Returning to Vanilla: My Invisible Kinks

H was an artist. I became his favourite subject. He’d hang me impossibly and forever so that everything he offered hurt. Then he’d hang the evidence in national galleries. I was sold in that way as H’s property, never branded but signed in Spanish red, indigo, and cadmium yellow. After five years, I’d collected sacks full of fetishes, but when H left, I let them go.

R wanted many things that weren’t me. E promised he’d be the same. Knowing what they felt exploded my own senses so much that the line between their awareness and mine was impossible to glean. H was happy with me alone as long as I varied my palate and told him the tale. C told me I had to wait because he wanted to start with trust. I felt disappointed. After them, I settled in the belief that their kinks were apparitions I’d never see again.


H used to hang me so that my head fell all the way back. At first I didn’t know which parts of what he gave me were for tasting and which for throwing away. He kept all of them from me for hours, followed by that perfect combination of dearth so that when that one red seed arrived it tasted like another species–an alien. After that, I swore off that fetish, believing that nobody else knew which parts were for tasting and which for throwing away.

I have been marked by R. He knows, 10 years later, that his brand will always be a part of others’ experiences of me, that they cannot have me without knowingly passing through what he owned. I was a cultist of R’s kinks but when I left I deconverted.

H was 6 ft. 3 and built like a rugby player. I was a nymph. He didn’t spoon sensation into me. He threw me into it so that it was real. Ever since, I have told men that I don’t pretend. It has to be authentic. Even so, since H, I’ve not believed I’d accept such things from other men.

E delivered demands with a showman’s flair: wear this when you read to that crowd, do this in the public bathroom afterwards. Don’t just do it with the drapes open. Go onto the balcony. Face the street. Let men watch. Don’t flinch. E knew I would always let him scribble outside my boundaries. I knew it better. He controlled me by fabricating a hunger so powerful it strung me up in his absence. When he held out his palm full of sensations, my eyes watered before one cell hit my lips. E is gone now, and the thought of what we loved is no more than a retrospective craving.

I am intimidated by every extreme thing I’ve ever loved, but with these men, I felt intimidated by none of them. Every man has brought with him his own sensation and each has been equally delicious. My fetish must thus be the individual and all the slanted, heavenly, depraved, saccharine tastes that emerge with him and with us; the organic relationship knocking out some kinks but not others, and also the one that has voids in it because some things can afford to slip through with some men but not others. In between, I must erase all fetishes. When celibate, I return to vanilla, albeit an oddly formed pod—one that is flavoured over and not one that does the flavouring.

My past has cooked up the kind of flavours that ached with their subtleties. It seems absurd to believe the future can mimic them. I’ve heard rumours of a cellar that brews a bourbon so fine I’ll become a convert of its bottom notes, its scent, the settling of home-brewed alcohol between my bones. When I find it, I’ll give up vanilla and ask for some of that brew.


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