Things were always a little more crazy on party nights. It makes sense: kinksters were there to have some fun that they couldn’t find elsewhere. Some of them were there to find new things or new folks to have fun with, so most parties had a vibe where some experimentation was welcome.
The kink community is very good about encouraging communication between partners. But truly good communication often requires the partners to know each other pretty well. When you’re trying things out with someone new, the risk of misunderstanding rises accordingly.
Leif was as big and blond a dom as his name suggested. He was at the EARLY party with his partner, Molly, who was new to the community. They’d met at an EARLY munch and were quick to build a connection. I suspected Molly was feeling a bit of newbie frenzy and I hoped that she’d have a good experience with Leif, who had a reputation for cycling through partners.
Leif left Molly at the bar to grab a smoke outside with some friends, and she motioned me over.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“Do you have anything, I dunno, kind of fruity?”
“How about a Raspberry Roselle?”
“That sounds good,” Molly nodded. I filled a tulip glass off one of the taps and set it in front of her on a Fair State Brewing coaster. She took a sip and gave me a smile and a thumbs up.
I rang up the purchase and brought Molly her change. “How’s it going with Leif?”
She brightened up. “Great, thanks! I’m going to be his sub and we’re negotiating about that.”
“Glad to hear it – it’s a good idea to negotiate for what you want in the relationship.”
Might be wiser to do the negotiating before agreeing to be his sub, but she seems smart enough to know what she’s doing.
Molly nodded. “We’re even writing it down.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “I went to Tory and Kohm’s negotiating class – it was really helpful. Want to take a look?”
I hear a lot of stuff when I’m behind the bar, but I don’t often get a peek at the inner workings of a relationship, so I was curious. “Sure.” She handed the sheet over.
It looked like an agreement pulled from the back of a book on D/s relationships, with some items crossed out and others written in. It was the sixth paragraph that got me: “As sub, Molly will not criticize or talk back to Leif in public.”
I felt like I’d been punched. “Oh honey, no,” I said before I could stop myself.
“What?” Molly looked surprised.
“This part here: not criticizing or talking back to Leif. That isn’t a good idea.” She frowned at me, and I sighed. “I know from personal experience.”
“What’s wrong with that? He’s my dom, I should treat him with respect. I’m not some sort of brat.”
“Of course. But sometimes respect is giving him feedback about something that isn’t going right.”
Molly looked unconvinced. “What do you mean?”
I paused. Okay, Ret. How much do you tell her? And you need to let her make her own decisions.
“Well,” I began. “Say that you told Leif that you didn’t like something. Like maybe you didn’t like anyone hitting the bottom of your feet.”
Molly nodded. “I don’t like that much.”
“And say that at some party, Leif started doing something with the top of your feet that you’d never tried before, and you hated it. You need to be able to speak up and tell him.”
“Would Leif consider that criticizing?” Molly looked thoughtful.
“Maybe not, but you should find out. And you should always, always be allowed to give feedback to your dom, whether or not they like what you have to say.” I handed the paper back to Molly. She folded it back up and stuck it in her bag.
“Thanks. That’s good advice. I’ll talk to Leif and make sure I can tell him when I don’t like something.” She gave me a quick smile, took her beer, and rejoined Leif as he came back in the front door.
I didn’t think that Molly had noticed my hand shake when I handed the agreement back to her, but Mikhel did. “Who was it?” he asked in a low voice.
“Who wouldn’t let you speak up? Is it someone in the community?”
I took a deep breath and brought myself back to the present. “No. Not this community. Portland.”
Mikhel nodded. “Good. I’d like to know what happened. But maybe not now.”
“Not now,” I agreed. “We’re kind of busy.” And I went back to taking care of the folks at my end of the bar.
Later, though, as we were closing up, Mikhel gave me that look he has that somehow says “ok, spill it.” I looked back at him until he finally said, “You looked upset. I don’t like that. Can you tell me about it?”
“I’m okay, thanks. Just an old war wound.” He handed me a mug of tea that I hadn’t seen him prepare. “What’s this?”
“Japanese sincha.” He saw my blank look. “Green tea. I put just a touch of honey in it. Sit down for a bit and let me know if you like it.”
I sat at a table and tried the tea. It was warm and fresh and comforting. Mikhel sat down with his own mug and said simply, “So. What happened?”
I’d been involved in the kink community in Portland for about three years when I met Monica. She was younger than me by a good six years, and had been a domme for eight. Her take-charge personality was one of the things I loved about her: she was confident, sexy, fearless, and smart as hell. And incredibly good at leaving me breathless. Sometimes all it took was that razor-sharp smile of hers. Even though I’d never been a sub before, I wanted her to be my domme.
When we negotiated what our D/s relationship would look like, I made it very clear that one of my hard limits was humiliation. There are some who enjoy being told they’re worthless in moments of passion, but it totally turns me off. One of Monica’s rules for me as a sub was that I was not to talk back to her or criticize her at public kink events. In private, I could say whatever I wanted to. I thought that was a limit I could work with. And things worked out pretty well for a few months. Monica and I remained peers in the vanilla world, D/s in the bedroom and in the kink community.
And then we went to the Solstice Ball. It was a large party, and there were plenty of people I didn’t know. I had never agreed to a collar, but to emphasize our relationship, Monica had tied my wrists together and was leading me around by an attached chain. At some point in the evening, a guy named Big Brad (or BB for short) sidled up to Monica and asked if he could play with the two of us.
I’d met BB before, and although he wasn’t my type, Monica kind of had a thing for him. He was also a dom and had a reputation of being quite the guy in bed. He had two subs that had been with him awhile, and a revolving door for a third who seemed to change monthly.
Monica seemed amused by the request, and said yes without asking me about it. I flinched a little at that – we’d never discussed what would happen if a third wanted to join us. But I would probably have agreed if she asked, so I didn’t object.
Our planned scene was to tie me to the bondage wall and cane my breasts. Monica and I had done this before and she knew my limits. BB, on the other hand, was not as skilled with a cane as he thought he was. I spoke up eventually and said, “Not in the same spots all the time, please – move it around.”
“Don’t talk back.” BB’s voice was harsh.
“Don’t talk back.” This time it was Monica who said it. “You aren’t to mouth off when we’re doing a scene.” She had been watching BB work on me and should have noticed he was going to leave more bruises that I liked. She turned to BB. “You can continue. She isn’t supposed to talk back and be a bad girl.”
Wait, what? Since when was I some object that Monica could just hand over?
BB noticed my expression change and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. He borrowed a lipstick from a spectator and wrote “Dumb Brat” on my bare breasts and “Fuck Hole” on my stomach. Monica just smiled and let him do it.
Some women cry when they get angry – I usually do. But this made me go completely cold. Monica was letting this jerk ignore my limits and humiliate me. She wasn’t being my domme, she was being a bully.
As soon as BB finished with the lipstick I looked straight at Monica and said “Red.”
She looked surprised. “What? He didn’t hurt you.” I said nothing as she and BB released me from the cuffs. I grabbed my clothes and headed for the bathroom. Behind me I heard BB say to Monica, “Someone’s got something up their butt, huh?” And Monica laughed.
I washed myself up in the bathroom. It took awhile to get the lipstick off. I put my clothes back on, found my coat, and was almost to the door when Monica caught up with me.
“Hey Ret, what’s the problem?”
I told her that humiliation was a hard limit for me, and that she’d gone over it. She defended herself: she didn’t do anything to humiliate me, what BB did wasn’t humiliating, why was I being so pissy about it. I didn’t argue, I just put on my coat and left. Caught a bus a couple blocks away to get myself home.
Untangling took less time than you’d think – it was mostly just a question of boxing up all of the things she had left at my apartment, and the things I had left at hers. Monica let me know she still didn’t understand what the big deal was, which made it both harder and easier. A few months later I had the opportunity to move to the Twin Cities and took it.
I stopped talking and realized that Boss was at my feet. She jumped up into my lap and curled up. I was too tired to be astonished and started petting Her as She purred.
Mikhel took a sip of his tea before he asked, “What hurt the most?”
“Her laugh. And I felt stupid to have trusted her.”
“You weren’t stupid. You didn’t do anything wrong; she broke your trust. And no amount of negotiation up front can anticipate everything that might happen in a relationship.”
“I was pretty naïve about that. I should never have agreed to be quiet.”
“You didn’t agree to be quiet, just not criticize. Big difference. Your tea is getting cold.”
Oddly, it wasn’t. The tea was still warm as I took another sip. Boss’ purr had slowed to a steady rumble.
“And Molly’s agreement – I don’t want the same thing happen to her. For her to feel like she can’t speak up.”
“It won’t, at least not here. You’re keeping an eye out for that.”
“I guess.” I shrugged. “Not sure that makes much of a difference though.”
“Oh, it does,” Mikhel said with a serious look. “Between you and me and Boss, we can keep a pretty good eye on things here and make sure people respect their partners and can speak up when they need to.”
I had finished my tea. “You told me during my first shift that this was a place where we take care of people.”
Mikhel nodded. “It is.”
Boss purred her agreement.