The power and beauty of BDSM comes at least in part because it's a way to create spaces where we're encouraged to push our own boundaries. In the dungeon or play space, all the things that were labeled "NO" by our teachers, parents, and the little voices in our heads become ways to build intimacy, trust, and a sense of our own power.
But most BDSM requires not only breaking taboos but pushing our bodies to their limits as well. So what happens when your body doesn't work the way you want it to? How do you cope when the things that gave you pleasure are now a source of pain -- and not the kind you once enjoyed in subspace?
Most of us will have to deal with this question in some form or another: Eventually, most of us get hurt, or sick, and we inevitably get older, forcing us to cope with the new reality of our bodies.
My experiences in BDSM scenes have been physically rewarding, and brought me closer to myself. I haven't had to worry about injury or handicaps hindering my own submissive experiences, but the reality is that I might someday. Although disability isn't spoken of much in the community, Many of our friends, play partners, and lovers are finding ways to negotiate between desire and disability all the time. One of them is my dear friend, sister in leather and lifestyle submissive/masochist, Jezebel; imagine being one of the most joyously heavy impact players out there, and one day having that role taken away by a sudden disability.
I sat down with Jezebel, to hear more about her journey and the adjustments that she's made to stay active in a lifestyle that means the world to her, and yet, can so easily be taken for granted by the rest of us.
HH: Tell me a little bit about you and how you began your BDSM lifestyle.
Jezebel: I have been in the BDSM scene with my Sir for approximately 10 years now. We met when we worked at separate jobs in the same complex.. Today we live a 24/7 lifestyle. I started out as His service slave and we evolved from there. Now I am married to Him, but first and foremost, I am His property before I am His wife. That's not just an important part of our relationship, it's the most important part of our relationship. We have protocols that I follow every day.
HH: I know the two of you have daily rituals and I've always admired them. What are some of the protocols you've created together?
Jezebel: Every morning and every night, I recite a poem I wrote myself, something that I painted on a picture of me kneeling and bound and I gave it to Him when we first started our relationship. It goes like this:
If it pleases Him to have me kneel before Him, i will kneel reverently.
If it pleases Him to bind me, i will gladly offer my arms to Him.
If it pleases Him to touch me, i will allow myself to be touched.
If it pleases Him to teach me, i will learn all I can.
If it pleases Him to discipline me, i will accept without a sound.
If it pleases Him to allow me to serve Him, i will serve him with loyalty and devotion.
So, I recite that first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to bed to reassert my role in this relationship and to restate my submission to Him every day. So that's one of my favorite protocols that I do. I also pull out His clothes, I paste His toothbrush, protocols that get Him ready for His day. If He has to go somewhere, I pack His lunch for him, little things like that.
(Jezebel at AdultCon)
HH: So I've known you both for quite a while and I've seen your relationship blossom and grow. I've also witnessed you go through some physical changes over the last few years that have had quite an impact on your routine together. Can you share a bit about the disability that you've encountered; how it began, and the symptoms and treatments?
Jezebel: I have something that can either be called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) or RSD(Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). It's a neurological condition that is excruciatingly painful. It's been diagnosed by physicians as the most painful chronic condition that exists. The pain is 24/7 every day.
I had my fifth knee surgery, and after the surgery -- they don't really know what causes the disease, they have yet to figure that out because it's so rare there's not a lot of people doing research on it. But when I got out of surgery, I knew something was wrong. I was in excruciating amounts of pain. The best way I can describe it is there's different kinds of pain; I get severe leg spasms. The actual majority of the pain is in my right leg. I get burning pains so it feels like my skin has been doused in acid. It feels like a third-degree burn all the time. I also get what I call deep "bone crushing" pain.
HH: Are there treatments for it?
Jezebel: There aren't any specific treatments for it. I've done physical therapy, I've tried sympathetic nerve blocks, I've been on pretty much every medication there is. Anti-spasmatics, anti-anxiety medications, those help with spasms sometimes. I've been on sleeping medications because it affects my limbic system as well as my sympathetic nervous system and my autonomic nervous system.
In addition to the pain, I don't sleep well. I will almost pass out if I stand up too quickly because my body can't regulate my blood pressure well. So in addition to the pain, it's a full body disorder. I also have something called gastroparesis which means my stomach doesn't digest food.
HH: And yet even while going through all of this, I see you still serve your Sir with a true submissive's heart. I've always known you as being a hard core Masochist, and what kind of kink play you used to like, so now that you have a disability, how do you and your Sir blend your old playlist into today?
Jezebel: It's very challenging. That's one of the hardest parts of it. Luckily, my Owner is incredibly compassionate and understanding, and has been my biggest support system. For example, I can no longer kneel. I was very much into heavy impact play, and that has been severely affected because any additional trauma to my body can spread the CRPS to a different location.
So, say I get hit too hard, my body can respond negatively and it can transfer the disease. I'll still have it in my leg, but I'll also have it, say, in my back. Or my butt, or something like that. If the impact were too hard or my body reacted badly to it, it could spread.
Basically the disease is kind of a short circuit with my brain. My brain thinks it's experiencing severe trauma even though it's not. So it's thinking that my leg is going through surgery even though I'm not experiencing surgery at this time. So I have swelling, I have redness, I have the severe pain. My bones are kind of disintegrating. There's so many different things that it affects, but because of this fragility of my body now, we've had to make a lot of changes with our scening. We scene a lot less, not just because of the risk, but also because of fatigue and me just not feeling well enough to scene like we used to. I miss it terribly, but it's going to be an ongoing thing throughout our life and our relationship that we have to find our new normal, since my condition is chronic and degenerative.
HH: I've seen you two play. What are some of the first things to keep in mind now when you two go to create a safe space for a scene?
Jezebel: We make sure there's a way where I can be comfortable. Like I said, I can't kneel; spanking benches are hard unless I can get in a position where I'm not putting any pressure on my leg. On a St Andrew's Cross I can have my hands bound, but not my legs, because I need to be able to move them to prevent them from locking up. Otherwise they lock up, and that's incredibly painful. So we have to take those kinds of things into consideration before we start a scene. We also don't play as hard to reduce the risk of spreading my condition.
HH: Since your pain starts with your right leg around the knee area, what kind of toys or gear do you tend to lean toward now, or types of actual play?
Jezebel: I still prefer impact play, and we obviously have to avoid my leg completely, because even vibration or the slightest touch hurts it -- he hasn't touched my leg in almost three years. I don't even touch my leg because it's that sensitive to the touch. I still like impact play, we just can't go quite as hard. We can't do any kind of edge play or anything like that any more.
HH: One thing I will say though, is that in the almost decade I've known you, you've always been someone who can look at the optimistic side of things. When I met you, you were a hardcore lifestyle masochist and now I see how the service part of you comes out stronger because it's almost like a balance to still have the lifestyle and put more into one side than the other.
Jezebel: I would agree with you. I think that's probably part of it. I think maybe because I feel guilty or I miss the fact that we can't scene as much, I try to make up for it in the service aspects.
HH: Are there things that you've pulled into your -- I wouldn't say menu, but your lifestyle together that's actually helped you compensate, or maybe something you were missing that's like a nice surprise?
Jezebel: I would say above all else, it's made us much, much closer and much stronger in our relationship. We've always had an incredibly strong bond, but when we got together, we didn't expect me to get sick. Unless you meet someone and they're already disabled, you don't expect someone to have a chronic illness. He didn't take me on as a lifestyle submissive knowing that I'm going to have a lifelong chronic pain condition. So I think if I have to look at it in an optimistic sort of way, I think because this has happened, it's made us a lot closer. I have no doubt in my mind that He would do anything for me and He takes care of me in a way that I don't think normal vanilla relationships would ever get to experience. Because He's my owner and I'm His property, He takes care of me as such.
HH: That's the thing, isn't it? It's that a Dom and a sub or a Master and a slave, they actually have that balance. One takes care of the other, and the other one gifts back to the other. It almost makes sense that it is the role that it is.
Jezebel: And I think that me getting sick has definitely enhanced that role. We definitely both take care of each other in our own ways, and I'm so blessed that I have the Owner that I have, because I don't think I would be able to get through this illness without Him. There's just no way. I would be able to do it, because it's taken everything from me, but it hasn't taken our relationship. It's made it stronger.
HH: What advice would you give to someone who might be in a similar position like you, who's just getting out in the lifestyle but doesn't have a partner, and wondering "How do I go about finding my BDSM partner when I have a disability?"
Jezebel: My Owner gave me a book called The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability, by Miriam Kaufman. It's a great reference, and I'd recommend it for anyone starting to deal with these issues.
On a personal level, I would say, first and foremost, be honest and communicate as much as possible. I know everyone says that: "Communication is key in BDSM," but you cannot stress that enough. Just because you're sick or you have a chronic illness or you have an injury or something, it doesn't make you any less worthy to have a wonderful, healthy BDSM relationship. It might not be what you would have desired if you were a hundred percent healthy, but we all have our problems. You're not damaged goods just because you're sick. If you own that and convey that, people will see it and respond to it.
Jezebel and Her Sir are active in the Los Angeles BDSM Community. They currently live a 24/7 lifestyle and reside in Orange County, California.