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Fear Factors

Charles Gatewood
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I do a great deal of speaking. On stage, as an actor. In front of crowds, as a storyteller. In the classroom, as a BDSM educator. All over the USA, in Europe, Canada, wherever. Much of what I share is intensely personal, and I often receive comments from folks who have been gracious enough to listen to me nattering on or watch me do my thing about how they wish they could be as brave as I am.

  But more likely? They’re human and could use a little help.

Yep, it is tough to ask for what you want. But you have to do it. Even if it knots up your belly, even if you feel a bit silly, even if you are downright terrified. I don’ t know about you, but the things in my life I regret tend not to be the crazy shit I've done, it is more the shit that cowed me into the worst type of submission; submission to fear of “failure.” And I put that in quotes why? Because when you are pursuing your desires? When you are true to your core and living in your integrity? You can’t fail. You can only learn.

When I am having a tough time articulating my desires, I take a step back and look at what it is I really fear. Usually, I am afraid of rejection. I am terrified of someone thinking I’m fucked up, that my kinky desires are unacceptable, that my strange lusts are over the edge. And oh yeah, do I have plenty of examples of instances when that’s been entirely the case.

Some of the edgy play I enjoy is very taboo, even for dyed-in-the-Leather perverts. I can count on one hand the people I’ve approached to do edge play along the lines of reenacting racial abuse.

I do believe that’s fine, actually. Better that than slavering mobs of closet racists longing to unleash their real prejudices in the guise of consensual kink! But over the years, I’ve face shocking amounts of verbal abuse – and not the consensual kind – as a result of even daring to talk about “race play,” or scenes that invoke cultural trauma. But over the years, I’ve discovered that I am not alone, even in my edgiest fantasies. At first it was one or two people whispering to me after classes writing e-mails, telling me that they’d thought they were the only ones with such taboo fantasies, and feeling so relieved that it was ok to explore their darker side.

  Even as I push myself so that others may benefit, I still stumble over these roadblocks.

I do what I can. If I’m feeling shy about face-to-face communication, I will write a note. If I am feeling afraid to take that step and bare my soul to someone, I play a game of masochistic “chicken” and push myself to take that risk. And if I’m REALLY tripping balls, I will get a bossy friend to “order” me to put myself out there. It is funny how little trouble I have finding people to order me to ask someone to play!

And hey, you dominant types? I know it is tough for y'all too, sometimes. Don’t worry your secret’s safe with me, and I promise I won’t reveal your humanity, frailties and foibles to the swooning swarms of adoring submissives. But you can go it, too. And letting your intended know that you are experiencing apprehension and having those very human jitters and butterflies is a really great way to begin establishing trust.

  It took me almost fifteen years to even say aloud that I had fantasies about animal role-play.

WTF is that? Well, it’s the kind of BDSM play where you assume the role or persona or, for some, the spirit, of a particular animal. Call it reverse-anthropomorphism if you will.

And even as a long-time kinkster, I felt deeply vulnerable about exploring this type of kink. I’d seen plenty of people snickering at “Furries” – people who dress in animal costumes – and was not in the mood to have people giggling at my fetish. Though I have several very dear friends who enjoyed “pony play” – a type of scene specific to those who take on the persona of a horse or pony – I was too self-conscious about exploring it myself to even tell them about my fantasy.

An impromptu “scene” at a kinky flea market many years ago was my only real-time experience until, many many years later, I said “Fuck it. I’m tired of feeling ashamed about what I want.”

I snuck in little references in my writings and posting about being curious to try this kind of scene. At a kink convention, I wound up trying on a chainmaille bridle and posting a photo of myself wearing it online. The delighted and supportive response I received took the edge off of my fear, and I was feeling a bit braver.

I sat down at my laptop, dug around online, and within 2 weeks had an adorable pony harness (with ears!) in my hand. A harness, some rubber hooves, and other accouterments slowly followed. I wound up doing my very first pony play scene in public during a performance in Göthenburg, Sweden with the insanely awesome Mistress Rebecca, who literally “wrote the book” on pony play. Hey, if you have to go, go big.

I will never forget practicing various gaits with her, her clicking orders under her breath as I was guided with whip and rein around various obstacles. This was a new, wonderful type of submission, and forged a connection unlike any other I'd ever experienced. That wordless, energetic connection was singular, and I kicked myself with my heavy boots for waiting so long.

I don’t get to do that type of play all that often. It’s a lot of gear to hump around the country and baggage restrictions are often prohibitive. But I’ve been missing that recently – that freedom to be a beast, to communicate with head, hoof and heart – and I wondered how I’d be able to find someone to trust to take the reins again. And I quailed at the thought of having to say “Yeah, so um…that thing where I pretend to be a horse? You wanna, you know, lead me around and stuff?” It’s vulnerable, it’s difficult, and the fear of rejection is smeary with an even shittier layer of fear of rejection and ridicule. But, as Lady Macbeth said, “Just screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail!”

As it happens, I’m going to be at a big-ass pervert camp this summer called FetFest. And as it also happens, a bunch of dear friends of mine will be there. And as it happens to happen, one of them is a pretty accomplished horsewoman. And even as my face was flushed and hot, and my stomach felt like it was about to do a triple-Lutz and exit through my ass, I sent her a text message asking if she ever…you know…played with human horses rather than bio-equines?

I sat staring at my phone blinking furiously and digging in my bag for my inhaler, as I seemed to suddenly have trouble breathing, I don’t think it was asthma this time…it was sheer nervousness. The nerves were soothed back down though when I read her pleased response, acknowledgement to the affirmative, and we started chatting back and forth about what we might enjoy doing.

It was enough to have asked for this, I thought, but then a deeper thought came bubbling up from that tar pit in the back of my mind…the place where I keep the Really Filthy Shit. And before I could talk myself out of it, my fingers blurted out a question about whether or not some of the play we might do could, maybe, possibly….well, you know. Perhaps veer into some. Well. Less “appropriate” animal role-play territory? I mean, hey, we’re doing this kinky shit to get our rocks off, right? Who says we can’t add a layer of flagrantly erotic and viscerally sexual energy to that pony play scene.

And I sat, waiting, my eyes prickling with tears as part of my brain thought “OHMYFUCKINGGOD did you REALLY just ask her to do…wait…essentially an animal role-play scene with anthro-beastiality overtones?!?! FOR REAL?! You are one SICK ass motherfucker. And NOW she’s gonna think you are INSANE and FUCKED UP...” screamed several voices in my head.

That isn’t what happened.

What happened was that she expressed an unreserved affirmative, and we talked about how tough it was to bring up shit like this. And we both admitted to feeling blushy and nervous. And she got very excited about the scene. And asked if she should pack her dressage whip, and bring her helmet…and somewhere in there, there might be a strap on or two, and perhaps a few lumps of raw sugar.

I was elatedly shaky. A rather taboo fantasy is three giant steps closer to fruition. I didn’t die, my friend didn’t reject me, and now my inner horse – who is named Oracle, by the way – is sparkly eyed and prancy about the thought of being under the hand and protection of an enthusiastic rider.

  And boy, am I looking forward to the ride.

Taking these risks is scary. And oh so fulfilling.

Now…let us see how saucy Oracle is this summer. And if you happen to be at FetFest and see a fat brown Belgian Draft named Oracle being lead about? Be sure to ask her trainer if you can pet her. She likes to kick people with presumptuous paws.

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Great story!


I have to admit, I like the idea of leading someone around on a leash.


Good on you, as usual. I bet that everyone who reads this has at *least* one fantasy they've never shared with anyone.



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