Paperclip

paperclipWhenever I am a little minxy or difficult, at a dinner party, say, or on a night out or simply at the shopping centre, Ben will say: “remember the paperclip, Wendy.” Sometimes friends, overhearing, give us quizzical looks; the bolder ones may even ask what Ben means. We tell them it is a private joke, too complex and trivial to be worth explanation; so far this has always forestalled further curiosity. But the paperclip is not a joke. It is an invisible key inserted into a hidden lock. Later, at a convenient moment, I will whisper into Ben’s ear “yes, I remember” or “no, I forget”, determining whether the lock will open or not. It is our secret code, and it is always sealed with a kiss.

There really is a paperclip. It is here in the upstairs study, on the leather-topped mahogany desk at which I am typing. The question is whether to move it or not. Today it is sitting at the right-hand edge of the desk, just where it was yesterday and for most of the past week. Do I want to move it or not? A lot hinges on my answer, as it does every day. Most days I move it. If, when I awake, it is on the left edge of the desk, I will at some point during the day transfer it to the right edge; the next day I will put it back on the left edge. This can continue day after day. Once, even, for three consecutive weeks the paperclip made a daily journey from one side of the desk to the other. But I haven’t been feeling quite myself recently, and the paperclip hasn’t been touched for six days. Today I think it is time to move it again.

The ritual is not about moving the paperclip; the ritual is about asking and answering the question whether to move it. I first began asking the question nearly five years ago. At the time my life was an awful mess. A few months earlier I had deregistered from my doctoral programme, putting on hold three years of fraught research on a PhD I no longer cared about or even understood. The plan was to reassess my life, my ambitions, my goals. I visualized days occupied by reading, thinking and exercise, and some freelance proofreading and translating to pay the bills, all leading to clarity about the meaning, shape and direction of my life. But mostly I did nothing. Waking up late, I drifted through the hours in my pyjamas, smoking cigarettes to the background noise of Radio 4, eating cereal or toast or snacks at odd times, picking up books only to set them aside after a few minutes of desultory reading, doodling, lounging, staring, napping. In bed at night I made resolutions about new days and new starts. These resolutions had no more substance than my dreams. My motivation evaporated, the cycle repeated itself.

But I had Ben. And me, my poor diet, my empty bank account, my lethargy and listlessness—he took them in and gave them a home. We’d been dating for a couple of months. Casually, not seriously, I supposed—I’m not sure I considered it even a relationship, and the mental fog of my inertia clouded my ability to discern how much I liked him—but it was the one thing I managed to rouse myself for. On an October evening, curled up on his sofa, the final glasses from a bottle of wine in our hands, I suddenly burst into tears and sobbed my narration of the wilderness in which I was lost. With tender touches and loving attention, he listened, he consoled, he comforted—and he asked me to live with him. For a moment, speechless, I was determined to refuse, for a “yes” seemed too cynical and obvious: I had no money and no job, whereas Ben was a successful lawyer, and I had fallen behind with my rent, whereas Ben owned a small but comfortable two-bedroom terrace house in a smart area of the city. Then I looked from his face down to his large hands wrapped around mine and I realized I loved him. I moved in the following day.

Ben shone a light for me to head towards. He cherished me and nurtured me; he cooked me nutritious meals; he encouraged my hopes; he indulged my despair; he was patient with my confused mind; he was gentle and passionate with my receptive body. But still I struggled to reach the light.

One day he suggested a new idea. It was, he informed me, an approach he had learned from a counsellor he had consulted in his youth. The principle was that mental strength—which I so singularly lacked—needed training just as physical strength does. It requires disciplined exercise, routines and habits. Every evening, before I went to sleep, I was to decide upon a task that I would complete without fail the following day. If I succeeded, I would decide on a slightly more difficult task the next evening; if I failed, then I would choose an easier task to get back on track. The key was to succeed consistently—day after day resolving on doing something and then actually doing it—thereby building mental strength, much as the performance of daily physical exercises builds physical strength. It was, he had learned from his counsellor and from experience, surprising how many people struggled with this mental strength training. This was why it was important to decide upon tasks that I was sure I would complete. What the task was didn’t matter: it could be something meaningful, such as writing a paragraph, or it could make no sense, such as moving a paperclip. All that mattered was doing it.

The straightforward, persuasive logic of the idea appealed to me. Because it was as meaningless and easy as a single press-up, and because Ben had mentioned it as an example, I decided to start the training with the paperclip task. Before going to bed I placed one paperclip on one side of the desk and resolved to move it to the other side the next day. I took to bed an expectant faith that this simple act would begin clearing a path, a path of fulfilled resolution and mental fortitude, that would direct me out of the wilderness. And yet the following day, and the day after that too, I failed to move the paperclip. Did I just forget? Was I being self-defeating? Was I incurably lazy? I did not understand. A mysterious, inner resistance was rendering me incapable of carrying out the simplest of tasks. Tearfully I suggested to Ben that I was a lost cause.

“No, you’re not a lost cause,” he replied. “You should never think that. But perhaps we could introduce a variation on the approach that might help. Perhaps if there were certain consequences for failure, you might discover an incentive to succeed. Mild consequences, but ones you would remember and would help you focus your mind.”

I asked him what he meant, but he refused to elaborate, only indicating that he would give some thought to appropriate consequences. “But you’re going to move the paperclip tomorrow, aren’t you?” he said. “That will make it unnecessary for me to devise consequences and for you to learn what they may be.”

Ben returned home from work late the following evening. I had already eaten the pasta salad he had prepared the previous day, and I was lazing in my pyjamas on the sofa watching television. He kissed me and went upstairs to take a shower. Twenty minutes later he came back down to the living room with a serious look on his face. “You didn’t move the paperclip,” he said. “It’s in exactly the same place now as it was when I left this morning.”

“Oh god, I completely forgot,” I said with genuine surprise. “I really meant to move it, honestly. It was even on my mind a couple of times, but I was downstairs at the time and thought I’d do it later.”

“But the point is that you didn’t do it later. You didn’t do it at all.”

“I could move it now,” I suggested.

“No, it’s too late now. The purpose of the exercise is that you shouldn’t need to be told to do things, but that you develop mental strength and self-discipline. No, you’ve failed the task today. Yesterday we agreed that we would introduce consequences for failure. Is that something you are still prepared to try?”

“Yes,” I nodded uncertainly. “But what…?”

“I’d like you to open my briefcase. Inside you’ll find a plastic bag, and inside that you’ll find an object. Unwrap that and bring it to me.”

I walked across the room to his briefcase and took out an unbranded black plastic bag. Out of that I pulled a light, flat object wrapped in paper. I unpeeled the paper—and took a sharp intake of breath at the black leather item I saw in my hands.

“You know what that is, don’t you?” Ben asked.

“Yes…,” I replied. “It’s a… it’s a paddle.”

“And you understand why I’ve bought it?”

“Because you’re going to… to spank me,” I said slowly.

“And do you agree that you ought to be spanked?” I nodded slightly, remembering the few, and enjoyable, occasions when he had playfully slapped my bottom during sex. “If so,” he continued, “come here and hand me the paddle.”

An aura of relaxed authority and gentle power surrounded him as he sat on the sofa. He had never looked so attractive. Without a second thought, I walked over and passed him the paddle. He looked at it, turning it over in his hands, before resting it on the arm of the sofa. “First I’m going to put you over my knee,” he said, “and give you a hand spanking. Then you’re going to receive six strokes of the paddle.”

Compliantly I leaned forward as he eased me over his lap. He manoeuvred me so that my bottom was raised. I waited, tense and a little thrilled, ready to receive the first smack. Instead, I felt his fingers inside the waistband of my pyjama bottoms and then the sensation of them being pulled down to my knees. I quietly gasped at my position: submissively held over Ben’s lap, my bare backside positioned to be punished. A second later I felt his palm land firmly on one cheek, quickly followed by a slap to the other cheek. Then again and again, calmly and firmly, rhythmically and without pause, he spanked me for two or three minutes, sending waves of tingling, warm pain rippling over the soft cheeks of my bottom. Finally he stopped and told me to stand up. I did so, rubbing my sore bottom gently. He picked up the paddle.

“Now bend over the arm of the sofa,” he said. “I’m going to give you six strokes of the paddle, three on each cheek.”

My pyjama bottoms around my knees, impeding my movement, I shuffled gingerly to the side of the sofa and bent over its armrest, stretching my arms out in front of me. My heart skipped as he tapped the leather against my exposed bottom.

“You’ll move the paperclip tomorrow, won’t you Wendy?” he said.

“Yes, I promise,” I said.

“Because the next time you forget I’ll give you twelve strokes. Let’s begin.”

The leather struck firmly against one cheek, sending a stinging rush through my bottom. When the second stroke landed hard on the other cheek I let out a soft gasp. Gritting my teeth, I silently counted off the next two strokes. I let out a low cry of pain as the fifth stroke landed loudly and firmly against my throbbing behind, then a louder yell when the final stroke of the leather smacked hard against my tender, bare flesh. I lay very still, as the stinging pain danced across my behind, before being replaced by the gentle touch of Ben’s caressing hands.

“You can stand up now,” he said. “The punishment is over.”

I did as he said. He turned me around, embracing me warmly and tightly, kissing my neck lovingly. Then he lifted my pyjama top over my head, lay me on the sofa and pulled my pyjama bottoms off. I opened my legs, my pussy wet and wanting him, his tongue, his cock. There on the sofa, my bottom tingling from my spanking, we made beautiful, passionate love.

The next day, the faint soreness of my bottom serving as a reminder, I moved the paperclip. And I did so again the following day. Then, on the day after that, I stood at the desk, about to pick the paperclip up. But instead I turned around and walked out of the study, the paperclip untouched and unmoved. For the rest of that day I waited, eager and impatient, for Ben to return home and discover my failure, and for the consequences that would inevitably follow. He did not disappoint me, neither that evening nor on the two subsequent days when I had failed in my small task.

“I thought this might happen,” he said, rubbing my sore bottom after my third consecutive spanking. “It’s almost as if you want to be spanked.” I remained silent, my slight blush unseen. “Be honest with me, Wendy. Do you enjoy being spanked?”

“Yes,” I said, quietly and a little ashamed. “I love it. I absolutely love it. Is that wrong of me?”

He went to the sofa and asked me to sit on his lap, my pyjama bottoms dangling around my ankles. “No, of course it’s not,” he said. “I thought you would. I hoped you would. But it means we’ll have to adapt our approach. Starting from tomorrow, you’ll be spanked if you successfully move the paperclip. If you fail, then no spanking. How does that sound?”

“It sounds wonderful.” I put my hands around his neck and kissed him. I whispered in his ear: “Yes, spank me to reward me, I know that will work.”

And the rewards did work. Over the following week I moved the paperclip every day. Gradually we introduced more difficult tasks, and, to encourage and motivate me with those, we bought a cane, the stinging strokes of which I sincerely strived to avoid. But we never stopped the paperclip task, not even when I returned to my thesis and completed it, not even when I published my first book, not even when I applied for and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship, not even when I no longer needed to build my mental strength because I could carry out almost every task I set my mind to.

I’m looking at the paperclip now, the same paperclip that has been on this desk for nearly five years. As soon as I finish typing this sentence I will move it across the desk and then wait with excited anticipation for Ben to return home and punish me.

 


 

[Inspiration for the mental strength exercise came from Mark Forster, Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play (2000).]

The PhD supervisor

by Lacey DeLeye

It is hard to underestimate the importance of the PhD supervisor. Taking on a doctoral thesis—essentially a book-length piece of research with the requirement to meet rigorous academic standards—is a daunting prospect. For most students, nothing in their previous experience prepares them for such an undertaking. Sure, a Master’s dissertation is useful training in how to interpret sources and organize analysis, but a 10,000-word dissertation completed in a few months can hardly be compared to a 100,000-word piece of research over three or four years. It is not the scholarly expectations that present the biggest obstacles; rather, the challenge is to remain disciplined, focused and productive over several years while working largely alone. Distractions, doubts and isolation can easily derail the process. One of the key roles of the supervisor is, crucially, to keep the student on track.

I will freely admit the difficulties I had with my thesis. Once my initial enthusiasm for the project had subsided, I quickly became lost among the sources and began to doubt the viability of the thesis. For a long time I remained in denial about my difficulties, blithely informing all around me that my research was progressing smoothly, even occasionally convincing myself of this—or at least of the possibility that I would sort it all out in the end. But increasingly I found myself bewildered by what I was doing, to the extent that I stopped doing much of anything. I’d read a bit, take a few notes, pop into the library occasionally, but without any clear structure or sense of what my thesis was about or where it was going. Instead I found ways of avoiding the reality: I partied, I drank a lot, I took drugs.

But eventually I woke up to the fact that I was floundering. Matters came to a head early in my second year when my supervisor asked to see a draft of a chapter I said I’d been working on. For a couple of weeks I managed to defer submitting this work to him. Finally he insisted on seeing something, so over a couple of days I dashed off a few thousand words and emailed it to him. A few days later I received an email from him:

Dear Lacey, Many thanks for the draft of chapter two that you sent me. However, having read it, I have some concerns about the state and progress of your thesis. I think we need to discuss this urgently. I’m very busy the rest of this week, but would it be possible to meet next Monday at 5 p.m. in my office? Kind regards, Professor D___

My heart sank on reading Professor D___’s message. I realized he was right to have concerns, and that I had no idea how I would address those concerns satisfactorily. I replied to confirm the meeting and spent the next few days in a fog of panic and anxiety, to the extent that I persuaded myself that the best course of action was to abandon the thesis.

I was in a wretched state by the time I was standing outside Professor D___’s office at the appointed time. I nervously knocked on his door; I heard a loud “Come in” and entered.

“Ah, Lacey, excellent, please do take a seat,” Professor D___ said while tapping away at his keyboard on a table at right angles to his desk. “Forgive me while I finish writing this email. Utterly tedious admin, I’m afraid. But there you go, that’s modern academia for you.”

I sat down in the chair facing his desk and looked around his office. For an academic it was remarkably uncluttered: the books were arranged neatly along shelves, and his desk was clear apart from a couple of journals, a notebook and two ordered trays each containing a few folders and papers. I stared out of the window to my left: the last time I had sat in Professor D___’s office the trees, almost within touching distance of the window, were a lush mass of green; now, through their branches and scattered brown leaves, I could glimpse the university library in the distance. It felt like a sad image of decay reflecting my thesis so I turned to look at my supervisor, a picture of concentration at his computer. And this made me feel sad too: for in front of me was one of the leading international experts in his field, a status he had achieved despite not yet reaching fifty, and here was I squandering the opportunity that I had been given when I was awarded a scholarship.

He clicked his mouse and turned to me. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I do sometimes wonder if the whole point of academics these days is to support administrators rather than the other way round. Anyway, thanks for coming along. How have things been?”

For a moment I thought of doing what I usually did: telling him that everything was fine, that there had been a few bumps in the road but that I was confident my thesis was going well. But I stopped myself and contemplated his question for a moment. It occurred to me that now was the time to start getting real about my situation.

“Not great, to be honest,” I replied. “I think I’m struggling with the thesis.”

He nodded and fixed his eyes on me. “Yes, that seems like a fair assessment. I’ll get straight to the point: the chapter you sent me was very weak. I’m increasingly worried that you are badly off the pace that would be expected of someone at your stage. As you know, you are supposed to have an upgrade around about now, but you’re clearly not ready. And if we can’t upgrade you, then you won’t be able to continue as a PhD student. So, as I say, I’m very concerned about where you’re at in the process.”

His direct assessment felt like a physical blow—but one that, over the previous weeks, I had anticipated would come at some point. I struggled to stop myself from crying. Feebly I said: “I know, I’m worried too.”

“So what seems to be the problem? You’re clearly a highly intelligent student. You achieved outstanding results for your first degree and your Master’s. You’ve got a good topic and for the first few months you seemed to be making solid progress. But over the past few months I’ve seen very little work from you, and what I have seen has, to be quite frank, not been up to the standard expected of a thesis.”

“I’m sorry,” I answered, unable to think of what else to say.

“It’s not a question of apologies,” he responded. “It’s a question of identifying the problem and finding a solution to it.” He paused, waiting to see if I replied, but I said nothing. “So tell me, what have you been doing over the past few months?”

Panic gripped me as I realized I had no satisfactory answer to this question. I sat silently, looking at the papers on his desk, wishing I was not there. For an instant I thought of standing up and fleeing. I turned to look at the tree and its dying brown leaves, tears coming to my eyes. And it dawned on me that now was the moment to confront my struggles, my doubts and my anxieties.

“I feel lost in it all,” I said, still looking out of his window. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t think I’m up to doing a PhD. Maybe I should abandon it.”

There was a brief silence before he answered. “No, you should not abandon it,” he said at last. I turned to look at him again. He continued: “I’ve been honest about your work so far, so I’ll be honest about this too: you’re one of the brightest PhD students I’ve come across. You have enormous potential, and it would be a sad waste if you abandoned your research. Your ability and potential are not in doubt. So I suspect it is something else. Are you still motivated?”

“Yes, the topic still really interests me,” I replied. “I don’t think I lack motivation.”

“Well, if it’s not that—and it’s clearly not your ability or intelligence—then perhaps it is your self-discipline. A PhD for someone of your ability should actually be quite straightforward: it becomes simply a question of putting in the hours in the library, reading the books, studying the sources, and then making the time to write. So is that the issue? Are you simply not putting in the hours?”

Guilt seized me. I knew I had been spending my time doing anything but my thesis. I looked at the floor, with a feeling that I had long forgotten: the feeling that I had been naughty and that I was in trouble. “No,” I meekly replied. “I don’t think I have been working hard enough. I feel really bad about it.”

“So what have you been doing? Have you got a part-time job?”

“No. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing. Not much, clearly. I just find it really hard to organize myself or to get any structure.”

“And why do you think that is?”

I decided to be honest. “Because I’m easily distracted. Because, when I find something difficult, I end up being lazy I guess.”

He was silent for a moment. Finally he spoke: “I applaud your honesty. Not everyone would admit to being lazy. In fact, I have wondered if that was the problem in your case. So how are you going to address your laziness?”

“I don’t know, sir.” It took me a couple of seconds to realize what I’d just said. I blushed furiously.

“That’s interesting that you should address me like that. Do you think that I should be dealing with your laziness?”

“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Maybe. I’m not sure.”

“And how do you think I should deal with it? By punishing you?”

I glanced at him. His gaze, commanding and authoritative, was locked on me. I had a sudden, strange feeling inside me and an indistinct, confusing idea forming in my mind. Without thinking I replied: “Maybe you should.”

“And how do you think I should punish you?”

I looked directly at him now, my eyes wide and suggestive. “I don’t know. What do you think would be best?”

He deliberated for a moment. “It’s not as if there are a whole range of things I could do,” he said finally. “What do you expect? That I spank you?” He made it sound like a joke, yet I suspected he was concealing a serious suggestion. I didn’t answer, instead making a small motion with my head to indicate interest in his idea. “Do you think that would help?” he continued.

I let out a quiet, nervous laugh. “Maybe. What do you think?”

He looked out of the window for a long moment. I sat tensely, an odd excitement welling up inside me. I had no idea what I was doing, only that I felt impelled towards something that was outside my experience, that had never even occurred to me before.

Finally he spoke. “Okay, Lacey, why don’t you stand up and come round here? I’m willing to try anything if it means that you’ll buck up your ideas and get on with your thesis.”

Not for a second did I question what I was doing. I got up, walked round to his side of the desk and stood next to him.

“You’re quite sure you think this will have a positive effect on your research?” he asked.

“Yes, I think so.”

Silently he reached forward, unzipped and unbuttoned my jeans. “Okay. Take your trousers off please.”

I kicked off my shoes, gripped the waistband of my jeans and pushed them down. I could see him staring at my white knickers as I eased my legs out of the denim.

He took hold of my knickers. “If I’m to do this, then I think it should be done properly,” he said. With a quick tug he pulled my panties down to my knees. I let out a small gasp at the sudden sensation of my pussy being exposed to him. “Right, get yourself over here,” he ordered, pointing at his lap.

Lightheaded and scarcely breathing, I leaned forward over his thighs. I felt his hands on my waist, shifting me into position, holding me down. I suddenly became acutely embarrassed to be in such an undignified position, my bare bottom raised, my knickers around my knees. I began wriggling.

“Keep still,” he commanded. “It’s a bit late for you to start resisting. Now let’s see if a spanking on your bare bottom cures you of your laziness.”

laceys_spankingA second later I felt his hand come down hard on my right cheek—a strange, wonderful sensation, so humiliating yet so exciting. Then again on my left cheek. I could feel my pussy moisten; I nuzzled it against his thigh. His hand came down again and again, alternating from cheek to cheek. With each stroke the brief sting as his hand landed on my arse was followed by a rolling pleasure across and into the flesh of my bottom.

“Clearly this is the only way to deal with you,” he said as he delivered stroke after hard stroke. “If you’re going to be a bad girl, then I will punish you accordingly. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” I responded pathetically. “I’m sorry sir.”

“You will be sorry. I will make quite sure of that.” And he increased the speed and force of the spanking, landing rapid blows to my increasingly sore bottom, interspersing them with a few slaps to my upper thighs.

He carried on spanking me for several minutes, and my initial excitement gradually gave way to a hope that he would stop. “I am really sorry,” I gasped. “I promise I won’t be lazy in future.”

And then he did stop. A feeling of relief mixed with the throbbing pain in my bottom. I took some deep breaths and began easing myself from his lap. He put his hands on me firmly and pushed me back down. “Where do you think you’re going?” he said sternly. “Your punishment is not quite finished yet.” I heard him open a drawer on his desk; a few seconds later I felt the tap of wood against my bottom. “I think a dozen strokes of the ruler should help you learn your lesson.”

Before I could protest I felt the intense sting of the ruler across my backside. I let out an anguished sigh. And then another stroke, and another. By the fourth stroke I could no longer prevent myself from responding to each blow with a pained “ouch”. Tears filled my eyes, and for the final three or four strokes I was openly crying.

At last I heard him place the ruler on his desk. “There, I think you’ve been punished enough for now,” he said, while gently rubbing my bottom. “But if necessary we’ll repeat this until such time as you start producing work of a satisfactory standard. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” I answered with a quiet sob.

“Good. Right, you can get up now. Pull your knickers up and put your jeans back on.”

I did as instructed, eager to cover up my pussy, intensely self-conscious all of a sudden at the nakedness I had presented to him.

“I think this has been a very productive supervision session, don’t you?” he asked.

I nodded and muttered “yes sir.”

“Excellent. Now, I’d like you to send me a revised version of chapter two in, let’s say, a couple of weeks, and we can arrange to meet again a week or so after that. Will you be able to do that?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good Lacey. Now if that’s all you can go.”

I hesitated for a moment without knowing precisely why. My bottom was burning and my pussy was wet, and I had the vague idea that I wanted something more. But it seemed too confusing for me to act on. “Thank you sir,” I said at last. I turned around, opened his door and left his office. I made my way straight to the library.

* * * * *

On the acknowledgements page of my doctoral thesis I reserved my most effusive thanks for my supervisor. ‘Above all’, I wrote, ‘I am indebted to my PhD supervisor, Professor Simon D____ without whom I would never have been able to complete this thesis. Thanks to his support, encouragement and guidance, I have become aware of areas of interest that would never have occurred to me when I first started this project.’

Prologue and first chapter of Charles and Susan: A Romance

CandS_cover_version6_3I’m delighted to announce that my debut novella Charles and Susan: A Romance has now been published as an ebook and is available to buy on Amazon and Smashwords. If you do buy it, please think of leaving a review!

The book emerged from a 9,500-word story that I originally posted on this blog; the novella is 37,500 words and has been significantly revised, edited and developed from its shorter version. I have now taken the original story down, but if anyone would like to read it please do contact me and I will send you a pdf version.

The story is a sensuous spanking romance—and I hope one that is moving, arousing, intelligent and well written! It consists of a Prologue, ten chapters and an Afterword; below are the Prologue and first chapter. I hope you enjoy them enough to want to read on…


Charles and Susan

A Romance

__________

‘Bittersweet Eros’

 

Prologue

A few weeks after Charles and Susan had shown initial, albeit cautious, interest in my idea of writing about their experiences, an incident occurred which convinced me that I had to tell their story. I was at their house, ostensibly to talk over the project and gather information, but primarily as a friend (and in Charles’s words, a ‘kindred spirit’). Having already drunk our way through a couple of bottles of wine, we had just uncorked the Bordeaux I had brought along. We were talking freely, and with increasing inebriation, on all manner of topics: politics, novels, films and, since we all shared a devotion to it and for Charles and Susan it was the world in which they operated, art. Susan had been bold, occasionally provocative, in her views all evening, and she became noticeably animated in an argument over portraits and the work of one artist in particular (Lucian Freud, I think, though I cannot now be sure). I remember her standing up to refill her glass, demonstrably annoyed.

“God, Charles, you can be such a dick!” she suddenly and loudly pronounced, directing an irate glare at him.

The atmosphere abruptly tensed for a few seconds. Charles seemed taken aback; Susan aggressively filled her glass almost to the brim; I nervously smiled and stared hard at my hands. Typical of the man, it was Charles, his reassuringly steady and confident demeanour quickly restored, who assumed control of the situation.

“I’m sorry, Susan, what did you just say?” he asked in a measured and calm tone, laced with a hint of amusement.

Oblivious to his calmness, Susan remained enveloped in agitation. “I mean, I know you’ve read loads of books and been to loads of shows, but sometimes you talk such shit. Jesus, just because other people wank off to what you say doesn’t mean I’m going to. It’s fucking boring, this whole ‘everybody else is wrong and I am right’ thing you do. It fucks me off big time.” She was gesticulating carelessly and I watched in horror as a miniature tide of wine climbed the side of her glass, looped over the brim and splashed onto the wooden floor. “Oh Christ!” she gasped in annoyance and shock. She set the glass down on a coaster and dashed out of the room.

“Well, that’s livened things up considerably,” Charles said, turning to me, his manner utterly relaxed.

“Would it be better if I left?” I suggested uncertainly, simultaneously unnerved and excited by these developments.

“God, no! Absolutely not! This sort of thing happens from time to time. It’s nothing. It happens and then it is dealt with. In fact, I think it’s interesting for you to observe it.”

Susan returned to the room carrying a damp cloth and a handful of kitchen towel. Averting her eyes from Charles, she spoke to me. “I do apologize, J___. You should never have had to see us behave like this.”

Before I could respond Charles leapt in. “Us? No, Susan, you. You’re the one who is behaving badly.”

“There you go again…” Susan began as she knelt down to clean up the spillage.

“That’s enough Susan,” Charles interrupted sternly. “Do you understand? We’ve had enough of your tantrum.” Susan made a childish face, sighed petulantly and turned her attention to wiping the floor while Charles concentrated on her watchfully. I gazed at my glass intently, but with mounting curiosity about what would happen. At last, after a protracted effort to mop up the wine, Susan stood up.

“Have you wiped it all up?” Charles inquired. Susan nodded sullenly. “Good,” he continued. “You’ve had far too much to drink, you’ve been ridiculous and your behaviour is embarrassingly bad.” He paused for a moment, weighing up what to say next. “You need to go to your room and calm down. I’ll be up shortly to deal with this.”

Susan looked genuinely surprised. “Oh come on, Charles, you can’t do that. Not now, not here. I mean…” She subtly gestured towards my presence.

“Yes I can. You know I can. Now go to your room.”

“Look, I’m sorry,” she pleaded. “I shouldn’t have said what I said, but it’s just that sometimes you can be…”

Charles authoritatively raised his hand to stop her. “I’ve already said that’s enough. I don’t want to have to tell you again. I’ve put up with you being tetchy all evening. But I’m not tolerating infantile and rude outbursts. Now do as you’re told.”

She became desperate. “But J___ is here,” she appealed, looking at me, hoping I might intervene on her side. But scarcely believing what I was witnessing, I wanted simply to observe matters taking their natural course. I flashed her a brief, sympathetic smile, before turning away to look at Charles.

“Yes, I am well aware that J___ is here,” he replied. “But J___ knows full well that I discipline you. You don’t mind that he’s even writing about it. I see no reason why he shouldn’t witness this. Indeed, I think it’s probably good that he has some first-hand evidence.” He paused briefly, and I marvelled at his unflustered, commanding composure. “This is the final time I’m going to tell you. Go to your room and reflect on your behaviour. I’ll be up in ten minutes. I expect to find you bent over the bed, dress up, panties down, with the leather paddle beside you. Now go!”

Blushing, Susan opened her mouth to say something, then immediately shut it again. She looked humiliated and for a moment I thought she might be about to cry. Then, in a rapid burst of defiant activity, she smacked the wine-stained cloth and paper towel onto the table, turned without looking at either Charles or me, and walked briskly towards the door. She stopped, half turned back towards us, and, her voice fractured and upset, angrily shouted “You’re being fucking unfair!” Then she marched out and I found myself craning slightly to hear her footsteps as they stomped up the stairs.

Charles turned to me with a smile. “I hope you’re not embarrassed.”

“Well…” I started, but without knowing what to say.

“It will be fine,” he reassured me. “You’re a kindred spirit. You know that, on some level, even if she’s not fully conscious of it, this is something she wants. That’s why she acted as she did. Really. So it’s all good. And I meant what I said, about this being good for the book. You know, we’re both very keen on the book. We loved the writing you sent us.” Then he laughed and gave me a conspiratorial look. “I probably shouldn’t say this—you  might use it as a quote for the blurb—but it turned us on reading about ourselves!” He got up to fetch the bottle of wine. “Anyway,” he said, as he refilled our glasses, “I think we’re all a bit pissed. Let’s have another glass, then you can watch me give her a spanking. Maybe, if you’d like,”—the conspiratorial expression returned—“you can even spank her yourself?”

* * * * *

What happened next is a story I will tell another time. But the scene I have just recounted, still vivid in my memory, not only amazed me at the time but also turned me on hugely—and still does. It persuaded me that what was then only a vague and half-formed idea to write about Charles and Susan was worth getting serious about. The book that follows is the result.

Before getting to the story itself, readers may well be interested in a few further points relevant to it.

Although they are real people, Charles and Susan are not their real names; and while this is a true story, I have consciously fictionalized it, for example by creatively reconstructing dialogue or by altering some details. For obvious reasons, it was important to disguise the true identity of Charles and Susan. Moreover, all three of us agreed that the story would be more interesting if presented in a novelistic form than in that of, say, reportage.

I have known Charles and Susan for eighteen months, during which time we have become good friends. (It was not, incidentally, via any spanking-related interests that we came to know one another; that I share their interest is a happy coincidence and there was an element of fortune in the discovery of this coincidence—another story I will relate elsewhere.) They knew I was interested in writing, and when I proposed, not entirely seriously I must admit, the idea of telling their story, they were immediately intrigued. By then I knew the main outlines of how they met, so I wrote up something based on that (this is the ‘writing’ that Charles refers to in the scene above). They told me they loved it; enthusiastically, they encouraged me to progress with the project. We agreed that I would conduct ‘interviews’ with them, and that I would fashion the story from these interviews.

It may seem odd that, despite the care taken to conceal their identities, Charles and Susan would so readily agree to this aspect of their lives being made public. But they have both told me how exciting they find it to read about themselves (“not that we’re self-obsessed!” Susan jokily commented) and equally arousing that their spanking life is in a sense now ‘in the open’ (“nor that we are exhibitionists!” Susan added, to which Charles replied with mock grandness, “no, we just love the idea of immortalizing something so important to us”). We agreed that everything I wrote would first be approved by them. The following story is, therefore, published with their full consent and approval.

Finally, what attracted me to their story is not only that I find it intrinsically interesting and worth telling, but also that I am curious about so-called Domestic Discipline (or Taken in Hand) relationships. Despite my own love of spanking and discipline, the idea of DD as a 24/7 lifestyle choice has never appealed to me. (In addition, I have enough of a ‘submissive’ side not to be interested in an exclusively dominant role.) Nor was I convinced that these relationships ever really worked as some DD couples claim. Although Charles and Susan are not part of any DD network or scene, they recognize, even if at times grudgingly, that their own relationship might be characterized as a DD one. So I was eager to discover more about it, and to gain greater insight and understanding from learning about their experience. The story told in this book does not trace their full journey (it is intended that this will be picked up in future books), but it does present the essential background of how Charles and Susan met.

Above all, of course, my hope (and one shared by Charles and Susan) is that the story both moves and excites you!

 

Chapter One: Charles

Susan first contacted me in the spring of 2010, a couple of months after I had seen Meredith for the last time. For nearly a decade, three or four times each year, Meredith had come to my house, removed her clothes, placed her stocky naked body over my lap for ten minutes of spanking and paddling, and then bent over for twelve strokes of the cane. On that final occasion, as she hurriedly put her panties back on, covering up the red stripes across her fleshy bottom that I would never see or feel again, she informed me plainly that “I’ve just been offered a new job up north.” She hooked the clasp of her bra and put on her blouse, habitually checking her watch, the one item she never removed. “I can be with my fiancé again. It’s been ridiculous that we’ve been so far apart for the last few months. And we’ve finally sorted out a date for the wedding next year. So this is probably the last time that I will visit you.” And that was that: no suggestion that I would be invited to the wedding, no mention that we would remain in touch however remotely, just a formal, polite thanks and goodbye from a woman whom I had been spanking and caning from her undergraduate days, through her years in law school, to her besuited life as a solicitor in a branch of law she never did reveal to me. Five minutes later she was briskly walking away from my house, checking her watch again, her mobile phone clamped to her ear. I watched her, wondering if she would turn her head, until she disappeared around the corner at the end of the street. Then I went to my living room, stood at the French window and stared vacantly at the scruffy flower beds and unkempt lawn of my small garden.

I felt miserable. Not so much because of Meredith, with whom there had never been any intimacy or connection, just an increasingly functional routine of undressing, spanking, caning and dressing. Nor because of any one of the others who had gone the same way—and at one point, during my ‘golden period’ as I sarcastically and sardonically thought of it, I had had six regular spankees. Barbara and Lisa had sent Christmas cards a couple of times, but the rest had simply dropped out of my life completely. They moved abroad, or got married, or had children, or felt guilty, or lost interest; sometimes they said goodbye, sometimes, without a word, they ceased contact. Meredith, Barbara, Lisa, Aysun, Katya, Jennifer—they were just names I had said, and arses that I had spanked, and, some of them, mouths and cunts that I had tongued and fucked. But what else? Just spanking and fucking, slippers, paddles, straps and canes, lips around my cock and the taste of pussy—and now not even these things.

I sat down at my desk, opened my laptop and checked my inbox. There was an email from Jessica requesting that I look at the attached proofs of the catalogue for a forthcoming auction. I replied that I would do so and return them by the end of the week. Nick had sent a couple of scanned images of an etching with a query whether it was a genuine Boucher print or a later copy. I began replying to arrange a time to come to his shop, but then decided I would phone him instead, to catch up with our lives and perhaps to arrange lunch too. I made a note on my pad. There were no more new emails. I stared for a moment at the nineteenth-century erotic print over my desk, then I got up, poured myself a whisky, and logged on to a spanking website I occasionally visited. I browsed a few images before clicking on the ‘Personals’ page and then on the ‘Submit new personal ad’ button. I quickly composed a few sentences describing myself, emphasizing my education and interest in culture, briefly outlining my experience and stating that I was seeking ‘to meet women of all ages interested in receiving traditional spanking, slippering, strapping and caning, over clothes, underwear or on the bare bottom’. It didn’t feel right. I pondered the text for a moment and then altered the first part to ‘I am looking for friendship and meetings with a woman of any age (but preferably 25-45)’. Finally I added: ‘Ideally I would like this friendship to grow and develop over the long term.’ Then I clicked ‘Submit’, opened up Jessica’s catalogue proofs, and immediately noticed a typographical mistake in the dating of the second item.

* * * * *

For a few weeks the only responses were from women who wanted to be paid to be spanked. Tempting though one or two of the attached photos of bare behinds were, I had no interest in this type of arrangement. But, at last, after the ad had been up for two months, I received the following email:

Dear Charles, I am very interested in your personal ad and I wonder whether you may be able to provide me with what I think I am looking for. I have never been spanked before, but it is something I have been curious about for a long time. I am extremely nervous about taking this step. I look forward to your reply and to discussing this further with you. Susan

Previous experience has taught me how many such replies are not genuine, and that even the genuine replies, after a promising start, often lead nowhere, either because the woman eventually reveals that she is a professional or more usually because she develops second thoughts. For all the intentions to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality, for many people interested in spanking it proves too daunting a challenge. So I remained no more than cautiously optimistic that anything would come from Susan’s email. I endeavoured to reassure her in my reply: I told her how common her interest in spanking was, how normal it was to feel nervous, how I had experience of dealing with spanking novices, and how I would be more than happy to discuss this further and to take matters at a pace with which she would be comfortable. Finally I wondered if she might elaborate on her interest.

For a few days I heard nothing and assumed that she had, like so many others, taken fright at her own initial boldness. But then another email arrived in my inbox:

Dear Charles, Many thanks for your email. I am sorry for the delay in replying to it, but I have been very busy at work. Also, I am still nervous and uncertain about this, so I hope this is something you are used to. Spanking is something that I have thought a lot about for many years, and often I think I would like to try it. But it also seems a bit… weird. (I know it probably isn’t, and that it’s quite common as you write, but I can’t help feeling this.) I suppose also that I think I need to be ‘punished’ occasionally. I’m not sure I know how to explain that idea, even to myself… Perhaps we could email for a while at first, and then see what happens. I hope that seems OK. Susan

It was hard to rein in the excited anticipation generated by an email like this, despite the high chance that the only outcome would be wasted time, but I resolved to be stoical. Over the following weeks we exchanged several emails. Early on we discovered that both of us worked in the art world, which led to a sprinkling of discussion about artists and galleries throughout our correspondence, something which noticeably helped to relax her. I told her more about my own fascination with spanking, how it went back as far as I could remember, how I was fortunate when younger in meeting an older and more experienced woman who helped remove my inhibitions, and about how erotic, although not necessarily sexual, I find it. She was curious about my experiences, and she seemed pleased not only that I had been spanking women for a long time but also that I was older than her by nearly twenty years. She admitted (although adding that ‘it was probably a bit of a cliché’) that she found confident, dominant men who took control to be attractive, and that most of her spanking fantasies involved significantly older men. I cautiously tried to tease more information from her, and, although she would occasionally go silent for a week or so, gradually she became more forthcoming about her curiosity. When I asked her how she imagined her first spanking, she replied:

I worry that it will hurt a lot, and I probably worry more that it will be hugely embarrassing. You ask me what type of spanking I have in mind. As a first spanking, I think I would only be interested in a hand spanking over the knee, over clothes and then maybe over knickers. I suspect that anything more than that would be far too embarrassing! (Although I do think about it…)

I sent her a photograph of myself, and in return she sent me a slightly blurry, indistinct head-and-shoulders portrait, enough to reveal a pretty young woman with pale skin and light brown, possibly reddish, hair. And finally, hesitantly, after much deliberation, she agreed to my suggestion that we meet for coffee with no other purpose than to talk and become better acquainted.

* * * * *

I arrived a few minutes early at the coffee shop, bought myself a large Americano and found a small, secluded table at the back of the shop. Foreseeing the possibility of having to wait, and even of being stood up completely, I’d brought along a copy of the New Yorker to read, but my nervous anticipation made it almost impossible to concentrate. Checking my watch, I noted that she was already ten minutes late. I made another attempt at reading, trying to dispel the fear that she had decided not to show up.

“Charles?”

I looked up and there she was: a petite, slim woman with shoulder-length ginger hair and a youthful complexion. She was casually dressed in jeans and a light green top. “Susan,” I smiled, standing up to offer her my hand. “How great to meet you at last!” Her handshake was nervously weak. “Let me get you a coffee. Please, I insist.”

I brought back the latte she had requested and sat opposite her. I tried to make small talk about her journey, about the disappointing May weather, about the dismaying proliferation of Starbucks and Costa, but she was clearly tense: avoiding eye contact, she sat leaning forward, either clasping her hands together or gripping her coffee, her conversation brief, clipped and guarded. Even when I mentioned a couple of major exhibitions that I had visited, hoping that the topic of art would ease her tension, she was hardly forthcoming. The stilted conversation was not helping me conceal my own nerves, so I decided to adopt a more direct approach.

“So Susan, you contacted me, you’ve remained in contact, and now you’re meeting me. Are you having any regrets?”

She glanced at me and then focused her eyes again on her coffee with an anxious and barely audible laugh. “No, but… I mean… it doesn’t really feel like a normal situation.”

“I’m not sure how one might define normal,” I replied. “I’d say that we are two people, with a shared interest, meeting for coffee in order to get to know one another. I think that probably counts as fairly normal. Maybe we should talk more about our interest. How would you feel about that?”

There was a long pause before her response: “A little embarrassed.”

“I understand that,” I said. “But perhaps embarrassment is the point. It’s something you want to avoid, because it is uncomfortable, but—if you don’t mind me trying to read you—it is also something that in some way you want. The feeling of embarrassment can sometimes be exquisite. But really it is about the sexiness of power and powerlessness. When someone is embarrassed they have lost power over a situation and over themselves, in such a way that they feel ashamed and exposed. Embarrassment feels like a threat. The psychologists and evolutionary biologists tell us that we respond to this with one of two options: fight or flight. But maybe there is a third option: to give in to the feeling, to explore how potentially exciting it is, and in doing that to embrace it and gain a kind of power over it.” I noticed her looking at me attentively as I spoke and how she smiled as if to signal that she understood completely. “You once wrote to me that sometimes you feel as if you need to be punished. What did you mean by that?”

“God, you see it’s embarrassing that I wrote that!” I drank some more coffee, not saying a word, letting her find her way to an answer. She looked upwards as if in deep thought for a minute, before continuing. “What you just said about embarrassment, I really like that. I need to think about it more, but I think I get it and that I agree with you. So I will try to give in to the embarrassment, so to speak.” She paused to take a sip of coffee. “Sometimes I feel so frustrated with my life, as if I have no control over it. I’ve got good qualifications, a job I find interesting, nice friends, but I don’t think I’m realizing my potential. I don’t see where my life and career are going. It’s as if I just drift at times. Like there’s no proper structure. And then other times I think that I make bad decisions, stupid choices. Really stupid choices that hurt people. And hurt myself too. There are things I’ve done which I shouldn’t have done, and I regret them.” She shook her head and suddenly looked sad. “But I don’t want to talk about that. Only that I feel I often do stupid, bad things, that everything is out of control, and that’s why I think that… why I wrote what I did. So I suppose I think this might be a way of dealing with it… I don’t know, perhaps it is really silly.”

With utter clarity I recognized that this was the moment to be decisive, assertive and confident—to seize the initiative and take control of the situation.

“It’s not silly, for the simple reason that you think this might be worth trying. I suggest you value your instinct that following this course—the one that has led you here, sitting and drinking coffee with me—may help you. Because I think I could help you. You say that you need some discipline in your life, and if that’s what you think then you’re almost certainly right, because you know yourself better than anybody else does, and you have a better idea than anyone else what it is you need. And I can give you that discipline, and I can do it in a way that I suspect you will find enjoyable and personally fulfilling as well as useful.”

Shyly she murmured: “Possibly, maybe.”

“What you need,” I continued, leaning my head towards her, lowering my voice and making as much eye contact as she would allow me, “and I have a feeling you know this, is for me to put you over my knee and soundly spank you.”

Susan blushed and nervously laughed. But something in her eyes, in her expression, told me that my words had pushed a button inside her. “Yes,” she said, “I think so… I’m not sure.” She smiled uncertainly: “I need to think about it.”

I kept my eyes locked on her and adopted a tone of calm, clear, authoritative detachment: “Of course, you should think about it. But you’ve been thinking about it for a long time, for many years in fact, so I think you need to ask yourself when you will begin taking control of your life by taking control of this desire, by understanding that this is something you need to do and then to do it. Trust me, this desire, these thoughts, these fantasies, they’re not going to go away. They’re an important part of who you are—you and lots of other people too. So ask yourself: are you ever going to act on something that important to you? Are you forever going to leave it as a fantasy, burning but buried away deep inside you? You could try to repress it. Or you could start acting on it, you could start exploring what is important in your life, and in doing so you may find that the structure you say is lacking may gradually appear. You seek discipline. Well, the first stage in that quest is the discipline of understanding who you are and acting in accordance with it. And your desires are at the heart of who you are.”

I sipped some more coffee and observed the way she carefully and attentively considered my words. “Not now, not this instant,” I resumed. “Now, we will finish our coffees and go our separate ways. But then you have a choice. You can choose never to write to me again. Or you can contact me again. But if you choose to contact me, then it will be to indicate that you accept the need to address practically this question of discipline and to arrange a meeting during which you will be spanked.”

She seemed to have fallen into a reverie. Then she nodded and, in little more than a whisper, said “Okay”. As we finished our coffees and left, I made some jokey small talk, and I mentioned a small exhibition that she ought to check out. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. She seemed relaxed now, even a little buoyant as she thanked me for meeting her and said goodbye. With how much finality, it was hard to tell—but my instinct was that she would be in touch again.

However, in the two weeks that followed I heard nothing from her, and had reached the point of supposing that my instinct had deceived me and that I was never likely to hear from her again. And then I received the following email:

Dear Charles, I really enjoyed meeting you. I have been thinking about it a lot, about everything you said. And so much of what you said was incredibly helpful and useful and… wise. I am still apprehensive (as you know, because I have emphasized it so much, this is all completely new to me and it feels like a HUGE step), but I am more convinced than ever that I need to be punished. I think you should punish me. (In the way that you suggested.) Please send me your address and suggest a day and time. Susan


If you’d like to read on…

Jessica’s script

by Lacey DeLeye

Many of my clients (although I hesitate to use this term, since I spank women for the love of it rather than for money) are, either through shyness, nerves or preference, vague about the type of discipline they wish to receive. At the other extreme are the few clients who would like to role-play a prepared, detailed and scripted scenario. I’m not normally keen on scripted sessions—I’d rather a spanking develops organically within broad but agreed parameters—and more than once I have had to decline a client because she wished to do things that I was uncomfortable with, or because her demands would have involved such intense acting that I would have ceased to enjoy the spanking.

Jessica, who had previously seen me on a couple of occasions for standard OTK spankings, contacted me with a ‘very specific fantasy scenario’ that she would like to play out. I told her I would consider it. She then sent the following email, outlining in detail what she wanted:

Dear Michael, I am delighted that you may be interested in carrying out my scenario. As I said in my first email, it is quite specific. I hope you find it acceptable. Assuming we do not meet again, I would like us to be in role from the moment I arrive.

You are Head of Sales at a leading international manufacturing. I am one of your senior saleswomen. You have summoned me to your office because of my performance at a major trade fair. I was seen by several people snorting cocaine, drinking excessively and behaving inappropriately in the hotel bar, the night before an important sales pitch I was due to give. The pitch went disastrously and we lost a potentially valuable client.

I am standing before your desk. You tell me that you ought to fire me immediately, but because of my previous good performance you are considering whether an alternative to dismissal might be found. I plead with you not to fire me. You tell me that you have decided to take pity on me, but that I am going to be severely and appropriately punished for the damage I have done to the company and its reputation. You say that since I have embarrassed and hurt the company, you are going to embarrass and hurt me. You tell me to remove my clothes, folding each item up neatly after I have removed it and placing it on a chair, until I am wearing only panties and high heels. You then tell me to remove my panties and hand them to you. You tell me that I am going to be punished for the rubbish that came out of my mouth during the pitch. You order me to open my mouth, and then you bunch my panties and stuff them in my mouth. Then you say that since I had thirty minutes during which I messed up the meeting with the potential client, you are going to punish me for thirty minutes. You sit down, put me over your knee, and spank me hard with your hand for fifteen minutes. Then you say that that was my punishment for messing up the presentation. Now I’m going to be punished for messing up the question-and-answer session. You tell me to stand up and bend over the desk. You take off your leather belt, and you spend fifteen minutes belting me. Then you fuck me from behind, telling me that people who fuck with the company end up getting fucked themselves.

I hope all of that seems acceptable to you. Please let me know if you have any questions. Very much looking forward to (hopefully) enacting this with you.

Kind regards, Jessica

* * * * *

A week later I answered the knock at the door. “Jessica, come in. I’m sure you know full well why I have summoned you here. Remain standing. I’ve had various reports from colleagues and others about your performance at the recent trade fair…”

Feeling Darkly

By Lacey DeLeye

I.

Although she had resolved not to, she could not resist, as he looked at the laptop screen, glancing at him, searching for a hint, a clue. But nothing betrayed his thoughts. He read with intent and focus. The flickering regularity of his eyes scanning the lines rhythmically from side to side was quietly impressive. It reassured her that this man is serious, he knows how to read, he knows what writing is, he absorbs it all, the story, the phrasing, the language, every comma and every full stop. And she knew that she would pay attention to what he had to say, that she would listen just as he reads, taking it all in, feeling it work inside her, and resolving to act as he advises.

A half smile formed on his lips, he gave a small nod to the screen, and his gaze lifted upwards, over the laptop and directly at her. He paused, as if weighing up how to deliver his verdict.

“Do you close your eyes when you orgasm, when your body is screaming at you that you are about to come? Or do you leave them open?”

Startled by his unexpected questions, she flushed. “Um…, I don’t know how to…” she hesitated.

“Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to answer, only to think about it. But there is a point to this. Your chapter is good in lots of ways. It’s an interesting story, and you develop it well. There’s good pacing, and your style is clear and clean. I can see it working as a novel and I think it would have a chance of finding a place in the market. But it’s not what I’d call good writing or good erotica.”

She looked quizzical, disappointed, unsure of what to say.

“Because it’s too visual,” he concluded.

He sipped some coffee, gathering his thoughts for an explanation. She remained silent, her eyes wide with uncertainty, poised expectantly for understanding.

“As I say, your chapter has many fine qualities, but it is also an example of something that often makes me despair. So much writing about sex, so much of what is termed erotica, sinks into badness under the weight of the visual. Of course, I know the importance of sight, of the visual; I know that humans are highly visual creatures. But we live in a culture which is saturated with images, in which our obsessive focus on the visual means we lose sight—and I’m aware of the irony of the word ‘sight’ in this context—but we lose sight not only of the other senses, but also of that inner sense, the inner feeling that has nothing to do with looking, nor even with hearing, tasting, touching and smelling. But it is that inner feeling which goes to the heart of the erotic; it is the essence of desire and its fulfilment. The visual is fascinating but it is only the surface; it is the darkness and depths beneath that surface that are truly interesting. And if there isn’t an attempt to capture that, then something crucial is missing, and what we call erotica will never truly be erotic.”

She watched, captivated and wordless, as he drank some more coffee before taking a lifestyle magazine from the rack beside their table. He opened it at random and casually turned the pages.

“It doesn’t matter where you open a magazine like this, which page you turn to, images, the visual, they dominate everywhere. Sure, images are fine up to a point, but look at all this—it’s all surface and no depth. Sometimes I think we should try a brief Calvinist-style reformation, we should do what the iconoclasts did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when they smashed statues, whitewashed images, ripped illustrations out of books, all so that they could focus on the word and the inner feeling of the presence of God. Imagine if we burnt all the pornographic images, and all the adverts that imitate pornography. Erotic desire and sex wouldn’t suddenly go away. But just imagine what such image destruction would do to the way we think about sex and desire. Certainly we’d lose something—but we might gain something too. We might feed our imagination and deepen our understanding. And possibly deepen our feeling too.”

Closing the magazine, he gestured to it dismissively. “But in this culture, in the world we inhabit today… well, I think we are left impoverished by it, I’m saddened by it. But you might be glad to know that I think your novel could do well. You appeal to the sense of sight. You’re good at gazing. You’re good at describing the object of your gaze, at depicting the surface, in all its superficiality, brightness, and light. There’s no doubt that there is money that can be made in writing about that. You might have some commercial success.”

The judgment had been delivered, and its point, which she had anxiously anticipated while he spoke, now drove in. “But you know that’s not why I write,” she appealed, “and that’s not why I chose you to look at the chapter.”

“Actually, whether or not you know it yet, you chose me to read your chapter precisely to hear this. I know you want to be a writer rather than a hack. You want to write literary erotica. And you knew I would be honest and fair in my assessment of how well you’ve succeeded. Well, you’ve got some great ideas, your plot is good, you’ve got a very good story, but the writing and the characterization—I can’t say it’s terrible writing, because I can see it working for many readers and may make you some money, but, as an attempt at literary erotica, I’m afraid I can say it is terrible.”

Tears now glazed her eyes. But he merely stared at her, neither sympathetic nor disdainful at her upset, waiting. He would not force her into the course she should take; he would let her choose it. And he knew, from the way she held her eyes on him, silently appealing for rescue, that she would make that choice.

“But how can I improve it?” she finally asked, whispery cracks of emotion marking her tone. “What can I do? It’s clear I need help with it. I can see that. In fact I could see that when I asked you to look at it. But I don’t know what to do.”

He took his time, deliberating, now that she was hooked, whether he wanted to bring her in, to help her. She was so young, so eager, so vulnerable; it would be easy to bring her in, but not so easy to help her. Would there be any point? Yes, because one day she will be seduced by someone, by something, maybe money, maybe fame, but right now there was still a chance that she could be steered another way.

“Improving it is not a simple task,” he said at last. “Sure, there are ways of working on the mechanics of the writing, on your technique. But good writing does not come from technique alone. It comes from your inner self, from the core of your being. And a key question is how far you are prepared to go in order to explore your inner self and to bring it to your writing.”

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes,” she responded without hesitation. “I want to write well. I want to learn. I want…”, and now she did hesitate. “I would like you to teach me if you can.”

He sat back and drained the rest of his coffee. “Yes, I’ll teach you. But only if you’re prepared to do what I ask you to do. I can teach, but the only way you’ll learn is if you are willing to learn. Are you sure you’re willing?”

“Yes, totally, absolutely.”

He set the coffee cup down and closed her laptop. “Then come to my flat next Friday at 8 p.m. I’ll set you an exercise to peform, one that will help you with your writing. But it will only work if you follow my instructions. If you want to become a better writer, you will have to engage with the exercise. Do you understand?”

She nodded firmly.

He stood up and extended his hand to her. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, and I look forward to seeing you next Friday.” He took his wallet out. “Here’s my card with the address of my flat. One thing, just to be clear: you can stop the exercise at any point, but if you do then I will be unable to help you and there will be no point carrying on with the teaching.”

He turned and walked out of the café, without looking back, while she held his card between her fingertips, unsure why her feelings of hope were tinged with anxiety.

II.

“Come in, you can hang your coat there. Please have a seat, make yourself comfortable. Would you like a glass of wine? I’ve just opened a bottle.”

She nodded and walked through into his living room. His flat was so different from her own. Whereas hers was full of pop art, colourful posters and hangings and curtains, bright painted walls, exotic items and lustrous objects picked up on her travels or salvaged from flea markets, his was dimly lit, modern and minimal, understated and verging on the ascetic.

“Everything you said about the visual, I can see it all reflected here in your flat,” she said as he handed her a glass of wine.

“I’m not immune to the charms of the visual,” he replied. “Indeed, I love many images, many sights. Looking at beauty is one of life’s great pleasures. But I want to go beyond the surface. I don’t simply want to see beauty, I want to feel it. I want to know what beauty is, not only what it looks like.”

“Like Plato?” she suggested, flushing suddenly at the potential folly of engaging with him in learned discussion.

“Yes, very good,” he smiled. “A little like Plato, a little like the philosophical search for ideals or the forms of things. But perhaps more like the many different ways humans have tried to move beyond the realm of appearance, and tried to explore somewhere deeper within themselves, and darker too because it is so hidden from view. Like emotions and feelings. You can never be completely sure how someone is feeling, because where it comes from is concealed, a dark place that cannot be seen.”

She gulped some wine, and glanced around the room, conscious of a murmuring undertone of nerves darting around her body.

“Please don’t be anxious,” he told her. “Really, you have no need to be. I assure you of that. When I talk about darkness, I mean it literally rather than metaphorically. And remember that pleasure and beauty lie at the heart of the erotic. You’ll begin to understand shortly. But finish your wine first. And remember what I told you about stopping the exercise any time you want.”

He watched her finish her wine and place the empty glass down. A calm pleasure and anticipation was winding its way through him, yet he wondered too: Would she complete the exercise? Would she let him teach her? He looked at her deeply, trying to penetrate the tense surface of her being, trying to glimpse the inner person. Yes, he thought, yes she would.

“Let’s begin the exercise,” he announced suddenly and authoritatively. “I’d like you to stand up, go to the centre of the room, and take off all your clothes.”

Not immediately registering what he’d said, she didn’t move. Perhaps it was a joke? But she could tell from his look that he was serious. “What… but… but I can’t do that… I thought I was going to do a writing exercise…”

“Do you remember when I asked you what you were prepared to do to write well? If you want to write well, if you want to be good at literary erotica, then you need to experience pure inner feeling. Or at least to get as close to it as possible. That’s what this exercise is about. What I will ask you to do may seem daunting, but if you want to create art then you need to be ready take risks, to move outside your comfort zone. The exercise requires you to be naked. So, let me ask you again: please remove your clothes.”

Mortified, she nevertheless hesitantly stood and stepped to the centre of the room. An inner voice was urging her to run out of there, to grab her coat and leave immediately, to abandon this. But something else held her there; perhaps it was necessity or destination, but it did not manifest itself, instead wispily rooting her there, no more than a voiceless feeling defying articulation. It seemed to direct her hands to unzip her dress, to slip it over her shoulders, and to release it and let it fall to her feet. This same feeling, smothering the urgent voice of resistance, then guided her hands behind her back and moved her fingers to unclasp her bra. As her hands slipped her bra off, she marvelled, astonished and suddenly vulnerable at the realization that her naked breasts were exposed. It was as if someone or something else was inhabiting her body, clouding her mind and taking control of her movements, she scarcely recognized herself in the act of removing her shoes and unrolling first one stocking and then the other. Briefly, now wearing panties only, the inner voice made a final attempt: you must go, you can’t do this, put your clothes back on and go. But the sound of another, stronger voice appeared above it.

“And now your panties. They have to be off too. Here, let me help you.”

Motionless, arms hanging loosely by her sides, she passively let him crouch before her, hook his fingers into the waistband of her panties and pull them down, lifting each foot to slip them over to leave her stripped completely naked. Dimly aware of how fully exposed she was, she became conscious of his eyes within inches of her pussy; instinctively trying to cover up, she allowed him to clasp her hand and return it to her side. She tried to gather her senses, to restore the focus that had become hazy and misty, and through the low light she realized he had stood up and was opening a drawer. But her mind was racing, and she barely noticed his movements behind her before everything went black. For a second she thought she had passed out, until the realization came with a gasp: he was blindfolding her.

blindfoldHe firmly secured the blindfold with a knot and gently massaged and kneaded her shoulders. “Breathe slowly and deeply, and try to relax,” he spoke softly in her ear. “You’re doing well; that was probably the hardest part of the exercise. But it was only the preliminary. Now the exercise really begins. So relax and simply accept that you cannot see. I will remove the blindfold at the end of the exercise. But until then you must forget about the visual world. Keep breathing, slowly, steadily, until you are calm and your breathing feels natural. Then try to focus on your sense of touch, and on sounds, smells and taste. Move through them, giving yourself up to the full experience of each, and then try to go further by turning your mind towards that deep inner sense, one that has nothing to do with the external senses. Try to get in touch with that and to feel it fully and deeply.”

Closing his eyes, he continued to massage her shoulders and upper back, pressing and squeezing his fingers into her flesh and muscles. He moved his hands down her back, taking in the charge of the contact with her skin, and then to her bottom, his fingers gliding lightly over each cheek, before running his finger down the crack of her arse to her smooth, soft thighs, and on to her calves and her feet. He pressed close against her, burying his face in her arse, working his tongue between her cheeks, and reaching his arms around to stroke the front of her legs, moving to her thighs, and then softly tickling her neat bush, before caressing her hips and stomach and wrapping his hands around her breasts. He stood up and buried his face in her hair, smelling it and tasting it, while his hands stroked her tits, his fingers brushing over her nipples before he lightly pinched and pulled them until they became hard.

A soothing relaxation was gradually flowing through her, accompanied by the calming beat of her heart. She was giving herself up to his hands and mouth, to the sensation of his fingers on her neck, his tongue and breath in her ear, to the pleasant discomfort of his nails digging into her back. Only when she felt his fingers lightly feather her pussy lips, so softly at first that she was barely sure if his touch was real or an illusion, did she realize how wet she was. Her attention turned to her pussy and she concentrated on the different sensations of his touch, the different jolts of pleasure from the gentle caressing of her clitoris and the firmer stroking now of her entire cunt, her juices trickling slowly along its lips. Then his fingers—how many? one, no two—slowly pushing into her, releasing sparks of excitement as she felt their pressing and probing inside her. Sliding into a reverie, she became aware of a warm moistness rubbed into her face, over her nose and lips, and then his fingers inside her mouth spreading a salty wetness over her tongue. And soft tremors leapt inside her as his fingers entered her cunt once more, and then again moistly stroked her face, her mouth eager to taste and lick them.

He slowly stepped away, licked the wetness of her cunt and mouth from his fingers. He opened his eyes, filling them with her nakedness, with her glistening cunt, her breasts rising rapidly with each intake of breath, the fleshiness of her thighs, the curve of her bottom. She sensed his closeness as he circled her, and her inner awareness that her naked body was being observed, that every inch of her was exposed to his gaze, drew warm ripples of excitement beneath her skin.

“Get on all fours,” he abruptly ordered her. Startled, she sank to her hands and knees. “I’m going to guide you to my bedroom now.” Tightly gripping her hair, he pulled her head up and led her crawling, disoriented and in darkness, over the unfamiliar floor of his flat. Reaching the door to his bedroom he instructed her: “Now crawl forward until you feel the end of the bed against your head.” He slapped her arse and watched its movements as she tentatively crawled towards the bed.

For a moment she was conscious only of her own breathing and heartbeat, until she sensed a quiet tread behind her. Lifted up, she felt herself pushing forward onto the bed, a flash of softness of the bed against her breasts, and then an intense awareness of her arse bent over the end of the bed. She did not instantly connect the sound of a slap with the sudden sharp pain in her bottom; only when it happened again did she realize she was being spanked. As the spanking intensified, she was aware of only the feel of his hand against her yielding flesh and the burning soreness that passed through her bottom occupied her mind.

He removed his leather belt, doubled it up and ran it lightly over her bottom, her thighs, and between her legs, pressing the leather against her pussy. First tapping it softly against her bottom, he then raised it high and brought it down swiftly across her arse, then again and again, listening to her moans of agony. When a bright redness covered her entire bottom, he put the belt aside and stripped. He pushed her thighs apart, closed his eyes again and very gradually eased his cock inside her cunt, sensing the excited tensing of his breathing as the tip of his cock pushed slowly inside. Now he fucked her, gently thrusting at first, but gradually more rapidly, until he became aware of the sound of his body slapping forcefully against her arse with each thrust.

As she sensed his cock slide out of her cunt, and his hands pulling her up from underneath, she realized how simultaneously detached and involved she was with what was happening. She let him roughly lift her, push her forward and roll her onto her back; but pleasure was gripping deep inside the centre of her body and spreading out in waves, right to the ends her fingers and toes. She did not hear him move around the bed, nor feel his thighs pressed either side of her head, nor his arse pushed down onto her face. Nor did she hear his command to “Lick”, but she licked instinctively; she was only barely aware of his cock thrusting in her mouth, no longer noticing the salty taste of her juices, and only dimly, as if it was happening far away, did she sense his tongue licking her clitoris and sliding inside her cunt.

He lifted himself off her, gripped her ankles and pulled her forward until her bottom was at the end of the bed. She seemed to be moving, she sensed, but she could no longer grasp what was happening. He raised her legs and held them wide apart, closing his eyes again as he leant forward to lick her tits, flicking his tongue over each nipple, taking in their hardness. Her mind was whirling, unsure of any sensation apart from that of waves raising her up and breaking over her, again and again, each wave larger and more powerful and more pleasurable. The waves lifted her legs into the air, and they poured their force into her cunt, their noise rushed and drummed through her head, and then from somewhere she heard the sound of screaming.

He collapsed on top of her. Their sweat mingled, their bodies pressed close with rapid breaths. She was somewhere and in some time, but she didn’t know where or when. For several minutes they lay still. Gradually she became conscious of the beat of her heart and the sound of her breath, and then his heartbeat and breath, and his skin and hard body against hers. She felt his hands reach under her head and untie the blindfold.

“Now you can look again,” he smiled.

Returning his smile, she blinked rapidly but closed her eyes again. “Wow”, she said, “that was incredible.” In her voluntary darkness she tried to immerse herself in the gentler waves that lapped through her body. As they subsided she laughed. “That was quite an exercise.”

“But do you think you learnt something?”

She opened her eyes and looked at him. “It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

“Now write about it.”

Tight blue jeans

Only a couple of weeks ago the park was full of short skirts, hot pants, even a few bikini bottoms. But it was too much—a mass of people that overwhelmed the senses. So I prefer it now that autumn is settling in, now that the scattered lunchers, students and idlers are properly framed by wide stretches of grass and brought into focus. But above all I prefer that it is tight jeans on show, so much more suggestive and sexy than the revealing skimpiness of the summer months.

I follow my usual pattern. I amble gently around the edge of the park, and through its central paths, scouting with practised glances for the ideal sight to muse upon. Not always do I find it, but today I am in luck. Everything is perfect: on a blanket she lies on her front, absorbed in a book, nibbling at an apple, in her 20s probably, slim and casual, wearing a hoodie. But it’s her jeans I’m drawn to.

tight jeansI sit on a nearby bench and place my magazine across my lap—I may need some concealment later. And I look. My eyes gaze on the contours of her bottom, how her jeans wrap them and smooth them, and how the denim wrinkles and creases, breaking up the contours, not revealing all, leaving something to the mind and to discovery. And then I wonder: does she feel where the denim runs tightly across her bottom and where it does not? Does she sense where the denim leaves narrow bands of skin free, as free as if she were wearing knickers only, or maybe not even them?

I picture her naked after her shower, stopping herself as she is about to put her panties on, walking to the mirror instead and refreshing her eyes with the reflected sexiness of her bottom. In her panties she does the same; and then one last time in her jeans. And I can see her when she bought them, craning her neck to view the mirror’s reflection of her bottom, shifting her feet to see from every angle, perhaps even taking a selfie of her bottom to be sure that the jeans are equal to the great task they must fulfil, ready to buy only when she is satisfied how superbly the jeans show off her arse.

What might she feel if she knew what I was thinking? Perhaps she knows that all day long, wherever she goes, her bottom will be the object of stares, the source of stirrings and the inspiration of fantasies. And I imagine this pleasing her.

What would she say if I went up to her now and ran my hands over the denim, tracing the curve of each cheek, prodding at the creases, trying to explore how the curve continues? How would she react if I told her that I wanted to spank her bottom? I imagine the shock on her face—but she doesn’t move, she just gives a tiny nod, takes a final bite from her apple, packs her book away, and follows me to the secluded bench in the copse, drapes herself over my knee, offering her bottom, the denim now stretched tight across the skin, all her curves and contours ready to receive the first hard smack of my hand, and then again and again until she cries for me to stop.

She is marking the place in her book; she tosses the apple core away. I must hurry now. I slide my hand beneath the magazine and start stroking. I picture myself letting her off my lap, but on condition—that she kneels before me, leans forward between my legs, pulls my panties to one side, and licks my wet cunt. And on the point of quietly coming I imagine her denim jeans, damp from her excitement.