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The List, Revisited in Hindsight

In writing my review of The List I observed “It would be wonderful to be able to talk with Nurse Jones again now with 8 years of hindsight to see what she drew of most value from the experience.”

Well, except that it is now nearly 14 years of hindsight; here it is:


Nurse Jones responds

I took a chance with J, and another with Neets, and my greater willingness to take chances is probably a symptom of how I have changed. I've always approached life with trepidation. Afraid of change, afraid of being different, afraid of being hurt, always afraid. But I took a chance and trusted J. I suppose all choices change our paths and teach us different things than we might otherwise have learned, but the choice to trust J taught me that great reward is often unattainable without risk. Maybe all the important things are like that.

Deep trust means risking deep betrayal. There is no way around that.

Deep love means risking deep loss. No way around that either.

But how can we not take those risks? When I am down to my last 10 breaths, do I want to be thinking about what my life might have been if I hadn't been afraid to live it? Do I want my last words to be, "Well, at least I'm safe?"

As dying words, those would have to qualify as the ultimate in dramatic irony.

On the other hand, I could say, "I've grown. I've gained insight. I am like a flower that might never have bloomed if not for the List." That would be the short answer, and anyone would be entitled to think, "If being tied to the bedposts made her into a bigger person, then she must have been pretty small to start with. Any insight that depends on a pair of handcuffs can't be very profound."

Fair enough. We have to start somewhere. There are a lot of arguments against B/D, and that's the most effective: trivialize it. I've tried that. I've tried them all, because my first instinct was to resist B/D as a path to any place I wanted to go. I argued that I'm afraid of being different. I'm 'Just not like that,' I'm not one of 'those people.' It's immoral, it's abnormal, it's belittling, it's degrading, it's antifeminist, and that most damning of arguments, 'It just doesn't do anything for me.'

J could have argued (correctly but unwisely), 'How do you know if you haven't tried?' But he didn't let me polarize the situation. And now I see what J was too thoughtful to point out: without understanding why, I had taken an instinctive position, and only afterward did I set about defending it by marshalling arguments. Which means they weren't really reasoned arguments, but justifications. And yes, all those points can be argued, but to really understand I had to make an honest attempt to see both sides. And if J had argued this with me, I might well have felt like he was stamping my feelings with a big red "INVALID". But he didn't.

All of which means the short answer to your question will sound fatuous and trivial without the long explanation.

The reason bondage isn't trivial is that trust isn't trivial. No matter where it comes from — even a trivial-sounding source like handcuffs and bedposts, trust isn't trivial.

I would go so far as to say trust IS the relationship. Certainly without it, you don't have one, and if it doesn't deepen, a relationship can't strengthen or grow.

Yes, there are issues other than trust, but trust is so central that it's more important to elaborate a little on the different kinds of trust.

I first had to trust that J was being candid when he told me the reasons he was interested in B/D, and the reasons he thought it would be good for our relationship. I was a little afraid at first. There was that lingering hint of fear that he might turn out to be a completely different person once I was helpless — but he valued and cared for me so much that I could see that wasn't the case. So how could I not, at least, show him I had at least that much trust in him?

And then, as the List developed, we did things that embarrassed me and I grew to recognize the reasons for my resistance: I didn't want to be seen as ridiculous, or as kinky and perverted. I was concerned about the world's (and his) perception of me. Completely depilating my, um, bikini area, for example. Seems silly and ridiculous, right? Well, that's my point exactly. I learned that he definitely did not see me as ridiculous. He saw me as extremely sexy. The reasons? First, I was giving him what he asked, and if what he asked made me ridiculous, then his desires were ridiculous, so naturally he wouldn't even think of laughing at me. But I went into that episode afraid — afraid the same way a teenager is afraid of ridicule from classmates — but I came out knowing I could trust him in that way. I was safe. Incidentally, recognizing that my primary concern was my own embarrassment taught me that B/D was definitely not a moral issue with me. This was a minor insight, but it might not be such for others.

And why did being bare that way suddenly make me so much sexier to him? This is where it gets interesting. This is the important lesson, even though it is an insight that came later at (of all places) an art show hosted by the local university. There was a nude of a Victorian woman, modestly posed, but still she didn't have any pubic hair, and I asked him if he thought she, too, was sexy that way, and he said the look was aesthetically appealing, and maybe a little sexy in a Victorian way but it wasn't something that made her a hottie. Not like me.

Hmm, I thought. And yet when I did this for him, he reacted very strongly. Why the difference? I asked, and he looked at me that way he has that makes me go all gooey inside, and explained, as if this were a lesson I should have learned a long time ago, that trust is sexy. When I depilated myself for him, he could see that I was embarrassed and that I had forced myself to go through with it for him because I trusted him. The difference was that I was giving my embarrassment to him as a gift — in the form of trust. He didn't know the model in that painting and never would, and although the look is visually sexy, that is irrelevant by comparison with the trust he saw in my eyes on the night that I did this for him. And now, every time he sees me, he is reminded of that night. Then he asked me if I had absorbed any of the reading he had given me on human sociobiology. Gotcha. I had skimmed. I'm a skimmer. I admit it.

Of course I got a lecture. This time on Trust.

As you know, the scientific (and pop) literature he had given me was on the effect of Darwinian natural selection on human psychology — especially the way it has caused differences between men and women. Much of what I read (books like Robert Wright's 'The Moral Animal' and E.O. Wilson's 'On Human Nature') had no effect on me at the beginning, but over the years he has kept at me and I have learned a new mode of thought: it is now ingrained in me that differing evolutionary pressures have made males and females (of most species, not just ours) different. Behaviourally different. J calls it hard wiring, and says we are just as different behaviorally as we are physically. It became second nature for me to watch people and interpret their behavior in that Darwinian context — not instead of, but in addition to the usual moral and emotional contexts we all use without thinking.

Maybe, having made a study of it, I have some modest qualification to better understand what The List did to me, and the big issue is Trust. It's the recurrent theme in J's sociobiology books, and is made explicit in the pop psych literature (John Gray, 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' is probably the best known, although badly written and somewhat repetitive).

Gray's book is touted as a practical guide to understanding how fundamental male/female thought processes differ — differences that arise for Darwinian reasons and are so very real that no-one who wants a real relationship can afford to ignore them. And yet most people do — even those who know about them, because they are already confident in their understanding, or because they prefer to think their behavior has a foundation in moral choice rather than in Darwinian fitness advantage. The place of morality in our lives can be resolved to the satisfaction of all but the most closed-minded hyperbaptists, but I'm not going to bother. Suffice it to say: one can't understand human sociobiology without giving it an honest hearing in the privacy of one's own mind. Read the literature. I know you've read Robert Wright. Gray's book is disappointingly preachy because he never justifies himself by discussing the underlying Darwinian causes of M/F differences; he just identifies the differences and gives advice on dealing with them. Here are the first 5 lines of the chapter that discusses the central issue:

The Primary Love Needs of Women and Men

Women need to receive:
1. Caring
2. Understanding
3. Respect

etc.

Men need to receive:
1. Trust
2. Acceptance
3. Appreciation

Gray goes on to list more so-called 'Love Needs' and their corresponding equivalent in the opposite sex, but note: Trust is number one for men. And we don't get it. We women, I mean. Most of us think we do, but we don't. I didn't get it. I thought I did, I was so stupidly confident, I thought it safe to skim the reading, which left me mistakenly assuming J's male mind worked the same way mine does. If you were a woman, I'd ask you to reflect on those two items: caring vs trust. What could be more important than caring? How can trust matter if you don't first care? So caring is more important. Right? So if he puts caring second, there's something in him that needs to be fixed. Right? You (my rhetorical woman) are thinking that's something you can handle. Teach him that caring should come first. He'll see the light. Search your heart. That's what you are thinking: Trust doesn't matter if you don't even care for someone. Right?

Wrong. Not in his mind. Without your trust, he's thinking, 'If I don't have her trust, I am nothing in her eyes. Therefore she can't possibly care for me as much as I thought she did.' Men want, more than anything, to be our Knight in Shining Armor; their sense of self-worth depends on it. Your relationship depends on it. If he becomes convinced you don't trust him, that's the end. I know it's not fair. You care for him. You want him to get it right, and you want to help him to see the light because you care for him, right? Because you care, you want to help him see that he's wrong. But try and fix him, and what does he hear you say? 'She's telling me there's something wrong with me. Maybe that's why she doesn't trust me.'

Let's put it in practical terms: he is fixing a leaky faucet and water is spraying on the ceiling and the kitchen is ankle deep. DON'T! Not even if you are a licensed plumber! Don't tell him what he might be doing wrong, and if you aren't a licensed plumber, don't suggest getting one. You may think what's coming out of your mouth is 'I'm just trying to help.' but what he is hearing is this: 'You are inadequate. I don't trust you to fix this. You are a failure.'

You're not 'Just trying to help.' You're about to damage your relationship.

'Well, that's just silly,' you say. 'He has to see it's wrong to feel that way; he shouldn't mind a little help when he needs it, especially from someone who cares for him. That's just irrational. I'll just tell him and he'll understand.'

Going to fix him, are you? Like I said, you just don't get it. Where do you think that old joke about men never stopping to ask for directions comes from? You think it's trivial because it's a mere joke? That it's just one of those little idiosyncrasies about your man that needs fixing? Or are you really that confident that you're not seeing the tip of a Darwinian iceberg that you are completely incapable of changing? Okay, then. Go ahead. Open your mouth. Tell him. But you know — you already KNOW — what will happen

And that's just asking for directions. We haven't even gotten to deep trust. Trusting him with your life. Trusting him with your future. Trusting him to care for you for ever and ever. Which is the kind of trust he really wants, because if he has that kind of trust, he's really proved himself. And if you are telling him you don't trust him to fix a sink or get you from A to B, which is trivial, how is he ever going to believe you would trust him when it really matters? So now you think he's sitting there, driving the car in stubborn silence. Right? Wrong again. He's thinking: 'Our relationship isn't as deep or as strong as I thought. She doesn't even trust me to find the way. If that's all we have built after all these years, then I've been wasting my time with her. Wasting my time caring for her.'

If you still think that's silly and illogical, you're missing the big picture. Sure, directions are a small thing. So are handcuffs and bedposts. But trust is funny that way: deep trust is built on a foundation of small trusts, and denying a single small trust calls into question the big ones. Show him you don't trust him over the small things, and the whole edifice can be toppled because he won't believe that you trust him over the big things. And you are left sitting in the rubble, bewildered, thinking, 'I was just trying to help.' Or "This is so unfair ... how can he make it into such a big thing?"

About now you might be thinking that the male ego is a fragile thing. Call it ego if you want to belittle it. Try calling it his sense of self worth if you want to care how he feels. Whatever it is, men will go to great lengths to preserve it, including making unbelievably heroic sacrifices for us. But only if they believe we trust them. They won't invest in someone who withholds her trust.

'But why do I have to show him I trust him in that way? Why bondage?' My answer: you don't. It's trivial. So what if he asked for that kind of trust? It's just one small brick in the foundation. Leave it out. Your ultimate relationship won't be compromised.

Much.

Probably.

Depending on how he interprets your lack of trust.

It's not "merely handcuffs." It's "merely Trust," and there's nothing "mere" about it.

'But if he really cared for my feelings, he wouldn't ask for kinky sex,' you say. Whoops. Let's rephrase that in malespeak: 'If he really cared, he wouldn't want your trust in that way,' because maybe he's not just asking for kinky sex. Maybe he's asking for trust. Remember: trust is the yardstick by which he measures your relationship. Yes, caring is your yardstick, but do you really want to tell him your yardstick is valid, and his isn't? The real test is this: is he is willing to show you in some way that he trusts you equally? If he wants your bondage games to be one-sided, you have a problem. If he wants the reassurance of your trust, but doesn't care if you have the reciprocal reassurance of his, that's bad.

'Oh great,' you say. 'You're saying I have to give him everything he asks for or he'll think I don't trust him.'

No. I'm saying that trust is his measure of the relationship, caring is yours. We are fundamentally different that way, and neither is better, neither is right. Ask him to trust you in equal measure and you will know if he cares. Ask for Column Two and you'll learn what Column One means to him. You won't even need to do Column Two. I didn't.

"Okay," you say. "What I really meant is this: "How could he make something as trivial as kinky sex become an issue that hurts our relationship? That must mean he doesn't care as much about me as he does about the sex." There you go again. Kinky sex isn't the opposite of caring for you. Maybe straight sex is the opposite of kinky; I don't know. Let's turn that perception on its head and look through male eyes: "I asked for kinky sex and she is refusing because she doesn't trust me enough. If she did, she would at least be willing to try. Our relationship isn't strong enough to be tested in this way. We aren't as close as I thought we were. We haven't built what I thought we had. Should I continue to invest if she won't allow us to become closer and more trusting?"

But if you really really don't want to play bondage games, here's your best shot. Manipulate him. Make him think he's saving you from 'That Kind Of Thing.' Appeal to your Knight in Shining Armor, be grateful that he is there, protecting you from all that bad bondage stuff. That's the proper Darwinian button to push. If there's something you want done, make it the dragon and let him slay it. It might feel like sleazy manipulation (I feel sleazy even writing it down), and you might not feel good about it, and if he is sharp enough to see through it, he won't feel good about it either.

Okay, Peter. Now I'm no longer speaking rhetorically to womankind. That's what I learned from The List. That there is nothing trivial about trust, no matter how trivial it can seem. The tiniest, most trivial failure of trust is a major problem from the male perspective. No matter where it comes from, no matter what form it takes, no matter how tiny the issue seems, trust is not trivial, and you can't play the game of setting it up in opposition to caring because that's saying my apples are important, your oranges aren't. In fact, we're not talking about opposites here. We're talking about corresponding emotions in the opposite sex. Caring and Trust are two different but equally valid priorities. That's why it's unproductive and unfair to say, "If you really cared, you wouldn't . . ." And it's equally unproductive and unfair to say, "If you really trusted me, you would . . ."

The only way out of that dilemma is to recognize it. Men have to find a way to show they care; women have to find a way to give their trust. And if we want the ultimate relationship we must each learn to give both to the ultimate degree. J and I found our way through this. Along the way, I discovered that I like sex, but not the responsibility for it. Now, that's just me; my personal history. Bondage games take away the responsibility, and as a consequence, they work for me. When The List was over, J expected to go on with Column Two, and we tried, but it didn't work for me because it gave me responsibility I didn't want. J offered to stop the bondage games altogether — maybe to show he cared enough to give them up, but I didn't want that either. Yes, I like giving him my trust in new ways, but I also find it much easier to enjoy sex when I am not responsible. You might say I have fallen into a trap in the sense that I don't really enjoy it unless I am restrained in some way. That is a personal responsibility issue — separate from the trust I give him.

At first I thought that J simply liked the power and control. I can't believe how incredibly superficial that was of me. Men do like power and control (I think we all do), but he impressed on me what he really gets out of it: looking into my eyes and seeing trust there. Trust despite embarrassment, trust despite fear, trust despite helplessness, trust despite everything. In the opening pages of the List he asked me to give him my embarrassment as a gift, but what he wanted was my trust. But he would not make it a condition of our relationship because trust can't be demanded. It has to be given without even being asked.

And like all young romantics, I wanted — even expected — to find the ultimate love. The ultimate in a caring, trusting relationship. What reality television would now call the Extreme Relationship. Now, having been 39 for several years, I am mature enough to know that many people see that young hope as a symptom of immaturity. I think they are the ones that never found that trust. I am thankful that I found that kind of relationship before I became too cynical to believe it could exist.

.oOo.

There endeth the first lesson. It's about Trust. Everything else I learned was small by comparison, and derived from understanding about trust. Every Item in The List probably seemed to most male internet readers like just another sexy scene intended to arouse. And in a superficial sense, since I began writing the journal for J, it was. To those who haven't walked in my shoes, many of those scenes may have gone over the top, may appear to be unnecessarily redundant demonstrations of trust, or seem to go so far beyond understanding as to cross the line into perversion. That may be. At some point, we may have come loose from our moorings; certainly it all became so deeply personal as to defy explanation. But those scenes continued to systematically expand the depth and breadth of trust they required. We left embarrassment behind; I trusted him with my mind when I finally learned that the hypnosis was working. We went from there to scenes that became intentionally humiliating — something neither of us expected. Some of these I left out of The List because I thought they reflected poorly on us, and at the time I hadn't yet consciously understood the centrality of trust as a motive. Even my sexual orientation has expanded because I gave him my trust. My fear of 'what people might think' is still with me in diminished form and is, I think, mostly based in rational practicality now rather than Midwestern neurosis. A few other thoughts about what I learned, appended as loose ends below: (Feel free to edit if you want to post.)

Fear of being different

I had it; we all do. I still do in a public sense, but I've gotten better — largely as a result of taking the small steps of being different with J and Neets, and learning to trust that they would still love me and not see me as a pervert no matter what deep secrets they learned about my psyche.

You might be thinking, "J was leading you into bondage games. How could he see you as a pervert if you were doing what he asked? That's illogical."

Well, duh. But I didn't think logically about it. My reactions were emotional, and I had to learn that they were misguided. Chapter one. The first time J saw me without any pubic hair was traumatic. I wasn't sure I could trust his reaction; I was even afraid he might laugh; I thought I looked like a plucked chicken. Same with letting Neets see me like that when she started painting my portrait. And eventually . . . well, I used a chemical depilatory for so long (my fault, not his) it eventually did something weird to my follicles, and it never really grew back properly. A few tufts here and there, but I looked like I had mange. After much angst I got electrolysis and I'm totally bare — and not only does he love me more with this permanent reminder of my trust, but I have managed to survive going to a local "natural beach" (I think they used to call them nudist colonies) — something I could never have done before. I guess it helped that Neets joined me. In both senses.

I know pubic hair sounds like a terribly superficial issue, but it was the first tiny step that eventually led me to learn to trust myself enough that I'm far less afraid of being different.

Manipulation: can it be a good thing?

There were times when I thought the whole male/female thing was never going to work out. I kept having an insight that, at the time, seemed profound: we are two completely different sexes. Maybe that was J's sociobology literature worming its way into my understanding. But J is so explicitly and deeply aware of the psychological differences between men and women — one might say he approaches it from a scientific point of view — that I eventually became convinced — at first intellectually, but later emotionally — that many the differences between us really are hard wired, deriving largely from Darwinian evolution. Getting that understanding deeply ingrained in me was a significant change that came from The List. You might expect that the gestalt shift of suddenly seeing those M/F differences as hard-wired would also make me see them as irreconcilable but, paradoxically, this change of perception has had the opposite effect.

I can't change the way men think, not if it's hard-wired, so I have learned to use the knowledge. Result? I'm not embarrassed to push male buttons, and this isn't cynical manipulation; it's just dealing with the reality of hard-wired male psychology. In some aspects, men are the most perfect creatures alive. In others, a workaround (not a fix) is needed. When that time comes, I have to think of them as ... well, vending machines. Learn to push the right button, and you get a result; you don't have to know how the mechanism works. Sometimes all you have to do is bend over. Or take a deep breath and throw your shoulders back.

So, no pubic hair? I don't know why that button works. I know about trust, and I can speculate about the rest, but I'll never know for sure. Yes, it's superficial, but if it's hard wired, how is it fundamentally different from a deep issue like trust, which I also think is hard-wired? If he can't help reacting the way he does, that's important to know, because if I'm going to spend the rest of my life with him, I'm going to have to learn to deal with it.

So now I'm dangerous. Or I could be. I'd make a great sociopath, except that I don't manipulate in order to compensate for a lack of emotional contact — I want J and Neets to know they are being manipulated. I want them to welcome it. I use it to bring us closer. If the gift of trust is one coin that I can put in the vending machine, what does it matter, so long as it is real trust? What does it matter that I know I am manipulating, so long as they know too? And I have a big bag o' tricks. They make me, quite frankly, the succubus that J always wanted. I have consciously set out to adopt and use the same arsenal of techniques that makes a sociopath so dangerous. Don't worry, Peter. I promise to use my power for good instead of evil. Although I do, on occasion, get J to buy me shoes. I adore shoes.

Does that seem terribly cynical, Peter? I show J that I trust him. It doesn't matter how small the matter is. Pubic hair, whatever. The particular issue is irrelevant. That point is more important than it seems: giving him my trust IN ANY FORM is what gets inside his head and throws those Darwinian switches. It doesn't matter whether I'm trusting him with my pubic hair or my life. The same switches get thrown. The result clicks into place in his head: she trusts me. That could be scary, but it's not — paradoxically, because we trust each other to be inside each others' heads.

But it's not the same for me as it is for him. If I can show him that I trust him to tie me to the bedposts and ravish me, he values that — more than I, as a woman, would if he offered me the same gift. It's a male/female difference that I had to learn to accept without necessarily understanding it. If I show him that I trust him to value it when I make a commitment like getting myself permanently depilated, again: it may satisfy something in him I can't understand, something I wouldn't even want if the situation were reversed, but it nonetheless is a reality. Column Two was born out of a misguided faith in the idea that there should be parity between the sexes. But there isn't. I had to learn that there will be some things about the male psyche that may seem not to make sense to me, that may not even have a correspondent in the female psyche, but it doesn't follow that they should be dismissed as nonsensical, because men see the same kinds of things in us — things we take seriously that they are prone to dismiss. This is because we look at men through the glass of the female mind, and interpret what they do in female terms. Men see us the same way, and neither is wrong, neither is right. The most I can say is that each perception is a distorted version of the other, and there is no "in between" that is "true."

.oOo.

J says that scientists and nonscientists alike put too much instinctive faith in the principle of parity. It is such a fundamental assumption that it misleads us despite the fact that there is no reason that the M/F relationship can't be asymmetrical in many ways. In fact, there are sound evolutionary reasons for males of most species to be more promiscuous than the females. (Reread Robert Wright's 'The Moral Animal' if you need to be convinced.) And yet we have such faith in the idea of parity that we can feel comfortable demanding that a promiscuous woman be treated like a promiscuous man. But the reality is, she won't be. She's a slut, and he's a "player". She sleeps around, he's experienced. Evolution is under no obligation to be fair. It doesn't care about parity when it finds ways to increase fitness. Learning this practical reality gives me insight I never had before. It's pointless to rail against its unfairness. To do otherwise is to apply legalistic or moralistic principles to an evolutionary situation in which parity doesn't apply.

I'm not excusing male behavior here. I'm saying that we can either live with them, or live without them, and if we're going to live with them, we're better off understanding them. If there is unfairness and asymmetry in the relationship, understand it. Use it. The same is true of women. We're often accused of marrying for money. Again, Wright gives sound evolutionary reasons for that to be the case — reasons that go beyond our own species. Reasons common to other vertebrates (although in other species it should be called "choosing a mate for his resource advantages").

The message to men? Understand it. Deal with it. We might hope that nature would provide some rough kind of matching advantage to women that balances a corresponding advantage in men, but even there, parity eludes us. J told me about a fish in which the male of the species is reduced by natural selection to a tiny, blind, parasitic appendage to the female's genitalia. There's a hint about what nature thinks of parity.

(Peter asked a question about discontinuities and the appearance of items omitted from The List)

Yes, Peter. I did omit some from the internet posts to ASB. Some I tried to smooth over, others I left as discontinuities. I have since decided to put them back in. As I think back, there were two kinds of "unsuccessful adventures". The first began to happen late in the List; many of these disappointments were on occasions when (paradoxically enough) I wasn't restrained. At some point I began to feel that normal sex (what I had previously seen as normal) felt increasingly pedestrian by comparison with what we do now. I am better able to let myself go and be more unrestrained emotionally when I am restrained physically — when I am no longer responsible, namely when J or Neets has taken that responsibility. This is my own idiosyncrasy, not something that I expect will be relevant to the average reader. I'm sure that some could read this paragraph and conclude that my pre-bondage sex life couldn't have been up to much; that may be true, but I did have orgasms before — just not as intense as now. And before, they never got so intense that I NEEDED to be restrained; certainly not so intense that I passed out (which I have done).

At first I worried that (as Anais Nin once wrote) my taste for the abnormal would kill my taste for the normal, but my old responses to "normal" sex are still there; it's just that they are relatively uninteresting by comparison. Maybe what I have learned means I can't go back, but neither do I want to. I've done both, and made a choice.

So yes, I admit it: I omitted my disappointing returns to 'normal' sex -- not just because they seemed boring, but because I was, at the time, in denial about my inability to go back. I thought that when the List ended, my enjoyment of 'normal' sex would return. But today I still find it boring.

There is another kind of "adventure" I omitted from The List: at the end there were moments when I thought we may have tipped over the edge into true perversion. One example I left in the posts was when he shaved my head. Despite the fact that it turned out well in the end, at the time I thought he (and I) had gone too far. When I agreed to The List, my mood was careless — almost reckless. I didn't really think he would do it, even though it was on the List. That scene almost put me off the deep end. I think I may have, by that time, lost my moorings in rationality. I had to leave him to get my head together, and I stayed away for some months. During that time, I met other men who were attracted to me (despite the buzz cut), but when I even considered other men, all I could see was that I would never achieve with them the closeness or intensity that I had with J. I never even dated them, and in the end I had to come back.

There were other similar scenes that didn't make it into postings, scenes that at the time seemed to reflect perversion too deep to admit, although in retrospect they may seem terribly mundane to the average reader. Some of the positions I was tied up in, and some of the things we did in public seemed particularly humiliating at the time, and I was afraid it would appear I (we) had slipped from embarrassment and humiliation into degradation. You remember Girl, Peter, from one of Harry's parties. I thought that her overly-pierced, seemingly degraded condition reflected more poorly upon her Top than upon her. When I try to imagine myself in her position, I can't help thinking that I would never stay with a man who treated me that way. But then I remember that she has a 9-5 job and almost all the facial piercings come out for the work day. She is making a choice, and may even be the dominant one in her situation, much the way Neets was, in fact, the strong one in her relationship with Tom even though she was the one being whipped. So now you see I am making excuses for Girl and her Top. Excuses? Or was I too quick to judge because she had gone farther and in a different direction than I? How many others would judge me just as harshly for The List, simply because it was beyond their experience — just as Girl's experience is beyond mine?

One troublesome experience that most readers would undoubtedly find harmless was when I wore a stereotypical French maid's uniform and served a dinner to J, Neets, and Tom in our home. You know the kind of thing. Apron, little white cap, push-up bra, skirt so short you could see my butt. The kind of outfit you could rent for a costume party in Topeka, Kansas. Or Tasmania, probably. We had done many scenes before, and with far less coverage than that costume gave me. What was humiliating about this one was not the décolletage or the extreme brevity of the skirt, but the stereotypicality of it. Terribly mundane; you might even call it a harmless bit of fun if it had actually been a costume party, but this was in private, in front of friends, and it made me into one of "those people." Somehow, our previous scenes had all been imaginative in ways that made them unique and special, and in each I was allowed to preserve my dignity (usually because I was not responsible for what happened).

Not so here. I tried to feel like it was a harmless bit o' fun, tried to make light of it, but there was something pointed about the scene that felt inexplicably wrong, something I know J intended. Yet, going into the scene, it seemed so innocent. After all, the French Maid is a cliché, no? It has been done so many times, how could I possibly feel like a pervert — especially after all the other (far more extreme) things I have done? I thought maybe it was because I was the only one dressed that way, but no. I've been the "only one" before. The center of attention. So has Neets.

Anyway, I wrote a journal entry about this (and other scenes), I just never posted it. And my thoughts are still unresolved, but at the time I felt the French Maid reflected badly on J for some reason akin to the way Girl's piercings reflected badly on her Top.

Ten years ago, I would have looked at a woman dressed like a French Maid at a costume party and assumed she was a beginner, just flirting with the B/D scene. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe these formulaic concepts have a deeper significance. Maybe they are something you graduate to rather than from. Maybe they are both.

So yes, there are unposted parts of my journal. Quite a few, in fact. But I believe that they all, even those that I thought at the time were over the edge, even the ones that I don't yet understand even today, even those that I still can't remember without embarrassment, I believe they all taught me something about myself. Keeping them separate from my posted journal (what you know as The List) has led to a rather chaotic hard-drive, but I've been trying to assemble them into some semblance of order. The result will necessarily be "fictionalized" because the sequence is lost to memory, but the individual events are real — or patchworks of real events. Some day J will read it and remember, even if no-one else does.


Original: November ‘05


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