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In the House of Pain and Bondage

“Sticks and stones may break my bones
But chains and whips excite me
Na na na na Come on Come on Come on
I like it – Like it” – from the song S&M in Rihanna’s Album ‘Loud” (2010)

To the Sexpo at the CTICC for the first time in five years.1 It’s gone downwards badly since then. The classy chic and variety of the first exhibition has gone. In its stead there are stalls and more stalls. At the cheap end are stalls selling mass-produced Chinese sex-ware, pumps, tool enhancers and products promising varying degrees of veridical experience. “100% latex but feels just like the real thing!” At the higher end are stalls selling expensive gadgets, fetishist footwear and a dream or two like a pair of long angel wings with real feathers with which you can fly into coitus. The Durex stand, a trusted brand, comfortingly straddles this gulf with a sensible pragmatism. At Sexpo, the Durex sign imparts the same reassuring commercialism that the Mercedes Benz, Philips or Barclays Bank signs would in the high street.

Among all this there are stalls selling anodyne skin and hair products that would be proper in a shopping mall. There are stalls housing sex hypnotists, safe sex and anti-child sex campaigners. The Man-Up stall gets you up naturally, it claims, Dr. Anthony Rees is the Medical Director. It’s opposite a stall where you can be photographed with the stars of Sexpo. DVD stalls abound but business is drooping there, there’s the Internet don’t they know. A geezer from England auctions cheap perfume in glossy carry bags not far from the main stage. There, an MC dressed so down in jeans and T-shirt he could have come straight from a braai in Bellville repeatedly urges everyone to “make a noise, make a noise” for a group of amateurs nervously trying to strip for the crowd. P-l-ease. You need a certain je ne sais quoi to elevate something as fundamental, as private and as sweaty as sex to public sensuality. Get it wrong and all flops into lurid ennui; the stalls become cubicles and the supposedly titillating, instead of exciting, blunts. But that’s a problem for the Sexpo organisers.

Now, apart from the R200 general entry fee, there are so-called VIP stalls requiring additional tickets where dancers, specialist strippers, sex stars etc. ply their trade. Seeking to arrest our descent into boredom, my Sexpo partner and I decide to give one of the VIP stalls a try, but not just any one. A leather stall specialising in bondage and whips and studs and metal spikes and crotch ropes and ring gags and muzzles, that sort of thing, with a paying theatre, seemed to suit. We paid R40 each, signed an indemnity form affirming that we understood that all activity behind the dark curtain we were about to cross was consensual and that people there were actually, despite appearance, in a state of pleasure, even grace. One isn’t exactly ignorant of this sort of thing, having seen aspects of it in short documentaries etc. We entered a large kiosk with rows of benches for the audience, before which was a curious assemblage of apparatus.2 My eyes fell on an extraordinarily large woman wearing long black slacks but with her enormous torso exposed. She was an exhibit of sorts. She had huge needles piercing her massive breasts and outsize stitches and sutures around the needles to keep them in place. Each nipple had also been freshly pierced. It looked morbid and excruciatingly painful. I winced. Not a good start.

Instead of curiosity arising something gave way within me. I looked at the stage. A woman was bound upright to a cage, back facing us. She was wearing a slave collar and bondage cuffs. Her ankles were set in a spreader bar and her buttocks protruded from leather thongs (see pic).

There were traces of weals on one of her buttocks, which I need not remind you are ridges raised on flesh by the stroke of rod or whip. I shuddered. Next to her a young girl in a bikini was being bound into a rigid contortion by a thick rope. Knots, knots all over. She grinned and grimaced. Next to her stood another apparatus, the machinations of which my mind didn’t have the deviance to fathom. The stage started morphing into a fescennine blur. Then the thing that threw me occurred: Two men who had been standing around idly with whips for a while – BDSM masters, presumably the distributors of pain – suddenly started cracking them with fury.3 What? Do they flog like this? Images of galley slaves flashed in my mind, as did the cruel eyes of salivating school masters before they caned you.4 Whips crack, gentle friends, when a loop travelling along the whip breaks the sound barrier. A whip crack is a mini sonic boom. The tips of whips can travel at twice the speed of sound.5 Red-red danger here.

That did it. Unease welled up inside me. I fidgeted about on my bench and dared a peep at the flogging but mercifully the lashes applied to the subjects were gentle strokes, not sonic booms. Each stroke was followed by gentle palliative rubs of the flesh by the whip master… but who knows how far these things can go? Cracking done, one of the BDSM masters came over to offer me his whip to administer pain. On the woman strapped to the cage. He would help me through it, he said. Me, the meekest of creatures, inflict pain on another? Was he utterly deranged? I changed colour. “No thank you. And frankly, I’m not feeling that well.” “Not well, really? Look, everything’s all right. Would you like some water? I’ll get my assistant to bring you some.” “Err, no, no thanks, err… yes please, please…” I was cloying up but inclinations differ: my Sexpo partner, au contraire, was completely fine, in raptures even, to the extent of later investigating the services of the BDSM professionals there.6

Ashen and unwell, I looked up again. A woman entered the playspace as it’s called, dropped her slacks to her knees, pointedly bent over a trestle and proffered her g-strung behind for some cuts with a cane, just like I used to get at school. She was given softer strokes than we when punished at school, much softer. They were delivered with the leer of lasciviousness rather that the leer of cruelty but they were cuts all the same. The major difference was that her buttocks were kneaded and fondled by the BDSM master after each cut, whereas the schoolmasters mercy-be-to-the-Lord-in-the-highest-and-praise-be-upon-Him thankfully didn’t fondle our buttocks when they hit us, at least not in my experience, although it must be said one occasionally heard things…

Another stoke fell on her buttocks, this time harder. My spirits slumped again and I dropped my gaze. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the BDSM master’s assistant’s pitying touch. They did not have water, sorry, but here was a glass of fruit juice, apricot. Instead of limpid reviving water, they were giving me sickly syrupy apricot juice! Nothing could have smelt more revolting right then. “Please take it away, take it away now!”

My insides churned. I was having what is known as a squick or a freakout in BDSM jargon. Things blurred around me. The needle-infused breasts wobbled past my field of vision. More pierced flesh, chunks of it. Another thud from the rod assailed my ears. I looked up. One of the BDSM masters was now in turn proffering his back to be flogged. How versatile. He was both, a gem the dear was; he is what’s called a switch in the industry. I just had to flee, and fled to an area of the Sexpo more attuned to my, shall we call it, ‘normal’ sexual proclivities. Call me square, but give me what BDSM’ers derisively term vanilla sex any time of day. May it rain from heaven, loads of it, in torrents, in streams, may it flood, it’s good enough for me, please, thank you. The eponymous pleasures of Sadism and Masochism are not.7 There are chinks in my armour, clearly. Just when I think I’m a man of the world who can take anything I realise I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t.

But then again, I, too, have kinks in my cable from which these sexual deviants would run.8 They would run hard, cold, and scared. Only I don’t have a kiosk in which to charge them first.

Notes:
1. Sexpo is a health, sexuality and lifestyle expo held at the CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre) every year or so.

2. Apparatus – the plural is given by the Chambers Dictionary of the 20th Century as either apparatus or apparatuses.

3. Definition – BDSM: – “The term BDSM is believed to have been coined as a compound initialism in the 1990s to combine communities and practices that had a significant amount of crossover – Bondage and Discipline (B&D), Dominance and Submission (D&S) and sadomasochism or Sadism and Masochism (S&M)” – Wikipedia.

4. Yes, I was caned at school, many times. Corporeal punishment was a feature of school life in my day – spare the rod and spoil the child and all that. ‘Six-of-the-best’ was universally understood. One burly teacher even had degrees of punishment and differentiated between ‘half-swings’ and ‘full swings’ of the cane. You didn’t want him to flatten you with a full swing.
Being caned was painful and bad enough when one deserved it. But it was often made worse by the unfairness of it. I remember being caned unfairly on a few occasions, including a few mass canings from two teachers in junior high to punish the whole class for the misdemeanor of a few. One even flayed each student in class with his high heeled shoe when we hid his cane behind the blackboard. It was unpleasant and debilitating. It’s a detestable practice that’s just not on, and I’m glad it’s banned in South Africa today.

5. See Scientific American May 28 2002, “True cause of Whip’s Crack Uncovered”. Or type the following into Google: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=true-cause-of-whips-crack.

6. BDSM professionals in Cape Town charge around R250 (25USD) by the hour for the basics without extras, or so I hear, with price increasing with specialist services rendered. Sex rarely occurs I’m told. If you’re interested, a short Internet search will lead you to a BDSM professional in your area.

7. Sadism and Masochism are eponyms deriving from Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade (1740 – 1814) and Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (1836 — 1895) respectively.

8. Like my interpretations of JS Bach’s two-part inventions, to go no further.

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http://www.theinconsequentialdiary.com

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