Context is key. This was one of the first things I was taught in journalism college, after we’d been given the reminder on apostrophe use and told where the canteen was anyway.
It’s all very well stating something, but without putting it in a wider context it means nothing. A company is making 200 people redundant. That’s bad, but are there only 200 people working there or does the workforce number 30,000? The local council doubled the amount they paid on a Christmas party for staff this year from last year. Fine, but how much did they pay last year? How many staff do they have? How many did they have last year? They’re all questions that help you get the full picture, that give you a context. Without them you’re confused and unsure at what’s really being said, the significance of it. These omissions are the things that make editors shout.
My boyfriend makes me cry. He hurts me. Really hurts me. He leaves welts, bruises, handprints. Sometimes I can’t sit down without feeling the twinge of it for days.
The thing is, it’s all about context.
I’m sexually submissive. He does this with my consent, we both take pleasure in it. The endorphin rush as the pain begins to increase is an incredible feeling for me. My competitiveness, wanting to endure whatever he dishes out (preferably without too much in the way of yelps or gasps) is part of the dance of it. Depending on his mood, my mood, he can be spanking me in a way that is intimate, warming, almost tender, or whipping me with a whip we bought from a sporting goods shop that leaves angry red welts, whistles disconcertingly as it moves through the air and makes me adamant such things should never be used on poor unconsenting horses.
Make no mistake. Context is key. This isn’t abuse. In our day to day life as a living, loving, co-habiting couple he is one of the kindest and gentlest men I know. He’s never made me cry during a row or anything like that, but seeing me in distress noticeably upsets him too. He makes me soup and tucks me under a blanket on the sofa when I’m ill. He keeps my feet warm with his in the winter when I’m cold in bed. He buys me daft little presents if he knows I’ve had a rubbish day at work. Recently when my laptop started going wonky he bought me a new one rather than spending the money on his own, which is older than mine but he thinks he can make last another six months. He is an utter gentleman and I love him.
But sometimes he’s not, and I love that too.
The intensity fills me with awe. There look in his eye when picks up the flogger, the way he assesses everything – picking out the places on my body he wants to mark, lashing out, hitting his target. He checks the effect on my pale skin, and then checks my face to ensure that the pain is in that lovely grey area, the point where it’s intense and painful, but not impossible for me to bear. He knows me well, I trust him. He gets off on getting me off, knowing how wet this makes me – although only in this erotic context (I’m still too much of a wuss to have a leg wax). He laughs mockingly as I blush at him showing me the proof of my pleasure, knowing part of me wants to kick him in the shins, even while I’m enjoying this, craving it. Craving him. Sometimes the two sides of him blur. He will happily hit me until tears are running down my face but, if he accidentally steps on my little finger as he walks round me to get a better angle on my bum, he reverts to being solicitous, apologising for hurting me, checking I’m alright. Again, it’s all about the context.
But the issue of context goes even wider. Being submissive is just part of who I am. A small part. In between being a friend, a daughter, a sister, girlfriend, Scrabble lover, foodie, TV obsessive, journalist and more. There aren’t any red rooms of pain in our life together, and if there were we’d probably have put an clothes airer up in it to hang the washing.
For a long time I read erotica, books and online, and while I found them hot I didn’t really relate to them, couldn’t see how I could enjoy any of the experiences when my normal day to day life was about seeing my friends, arranging to go home for lunch with my family, remembering to pay the council tax. Over time I had some really fun (and often challenging) experiences, as detailed in the book. I began to realise that D/s could fit comfortably within the context of my life. Then the book came out and, amazingly, brilliantly, loads of women who had the same fantasies, some of the same experiences got in touch. It turns out there are lots of us out there with these thoughts and feelings, and whether you love it or loathe it Fifty Shades seems to mean people are feeling more comfortable talking about it. Even my mum came home from her slimming group a few weeks ago and told me how they’d all been discussing jiggle balls and safe words. Unfortunately there’s no context where I’m comfortable having that discussion with her!
* Sophie Morgan is a journalist and author. Her book The Diary of a Submissive is published by Gotham Books. It has been described as‘the real life Fifty Shades of Grey’, although Sophie would like to point out she doesn’t bite her lip and would get Silence of the Lambs flashbacks if a strange man offered to show her his red room of pain. Follow her on Twitter at @mssophiemorgan.
Sophie Morgan is an independent woman in her thirties with a successful journalism career. Intelligent, witty and sarcastic, she could be the girl next door. Except that Sophie is a submissive; in the bedroom she likes to relinquish her power and personal freedom to a dominant man for their mutual pleasure.
In the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, here is a memoir that offers the real story of what it means to be a submissive. From the endorphin rush of her first encounter right through to punishments the likes of which she couldn’t begin to imagine, she explains in frank and explicit fashion the road she travels. But it isn’t until she meets James that her boundaries are really pushed. As her relationship with him travels into darker and darker places the question becomes: where will it end? Can she reconcile her sexuality with the rest of her life and is it possible for the perfect man to also be perfectly cruel?
Racy, controversial, but always warm, fun and astoundingly honest this is a fascinating and thought provoking look at a seemingly paradoxical side to human nature and sexuality that no man or woman will be able to put down.
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