First and most importantly: meeting him went fantastically well. I told him, "I want to ask you a couple of questions, then tell you a story, then ask for a personal favor." He agreed and settled in to listen to me.
My first question was, "Do you remember the first time we played?" "Uhhhh we played a few times but wasn't the first time at that Odyssey event when I screwed up with the taser?"
I felt like a weight tumbled off my chest at that moment. Ok. This will be fine.
I told him that him using the phrase "screwing up" means this is going to be a lot easier than I thought. He repeated all of the concrete memories he has of the night (it was twelve years ago--it's a bit fuzzy). Then I asked him what he knows about me and my life. He knows there were problems with my family and an estrangement--probably abuse and that's it.
Ok, now I know what he knows.
I started giving him the readers digest version of my life. I talked about trauma for under ten minutes so it was necessarily only some highlights. "I'm the product of rape. My mother didn't want me. If she hadn't been Catholic she would have aborted me. I was told that my whole life. My father started raping me when I was a toddler and he kept at it including festively on one occasion holding a gun on my head right after raping me and asking me if I deserved to live."
He interrupted and said, "Wait--how old were you when he held a gun on you?"
"Nine, ten. I'm not completely sure. It was within a few month period."
"Yeah. I prosecuted my father when I was sixteen. Just over two years before I met you. In the time between the start of pressing charges and the court date my brother went behind the local grocery store and doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire. He didn't want to deal with what might happen next. He had been attacking me and trying to rape me for over a decade. Luckily he wasn't big enough to win. I'm a scrappy fighter. My father sat in the garage with the motor running on the first day of the trial. So my family says "He wasn't found guilty." And given that my sister has passed the incest on to her kids for the fourth generation in my family I have no more contact."
"Then, two months before I met you I picked a guy up for a date and had one shot of tequila and I promptly remember nothing from the night. In the morning I was sick as a dog--I spent the whole day vomiting over and over (in port-a-potties at San Francisco Gay Pride--that was fucking festive) and there were three condom wrappers in the trash. I called the police and tried to report being raped. I was told "We aren't going to ruin that nice boy's life for you."
"Between when I was 2 and 25 I was raped by 12 people. The last straw was Paul Nathan. That one just flat drove me out of the community. Done now."
"I understand that in the scope of my life what happened between us was maybe a 2 on the trauma scale. I have experienced much worse in my lifetime than someone putting a taser on my vulva for one hit. That's just honestly not that bad in my life."
"But I need someone who has violated my boundaries to know and care and feel bad. I need it like I need to breathe. I am coming to you, largely as an elder in my community. The rules of the community are that the difference between WIITWD (what it is that we do) and abuse is CONSENT. I was very clearly not consenting to what happened with you. I told you I wanted to stop at no/stop and not play with safewords and you kept going while I hysterically begged you to stop."
"What I really want from you is a public discussion about what tops should be doing to fuck up less. You have made mistakes. One more hysterical submissive coming along with a story about consent violation is ignored. I promise you. It doesn't help anyone really. You have a big name. If you really talk about your mistakes and how you have grown and changed that stands a big chance of helping people who need to be helped."
"If you do research into trauma you will see that one of the most important factors in recovery is community support and validation. Folks who don't get any... generally don't recover. You are an elder and a highly respected member of my community. You hurt me. I believe you that it was an accident but there was still result. I have had nightmares about you for years."
At about this point he stopped me to apologize over and over.
We went minute by minute through the scene using both sets of memories and talked about why the breakdown. "I said this was a hard limit so you immediately pulled one out of your bag." "Oh, I knew you liked violet wands and I think of these tools as being on a continuum so I tried to get you to find out if you really disliked it or if you just thought you did." "So you pressured me like fuck to let you try it on my arm. I felt like I couldn't say 'no' and still have a scene." "Oh that wasn't well done. Well, once you let me try it on your arm you said it wasn't as bad as you thought. I thought that was a green light to use it." "Oh holy hell no." "And at that time there was a big push for submissives to use their safewords to protect themselves because working through the fake no/no/no was something a lot of people were doing at once and I was used to trying to get girls to defend themselves by using safewords. I was just wrong to do it with you."
I have never hated him for this.
He asked why I played with him after that. I told him I played with him three more times because I was trying to see if the first scene was a mistake or if you were that kind of scary asshole. If you were that kind of scary asshole I probably would have found a way to hurt you. But you never again made anything resembling a mistake. You did precisely what we agreed to and it was fine. I felt very confused as to whether you were covering yourself better or what.
He asked me to give him specific details about what I would like him to write about publicly and he offered to let me proof it before he goes public. He said, "I have no ego in this. Everyone makes mistakes and if people can learn from me messing up then I am happy to share how that worked. If it will make you feel better, especially given that I had no idea that you as hurt as you were, then it's the right thing to do."
I almost curled up and bawled. That was not what I was expecting. I thought he would be a horrid douchebag. He wasn't. He was a really nice guy.
The early bits only took about 20 minutes. Then we talked for another 40 minutes about how kids change you (apparently his wife has some background information that is like mine) and what he has learned over the past few years. He asked me why I want to homeschool and was impressed that I'm obviously well informed about all of the weird little decisions I make but man would they not be good choices for him. He was positive and cheerful and encouraging. More than once he said, "I feel like this is an interesting conversation but we have reached the edge of what I can usefully contribute so I'm going to just nod for a few minutes and it's not because I am ignoring you or bored. I just know less than you."
This was not what I expected.
I told him that I know I am laying an inappropriate amount of grief at his feet. I was very broken long before I met him. The damage is not his fault. But there is this long pattern in my life of people hurting me and justifying it as things I deserve and I need to get past a place where I agree that I deserve to be hurt and I believe my consent is irrelevant. I have to change that if I am going to teach my daughters anything different. He started talking fast about how of course I don't deserve any of the abuse I have experienced. He went into specifics and talked about how fucked up it was that someone could do those things to a child. There is no way to deserve such treatment as a child.
We talked about psychologically healthy masochists and psychologically unhealthy masochists. We both have views. We talked about how he keeps himself safe at this point because unhealthy masochists generally have a lot of collateral damage. Not necessarily on purpose--but crazy people need specific support not to be told to shut up and bend over so they can be hit. Just sayin'.
I am so glad I went. I feel a lot more calm. I was cycling through panic attacks really fast for a few days. My heart was starting to hurt.
He gave me several big hugs and very sincerely wished me all the best when we parted. He will write something within the next week and get it up on the internet. (He moved house two days ago so he's really busy--I'm impressed he's willing to do it within a week.)
Sometimes people surprise me in wonderful ways.