The schedule read like a punny torture museum placard. “Get to the Point: Blade Bondage.” “Skin Deep: Cutting for Play.” “Genitorture for Vulvas: How to Make the Lips Scream.” “ABCs of CBT” [Cock and Ball Torture].
As a sex writer, I wanted to attend everything at Dark Odyssey: Surrender, a weekend-long conference combining sexuality, spirituality, education, and play. Erotic hypnosis! Rope bondage! How to cruise! How to eroticize anything!
I was so excited that I arrived on Thursday night, an entire 16 hours before the conference was due to start.
I didn’t know what to bring, having never attended a conference like this before, so I filled a whole suitcase with leather and pleather and velvet and lingerie. I kissed my girlfriend goodbye and headed across the Bay to San Francisco.
And then I barely left the hotel room.
Because you were in it. And I wanted to be everywhere your shadow fell.
We knew this would happen, you and I. You are married, after all. We live with our partners. Our love exists in stolen moments. What would we do with an entire weekend to ourselves? Would we patiently sit through “A Deeper Shade of Red: Advanced Erotic Humiliation and Degradation,” journalist notebooks resting placidly on our laps, our bodies vibrating from the exquisite heat of denial?
“This feels so necessary,” you said. “You feel so necessary. I need to take all the moments with you our lives can stand. And maybe just slightly more.”
We managed to stop fucking just enough to attend two workshops — well, half of two workshops, anyway. We were late to both. We were late to “Introduction to Erotic Hypnosis” and “Ten Techniques to Enhance Spirituality and Connection in Your Scene.” You wore black, lacy lingerie — who could be bothered to put on clothes? — and I took every opportunity to find your folds through the fabric with my fingers.
At these two half-workshops, I was so lopsided with you that I forgot how to be a journalist. I wrote down the most obvious things: “Don’t hit someone while they’re chewing gum!” “Star Wars sweatpants are popular.” “Pagan conference and BDSM conference = same fashion.”
At “Ten Techniques,” Master Hines told the men in attendance to “respect women” and the room erupted in riotous applause. I applauded, too. Yes! I thought. And then, Wait. How low is the bar that all a man has to say is “respect women” and we give him a thousand trophies?
I managed to wrest my eyes away from you for small moments, enough to notice that I was the only one who was using my real name. Princess Tiddlywinks and Femme Daddy and Curious George looked at me and then at my strange scene nametag, “Anna Pulley,” and it was obvious I didn’t know how to do sex conferences at all. But who cares when your nails are digging into my waist and I can feel your pulse in my pelvis?
You said, “Even the way you write is submissive.”
I said, “I feel like I’m in high school again.”
I said, “I feel like a bag of elbows.”
Because we both live with our partners, we have to be creative. We fuck in parks, in dressing rooms, in public bathrooms. We have no narrative — we only have this galloping, kinetic, stampeding momentum. We are traveling at the speed of mercy.
Throughout the weekend, I kept thinking of something the hypnosis presenter, Miss Mackenzee, said, “It’s better to not go far enough than it is to go too far.” Except with you, I thought. I only want to go too far with you.
On Saturday night, you dressed me in your lingerie — a corset and garters and fur and a bra that didn’t cover my nipples. We intended to eat dinner before the sex party, “Heroes and Villains,” but we didn’t. Because we were fucking.
We ate seven chips and a chocolate-covered fig for dinner.
But we did leave the room, eventually, and went downstairs where the Holiday Inn conference rooms had been transformed into a collision of hedonism, with St. Andrew’s crosses and spanking benches and suspension beams and medical-examination tables and everywhere the soft slap of skin and moans and laughter.
You led me to a velvet bench and straddled me with your groggy hips and your hair spilled down your ribs like Champagne. Lindsey Stirling’s “Crystallize” played over the speakers and you became uniquely animal. Your eyes ignited and you held my wrists and you clasped my throat, and I was so in awe of this transformation that I didn’t know whether to memorize it or let it baptize and wash me away.
I once wrote an entire essay about how I am bad at sex parties. You read it. It was the catalyst for how we met. And now I have to add “bad at sex conferences” to my list of sex-writer shames. But I don’t mind, as long as I can hold the memory of you in my fist like a seed that needs no water or air or soil to sustain it.
After all, it’s better to not go far enough than it is to go too far.