The success of the best-selling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” has surprised a lot of people, and, while I’ve not read it myself, I assume it plays upon the occasional fantasies many people have about kinky sex. In 2005 I had the lead in a community theater production of the play “Deathtrap” and the script called for the living room (the only set) to be decorated with instruments of torture. As is happened I have a friend who is a straight woman, called “Mistress Athena” in the leather world, and she was kind enough to loan the theater some whips and metal restraints for use as wall hangings. Through her I came to learn a good deal about the leather world, which is very different from what those not part of it believe.
That knowledge came in handy when I was writing my latest novel (not yet published, but soon) called “Corbin Milk.” The plot concerns a gay CIA agent, a handsome bodybuilder, who the CIA sends on assignments where gay intrigues give him access to international secrets not available through more conventional means. In effect Corbin Milk is the gay version of Mata Hari (a famous female spy in the early twentieth century who used her sexual wiles to gather information right up until she was shot by the French). My novel has three sections reflecting different adventures Corbin has, but the second of these requires him to pose as an experienced leather Top in order to bring down a man who is trying to establish a dictatorship in Russia. This man, named “Maksim Tarasov” in the novel, is secretly gay and when the CIA discovers him using the internet to find a leather Top, Corbin must undergo a crash course to learn that role so as to meet Maksim Tarasov in Amsterdam for an assignation with “Master Maas,” the name Corbin uses in their email exchanges. Corbin is trained in the USA by “Barbara,” a woman I modeled on Mistress Athena, and while he’s usually a fast study, the task of becoming a leatherman in a very short period of time proves daunting. In other blog posts I’ve printed various excerpts from “Corbin Milk” to make points [Corbin discovers he’s gay at age five in “Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight,” falls in love in both “The Thunderbolt” and “Seducing Straight Men,” and, lastly, his romantic partner George endures trying to change his sexual orientation in “How To Change a Gay Person Into a Straight Person,” see Related Posts below], but in the two segments from the novel below contain some of his exploration of the incredible world of BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism, masochism).
“I’ve read the books and watched the videos you’ve given me,” Corbin told Barbara, “and I have a vague idea of what I’m doing, but feel like I’m missing something important. Do you know what I mean?”
She nodded. They were sitting on a leather ottoman in her dungeon, and she’d been giving him lessons on how to use a flogger.
“Yes. You still don’t understand what’s really going on, so you’re just going through the motions like an actor who’s memorized the part but doesn’t yet understand it.”
“All right. Let’s start over. When most people learn there are men and women in a BDSM world, they’re repulsed by the notion, and they don’t want to hear anything more. They picture sadists grabbing innocent passersby on the street, tying them up, and doing horrible things to them. There are sadists out there—my guess is that Tarasov, in his professional life, is one—who are like that. But sadists in the leather world have nothing in common with such psychopaths.”
“And why not?”
“Because leather folk are playing a game. They call their adventures ‘scenes,’ and their equipment ‘toys.’ Unlike real sadists, they’re not interested in unwanted pain. Do you know the motto of the leather world?”
“‘Safe, sane, consensual,’” Corbin quoted. She’d taught him this, and it was featured in the books he’d been studying.
“Note the word ‘consensual.’ There are people out there, bottoms, who are very attracted by the opportunity to explore their own pain, and are looking for a talented Top to help them out.”
Corbin shrugged. “I guess I don’t understand that,” he said. “Why would anyone embrace his own pain?”
Barbara stopped to think how to explain this to him.
“Okay,” she said, after a bit. “Corbin, my boy, what you are experiencing is a failure of imagination,.”
“Me?” Corbin was pretty sure he didn’t lack imagination. It was a defining characteristic.
“Yes. You seem to think all sex must be traditional, and if someone’s doing something you’re not interested in, they must be wrong.”
“Can you imagine that a married couple might think it fun to play role-playing games with each other? The housewife and the plumber, the millionaire and the maid, etc.?”
Corbin smiled. “Of course.”
“And in these games might some couples also think it fun to spank one another?”
“Sure. It’s not something I’d enjoy, but others, sure.”
“Then it’s just a matter of expanding that. Human beings do all sorts of things that other people shun. Some folks are interested in parachuting, some in knitting, some in bodybuilding, some in dogs, some in bowling, etc. If we all did the same thing, life would be monotonous. When it comes to sex, the same principle applies. Some people will only do missionary sex, man on top. Others will be more adventurous. Oral sex, anal, threesomes. The husband and wife with their spanking games, or power-exchanging games, are engaged in a minor league BDSM activity.”
“But in the high powered version, people do get hurt.”
“Hurt, but not harmed. That’s a big difference. It’s the ‘safe’ part of ‘safe, sane, consensual.’ The whole idea is to explore what the bottom is experiencing and wants. Flogging, for example, doesn’t start with pain. It starts with horsehair or doeskin—soft whips, applied lightly. The bottom who likes that wants more. It progresses. Pain is not always painful.”
“Okay, an oxymoron. Explain that.”
“When you rise from a cramped position and stretch, you feel the pain, but it still feels good to stretch, right?” He nodded. “Or,” she continued, “consider a massage. In some versions, the masseuse works up to a rough physical manipulation that is both pleasurable and painful at the same time. That’s what is happening in a good S/M scene. The Top takes the bottom to the edge of the line between pain and pleasure and keeps him there. The endorphins get to endorphing, and a good time is had by all.”
“What does the Top get out of it?”
“Many things. Some, but not all, leather Tops truly are sadists: they take pleasure in another person’s consensual pain.”
“Oh? Consider boxing. Lot of consensual pain, and an audience full of the sorts of sadists I’m describing. Or football. Weren’t you a football player in college? Was there a part of you, a masochist part, that enjoyed the pain?”
Corbin shook his head decidedly. “I don’t want to go there,” he replied
“Then don’t criticize those who do. But many in the BDSM community are not turned on by pain, and don’t want it as part of their scenes. Most are there because the domination/submission power exchange enthralls them.”
Corbin smiled. “Well, that does start to interest me. Taking control over someone else. Having things my way with someone who enjoys doing exactly what I tell him to do. That’s a much more universal urge, I suspect.”
“Sure. Think of a tribe of gorillas. There’s one silverback that everyone knows is the absolute boss, and everyone else works to keep him happy, males and females alike. Helps the tribe stay organized—they’re programmed that way. So were our ancestors.”
“Okay. I empathize with wanting to be the silverback gorilla, but what about the opposite? Why would anyone surrender completely to the will of another?”
“Very strong urge, that one. Particularly for people who are in positions of power in real life. For them it’s often a great relief to make no decisions, to do what they’re told, to kow-tow completely to another person they trust. I threw a dungeon party once and was amused to discover that two of the bottoms were professional airline pilots, and one was a senior executive for a major soft drink company.”
“Maksim Tarasov,” Corbin commented.
“Perfect example. That’s why he’s willing to fly to Amsterdam and sit at the feet of Master Maas.”
Corbin grinned at her.
“I can’t wait,” he said.
[After more training Corbin flies to Amsterdam and has two days to acquaint himself with the city (he’s suppose to be a native) before he’s to meet the Russian. He decides to test his new persona and the things Barbara has taught him by visiting a local leather bar.]
Corbin stood outside the entrance to The Chain Gang and took a deep breath. He was dressed in chaps over black jeans, white t-shirt, leather vest, and the black engineer’s boots, looking much like the photograph they’d sent to Tarasov. But now he was on his own. Or rather Master Maas was on his own.
Silverback gorilla, Corbin said to himself, and opened the door.
He’d been in gay bars before, of course, but they were not a favorite venue of his, even outside the leather community. Since his days in college he’d always found bars too loud, crowded, and smoky to constitute an enjoyable atmosphere. They were a great place to pick up a date for the evening, particularly if you were good looking and smiled a lot, but Corbin had plenty of ways of finding a willing sex partner that were far less complicated than a trip to a bar. Consequently, Corbin stayed away from bars unless he was with a group of friends who insisted he come along as they went out on the town.
But this was different. Master Maas would come to such a bar for a number of purposes. He might want to look over the current crop of bottoms in an exciting tourist spot like Amsterdam. Or he might want to meet friends there, or even just to stand around and be admired for his supposed competence in the leather arena. Hell, he might just want a drink.
Barbara had told him it was all a matter of dominance, so, as the door to the bar closed behind him, Corbin was transmogrified into Master Maas, experienced leather Top.
There was a young man, black t-shirt, jeans, leather vest and boots, sitting just inside the door, obviously an employee of the bar, collecting the cover charge.
“Goede avond, Meneer,” this individual said (“Good evening, Sir”), and Corbin nodded at him, with a smile.
“Goede avond,” he replied. “How much?” he asked in English, was told the amount (roughly ten dollars American), paid it, and walked into the bar proper, looking around.
This part of the bar was large and had multiple areas. To the left was a long bar counter, at which a number of men stood, singly or in groups, drinking, and cruising the other patrons. To the right was a big space containing a pool table, and beyond it a ramp rose to some mysterious venue. Straight ahead was a set of steps leading to another level.
As he stood there looking around, muttering “Silverback gorilla,” Corbin realized he was attracting attention from various corners of the bar. Some men were curious, others smiling, some nudging a companion and making a gesture to look in his direction, and there was one group of men near the pool table who regarded him with great seriousness, almost hostility. These particular patrons were all wearing key rings on the left side, and/or had black handkerchiefs hanging from their left back pockets. This, Corbin knew, meant they were leather Tops. He had his own key ring and black handkerchief in the same spots. Obviously they thought of him as competition for the bar’s bottoms.
Ignoring this cabal for the moment, Corbin turned to the area on his left, and gave his best Master Maas stare at each man there, one by one, not moving on until each, embarrassed or confused, looked away first. This was Barbara Yancy’s first rule of dominance. Make it clear from the moment you appear who’s in charge.
Having done that, he gave them all a smile. One man in particular was exactly his type: big, muscled, and (because of his jug ears, flat nose, dominant brow) ugly in an appealing, masculine way. This man was staring at Corbin with undisguised desire. Corbin gave him his trademark wink, but then turned to the right to see what he could do about the four Masters standing there, watching him carefully.
One by one, he stared them down, keeping his face blank except for the merest hint of a smile. As the last one turned away, Corbin walked over to them briskly.
“Goede avond, heren,” he said (“Good evening, gentlemen”). “I am a foreigner in this exotic city,” he continued in English. “I wonder if you could please give me some help with orientation.”
“Orientation?” said the smallest of them, a good looking strawberry blond in his forties. “We are all homosexuals, and I would guess you are too!”
They all laughed, Corbin included.
“Yes. Good guess. Very homosexual. What I meant was my need for help in understanding the layout of the bar, the local customs of the clientele, and suggestions on interesting things for a visting leatherman to do here in Amsterdam.”
The ice broken, they all jumped in with suggestions, addressing each of these issues in turn. All of them spoke English well enough to participate, but Corbin noticed that the biggest, most muscular of the four, a black-haired, mysterious man in his late thirties, said the least. He was not as outgoing or friendly as the others, and he kept his eyes hooded as he took in all the details of Corbin’s appearance, his voice deep and low when uttering the few comments he made. When they introduced themselves, with Corbin calling himself simply “Maas,” this Top gave his name as Diederick.
“What’s up the ramp?” Corbin asked, pointing.
“The back room,” the blond said. “Very dark, many nooks and crannies. I know it will shock you, innocent American, but much sexual orientation goes on up there.” Again they all laughed.
“And what’s at the top of the steps opposite the front door?”
“That is the play area,” said one of the others.
“Oh!” said Corbin. “I will certainly investigate that.”
“Let’s show him now,” said the blond.
So the five of them climbed the steps and walked into an area that was a sort of public dungeon, with a cross, chains, a meter high metal cage, a hoist, and a medical table. There was a small man hugging the cross (but not bound to it in any way), who was being flogged by another tall thin Top. The flogging was energetic, and had obviously been going on for some time. Diederick put one hand on Corbin’s shoulder and waved the other at the dungeon equipment. He asked, “Will you be picking out a bottom and showing us what an American Top can do?”
Corbin smiled. “I’m afraid that I left my toy bag back at my lodgings,” he replied. “Perhaps you could give us a demonstration of Dutch dominance.”
“As you wish,” Diederick replied. “Excuse me a minute.” He went back down the stairs, passing some men coming up, one of whom was the jug-eared bottom who had attracted Corbin’s attention when he’d first come in. This individual walked right over to Corbin, spread his feet wide, put his hands behind his back, and lowered his head, saying nothing. Barbara had taught Corbin that this was the sign of a well-trained bottom who was offering himself to a Top.
Corbin reached out a hand and raised the bottom’s chin. “Look at me,” he commanded. When the man did so, Corbin told him, “Tell us your name, boy.”
“I am Sebastiaan, sir,” he said in perfect English.
“You are quite beautiful,” Corbin commented. The man’s eyes widened.
“Me? Everyone says I am misshapen in the face, sir.”
“Are you contradicting me?” Corbin asked, a sharp edge to his voice.
“NO, SIR!” Sebastiaan said in a loud voice, his head dropping down again, embarrassed at his faux pas.
“I am Maas,” Corbin told him. “If I say you are beautiful, it means that you are beautiful to me. Repeat that.”
“Master Maas says that Sebastiaan is beautiful to him.” And something in his voice suggested pride and pleasure in this exchange.
Diederick returned, carrying a large leather bag, and leading a wiry thin man with curly brown hair, who he took over to the hoist. He put leather restraints on the man’s wrists, and then clipped the restraints to the hoist’s large iron hook. Pulling the hoist’s chain, he balanced the bottom delicately on the toes of his boots, his heels just barely off the floor. Diederick then pulled a signal whip from the bag, and proceeded to wrap the four-foot long single tail around the man’s legs, arms, and torso, slowly and sensually. A crowd had gathered to watch.
The whipping then started in earnest, beginning with strokes the bottom could barely feel, and working up to ones that made him squirm and turn from the blows. Diederick kept the whip singing, and was quite skillful at hitting a moving target without touching any of the forbidden areas (the face, the neck, the kidneys, the spine). When the whip began to loudly crack as it broke the sound barrier time and again, the bottom first moaned and then yelped at each new lash.
Corbin was impressed. This bottom could take a lot and enjoy it (something Corbin would have not thought possible a month ago), and Diederick’s skill was extraordinary. Corbin found himself thinking Barbara would be applauding both. Certainly Corbin himself was not capable of such a performance. Single tail whips of whatever length were very dangerous, and required years of practice to handle safely as Diederick was doing now.
The scene finished with Diederick curling the whip gently around the bottom’s shoulders as he embraced him from the back, whispering congratulations in his ear, and then kissing him on the brow and cheek. When he was certain that the bottom was all right, he asked another man standing nearby to lower the chain. This done, Diederick released the bottom from his restraints, and the two men hugged each other tightly. Corbin noted that the bottom was shivering; he couldn’t imagine what the man was feeling.
Finished, Diederick returned the whip to his bag, and then rejoined Corbin and the other three Tops.
“You are a Master, indeed,” Corbin told him. “That was very impressive. I’ve never seen it done better.” Of course, in truth he’d never seen it done at all, but best to keep that unsaid.
Diederick was quite pleased with this praise, and similar comments made by others. He held his toy bag out to Corbin. “Please,” he said. “Use anything you like for a demonstration of American leather play.”
Corbin paused to consider this. “All right,” he said. “But something simple. May I examine the contents?” Diederick nodded, and Corbin put the bag on the medical table and pawed through it.
Then Corbin turned to Sebastiaan. “Would you do me the favor of participating in a small scene?” he asked him.
Sebastiaan bowed slightly. “It would be my honor, Sir.”
Corbin pulled the man’s t-shirt out from his leather pants, and quickly yanked it up and over the bottom’s head and arms. Sebastiaan’s very muscular chest was everything Corbin had hoped it would be. Two round silver rings pierced his nipples, and Corbin took one in each hand.
“You had these installed so that a Master like me could play with them, isn’t that right?” As he said this he gave them each a twist, and Sebastiaan threw his head back, swallowing the pain, as he managed to squeak out, “Ja, Meester!”
“I am not your Master,” Corbin corrected. “That title that must be earned. Climb on the table and lie down, face up.”
When Sebastiaan did this, Corbin took a blindfold from the bag and quickly fitted it over the bottom’s eyes. Corbin then turned to Diederick, and held up a shaving kit he had taken from a side compartment in the bag. “May I make use of things in here?” he asked.
Diederick’s eyes widened. Why would Corbin want a shaving kit? But, amused, he nodded.
Corbin leaned over Sebastiaan and, loud enough that the others could hear, said, “I know we’ve just met, but I need for you to trust me. What I am about to do to you may be frightening, but I assure you that you’ll rise from the table unharmed when I am done. Also, there are a large number of people watching us, and they would protest if they thought our play was unduly dangerous. Given all that, will you trust me?”
Sebastiaan did not hesitate. “Yes, Sir,” he said in a clear voice.
Corbin held up a toothbrush so that all could see what it was. Then he took Sebastiaan’s left arm by the palm of the hand and held it stretched out straight, away from the man’s body. “Try not to make sudden movements,” Corbin instructed him. “If the scene becomes too intense, say the word ‘Red,” and I will stop immediately. Do you understand.”
Corbin held the toothbrush so that the edge of the bristles on the side of the toothbrush just barely touched Sebastiaan. Starting on the exposed wrist itself, Corbin slowly began to draw the brush down the inside of the arm. Sebastiaan gave a small gasp at the sensation, but didn’t move. The crowd smiled and nudged each other. When, inch by inch, the brush had travelled down to the shoulder, Corbin stopped, walked around to the other side of the table, rubbing his free hand all across Sebastiaan’s magnificent torso, and repeated the toothbrush pull on the underside of the other arm, again starting again with the wrist.
Corbin then ran the brush across Sebastiaan’s chest and down his bare sides, causing the man to squirm, at which point Corbin commanded, “Stay still, my beauty!” The brush was then very slowly drawn across Sebastiaan’s neck, making a circle around his Adam’s apple. A ripple of terror shivered through the man’s whole body.
Suddenly, Corbin slashed the brush almost violently back and forth on the nipples, and Sebastiaan cried out, “RED, Meneer!”
Corbin leaned over the table, rubbing his free hand gently on Sebastiaan’s broad pecs. “Are you all right, boy?” he asked.
In a halting voice, Sebastiaan replied with an almost whispered question.
“Am I bleeding?”
This produced a laugh from the watchers, and Corbin stripped away Sebastiaan’s blindfold, holding up the toothbrush for him to see. “Terror by toothbrush,” he said, and Sebastiaan broke into a broad grin.
“It’s true,” he confessed. “I was terrified! It felt like a knife!”
Corbin gave him a big kiss, and then helped him from the table. He handed the toothbrush back to Diederick. “Perhaps this should be thoroughly washed before you use it again,” he suggested.
Diederick laughed. “I think I’ll have it framed and hung up in my dungeon,” he said. “Or just throw it in with the other toys and use it your American way in the next scene I create.”
At this point, Corbin and his new friends, including Sebastiaan, repaired to the bar downstairs for schnapps and beer. Corbin was much congratulated on having performed an original scene, and this led to quite a discussion of BDSM’s use of harmless objects in ways that would surprise their manufacturers. It got quite creative.
After about 45 minutes, Corbin excused himself and went into the men’s room. As he was coming out again, he found Diederick standing in his path, blocking his way back into the bar proper.
“Yes?” Corbin asked, confused. “A problem?”
“You tell me,” Diederick replied. And very slowly he unclipped his key ring and then refastened it on the other side, followed by a similar switch of the black handkerchief to the other back pocket. The meaning was clear. He was now flagging the symbols of a bottom. He put his hands behind his back, spread his feet wide, and lowered his head.
“No problem at all,” Corbin assured him, putting his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Come home with me now.”
“The Thunderbolt,” September 3, 2010
“How To Change a Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
“Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight,” January 25, 2011
“Seducing Straight Men,” March 3, 2011
“Good Sex, Bad Sex: Advice on Making Love,” November 9, 2011
“The Thrill of a Touch,” August 14, 2012
"Is '50 Shades of Grey' Demeaning to Women?" January 16, 2015; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2015/02/is-50-shades-of-grey-demeaning-to-women.html
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013
"Is '50 Shades of Grey' Demeaning to Women?" January 16, 2015; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2015/02/is-50-shades-of-grey-demeaning-to-women.html
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013