This is an excerpt from "IMPERVIOUS: Confessions of a Semi-Retired Deviant." It has been republished here with permission.

The BDSM scene operates on a standardized gospel of dos and don’ts. Do negotiate first. Don’t play while angry or at odds. Do use a safeword. Don’t tie ropes too tightly. Do check in often. Don’t leave a bound person alone.

They’re great rules, developed over decades and based on the lived experience of tens of thousands of people.

Most experienced players break them all, sooner or later.

"I don’t think I can play tonight," he said. "Work today was just fucked up, and I’m so angry I can barely function."

I thought about it. “Never play while angry” – it had the weight of an eleventh commandment. But...

"Can you promise me that whatever you’re angry about has nothing to do with me?" I asked. I am afraid of anger, my own and other people’s, always have been.

He looked startled. "Of course."

"Then channel it through me," I said. "Take it out on me."

We set up our scene. The party was in a private home, a mid-century bungalow in the South Bay belonging to a lawyer friend. We settled into a corner of her office and he tied me to a portable whipping post someone had donated for the evening – hands overhead, waist bound firmly to the post so I couldn’t squirm away from what was coming.

"Tell me your safewords," he said.

"Red for stop, yellow for check-in," I told him. He knew them perfectly well – we’d been playing for a few months – but I understood the impulse behind the request, the reminder to both me and himself that there was a way out if things felt out of control. And then it began.

No warmup. A heavy flogger of some unforgiving type of leather, sharp-edged and abrasive. A big wooden paddle. His fists, against the big muscles of my back and ass. A cane. No pauses to let me catch my breath, no hugs or strokes or connection or reassurance. When I glanced back over my shoulder, I could see his face twisted into a snarl.

I knew him well, knew his ethics were impeccable and that the scene was entirely contingent on my willing participation, that only a word from me would bring the whole thing to an end.

I didn’t want it to end.

I twisted and writhed and screamed. I gasped and struggled and growled and sobbed. I was standing in a raging thunderstorm, being pelted, doused, soaked with anger as dangerous as lightning and as implacable as weather.

I wasn’t responsible for it. I couldn’t fix it. All I could do was let it rage into my skin, into my muscles, into my core, let it run down me and ground itself in the earth.

He beat me until his arm tired and he started missing strokes. Then he took me down and held me tight, shaking, against his hard, sweaty chest. He kissed my forehead and cheeks, combed my hair back from my brow with his fingers, fed me dark bitter chocolate and cold sweet water.

The party giver came over to see if we needed anything. "That scene was freaking a lot of people out," he told us in an undertone.

"Too bad," I said, and laughed and laughed and laughed.

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