I haven’t had a day since the accident that I’ve not thought about it. I could have killed her. The scenarios play in my head over and over. There have been nights of deep darkness. The grief lingers. She’s suffered pain and trauma of flesh and heart, not only in the moment of the accident, but long after as well. Her healing and recovery will take time. The depth of emotional hurt for the person I dropped will be profound and long lasting.
Those of us who play with kink have access to scores of workshops, seminars, and manuals on how to avoid this very sort of thing. But when it actually happens, none of it is enough.
The reality is, I’m simply lucky something like this didn’t happen sooner. One of the things we forget when we get into the play space is no matter how many of those classes you’ve taken (or in my case, taught), no matter how many knots you’ve tied, or how many scenes you’ve negotiated, it never becomes perfectly safe. After twenty years of public and private rope play, I was reminded of a single, brutal truth — a truth of which few dare to speak: if you do kink long enough, you will have a scene go bad, sometimes horrifically bad.
Mountain climbers and motorcyclists alike have their own version of that rule. There are two kinds of bikers; those who’ve crashed their bikes, and those who haven’t crashed their bikes yet. But in the kink milieu, we’re silent about the risk. The workshops and guidebooks become incantations that will protect us from harm with mystical infallibility. Bad things only happen to the newbies and the tourists, not real kinksters who know what they’re doing — so goes the unspoken faith. Because mishaps and accidents reside in the realm of the hypothetical, when it becomes real and personal, we’re often not prepared.
The woman I dropped was my co-performer at a fetish dinner theater; two hundred plus guests in elegant attire were watching us. One minute, she was flying through the air, her graceful arms flowing. The next, she was on the floor. I had a nanosecond of bafflement, and then it hit me:
I dropped her.
Even as time slowed and stretched, my old military training came up. Over two hundred people were watching us, and panic would only make things worse. After quickly assessing she was conscious and could move, I decided the best thing for her safety and the audiences would be to get her offstage in as calm a fashion as possible. Staying in character, I “danced” her offstage and to the dressing room where the medically trained staff attended to her.
What draws most of us to kink is that it allows us to access raw, intense emotions that we have to keep locked away on a day-to-day basis. The risk is that while a good scene can send you flying so high you think you’ll break right through the sky, a bad one can be devastating, and the devastation doesn't stop at the end of the evening. The emotional fallout can come at different stages and at different times, like any grief process.
That kind of trauma doesn’t fit easily in how we think about “sex positivity.” So much of our training and community values are based on being positive about sexuality that negative experiences get swept under the rug.
There is too much at stake in a scene for us to pretend that with the proper invocations, everything will go right. If we are not ready for things to go wrong, we can’t be there for our friends and partners when a scene causes physical or emotional injury.
Perhaps the next stage in kink education needs to be training to respond to “Oh, shit!” situations, so that responses to crises in a playspace become as standard as knowing your safeword and packing EMT shears.
But to go beyond even that, to start to discuss failed scenes openly and with compassion, we have to realize that the pain and consequences go deeper than we might first think. The loss of trust in partner and self can be deeper than any wound.
Even the best of responses is never perfect. I did the best I could for my co-performer: I went with her to the hospital and paid her medical bills. Fortunately her physical injuries were not as catastrophic as they could have been. The depth of the emotional pain, however, is likely to be far deeper, but only she will know how deep.
What I do know is that I screwed up. She trusted me with her body and safety, and I quite literally let her fall. I’m not sure when I’ll do another suspension. For now, I have to go back to the drawing board and review my own skills before I’m ready to take flight with another. I’ll be working up towards that.
No matter how much we study or train, know this: we will fail someday. When that day comes, be ready.