Sexual healing

An S/M couple rewrites the book of love.


Virginia Vitzthum
June 15, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Perceval endured 10 years of sexual abuse by dissociating, his mind
floating off from the body being raped and fondled by his mother.
Dissociation is an elegant escape from brutality, but a less and less
coherent self returns after each flight. (Many sexually abused kids end up
with multiple personality disorder.) Perceval remains compartmentalized
and splintered 50 years later. "You can't choose emotions to keep," he says
flatly. "You kill them all."

On Lee's orders, Perceval constantly adds to his "Myth," a story-journal
about the master-slave relationship the two use to heal Perceval from the
incest. "Survivors usually get to experience rape and incest many times," Perceval writes. "Not because we want to, exactly,
but because we do not feel it when it actually happens, so we replay it in
our heads ... We do that until we die -- or until we let ourselves feel it."

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Four years ago, after his father died, Perceval entered therapy. He also started reading about gay men and noticed that many had had
childhoods like his. He went to a workshop for gay men given by the Oakland
sex school Body Electric. There a combination of breathing and massage sent
him into a trance. From his altered state it became clear that, by
inserting enemas and other things into him, his mother had sexually abused him.

As a child, he escaped into the Greco-Roman, Norse and Arthurian
myths. Now he's taken his name from the young knight of the Round Table and stories are back at the center of his life: He's
documenting his rituals with Lee, and he recounts his childhood at his incest
survivors' 12-step group. Narration, naturally a somewhat dissociated act,
seems more so when Perceval relates his mother's abuse. The weary monotone
reciting the child-abuse spiel is flatter than the rest of his personality.

Talk therapy and bodywork helped him sort the memories, Perceval writes,
but he still didn't feel "the feelings that should accompany those
memories." He needed a new personal mythology to
replace his mother's drama, to "record over the messages." He began
building the next version of Perceval using the fragmentation he learned at his
mother's knee, his childhood books and the role-play of S/M.

The myth-making kicked into high gear when he met Lee, who took control of
the ritual, sex and psychotherapy. Lee sized Perceval up as someone
who'd "done a lot of recovery work and was ready for someone who could play
the role of a teacher, a protector, a daddy, a master, so he could give up
some control and allow himself to become a boy in a sexual way." Though
that last phrase makes me queasy, being a "sexual boy" is a fait accompli
for Perceval: "Abuse sexualizes the whole universe. I'd get a hard-on
seeing a sunset or hearing a symphony."

The first time they "played," last March, Lee tied Perceval loosely to the
bondage table. Perceval read this as an invitation to resist, so he began
to slip out of the bonds and said, "I'm really a top, this is all a
mistake." Lee, who probably weighs 40 pounds more than Perceval, slammed
him back down and tied him tighter. After flogging him, Lee held Perceval
and stroked his hair and face. Perceval says he began to sob, but all
feeling stopped, he realized later, as his mind alighted briefly on his
mother, with her two moods of "amorous and punitive."

Then Lee ordered Perceval to write about "what the
evening brought up for him," a practice the two have continued. Perceval
writes third-person accounts of their scenes and mails or reads them to Lee
or to his answering machine. Lee's other overarching order is that
Perceval must tell Lee if he starts to feel abused -- physically,
psychologically, or verbally. "The realization that I could say 'stop' and
it would was mind-blowing," says Perceval.

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Still, things that reminded him of his mother would freeze him in the middle of a scene, including the first time Lee cradled him, face down, over his lap. "Perceval did not realize it until later, but that was how his mother held him while she molested him," Perceval writes. "The
memory of that scene and his mother's taloned hand digging into his butt cheeks lived in
Perceval's body as a steady ache." Lee let Perceval flee his emotions until recently when he intoned, "Boy those are my tears, not yours. I want them." The order worked: "It was the first time I'd cried that wasn't at a death," marvels Perceval.

Lee and Perceval worked slowly up to penetration, and here they exorcised the incest very literally, according to the journal. Lee ordered
Perceval to "tell Master what Perceval wants Master to put up Perceval's butthole." Perceval initially answered things like "Master's cock, a butt plug, and a big dildo." Finally asking for an enema from Lee was especially shameful, Perceval says, but less so as Lee has him repeat the request.

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"The body is wired to like fucking, but for survivors, the head says, 'no, that's bad,'" Perceval explains. Since reclaiming the pleasure of being penetrated under Lee's control, he says, he's been having full hard-ons, something that "typically happened only when my defenses were dissolved."

Perceval says that, before Lee, he may have topped to let other "boys" experience what he was afraid to feel. Now he's summoning his own "shadow
personalities" from their exile. The shadow, Perceval writes, is home to "Adoringboy, who
dotes on his Master. But other boys would have their chance to express themselves in play as well: Pussyboy, Leatherboy, Partiboy, Seductiveboy,
and the 'wise' boy who tells this story."

Could Perceval's awakening simply be that of a gay man finally accepting his sexuality? "I'm not even at a level ground where I can weigh gay vs. straight and say what I am yet, because everything's still screwed up," he says. "I could end up being gay," he adds, but he hopes not. "I can't imagine life without my spouse."

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Perceval's wife opted not to talk to me, Perceval explained, because she'd just be corroborating that this "work" helps her husband. This past
Christmas, her gift was an offer to let him move out and try living as a gay man. He passed. Perceval admits that the "dynamic relationship" with Lee has made his marriage less sexual, and that his growing anger at his mother also affects his desire for his wife. But Perceval and his wife want to stay married and, as with paid therapy, Lee and Perceval's relationship seems to have its own ending built in. "Hold this relationship loosely, boy," Lee told Perceval.

Perceval's wife is "angelic but earthy," according to Lee. "She's a potter; she's very grounded." He says the three of them handle their interactions
maturely. "They've raised kids together, so there's an ability to handle awkwardness, to handle something forming." Lee says that he and Perceval's
wife share an unspoken understanding that they are "co-parenting Perceval on some level." Perceval says his wife isn't interested in "kink," and is
simply not the person with whom to play the roles of Adoringboy, Leatherboy and Perceval the
young knight.

At 57, Perceval's emotional tour of duty into the past is only beginning, but he wants eventually to "teach, or somehow help others who've gone through this."

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His life is like some open-air opera, with book by Joseph Campbell. He's "de-fragmenting" by pushing all his scenes together: Adoringboy, Leatherboy and Lee get together with Perceval's wife and, presumably, Suburban husbandboy and High-ranking bureaucratboy. Powered by the best sex he's had and Lee's munificent rule, he's riding toward the
daddy of all myths: the transformed traveler who returns to teach. Perceval says, "I don't say 'why me?' anymore ... There's always a test. I think
I was supposed to suffer so I could help."


Virginia Vitzthum

Virginia Vitzthum is a writer living in New York.

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