by Annabeth Leong
If you look closely at the right side of my lower back, you'll find a faint scar in the shape of a stylized flower. My partner hates it, because it represents a night when my cravings got out of control. I feel like I should hate it, but honestly if I had it all to do over, I might very well do the same. That was undoubtedly one of the most erotic nights of my life. I know I was being stupid, but I'm not exactly sorry it happened.
There's a club night I go to where there are sometimes demonstrations of kinky things. On this particular occasion, I walked in and saw a demo going on in a roped-off area near the bar. A woman in a pink latex nurse's outfit was using a violet wand on a shirtless man in leather pants, and I just about skipped over there in my excitement.
I love violet wands. I tried one for the first time at that very club, and I'll never forget the thrill and mystery of that moment. For those who don't know, a violet wand is a device that can apply low current, high voltage stimulation to the skin. It takes various attachments, and the sensations it produces can range from a light tickle to mind-erasing pain.
The first time I saw one in action, everyone at the club was decked out in neon and glow sticks, and black light glanced off people's shoulders as they danced. Behind a velvet curtain, a thin woman with punky hair and multiple facial piercings wielded attachments that pulsed with weird colors. I got in line to try one and discovered I got along with the brand of pain the wand administered. It burned in a way that made me feel tough and sexy. I could take it better than I expected to be able to. Once she started running that device up and down my arms, I would have done just about anything she'd asked. I would have stayed in that booth all night if she'd let me. As it was, the next morning, thin lines of scabs covered my arms from shoulder to wrist and cris-crossed my chest.
My brain pretty much turns off when a violet wand is in use. All I want is more, and all my nice knowledge of best practices for BDSM basically dematerializes. I have no idea what that woman's name was or where she'd come from. We had no safeword, no aftercare in place, no game plan of any kind. My partner was out of town, and I told myself I wasn't making out with her so it was fine, but Jesus being hurt like that is probably a bigger deal for me than any sort of making out could ever be. Even as it was happening, I knew I could spin it to a tale of technical devotion, but that in my heart I was being unfaithful.
But that isn't actually the night I'm trying to talk about. I'm just trying to explain the craving with an anecdote that probably doesn't make sense to anyone who doesn't already understand the craving. This, to me, touches on one of the central mysteries of BDSM. What is it about pain that makes me crave it? As a brief aside, here's one of the best passages I've written on the subject (this is from a story that's supposed to come out in a Cleis anthology at some point):
She pressed a sweet kiss to my cheek, and that's when I knew I was in trouble. Sweetness, for D, was useful as a weapon of contrast. My body tensed, anticipating pain, and, inside my panties, my cunt twitched and squeezed tight. I'd never understood why genuine anxiety did that to me, but until I learned how to use seemingly negative sensations for pleasure I'd always felt as if my clit were buried beneath a layer of cotton. Every touch seemed dull and distant unless pain and fear first stripped me bare.
So, given that, understand that the violet wand is the best device I've found for delivering just the type of pain and fear I need to activate my ability to feel. I now own one, but before I did, it was also a rare and expensive device that I encountered only rarely. Maybe that helps explain why I rushed over to that latex-clad "nurse" on the night in question.
I had my partner with me, as well as a friend, but everything melted away except for that nurse and that device. "Do you guys mind?" My friend assured me she did not. My partner followed me as I headed for the nurse.
Talking to the nurse, I discovered she and her compatriots had the violet wand turned up high enough for branding. The marks they would leave weren't supposed to be permanent, but they could be, and they were supposed to last at least a month.
From my current relatively sane perspective, I can easily summon the questions I should have asked and the hesitations I should have had. Again, I didn't bother to get the nurse's name. I didn't ask for any details about what she was doing or what sort of safety measures might be in place. I only asked two questions: Would she do that to me, too? When?
The answers were yes, and right then. I picked a flower stencil for the brand at random and pulled off my shirt. My partner stood in the demo area, holding onto me while the nurse approached me with the violet wand set to searing.
At home, I often surprise my partner with how skittish I can be. My pain tolerance isn't so great when I don't have an audience, and I'm as likely to fight as to submit. But when people are watching, that just adds fuel to the flames of my craving for pain. My pain tolerance becomes terrifyingly, dangerously high so long as other people are there to witness me getting hurt.
I've learned this now, and I try to make provisions for the way I'm going to lose my head if I'm playing where people can watch. At the time of my encounter with the nurse, however, I was living with a pent-up craving for pain that I'd built to the point of explosion during an eight-year relationship with a partner who wasn't okay with BDSM, and I was unleashing it wildly. I hadn't learned my limits, and I thought reading erotica had prepared me for how to be safe, but it hadn't really.
So I stood there, too aroused to care about any sort of safety, and when the nurse touched me with the violet wand, I saw white light and came while bracing myself against my partner's arms. I have never felt pain like that before or since. She giggled maniacally, which probably wasn't a good sign but turned me on even more. I knew this was too much pain, and that I was probably doing something I shouldn't, but I loved that, too. I treasure the memory of every second of her drawing that flower. Endorphins coursed through me. I could barely stand, but I had reached that elusive place where pain and pleasure become one, intensifying and perfecting each other.
She told me the wound looked so pretty, and I wanted to follow her like a puppy dog. I wanted to be hurt like that some more, possibly forever. But I went off and danced with my partner and my friend, and it was only in the morning that I looked at the wound and saw how serious it was and felt ashamed of how reckless I had been.
My partner did not want it to scar, and absolutely hated the idea that I might be permanently marked by something as random as that flower stencil, at a time we hadn't agreed upon, by a person we didn't know. But no amount of aloe or vitamin E could stop a scar from forming, so I've still got that flower on my back.
I taught a workshop on the violet wand a couple months ago and showed that scar as a cautionary tale. But then I had my partner demonstrate the violet wand on me for the edification of the class and that craving returned at once and my ridiculous pain tolerance kicked in. The attachment that terrifies me at home became a fun toy, and despite my efforts to rein the craving in, I still wound up covered with those thin lines of scabs, my torso burned and aching. It is better than it used to be—I've learned to negotiate, and I do try to keep myself safe and avoid playing with strangers. On the other hand, the violet wand activates a special, reckless, wild need in me, and I'm sure that wasn't the last time I'll go overboard while in the grip of its allure.