frighten me, but a vital component would be missing from the experience – as if I was being stalked through a haunted house by a vampire without any fangs.