I haven't felt that naked in a long time.

My apartment has a beautiful, wooden spiral staircase. When Susan first saw it, her reaction was “bondage furniture!”

We finally got an opportunity to try it out when she was in town last week.

She tied me to the stairs and then began to experiment with two floggers. The first was Mr. Thuddy, my long, heavy, leather flogger. The other was a short-but-reasonably-thuddy rubber jack I bought. I’m hoping to have better control with the rubber jack, but still produce something very similar to thuddy flogging.

As her swings gained power, the crack of tails meeting skin sounded throughout the space. I reached for the relaxation and openness that is a good thuddy flogging, but it always seemed just out of my grasp. I knew I was stressed, so I did not worry about what I could not find. I would be in the moment to the extent I was able. Worry would only take me further from the experience.

I was acutely aware of being naked with my legs spread and genitals on display. Normally I draw strength from being naked: I honor my body and honor my acceptance of myself. However I felt exposed: a common enough reaction to nudity, but not mine.

My mind wondered between my nudity and the sounds of the street coming in through the open windows. I considered asking that we close the windows. That might have been a good idea, but I realized that would not help what I was facing.

No, my trial was below me. Any minute, I expected to hear the squeak of the gate through the window, followed by a knocking at the door. Susan would go to open the door and I'd be there exposed before my neighbors as they lectured us on noise. “Of course we all have urges...but we can’t just give into them. You need to respect the common spaces. You can have sex, but not that way, not in an apartment near other people,” the dominant one would say.

My neighbors would prefer a quiet living space. They were concerned that I was sliding my office chair across the floor at 10 PM; they complained that I was pacing in my kitchen late at night; and they complained that my nine-year-old daughter was running around the apartment all day.

Of course, if there had been a knock, it would not have played out that way. If the door had to be answered, Susan could have stepped onto the porch or waited until I could be untied. Still it would have been distinctly awkward.

I felt shame that I might have to defend my sexuality in front of my neighbors. I felt shame that my home might not be a place where I could open to myself. That, rather than physical nudity was why I was exposed.

I considered whether I wanted to ask for a change in the scene. The windows could have been closed, but that would not change how sound traveled inside the apartment. I did suggest that hitting me was fine, but hitting the stairs themselves should be avoided. The stairs would act as a sounding board, conducting sound directly into the floor.

I struggled wondering whether I wanted to fight this. I thought about similar situations. Strangely, had I been screaming in orgasm, I would have had no problem. If someone complained, I would tell them that sexual expression and openness were important to me.

Similarly if it were just noise, I would not complain. I imagined deciding to sand my floor in preparation for refinishing it. I would agree that sanding is loud—louder even than our scene. However, my neighbors don’t get to object to me sanding my floor at 8:30 PM on a Friday, although I might work with them to find a least inconvenient time.

So if something was wrong here, it was because the noises were BDSM noises. No, I don't want to involve third parties in my sexuality or BDSM. Even so, I will not tiptoe around it so much that I embrace shame.

All this ran through my mind as the strokes fell. By this point I was floating somewhere between my shame and the physical sensation. The scene was becoming a meditation in where my boundaries around shame were. I built up courage to face that knock, to hear that condemnation, and to stand strong, while perhaps compromising around timing.

Around then Susan checked in, and I told her where I had gotten to. She put aside the floggers and showed me that with claws out, she at least could be a lot quieter. At first, I thought I had been heard wrong and she'd changed the scene to work around my shame rather than help me face it.

No, she was brilliant. She showed that we could have had a different scene. And then went right back to where we were with the floggers. She reminded me that it was my choice. I had power here. She didn't quite turn it into humiliation play, although she used some of the same techniques: she rubbed my face into the shame a bit, forcing me to challenge it head-on. The scene transformed. If I was having trouble being fully in the moment we were planning, then we'd have the moment I was in. It worked perfectly.

There was no knock, no snippy email. I learned later the neighbors were out of town. So I must face that all again some day. I dread.

Looking Forward

There's actually a very thorny problem here and the answer is not simple. I do understand it can be uncomfortable when side effects of something someone does impinges on your space. Next time I'll definitely have the windows closed and play some masking music. There are scenes I'd be reluctant to have in an apartment because of noise. But I need to draw the boundary somewhere that is not about embracing shame. I certainly could use others' input in balancing this embracing sexuality, politeness and rejecting shame.