Sometimes, when I’m quite tipsy and out on the town, I’m struck by the sense that my friends and I rule the world. The city is lit up and glittering just for us. We are fearless and stupid and hilarious and we love each other. I feel the swells of hope and bravery reach high tide in my chest.
The problem is, though, that emotional abuse conditions you a certain way. Whenever I start to feel brave, or hopeful, or – God forbid – happy, I also start to feel a cold dread leak into my bones. If you’ve lived through emotional abuse, you’ll know that abusers never let their victims’ happiness go unpunished. You’re used to knowing, consciously or not, that whatever positive emotion you’re experiencing is part of the cycle of abuse – you’re in the honeymoon phase now, but you know that soon, the sky will fall in. Every time you feel like you’re getting less small, someone cuts you back down to size. Eventually, you might stop hoping or laughing or feeling brave altogether.
So when I feel like I’m on top of the world with people I love, my brain tries to slam on the brakes. It isn’t my brain’s fault – it has been taught that the more elevated I feel, the worse the inevitable fall will injure me. My brain tells me, “You’ll grow out of this. Sooner or later, you’ll stop having nights out, stop drinking, stop dancing, stop loving these friends – sooner or later, you’ll lose this feeling forever.”
The thought is like a bucket of cold water in that it startles me, makes my chest muscles tighten, makes me feel like shit. I know I won’t be a dumbass student full of Jagerbombs forever – my brain is right about that. What if it’s also right about never feeling like this again?
Play parties – especially the chill, lowkey rope jams I often attend – aren’t much like nights out. The music is quiet. The lights are dim. I’m stone-cold sober.
I’m on a mat, lying on my back with one leg suspended above the rest of me. My Daddy is tightening ropes around my shin just to make me writhe and squeak. It fucking hurts. He closes his fist and starts punching the rope that will later bruise my skin. Harder and harder, up and down my entire lower leg. He squeezes my calf and I almost scream.
From my position on the floor, I make accidental eye contact with somebody else on the floor – another bottom, also being tormented, also writhing and squeaking. I’ve never spoken to them before, but they take one look at my agony-filled face and smile at me. I smile right back, knowing that they feel how I feel, knowing that we’ll both glow with pride and endorphins when we’re done.
When the ropes come off and I’m scooped into a hug, I feel so warm and in love with the world. My legs shake in time to the music. The other bottom, the one who smiled at me, is receiving aftercare, too.
I have nagged and nagged at my Daddy to go and play with someone he likes. I’m in lingerie and full makeup, but there’s an empty bathtub in the venue (for some reason) and I’ve found that it gives me exceptionally good autism to sit inside. I watch, fascinated, as other people play. I recognise one of the songs on the playlist and smile to myself.
Sooner or later, someone I know reasonably well comes and joins me in the bathtub. We sit side-by-side in our sexiest underwear and talk for at least an hour. I make her giggle a lot. We point things out to each other – interesting scenes that are unfolding and other people’s cute outfits, mostly. Another person comes and joins the conversation, kneeling in front of the bathtub. I let sentences about sex and kink and queerness fall straight out of my mouth, completely unfiltered.
Every now and then, I remember that one of the loves of my life is in the other room, having pulled with my help. I remember the fizz of affection I felt when I caught the eye of another bottom earlier. I remember that these are conversations I would never have anywhere else.
I might grow out of drinking and roaming the town, but the number of older kinksters surrounding me suggests quite firmly that I won’t grow out of this. Which is good, because right now, I feel like my friends and I rule the world. The dungeon is dimly lit and decorated just for us.