I got up around seven on my wife’s birthday and made her breakfast, as usual. I do all of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, buy groceries and run all errands, even for those embarrassing feminine hygiene products. My wife never asked me to shoulder all household chores; I insisted. The arrangement suited both of us perfectly. I always wanted someone to take care of, just as she always wanted someone to take care of her.
While we eat breakfast, it’s tradition that we watch “Law & Order: SVU” on Netflix. “Do you want to watch cop-who-rapes-his-wife or little-girl-in-a-coma?” I asked.
My wife chose “cop-who-rapes-his-wife,” while I, the sentimental one, opted for “little-girl-in-a-coma.” We broke this impasse the same way we make other minor decisions: With a wrestling match.
I know many couples enjoy a bedroom tussle, but when my wife and I grapple, we’re out for blood. We bite, scratch, punch and twist each other’s limbs into painful pretzels. I am proud to say I am married to a woman who can kick my ass. This is how we are in the bedroom, too, where it’s a constant shifting of dominance, rough and wild, neither of us on top for long.
My wife won, finishing me off with a move that would be illegal even in a street fight. I let her get her licks in while she could. Later that day, we were headed to the dungeon. There, I would show her no mercy.
My wife works as a submissive at an S&M dungeon. Men fork over hundreds of dollars to chain her up and whip her. Sometimes, when my wife and I walk down the street together, I wonder what passersby think of me when they glimpse the handiwork of her clients on her shoulders and thighs. I can’t meet these people’s eyes, even though my wife proudly displays her contusions. She thinks they’re sexy, admiring her mottled behind in the bathroom mirror. I know there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but my face goes red with guilt, anyway. Long before my wife got her job, we were doing weird, kinky stuff in the boudoir, too.
I imagine how the “SVU” detectives would respond. I imagine being in the interrogation room with Christopher Meloni, telling him my wife was asking for it, that she enjoyed every blow. “Yeah, yeah,” he’d snarl. “Typical wife-beater line.” In another room, Mariska Hargitay would be counseling my wife, telling her it wasn’t her fault.
This whole chapter in our lives still surprises me, since I’ve never been an S&M enthusiast. But my wife is what’s known as a lifestyle submissive — in the movie “Secretary,” she’d be the Maggie Gyllenhaal character — and the day came when she finally asked me to assume the position of dominator. She asked me to cuff her to the headboard and slap her across the face — “Hard. Harder!” While I’m no conformist, I certainly wasn’t eager to start whaling on my wife, even if she badly wanted me to. Still, if I have one weakness, I am pathologically incapable of saying no to her.
I sucked it up and slapped her across the right cheek. Her head flopped limply to the side and her cheek burned bright from the blow.
So I slapped her a second time, praying silently that the neighbors couldn’t hear us.
Part of me felt detached, watching in silent judgment as I hit my wife, that inexcusable sin. Another part — God help me — was enjoying it. My wife had asked me to open the door, just a crack, to my darkest self — and it turned us both on.
When my wife was hired at the dungeon, I was overjoyed. Not only did we desperately need the money, I hoped that working there would help my wife deal with some of the issues she has with sex. She enjoys sex and is very good at it. Still, she’s always felt inhibited. She thinks this is because a babysitter molested her when she was very young, forcing her to take off her clothes and lie in bed with him.
I am also the victim of sexual abuse. I was bullied during a sexually confused time and the kids at school did things to me that I don’t feel comfortable putting into words. As kids, pain — both physical and emotional — and sexual pleasure became all knotted up together for my wife and me, to the point that there’s no hope of untangling them. Our abusers took control from us, and sadomasochism is a way for us to wrest control back. If pleasure cannot come without pain, at least we’re the ones inflicting it. When our nerves say, “no more,” we have the power to stop, a choice we didn’t have when we were young. I know it sounds strange, but it works for us.
That afternoon, we headed to the dungeon. On my wife’s lap she carried a pair of Tupperware containers with peanut butter cupcakes, which a friend had baked. She wanted to share the rest with the subs and doms she worked with.
When we walked in, I grew quiet. I studied my shoelaces while my wife introduced me to her leather-clad co-workers. In social situations, I rarely open up to other people. I’m a hermit, preferring my books and thoughts to human company, while my wife loves to socialize. She’s the one exception; I feel totally comfortable with her. So I don’t mind playing the submissive when she drags me out of the house, letting her do most of the talking. It can be comforting giving someone else all of the control.
I handed over $200 to the mistress behind the front desk and my wife and I headed over through the garden to the Bastille room, my wife in a leather coat like Trinity in “The Matrix,” so passersby on the sidewalk wouldn’t ogle her. As we got closer, I felt both anxious and giddy, like I was committing a crime I knew I would get away with.
I smiled at my wife. “You look hot.”
As always, she looked surprised but pleased. “I do?”
My wife is a medium submissive. Her clients can use the leather whips and paddles. Nothing made of wood, though. When it was time to pick my instrument, I chose a small cat-of-nine-tails, and my wife shut the door. A clock started counting down our hour of playtime.
That’s when I started to panic. How, exactly, should I go about torturing the woman I love?
“Are you sure this is legal?” I said.
I knew it was. Professional sadomasochism technically falls outside the legal definition of sex, so it’s not prostitution. Still, I felt nervous and paranoid.
My wife laughed. “Yes, honey.”
I pointed at the intercom. “Can that mistress lady hear us?”
My wife shook her head. “Nope.”
I tried the door. “Does this thing lock?”
My wife took me by the hand, and we sat down on a bench. “Nobody’s going to walk in on us. It’s just you and me. Relax.”
But I couldn’t relax. I knew good men didn’t do things like this to their wives. What my wife wanted me to do was immoral, and yet it made her so happy. I was scared of going too far. I was scared of liking it too much.
My wife pulled me to my feet. “C’mon,” she said, shooting me that tomboy smile of hers I’m completely helpless against.
She assumed the position, a willing victim to her own torture. I realized how much she trusted me in that moment. She knew I was a good man. That’s why she had no problem with me letting out my dark side every once in a while. She knew I was strong enough to lock it away when our hour was up.
“Okeydokey,” I said. “And here we go.”
I cracked my wife on the ass. Then I chained her up and paddled her some more. I threw her over something that looked like a pommel horse and let her have it.
When it was over, we lay on the floor, holding hands.
“This was the best birthday present ever,” she said. I wanted to kiss her — but it was against the rules.
Afterward, I felt a little guilty. I couldn’t help but feel bad about hitting my wife, no matter the context. But I was also tremendously pleased. It was remarkable just how much intimacy can be found being so vulnerable with each other. And it felt good being bad, at least for a little while.
That night my wife and I slipped into bed together, her butt flecked with marks, my stomach sore from when she punched me during our wrestling match. We lay together, healing from our pain — friends, foes, equals.