One of my favourite songs is written in G major—a simple, serene, almost happy chord. Then suddenly it moves out of key for only one note. Against the serenity, that syllable is turned into a vitriolic piece of agony. The A minor note is very far away from the melody dictated by the chord, and it’s the longest and loudest one in the whole song. So not only is it the most chaotic note possible, but the most obvious one, too. From that point, the song keeps creating dissonance only to move back into key to resolve that dissonance, a constant shifting between the visceral and the docile, into harmony and then out again, with each move adding to the resonance of what came before.
E and I began in G major. We got involved without knowing one another’s sexual proclivities, and we got sexually involved without admitting them. The first time he wandered into degradation, it sang with the same kind of visceral beauty as that A minor key—it was louder, longer, and more affecting than any I’d ever known. I was too stricken to move.
I once hit on a trigger. I remember how he spoke to me in every way I needed to be spoken to. I remember his tone. I remember being spoken to until there was no way to doubt that he could be trusted. Against his degradation, his compassion became a kind of resonant, loud note. My safety was turned into absolute safety.
It was the continuous shattering and resolution of dissonance that I
loved most about E. Before him, my relationships had had no resolving of the dissonance that was there: the A minor and the G major had coexisted constantly. Something had been out of key.
E said very early on that he was going to make sure I was always craving sex because that was the only way I’d fully understand what I was made for, and that is exactly how it ultimately worked. Because he was the only one who’d ever strung me out on that much lust, I did find out that was what I was made for. And so he turned me into his whore and his toy and his hundred other nasty ways of saying I was nothing more than a series of holes made for him to use as he saw fit. He drowned me in sex. It was like being broken in like a horse.
In between, E was all soothing, and all kindness, and all respect. When he resolved the dissonance, he did it utterly. I integrated the two into a single experience. Together, those extremes built me into a woman with a new level of value. As the relationship progressed, I would find myself on my walks feeling prouder and prouder. Prouder of the parts that were loved, prouder of the parts that were used.
Two things are integral to who I am: writing and sex. I’ve lived for extended periods without both and I felt like a doll that was going through the motions of living. I wasn’t me. So when E treated me like a toy or a doll, he wasn’t degrading me. It’s without that I’m a doll. If I’m told I will feel frayed and broken at the end of it, I’m well aware that I won’t. It’s easy to make me feel used and violated if you have the talent, but it’s very difficult to stop me from enjoying that. That didn’t feel like servitude to E, and so he would ask me to do absurd things and I would do them and then he’d tell me that the fact that I would go that far showed him that I was clearly made to be his personal whore and nothing more. He was very, very good with words, and not in the poetic sense. He knew what to say to me.
He wanted to bring out the visceral, to see that my body would always take over regardless of preferences and that he could make that happen. Other people were his tools for that. He wanted me on display so that everyone saw what he had. I wasn’t allowed to close my curtains when I dressed, I wasn’t allowed to wear slips under transparent clothes, I wasn’t allowed to hide, and if there were scenarios that I was going into without him and that weren’t sexual, he’d find a way to make them so and make it as uncomfortable as possible. My body was his to put on show and it had to respond as he wanted it to regardless of how he felt.
When I got home, he would have his fill of the stories, and then he’d resolve the dissonance. He would become G major, I would be the precious, whole, respected woman who knew exactly how far from a toy she was.
E never once told me to do anything. In the beginning, he would often say, “I want…” and I got hooked on those words, and so he kept them from me. More often, he would imply what he wanted. That’s where he found his power. He learned early on that implications were all that were needed to get me to do as he pleased. On one occasion I found myself at the other end of an action I had found intensely exposing–my biggest weakness. I said to him, “Why did I do that?” and he said, “Because I wanted you to.”
The song is called, ‘I Will.’