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"Are you ready to play?": After 5 years without sex, I took a BDSM class

"I thought every bone in my body would be repulsed by it. I wasn't"


Olive Persimmon
June 22, 2019 11:29PM (UTC)
Excerpted with permission from "Coitus Chronicles: My Quest for Sex, Love and Orgasms" by Olive Persimmon Copyright 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Also available at Barnes & Noble and your local bookstore.

After a five-year dry spell, Olive Persimmon decides it's time to save her love life and get her mojo back. Challenged by a friend to “say yes” to experiences she might normally avoid, Olive embarks on a series of adventures and explores everything from BDSM classes to cuddlers-for-hire, from foot fetishes to lessons with a top-ranked pickup artist! Each awkward, funny, and sometimes downright embarrassing encounter brings Olive closer to discovering the power of saying yes—to herself, others, and life itself.

This is a funny and honest tale of one young woman's journey to reclaim her sexuality on the fringes of New York City's sex and dating world. Readers can see for themselves how this girl next door overcame insecurities around dating, sex, and love. "The Coitus Chronicles" will encourage readers to explore their own sexuality and consider what surprises they may discover if they, too, just say yes. Olive Persimmon is an author, speaker, and public speaking coach living in New York City.
* * *

It was the day before class and I was freaking out. Not only was I terrified about going to a BDSM lesson, I also had no idea what to wear. I imagined whips and handcuffs over my tan cowl-neck sweater.

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I pulled out my leather pants and a black top and called Renee.

“No, no,” she said. “Don't wear leather or too much black; that screams newbie. Don't wear a tight necklace either, that means you're collared.”

I had no idea what that meant, which made it glaringly obvious that I was in over my head. My only experience with BDSM was from reading "Fifty Shades of Grey," which obviously wasn’t the handbook for an intro to kink.

I'd only ever had vanilla sex.

Boring, missionary sex. Kind-of-sweaty-but-not-THAT-sweaty sex.

I hadn't even done shower stuff. It was all uncharted territory.

Yet here I was, registered for a BDSM class. It was like learning to drive before learning to walk. I still needed my nooky training wheels for God's sake.

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On the day of, I took the train down to Brooklyn. I was expecting a dimly-lit dungeon, so I was surprised when I walked into a multi-purpose yoga studio that smelled like peppermint. It was light and airy, with rows of folding chairs facing a man sitting on a stool. There were no visible signs that this was a BDSM class. Our instructor’s name was Mr. Rao and he was normal-looking, no eyeliner or studded chokers.

All the seats were taken except for the one directly in front of our instructor in the first row. I sat down, waiting anxiously for class to begin.

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Mr. Rao looked around the room, smiling at his students before saying, “BDSM stands for bondage, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism. Today, we're going to focus on the first three. Are you ready to play?”

I looked around the room too. There were 15 people in class including myself.

My eyes landed on the woman next to me. She was wearing a see-through shirt.

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Her stomach growled loudly.

“Sorry, honey. My IBS kicks in sometimes,” she whispered, pulling out a comically large container of Metamucil. I smiled back at her.

“I want to find out why you're here. A lot of this class is going to be us talking,” Rao said.

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He glanced at my nametag and said, “Olive, what brings you here today?”

It was a simple question without a simple answer.

“Um. Well. I haven't had sex in a long time, so I'm trying to do things differently this year,” I said.

“How long?”

“About five years.”

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There was a collective gasp around the room. I was used to that response when people heard the number.

“Why not?”

He was pushing me to be honest. It seemed like he pushed everyone to say three more things than they actually wanted to as a way of getting to the truth.

“I…uhh…want to be in control when it comes to sex,” I said, my mouth getting dry.

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“There are plenty of men in this room who would love that. Raise your hand if you want her to be in control of you.”

Five guys raised their hands. My face turned red as I laughed awkwardly, avoiding their gazes.

“Why is that a problem?” he asked.

“Sometimes I need to be too in control. Like, I make rules and sometimes I’m afraid to be out of control.”

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“Oh, I see. You make laws about sex. If someone doesn't do and say all the right things, or follow the rules that you've made up, you won't sleep with them.”

“Yeah. Something like that,” I said.

“That's going to hurt you,” he said.

“I know. That's why I'm here. I'm trying to do things differently.”

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To my immense relief, Rao moved on to someone else. While another woman talked about how she wanted to be tied up, I thought about my need for control. When it came to sex, I was cautious to a fault.

A handsome Irishman caught my attention when he said, “I feel like I'm so far behind everyone else. When it comes to sex and relationships, I'm like a high schooler, scared of talking to girls.”

Ah, yes, another member of my tribe. A tribe that no one wanted to belong to: The Sexually Inexperienced. I made a mental note to talk to him later.

Rao stood up, taking in the room, and sighing deeply before saying, “There seems to be a common theme in this room—of guilt. For our first exercise, you're going to confess everything you're ashamed of.”

I looked around the room, confused. I didn't understand what that had to do with BDSM.

“Find a partner. One of you will speak and one will listen. The listener will put their fingers in their ears so they can’t actually hear. For the speaker, it's about saying it out loud. Maintain eye contact the entire time. Listeners, keep your faces neutral. Give them space. Allow them to be vulnerable.”

I partnered with an older, petite woman with brown eyes. She had offered me some almonds earlier. Her hair was pulled neatly back in a bun.

I stared into the eyes of a woman I had just met and sucked in my breath. She smiled at me. The wrinkles around her eyes indicated that this was a familiar face for her to make. Her sweet-tempered demeanor should have made it easier.

It didn't.

I opened my mouth to speak but the words got stuck.

They had been buried for too long.

I knew she was going to hear everything. Even with her fingers in her ears, she would hear.

“I feel ashamed of…” I stumbled over my words and stopped.

It was too hard.

“It's okay,” she said, nodding with reassurance.

Tears began to pool in my eyes until finally I said, “I'm embarrassed that I haven't had sex in forever. That I haven't had a lot of sex and I might be bad at it.” Then for the next two minutes, I told a perfect stranger everything I felt ashamed of.

I told her things I thought I had long forgotten, things that had happened years before, like an STD scare in college and something mean I had said to my first love when I was eighteen.

Another tear rolled down my face. It was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. I felt exposed and self-conscious, but also lighter. There was a weird power in saying things aloud. In some ways, I felt like it freed me from some of that shit I had been carrying around for a long time.

My partner, with her kind eyes, reached out and hugged me, holding me gently as I tried to sniffle discreetly.

“Have you made that shame your story?” Rao asked as we found a new partner.

I had. Especially about sex. I was the girl who didn’t have sex. It had become ingrained in the narrative I was telling about myself, to myself.

We did it again with our new partners before rejoining the group to sit down. It wasn’t any easier the second time around. I cried twice as hard.

I slumped in my seat, hiding my face. I pulled a tissue out of my purse, and avoided talking or looking at anyone else. I felt gutted and I wanted to be alone.

“And that is exactly what BDSM is,” Rao said, trying to regain control of the somber energy in the room.

“Being the Dom,” he continued, “is about creating space for someone to be that level of vulnerable. It’s about being two hundred percent responsible for that person, making them feel safe enough to trust you with their body. Being a Sub is about being that trusting. It's beautiful, isn't it?”

It actually was.

My mind was blown. I had always assumed BDSM was about taking power. I had never dreamed it was also about vulnerability and trust. It challenged everything I thought I knew about BDSM.

“Alright, we're gonna break for lunch, but when we get back we're going to do rope-play,” Rao said.

I was still recovering from the exercise and in the middle of a heart-wrenching, life-changing, mascara-dripping-down-my-face moment, Rao was like, “Okay people, let's get sandwiches.”

I stood up to leave even though I wasn't ready for chicken salad and chips. I sat on a bench in downtown Brooklyn, picking at my sandwich, feeling emotional and raw until it was time to head back in. I stopped in the bathroom to fix my mascara.

Post-lunch it was rope time.

Instructor Rao pulled out fifteen red, braided ropes. We were going to use the ropes to practice dominance and submission.

He did a demo, folding the top in half and looping the two sides into a knot. We practiced tying the knot a few times to ensure that we got it.

Easy as pie, anyone could tie a freaking knot.

“Now find a partner,” Rao said.

I headed toward the cute, inexperienced Irishman.

He was quiet. His demeanor seemed gentle.

I liked gentle. I related to what he said earlier and asked him to be my partner. He agreed.

“Most people prefer to Dom or Sub, but for this exercise, you're going to try both,” Rao said.

“I don't think I'm gonna like being a Sub,” I said. It was the control thing again.

“We're a perfect match then. I don't think I'm going to like being the Dom,” he said.

I was surprised; I assumed everyone wanted to be the Dom.

Rao instructed us to hold our partner’s hands and look into their eyes.

The Irishman’s were green with flecks of gold.

There was a lot of eye contact in this class. It was intimate. Probably more intimate than I'd been with anyone in months. It was nice. And too much.

As the Dom, I was supposed to use my eyes to communicate that he was safe. I did my best to send that message through eye contact and by rubbing his hand with my thumb.

My Sub held up his hands as I tied the rope around both of his wrists and tightened until I had the perfect knot. I admired my handiwork and also noted how beautiful the red rope looked against his pale skin.

“Subs, lower your eyes. You are no longer allowed to look at your Doms.”

He lowered his eyes.

“Doms, make sure your Sub feels cherished. Reach up and stroke their face. Slowly.”

I couldn't remember the last time I stroked someone's face like that. Yet here I was on an intimate level, stroking the face of a man I had met a few hours ago.

I ran my thumb across his cheek, moving toward his bottom lip. I gently caressed it as his mouth opened in anticipation.

I crawled my finger up his face toward his ear.

I was starting to enjoy myself. The sexual tension was palpable.

“Subs, get down on your knees,” Rao said. “You are in service to your Dom.”

I followed Rao’s additional instructions: holding the rope in one hand and restricting his ability to move his arms.

“Use your other hand to caress their neck and their collarbone. Make them feel safe. You are responsible for this person. They are trusting you with their body.”

It was weird because this was the kind of thing that I thought I would hate about BDSM. An uneven exchange of power. Someone on their knees who wasn't allowed to look at me. I thought every bone in my body would be repulsed by it. I wasn't.

I was enjoying it. A lot. My lip curled into a feral snarl. My eyes hardened. I felt powerful and sexy.

My Sub leaned his body into my hand and moaned slightly.

“Do you like this?” I whispered.

“Immensely,” he whispered back.

I studied him to see if it was a lie and when I saw he was enjoying it, I had a revelation. My partner liked being submissive. It turned him on. Everyone took the role they wanted. It wasn't about stealing someone's power. It was about that person willingly giving it.

“Doms, raise your Subs to their feet. Look into their eyes.”

His eyes were a darker shade of green, tinted by arousal.

Staring into his eyes I felt a lot of things too: arousal, compassion, power. Along with something else I couldn’t identify, something that felt similar to aggression. It was something I had felt before, a primal urge to bite someone a little too hard. I quickly suppressed that one and focused on arousal instead.

“All right, switch roles.”

I took a deep breath, I did not want to be the Sub. I didn’t like anyone telling me what to do.

“Remember, being a Sub is an incredible gift. You get to surrender while someone else is taking full responsibility for your body and your pleasure. It's almost easier and more enjoyable to be a Sub,” Rao said.

The Irishman tied my wrists and pulled them behind my head. He was tentative and cautious about hurting me. I liked that. He was right; we were a good match.

I lowered my eyes, though I couldn't help but smile. He was trying hard to be the Dom. He was going through the motions but his gentleness permeated everything he did.

“Kiss your Sub's cheek.”

He cautiously lowered his lips to my face. His lips brushed my cheek.

“Run your hand down their arm.”

As he increased the force of his hand, I tried my best to truly submit. I wanted to let him feel what it was like to really be in control. It was surprisingly easy but I think that was only because of his tenderness. I probably would have resisted if I had been with someone else.

I expected to feel helpless and weak. I didn't feel that at all. I didn’t feel disrespected or lesser.

As I got down on my knees, he ran his hands over my shoulders, powerfully massaging me. In that moment, I felt exactly how Rao had instructed the Dom to treat the Sub—cherished. With every caress of his hand, the Irishman made me feel like he loved touching me.

“This is what good BDSM looks like,” Rao said. “Too often it's one person getting what they want. A Dom spanking their Sub out of anger. That’s not a game that ends well for anyone. Both parties must consent. Both parties must get what they want.”

He was full of gems. He was like the Gandhi of dominance. The Oprah Winfrey of leather.

The exercise ended and the sexual tension in the room was unmistakable.

We headed back to our seats. One of the class assistants grabbed me on my way.

“I was watching you during the Dom exercise. You're sexy. If you ever wanna go with me to a dominatrix den, let me know. There’s plenty around the city,” she said.

I laughed.

I wasn’t exactly sure what one did at a dominatrix den, but whatever it was, I probably didn’t belong there. They’d see right through me. I’d probably trip the alarm at the door and get kicked out before I even walked in.

Then again, I guessed I shouldn't rule it out. I’d never thought I'd be at a BDSM workshop in the first place.


Olive Persimmon

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