Of Human Bondage Buddies (or, Acceptance is the Kink)

You know how sometimes you’ll make reservations for a Japanese rope bondage seminar, but then your date cancels, so you call a semi-stranger and are all, “Want to go to a BDSM workshop with a bunch of pervy straight people?” and he’s all, “I’m in,” and that becomes the defining moment of your acquaintance, and from that point forward you’re each other’s official Plus One for weird events that none of your other friends would ever want to attend?

All tied up and nowhere to go.
All tied up and nowhere to go.

I mean, we’ve all been there, am I right?

Anywhoozle, that’s how I know Cross.

It started with Douglas inviting me to breakfast to meet a friend of his (Cross, natch), who was looking to spend time around other Pagans. We got along well and exchanged numbers, and I figured I’d run into him again along the way somewhere, but I didn’t give the matter further thought. That is, until whoever was supposed to go with me to the bondage thing bailed, and with desperation being the mother of last-minute invitations, I took Cross with me.

We made it through the seminar without getting excommunicated from the Houston-area rope community [Ed. Note: There’s totally a Houston-area rope community], and now we’re each other’s go-to when one of us doesn’t want to wander somewhere off the map by himself (i.e. “Please don’t make me hit this clothing-optional art opening alone”). Last month, I accompanied him to a formal leather awards dinner, for which we had to help each other get dressed, cowhide not being the most pliant of textiles. It was when I had his calf in a strangle hold and was shoving his foot into a biker boot that I realized our friendship was based entirely on tying each other up and squeezing each other into fetish wear. And I was okay with that. And so was he.

”Just cinch it.”
Just cinch it.

So, back to bondage. We’ve started going to weekly rope classes, where we’re learning all sorts of handy ways to restrict the movements of kidnapping victims willing and consensual intimate partners. (Instructor: “So now, let’s talk about strappado techniques.” Cross: “Strappado? Isn’t that the name of–” Me: “No.”) Last night’s class focused on hip harnesses, which is a favorite subject of mine, because a) they are practical, and b) they make awesome fashion statements (see left). So we were shown the pattern we were supposed to create, and Cross was dutifully binding me to the gills, when the instructor said, “The line along the hip bone is usually diagonal, but if you want it to look more masculine, you can move it horizontally.”

“It kind of does that on its own,” said Cross, pointing to the rope around my waist.

“Yes, it does,” said the instructor’s partner, draped in hemp cords herself. Then, to me: “You’re curvalicious, but you are definitely male.”

Alrighty then. We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog post to discuss body issues, and what got me into ropes (so to speak) in the first place.

It’s commonly said in recovery circles that fear is the root cause of all of our problems. In my case, fear manifests as anxiety — more specifically a panic disorder, which is often set off by feelings of being trapped or restrained (the official name for this is cleithrophobia). I’ve been on medication for the past year, which has helped tremendously, as has actively avoiding triggers like elevators and airplanes. The catch here, of course, is that sometimes I have to take elevators, and eventually I’m going to have to get on an airplane again. And I would like to be able to do these fucking normal things without hysterics or Xanax addiction.

I get that bondage is supposed to be a sexytime thing, but for me, it was an experiment in letting go of the need to be in control, which is another big part of recovery, and something at which I am historically incompetent. So during that first seminar, Cross put me in a hogtie, and I couldn’t move or free myself, and all I could think about was the building catching on fire or the roof caving in, and how utterly, royally fucked I was. My entire body tensed up, and I could feel the pressure cooker of panic about to boil over, and then it occurred to me that I was with someone I trusted, in a safe environment, and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t run away, because nothing bad was going to happen to me. And I accepted that, and I finally understood what it meant to let go, and all the bodily tension released so quickly that Cross thought I’d passed out.

Since that moment, rope bondage has become more of a spiritual exercise than anything else, and I’ve already warned Cross that I’ll probably start prophesizing the next time we do a suspension. Although speaking of spirituality, here’s where that “curvalicious” comment comes into play.

Participating in rope bondage classes involves stripping down “to your comfort level,” which you’d think would mean I abandon all togs and let the family jewels fly free. After all, I’m Pagan, and an initiate of two different traditions of religious Witchcraft that practice non-negotiable ritual nudity — getting nekkid for a merry trip down the old Broad Highway should be as nothing to me.

But I’m also gay, which makes me a member of a culture that prides itself on unrealistic body image. I’m neither overweight nor underweight, neither a muscle god nor made of kindling, but I’ve been called both too fat and too skinny so many times that unless a given get-together features dancing under the Full Moon and jumping through balefires, the shirt stays decidedly on.

How would you like your sub today?
How would you like your sub today?

All that said, my “comfort level” is usually an undershirt and boxer briefs, but even then I’m fully aware of how scrawny my arms and legs are, and how poochy my love handles are. I tell myself over and over, “Nobody cares, dude; you’re all in this together.” But inevitably some random hot man will catch Cross’ attention, which reminds me that Cross himself is way better looking than I am (see right), which leads to thoughts along the lines of, “You know, he really is a saint for making physical contact with a horror movie special effect like me.” Which, yeah, not good for the anxiety, as it turns out.

When the instructor’s partner referred to me as “curvalicious,” I immediately wanted to flee, because she just called me ugly in front of a roomful of their students while I was in my underwear, right? What next? Did I forget my homework? Except what she meant was, “You’re body is built a particular way.” The End.

I’m so used to assuming people find me unattractive, that when someone looks at me objectively, or even compliments me on my appearance, I instinctively want to correct them. But in this situation, I turned to Cross and asked, “Did she just call me curvalicious?” And he was all, “Yep,” and I was all, “Cool.” And a few minutes later, when Cross was trying to get a hitch locked off and was all, “Argh, I’m used to doing this on someone whose waist I can put my hands around,” he did not mean, “Unlike a corpulent freak such as yourself, who is destined for the stockyards”; he meant, “The guy I’m dating is shorter than you.” Which is neither bad nor good, nor a compliment, nor a criticism. It just is what it is. And I am okay with that, too.

Truth be told, I figured I’d make it through maybe half of that initial workshop before having a panic attack and needing to be dragged, screaming, from the room. I did not expect to end up with a new hobby/surprisingly useful skill set, and I certainly didn’t expect to find an amazing new cohort and a shortcut on the path towards self-acceptance. But hey, if this is what comes from facing fear, I might just have to try it more often… so long as, y’know, those fears stay on the first floor and within driving distance.

One step at a time, as they say, and right now, the steps will remain on the ground. But I can accept that, you guys; I really, truly can.

With every last fiber of my curvalicious being.

4 thoughts on “Of Human Bondage Buddies (or, Acceptance is the Kink)

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