Folds of loose skin from shoulder blades and hips escaped with an almost audible cheer of liberation when she loosened the PVC corset’s laces. Breasts that had fed children and lost the battle against gravity fell out like crème caramels unpotted from ramekins. She arranged each piece of discarded clothing in an orderly pile to slow the clock and change into her mind’s safe space.
Onlookers clad universally in BDSM black huddled in a respectfully-distanced throng as she shed layers to a black g-string and stay-up stockings. She treaded carefully towards the St Andrew’s cross, feet moving out of a practised ritual of submission. The audience snuck glances in a ‘trying not to look’ way, relieved that someone else had volunteered to be first.
On the adjacent window sill rested a row of floggers from jewel-coloured warm-up implements to the star of the show: a hand-made cat-of-nine-tails with leather lashes like the gymnasium skipping ropes of old. The owner of the tools swung his arms in figure-eight patterns to warm up as the woman arranged herself against the apparatus. Her arms followed the dark wooden upright angles of the X, but her patent stiletto-clad feet pressed together firmly. She was ready for sacrifice.
A female body on show past its youthful bloom clashed with society’s doctrine that women of a certain age should dress appropriately, or fade away to allow the young and beautiful the spotlight. She became immaterial anyway because her identity and physicality as a woman became background material for the skilled whirl of dual-handed flogging with two suede pieces, a flurry of thwacking sounds like cooked spaghetti thrown on a wall taking over centre stage.
A pink blush radiated from her spine as her body warmed to the treatment. The ministrant continued swishing her body’s padding with his right hand as his left reached for the next flogger in the line-up. A soft leather tool with a sharper bite than the suede quickly intensified her colour to a peach’s blush in a step closer to the expected finale. He paused to exchange implements, confident in his judgement and timing.
She flinched when the first blows landed from a nylon flogger with knotted tails.
The spectators wanted her — willed her silently — to suffer nobly to meet their desire for a satisfying conclusion. The arms at the end of the floggers slowed their arcs to allow the woman time to re-balance and get the story on track. She steadied into the new weapon’s sharp form of hurt and the pace picked up again, a drumming pattern of soft leather from the left hand with a nylon smack on the four-beat from the right.
Her back turned the colour of sunburn that’s certain to peel. Attention moved to her still pale backside until it was the same inflamed hue. Slumping posture and hands gripping the wood told the crowd that victory wasn’t assured; perhaps she was peaking too early. The practitioner softened the tools’ landings but maintained a whirring of activity in a display of showmanship rather than punishment. She drove her head into the cross, trying to transfer the pain where she could control it.
Every submissive knew from experience that her shivering frame was in the yellow zone between being flogged and being broken. The nylon-tailed implement was placed reluctantly next to its team mates and he selected his pièce de résistance; she was past the moment of being ready but he was blinkered in the need to test his handiwork. All the work in preparing for this moment would be for nothing if he stopped now. Finally the inner voice of experience and responsibility spoke to him, and he paused for a whispered conversation with his subject. She nodded and re-adjusted herself against the frame, drawing on her inner reserves for the finale.
He stroked her back with soft leather strips, resting the cat-of-nine-tails in his other hand. Once the woman was back in her safe zone, he took aim with his prized implement, landing its leather strips across her left shoulder blade with a well-timed snap of his wrist. Gasps and exclamations of “Fuck” broke out and several people looked away. He brought her back to earth again with soft strokes and then matched the new burgundy welts with a matching set on her right shoulder blade. No one spoke this time.
It was like watching a bullfight on television, knowing the bull can’t win but holding hope for a resurrection just this once. Tears flowed silver down her cheeks and her hands lost their grip on the cross. He put the tools down and rubbed her arms, careful to avoid her tender areas.
She nodded she was all right and he sat with her on the floor as emotional outflow spilled from her crumpled form. The audience dispersed out of respect; newer people to the scene pondering the awkward and unspoken etiquette question of offering assistance or looking away to enable a private recovery.
He left her for a minute and returned with a jacket to relieve her uncontrollable shivering. After wrapping the protective layer around her, he clasped her hand briefly to complete the aftercare. The woman’s eyes were still glazed, unfocused on the movements around her. She stayed huddled in a ball, crying and alone. He moved away and played show and tell with his new flogger with passers-by on the way to the bar.
Someone remarked that she had been given a “good” flogging.
No, there’s little good going too far in the interest of entertainment. He was skilled with his tools, but not caring towards her. He performed for the crowd, not for her edification.
I wondered how she felt in the sobering light of the following day. Did she have an ‘other’ to look after her properly?
I couldn’t allow someone to flog me in public. It’s too intimate.