When I was a kid, I watched Batman Returns over and over and over. I was never into superhero movies and even now, the only other superhero movie I’ve watched more than once is the new Wonder Woman. I’m not sure if my family ever wondered why I watched Batman Returns so much and if so, if they ever figured it out. I didn’t realize the answer myself until many, many years later: Catwoman.
I was mesmerized by her totally femme apartment, her transformation, her acrobatics, her whip, the way she talkedat once both velvety and gravelly. If one of my earliest crushes was on Michelle Pfeiffer in a latex catsuit, is it any wonder I ended up queer and kinky and partial to red lipstick and double entendres?
Despite this and other feelings I explained away“I just really want to be friends with that girl, I don’t like like her”I didn’t realize I was queer until I had my first boyfriend in college. Between his being a kind, compassionate listener and both of us being in a theater group full of queer folx, I put the pieces together. I told him things I hadn’t told other people and named feelings I’d had for others (mostly girls) in the past that, through conversations with him and questions from him, I realized were actually crushes.
When I think about the awkward adolescent girl who thought something was wrong with her because she didn’t like boys, I feel sad for her. She didn’t know what was possible.
It was as though, as a teenager, my sexuality had blossomed and I’d missed it. It was not the sexuality I expected to haveor was “supposed” to haveso I didn’t even know it was there. In college, I labeled myself as bisexual for the first time.
But because I discovered that queerness so lateand during a “straight” relationshipI still never had the opportunity to explore it. Even though my boyfriend (now partner) and I were non-monogamous from early in our relationship, I avoided exploring my queerness. I felt “too old” to be a baby queer with little experience dating queer folx.
But if there is one thing that’s helping me overcome those feelings, it’s my kinkiness.
After moving from small town Pennsylvania to Chicago, my partner and I started exploring the kink/BDSM scene and I was finally able to dip a toe into the queer and kinky pool. It was my eventual comfort level in kink spaces that finally gave me the courage jump in. Attending my first “women only” play party was an incredibly huge and terrifying step. It at least gave me the space to meet others without feeling on display for the cis male gaze.
I saw a woman sitting by herself, wearing very high black heels, skinny jeans, a black and white wool poncho, and matching glasses. She looked like someone I would like to meet so I got up the nerve to walk over to her.
“Hi, I’m Nicole.” I reached out to shake her hand.
“I’m Katrina* and I’m really bad at doing what you just did,” she responded, laughing.
I pulled up a chair next to her and didn’t really think about her age until she told me she’s 14 years my senior, using her age as a gauge for how long she’s been in the scene.
We spent much of the party chatting, and eventually I got up even more nerve to ask her, “How do you feel about electricity?” Then we spent probably an hour or more playing with my Neon Wand, a device that basically creates varying levels of electrical discharge across the skin.
She had been out of the scene for several years after a bad relationship and because that was her first night back and she was the first woman I’d ever played with, it was a significant moment for both of us. The next morning, she sent a message checking on me, making sure I was OK with everything that happened between us the night before. I had been in a safer and more familiar space, so I was able to take a risk with someone new. I had felt heard and cared for by her, despite the fact that I barely knew her.
At another play party, I ended up in a scene with two other women and a pro-domme, participating in what became known as the “butt buffet” of the evening, so called because the three of us were lined up side by side, bent over a table, bottoms exposed for a spanking. It wasn’t supposed to be a competition, but I won, tapping out last. I let my competitiveness get the best of me and I was left blushing and bruised for days after.
If it wasn’t for my kinkiness (and the understanding of a supportive partner), I don’t know how or when I might have ended up actually exploring my queerness. Rather than just being an outlet for a different side of myselfthe masochistic and sensually curious onekink has given me the space and confidence to explore the queer part of myself that has been present for decades.
Part of kink, for me, is about toying with my boundaries and playing with my “edges”those things that seem scary and dangerous, but can actually be exciting and empowering if explored cautiously and consciously. Being queer has been more of an edge for me than I ever would have liked it to be but it’s not entirely my own faultI partially blame living in a tiny, conservative town during the pre-Internet days. It unfortunately stayed an edge for me as I felt shamed for writing about it during essay workshops and unwelcome by a few people I actually knew in the queer community because of my primary relationship with a cis guy.
But kink gives me a strength and confidence and audacity that I don’t know I would have discovered otherwise. Now when I think back to that shy little girl feeling lost and wrong, watching Catwoman literally whip pistols out of the hands of two policemen, I am not so worried about her. It might be a long time before she finds herself, but she’ll figure it out. And maybe learn how to throw a whip herself along the way.
*Not her real name