When I decided to seek help about my drinking problem, I went to the campus counseling center and started meetings with a counselor there. I didn’t see her for more than a few months, because I made the mistake of confiding to her that I was working weekends at my first dungeon (what can I say? My secret job, and its attendant issues, seemed germane to my drinking), and that revelation had an immediate chilling effect on our relationship. To my complete surprise, she judged me about it, in a very harsh and unprofessional (to my mind) fashion, and thereafter I felt her disapproval and suspicion in our conversations. I felt uncomfortable with her (or, more accurately, I was acutely aware of her discomfort with me), and eventually decided to stop our sessions.
Which was fine. I was no longer getting the full benefit of her expertise, and I wasn’t impressed with what perspective I was getting. I felt that she was making a lot of assumptions about my personality and motivations that were not just unflattering but downright wrong. For example, she told me that I was working at the dungeon because I wanted attention and validation from men.
She did give me one insight into my character that had previously eluded me and that I never would have come up with on my own, however. I’ve never forgotten it.
I was talking about my drinking, and I said that the reckless drinking was really out of character for me, because in most other aspects of my life I was cautious, thoughtful, and risk-adverse. Really! I’m the opposite of impulsive. I don’t act quickly or rashly. I’m the sort of person who always wears a helmet, buckles up, drives the speed limit at all times, and doesn’t eat food that’s been left at room temperature for more than an hour. I don’t often try new things, or make a trip to a new place, be it across town or out of the country, without detailed travel instructions or an itinerary.
“Margo,” she said, dead serious, looking at me over the tops of her glasses, “you are absolutely not risk-adverse. At all.”
I was incredulous: had I really done reckless things? Moi? Madame, surely you jest!
But after careful contemplation, I must admit that the record will show that I have taken risks, and put myself in situations, that were not just unnecessary, but dangerous and even potentially fatal. I even mentioned it in the copy of one of my proSub ads–I cribbed a quote from de Sade, in which he asserted, as reason for his libertinism and depravity, that a man’s humanity is incomplete until he has had every experience.
And so I have pursued every experience. My adult life has been characterized by the deliberate and relentless exploration of my sadomasochism, a journey of personal discovery that I ultimately prioritized in my life. It is a serious business to me, and I approached it with the earnestness of a devoted scholar. To see how far down the rabbit hole goes.
Because isn’t that what it all boils down to, really? Isn’t that what I was doing there, in all those dangerous places, with all those (potentially or overtly) dangerous people? Isn’t that what I was doing when I went back, when I stayed, when I went deeper and still yet deeper? Over and over again? I started prodomming when I was desperate, vulnerable, and very isolated–it really was survival sex work–but why that, among the handful of desperate options (why did I perceive it as an option at all?)? I did it for the (potentially) fast money and because the flexibility of the job fit my grad-student needs and lifestyle, but really, really, I did it because I was fascinated and I wanted to know, to explore that part of myself. My clients were my teachers. Even when I did not want them to be. My lovers were also my teachers, including the dangerous one with the scalpel whom I loved best, and who cut my heart for five years.
I pursued every experience. I sought them out online, on Fetlife, on Craigslist, in the dark corners of the internet, and I put up ads so that they could find me. I took trains to meet strangers in parts of the country I’d never been to before. I took airplanes. I went to their houses, their dorm rooms and brownstones and walkup apartments, and a million hotel rooms in cities on three continents. I got into their cars and climbed aboard their boats. And they came to me, both in my home and in the fantastical rooms of the Studio and the other dungeons in which I worked. They have needs and compulsions, too.
I gave a man the key to my house so that he could enter at the time of his choosing and take me God knows where, with God knows who. I rode on the back of motorcycles drunk. My boyfriend gave me drugs and I let him without knowing what they were or what they would do to me. I let people lock me in cages, closets, hoods, and, (nearly) a barn. I let them bind me with rope and suspend me from ceilings. I let them put metal police restraints on me, cover me with a blanket, and take me for a car ride. I let him throttle me with his hands, his leather belt, the terrycloth belt of a bathrobe. I let strangers beat me with everything you could imagine, sometimes for money and sometimes for free. I let a psychopath come to my house and put me in traction. Such was my recklessness in pursuit of myself.
Such was my recklessness.
I still haven’t had every experience. My humanity remains incomplete. I have come to understand that the rabbit hole is bottomless. The obsessions cannot be quenched or exhausted. Like a dying star, they change, grow, and expand outward, incinerating and enveloping you in their orbit.
If there is no end to it, do I stop?
What else is there?