This is the personal story of an interviewee, Julia; a visual artist and photographer who speaks about her personal journey into long-distance sadomasochism.
He came to me.
He found me online; sent an email saying how much he loves my photographs. A young man of twenty-four, as I later found out. I knew nothing about him at the time, and replied with a mere, dry, thank you note. My photographs – and my work in general, get such male attention, since they pretty much all depict young nude women.
Months later, I came across a novel in a bookstore which grabbed my attention. The name of the author was familiar. I looked inside, at the frontispiece margin and read his biography. That’s when I found out he was twenty-four. Yet, he had already managed to publish two novels, and was a literature prize winner. That got me by surprise. I looked at his photograph. His dark shades covered his eyes, and a medium -almost faint- smile appeared below the shades. The portrait was nothing special to look at, but I kept this image in my head and it didn’t evaporate until I got home. Who wears sunglasses at a the bio photo of his book anyway? Did he want to throw a veil of mystery around him at the outset?
I wrote another reply to his original message, saying that I came across his book, and congratulated him. The reciprocation was in place. He had congratulated me, and now I had congratulated him. He had spun a spider web, and now I slowly and curiously entered the intricate labyrinth.
I had never been in such close contact, sexual or otherwise, with a younger man. Youth doesn’t interest me. I go for the gloomier ones, the heavy ones. I like the certain weight of experience wearing down on their backs.
We established very frequent correspondence. He sent me his writings, I sent him my photographs and sketches. He became a part of them, more and more as time went by. His lines spoke of me – of what he saw through me. And every woman I shot or drew, he had somehow directed. Those stockings he liked; that red lipstick, that upper bone sticking out from the rib cage, those ponytails.
It wasn’t long before I entered a dangerous game. I entered my own self in the photographs; so frequently in fact, that I ended up sending him the same woman all the time: myself. And I imagined his face when he received them. That half face behind the shades which I couldn’t see but somehow haunted me.
He didn’t really know, and he never asked, but I knew he knew it was me. He started making more personal comments. He commented on the ass. On the breasts. On the hair. On the shoulders. On the posture. I sent figures which were out of focus, blurry, dark, or moving. It was a slow revelation, and it became an everyday habit. I woke up and set the camera on the tripod. I laid on the bed. I covered my body with sheets. I stuck a leg out every now and then. I let a finger show, or a full arm, often gloved, then I let the back of my head show in the picture. I got up and took more shots. I stood by the window, or in front of the mirror. I set the camera in the steamy bathroom while I took a shower and the diaphanous glass door of the shower let parts of me show; blurred parts, over steam and water. Then I let my profile show – also blurry or hidden with streaks of hair. Sometimes I kept the curtains fully drawn in the room, and lived a prolonged night throughout the dawn in my bed, with the camera ticked in front of me on auto clock. “In the agony of that face I can’t see, the rapid movement of the reclining body, and the hair that twists around the neckline, and in that perfect little pair of hidden breasts which seem to burst through the fabrics, I find the shelter of oblivion”, he wrote. “The mirror in the photograph, reflecting the toes curled and tucked under the round, tight ass, is a door I want to cross and crawl until I hide myself beneath it, and lick my way inside”, he added. These were papers he was meant to publish? Or notes. I don’t know yet. But he sent them, almost every week, after he had been showered with a series of photographs.
It wasn’t long before he had requests. When I didn’t comply, he begged. “I want to see the ass of the woman in that picture on the balcony you sent. What can I do to have it?” he wrote. He didn’t have to do much – actually. Just beg a little. “I want to see a full frontal of the breasts”, or “I am obsessed with those red heels. Make some more. I want to see more”.
A week later, his words revealed me.
“Put your fingers on your nipples, and show me”.
Soon, we texted via our cellphones. He lived in another city. We sent more than fifty messages everyday (thank god for smartphones and the internet). And after a month or so, he had managed to see every part of my body.
From the early, shy, kind, modest talk and the use of indirect innuendos, he later became something of a master, and I a slave. He ordered photographs as a filthily rich man orders exotic ingredients in his breakfast platter. He wanted special lingerie, decorations with flowers, stockings, sex toys. And he started wanting details. He wanted my face. My eyes. My toes. My fingers. My vagina. My tongue licking my lips. He then imagined himself in the photograph. He’d write where he’d stand, his erection hard and ready, and would write messages upon messages on how and what he would do to me. He was vulgar. I felt his presence in the room as I took photos for him, and I came, very often, just by posing for him. He was whipping me, he caught my arms in his grip and wouldn’t let me go; he sodomized me – and all this with mere words.
I can’t remember how we got to that point, but the inevitable proposal of meeting each other came, and it came from him. He was coming to the city. He had a book launch, and he wanted to meet me. I couldn’t make the book launch. So I texted him, proposing to meet him after, even though I had very mixed feelings about it. The exhilaration and oscillating need to meet him and the fear of doing so drove me mad. But I felt ready; what the hell.
He didn’t reply. I sent him another text and, another, and he didn’t reply. This went on for days. I got angry, sad, felt exposed, for moments almost went mad; I cried. His grip on my feelings – without ever even meeting him, had become a great pain. I had become an object of his desire, and his toying with me had reached a point of no return. I had become a slave, and I hated it. But I also loved it. Does this make sense, what I’m telling you?
He contacted me again after he was back in his town. He didn’t say a word about what happened, or if we were ever to meet in person. I didn’t ask; I didn’t want answers. All I wanted was for the game to continue; and I still do. I say these words, and I feel somehow embarrassed. What will people think of me? But I know that eros, or sex of this type, in any form and in any expression, flirts with life and death at equal measure. It’s a test to the meaning of self and the non-self. I am aware that what I am experiencing is something many people will never experience, nor understand, and all I can say is that they’re missing out. Losing your identity, even becoming an object, on your own will (if such a thing as pure ‘own will’ exists) is the greatest form of freedom. Am I sick with passion? Am I the enemy of every possible discourse on feminism? Perhaps. I don’t care about things such as gender or power. I just let myself be. Is this a power larger than me, that I can’t control? It is. But since I’ve chosen it, I can carry the weight of my decision, and any possible loss this will afflict, on my own. This is power. It might be the most twisted form of power there is. But as sadistic as it is, I enjoy it.