Pleasure & Pain

I bring Joanne to the Pleasure Chest after Sunday brunch. I’m hoping she’s still in a kinky mood since we spent half the day in bed. We browse the BDSM section. She aims for the floggers. A salesgirl makes a beeline for us.

“Can I help you with anything ladies?” She is perhaps a bit too perky.

“I’m looking for something to dominate my wayward girlfriend with,” Joanne says.

The salesgirl puts on an expression of forced intrigue. “Oooh, well we have lots of options for that.”


She picks up a black crop. “This is a beginner crop.” Then she picks up another one with a smaller point of contact. “If you want something more intense, I recommend this one.” She slaps her own wrist with it and hands it to Joanne.

“Let me know if you need anything else,” the salesgirl smiles and walks away.

“You know, at Chemistry there are lots of sexy women who would love to play with us,” I say, stroking her arm with the crop.

“You know I’d rather play with you. Besides I work Saturday nights.”

(Why does everyone I love have to work on Saturday night? I suppose it’s the trade-off for never being attracted to nine-to-fivers or the independently wealthy.)

“You said you would ask your manager to trade Saturday for Wednesday.”

“She’s been too busy to shift the schedule. She needs me on Saturdays.”

I want to say “I need you on Saturdays” but it’s not true. I want her some Saturdays. Some Saturdays I want Pedro. Sometimes I want someone new. Other Saturdays I just want to be alone. “I want you some Saturdays,” is a lame argument so I say nothing.

Joanne’s never been to a sex party and always has an excuse not to go. “I don’t have any costumes” or “I have to work” or “I don’t do well in loud social situations”. The last one is ironic as she bartends at a place where you have to yell when ordering a drink. The real reason is she doesn’t want to see me have sex with other people, especially men.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s the challenge that keeps me so into her. I feel like every time we make love I might break into that mysterious place of resistance within her and she’ll join me in poly explorations. Maybe I feel that way because she broke into my resistance around falling in love with a woman.


I had been curious for a while when we first met two Prides ago. I had sexual experiences and crushes with other women, but never anything serious. On Pride day I was marching somewhere in between the poly group Open Love and Radical Fairies, a group of queer middle-aged men. After the parade a bunch of us tumbled into the Stonewall and I got smushed between this stunning Asian tomboy and a big hairy bear. The tomboy was wearing a button down shirt, a guy’s fedora and loads of rainbow beads around her neck.

“Sorry I’m so close to you,” I said. “If I step away I’ll be very intimate with a hairy belly I have no interest in.”

She laughed. “I don’t mind.”

“Do you have enough beads?” I pointed to her chest.

“Too many. You want some?” She was already taking some off and putting them on me.


Her friends were caught on the other side of the bar. I didn’t have any commitments to the people I came in with. We danced and after a couple of tequila shots she was calling me beautiful. I took hold of her beads and pulled her toward me. She did not resist. Nor did I. 

I didn’t think I would call her after that. But that night she entered my dreams, and in the morning I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I had never experienced this sort of lust for a woman before. It was like her beads transferred a new kind of infatuation onto me. I replayed our bar tryst over and over in my head. All we did was dance and make out. But my stubborn mind couldn’t argue with my body. When I touched myself I was already wet with thoughts of her lips, the weight of her tattooed arm around my waist.

I called her. We made a date. Over Korean dinner, she told me that she’d been in the city since she left home at eighteen. She immigrated from South Korea when she was five, and her family settled in Minnesota. She got bullied for being Asian and dressing like a boy. She ran away from home at fifteen, lived with a friend’s family for a while, dated a drug dealer. The friend’s father forced her to give him blow-jobs. She went back to her family, told them what happened, they blamed her for it, saying if she had acted like a girl, it never would have happened. She fled to the east coast, stayed with a distant cousin, went to bartending school. She wants to be a fashion designer. She tried to get something started a few times, but nothing panned out enough for her to quit bartending. At thirty-five, she regrets not going to college. She told me all this on the first date. Because I asked, “So what’s your New York story?”


After dinner, she invited me back to her place. She showed me some of her fashion sketches. She was not a great artist, but I liked her ideas. Menswear-inspired casual looks for hipster lesbians. As she scrolled through looks on her IPad, my body pulsed with desire. It was so intense I felt the remnants of adolescent shame: you are not supposed to be feeling this! This is not what you were raised to be! But I’ve been with women before! Not like this! I’m pro-gay! Your puritanical roots don’t care! The little voice of shame only strengthened my desire. My body inched toward hers of its own free will. When her thighs touched mine, my lust broke through the dam of shame and nothing could’ve held me back. I had never been so excited about a pair of breasts. Was it because they were hidden beneath boyish clothes? I took her hat off and was surprised she had long hair up in a bun. Hat on, the buzzed sides and back of her head suggested a rejection of femininity. But she had only redefined it. She brought me to her bed. She went down on me and I came within a few minutes. Then she asked me if I wanted to get fucked.

“You mean, with a strap-on?”


“Yes, but I’ve never done it before.” I felt eighteen all over again.

Our bodies melded together as if the dildo was part of her. I was so turned on it didn’t matter that it wasn’t real. But it was real. It was so real that the following week I co-signed her student loan application. And two months later she moved in. Even though she knew I was poly.


At Pleasure Chest she corners me into a rack of lingerie. I tease her with a sample vibrator off the shelf.

She says, “I’m going to fuck you so hard you won’t be able to think about anyone else but me.” 

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