chapter two

by Jim Stewart

The main topic here = coming to terms with one's own preferences


Chapter Two :

A hobby with a difference.
(Much of this biographical material is used elsewhere on this site )

Houdini was my hero when I was a kid. Games of Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians and war games were incomplete without some tying up. Win or lose, the chas e, capture and shifts of power were the name of the game for me. I didn't grow out of it.

When other young teenagers were battling it out on sports fields I preferred practising my skills as an amateur Escape Artist. The combination of challenge, physical endurance and exhilaration when emerging triumphant was stimulating. My frustration when failing soon turned to determination to crack the problem next time around ... and was equally stimulating. All healthy exercise for a growing boy.

In family life the game of staying-on-top was more psychological than physical, but it was still control and counter-control. Negotiations were more on an emotional level, but internal power struggles still ruled the day between three brothers and parents who didn't always see eye-to-eye.

In the grown-up world of career and business, “Power” manoeuvring is the norm, so we're told; control or be controlled. The point scoring can be obvious or subtle. I chose a career which gave me automatic authority. That wasn't a conscious choice but, in retrospect, I see what attracted me to it. Perhaps I sometimes abused my position of authority. Occasionally, to my embarrassment I'd realise after the event, that I had subconsciously chosen to lose a battle. Confusing!

During this early adulthood my active interest in Houdini-type exploits continued, although I felt I should be growing out of it. Together with a group of like-mined odd-ball friends, regular sessions of escaping and trying to prevent escape by others were long and very competitive; more strenuous than any gym work-out ... and much more fun. The sweat and struggle, the win-some / lose-some interaction retained its appeal.

The word “Kinky” began to crop up, and therefore more socially acceptable ways of getting the same “Kicks” were explored. A couple of years in the Air Force brought welcome opportunities. In training and in barrack-room horseplay my practised skills were occasionally useful. To carry such interests over into sexual experimentation was strictly taboo because “kinky” was disastrous to any reputation (maybe not so much so today?) In the Fifties the slightest hint of unconventional sex-play would inevitably result in powder-room gossip among the girls, which would then travel like a forest fire through the main community.

Becoming a publicly recognised expert on Houdini was a convenient let-out. Getting a few magazine articles published excused my continuing active “experiments” plus a growing collection of handcuffs and stuff. Because my interests also spread to Police & Prison History this opened up even more socially acceptable avenues. Practising unarmed combat and joining in mountaineering activities (including becoming a member of a Mountain Rescue Team for a while) provided stimulating opportunities:- lashed to a metal stretcher being lowered down a mountain side in the pouring rain on training exercises you get time to think about what is “Kinky” and what is pure masochism ... and if you enjoy it, you begin to wonder where it might lead! But such weekend and vacation activities were fulfilling ... a welcome alternative to my sedentary, decision-making everyday life. Therapy takes many forms!

In my late twenties I felt the need to justify to myself these 'unusual' preferences ... but quickly realised that too much self-analysis can destroy instinctive enjoyment. However, I did feel that a wider general knowledge of the territory would give me a better perspective; allow me to experiment more safely. If I was going to take risks they may as well be calculated risks.

This process of finding out more about different aspects of the still unfocussed “buzz” I got from physical challenge and counter-challenge ... was a challenge in itself. Sometimes it was very much a matter of trial and error. Not always trusting my instincts took me on some confusing detours. Occasionally I deliberately suppressed my interest for a while, suspicious of where it might lead.

This taught me two things which are relevant here: Repressing natural instincts doesn't get rid of them; it's healthier to learn to recognise them for what they really are, allowing you to channel them safely so they don't complicate the rest of your life. Secondly, only by finding out about all possible alternatives can you successfully choose what you most enjoy. Gaining this knowledge allows selection and rejection of opportunities. Finding out about potentially dangerous territory is a good precaution ... but, on the other hand, being too cautious may mean missing an experience ... even if you suspect it might be one you will choose not to repeat. My natural attraction to challenge occasionally took me to the edge, but that in turn helped me to recognise my personal limits.

Also, learning to enjoy what I enjoy has allowed me to keep it in perspective. Unfulfilled fantasies too easily turn into obsessions. As with any recreational activity which demands time and energy, it can take over your life. In perspective it can be given space as part of an otherwise balanced day-to-day existence. As the wonderful SALLY BARRETT puts it in her book WE LOVE S&M, “My husband and I have been doing it for 25 years without disturbing the neighbours or corrupting our kids.” (see page 82 for details)

So here I am nearly fifty years later. I still like to get tied up and try to escape. I like to challenge other people to do the same. As my skills developed, the exhilaration of a successful escape was confused by a disappointment that I had succeeded. Games of control and counter-control demand ingenuity and skill and often a degree of physical energy when a battle of wills takes a physical form. These are essentially games of common consent. Without mutual consent such games move into a different area and are not what I'm discussing. Without consent, any form of physical restraint becomes a criminal act. For the complicated double think of consensual non-consent (when the right to opt out or set limits is signed away) see details of the “PHYSICAL RESTRAINT ENDURANCE PROJECT in chapter 10.

That's enough autobiographical stuff for now. What follows will probably reveal more detail about my personal preferences. There is a danger that by stressing my particular likes and dislikes a broader perspective may be lost. The general intention of this book is to identify as many different concepts and points of view as possible, leaving you to decide for yourself what (if anything) pertains to you. Inevitably, because of the wide range of personal preferences discussed, you may not relate to (or even approve of) whole chunks of the action described. Extracts from correspondence Awith people who have highly individual points of view presents conflicting opinions which may sometimes confuse you. It's a confusing, many sided subject.


to chapter three

to contents of "So I Like To Get Tied-up ... So What!!?"

Return to HOME PAGE