By Janet W. Hardy

I turned 40 in 1995. I’d been “out” as a BDSM player for a few years – a move that (as comings-out often do) changed everything. I left a long-term, friendly, passionless marriage because my husband couldn’t follow me into the tangled jungle of pain and intensity that I needed to explore. I fell in love with the first man who could guide me deep into that jungle; he smiled appreciatively as I hacked my way through its undergrowth, wielding whips and ropes rather than machetes and torches. I moved to the city where he lived, took a new job in my old line of work, then lost that job when my employers listened in on my personal phone calls and decided that they didn’t need any perverts working for them.

So I was doing my best to make a living as a freelance writer and editor, and self-publishing a little manual for novice dominant women (a “side project” that was to evolve into my career for the next two decades – but that’s a story for a different article).

Of course I’d experimented with women: most women in BDSM do. Early in my explorations, I’d gone out for a beer with Sharon, a friend of a friend – smart, wry, with fine brown hair, owlish glasses and two of the loveliest breasts I’ve seen then or since – and flirted. The flirtation led to a playdate, the play to sex, and the sex to a steamy, kinky affair lasting several months. It was thrilling at first, then less so, and eventually it reached the point where I dreaded every advance she made.

“I can’t do this any more,” I told her, finally, sadly. “I think I’m just heterosexual.”

“But… you’ve been enjoying the sex,” she said, bewildered, her eyes starting to fill.

“Um, I guess,” I shrugged. In fact, I’d found the sex overwhelming and claustrophobic – cunnilingus has never been a favorite of mine as a receiver, and as a giver I found I liked it even less. Sharon’s drinking had become an issue, too, as had the fact that she was seriously infatuated with me and I couldn’t have the same feelings for her.

“And, you know, really, when I stop to think about it, I’ve never had crushes on the women in the movies,” I added, as though that were the ultimate evidence. “I like Susan Sarandon and Sigourney Weaver and Angela Bassett, and they’re fun to look at and sometimes I wish I looked like them. But I never imagine touching them or kissing them or, you know, spanking them, not like I do that bad guy from Die Hard, or Patrick Stewart, or, you know…”

“I know,” she said, and burst into tears. I held her, a stray tear or two trickling down my face as well. I genuinely wanted to feel about her the way she felt about me – I liked her tremendously and wanted her to have everything she wanted. I just couldn’t be the one to give it to her.

So that, I thought, was that: I was heterosexual. I wished I weren’t. Women had always seemed to find me more attractive than men – my best efforts to look feminine have never fooled anyone. Most people, then and now, read me as a soft butch, and not many men are drawn to that. Besides, most of my best friends throughout my life had been gay, and I wanted to be a part of that world. But, I supposed, if I couldn’t, I couldn’t.

So I turned down most of the play requests I got from women, and dismissed my occasional fantasies about clothespins on labia and cane marks on soft wide bottoms as statistical outliers. I tried a few more things with a few other women, but nothing seemed to work much better than it had with Sharon. And so it went, until a rainy February afternoon when I decided to blow off the afternoon’s work and catch a matinee.

The only movie playing at the right time was a foreign comedy called French Twist; I’d never heard of it. Now, before you go running off to see it, I should warn you: it’s not much of a movie. It’s one of those dumb French farces whose moral seems to be, “We’re French and we’re much smarter about sex than you are.” The plot, such as it is, has to do with an unhappily married woman who one day finds a brightly painted van in her driveway, which turns out to belong to Marijo, an itinerant handywoman.

Marijo was plump, and graying, and wore her hair cropped high over her ears and combed back from her forehead. She had big, soft breasts and a little cupid’s-bow mouth, and she wore overalls, and sometimes a man’s suit and tie.

I was mesmerized.

Worlds opened up to me with each new scene. What would it feel like, I wondered, to lift those big, warm breasts in my hands? To rest my head on that soft belly? To sink my teeth into the back of one of those plump thighs?

If I sound a little vague about the plot of the movie, it’s because I couldn’t take my eyes off Marijo, and that made it hard to read the subtitles.

It was an epiphany: I could have crushes on women in the movies! The movies just hadn’t been showing me the right women!

(To this day, I have a tendency to fall in lust with plump, graying women; and to this day I never see them in the movies. The fact that I am a plump graying woman worries me a bit, but not enough to make me stop.)

So that part was taken care of: I was able to perform the essentially meaningless act of lusting after light projected on a screen. Maybe I was bi. What, though, was I going to do about the cunnilingus part?

The kink community served me well there. The first time I saw one woman fisting another at a party, I was rapt: a whole hand disappearing between someone’s legs – like being born, almost, but in reverse. It seemed fascinatingly perverse and yet completely natural, like the way women were meant to fit together. And I can’t imagine anyone in the world being so androphilic that they wouldn’t be turned on by the sound of a woman being fisted: if the whole world of sex could be condensed into a single sound, it would be that deep, guttural, wailing belly moan. Richard Simmons would be turned on by that sound.

So when I negotiated my first scene with my new friend Dossie – she wanted to be a fiery heiress to my pirate king, a role I knew I could throw myself into with gusto – and she told me that she loved being fisted, I was intrigued. And scared: “I don’t know how,” I admitted. “I’ve never fisted anyone before.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll walk you through it.”I am fairly sure that no fiery heiress in the history of Janet,continued from previous pagepiracy has ever instructed her abductor in the step-by-step technique of exactly how to ravish her, but that didn’t stop Dossie. Skirts up around her chin and legs spread wide, she explained the niceties of hand positioning, when to add each new finger, and when to add yet more lube (the answer to this last, in case you’re wondering, is “always”). She told me when to twist and when to push, and explained how the zillions of little nerves in the vagina multiply each tiny motion, so very little goes a very long way. And before I knew it, there I was, wrist deep and having an absolutely wonderful time, wildly turned on, with no claustrophobia, and a glorious, soaring sense of control and competence.

So it turns out that you can have sex with women without putting your mouth anywhere it doesn’t want to go! Who knew?

I was running out of “why nots.” It was possible, I began to see, that I simply hadn’t been all that attracted to Sharon (although I did and do love her dearly, and was ecstatic for her when she fell in love with a fabulous woman who loved her back). There were all kinds of women in the world, and a fair number of them seemed to want my fist in them.

And then I met Barbara, who wanted my fist in her. And who loved clothespins on her labia and cane marks across her wide soft bottom. And who had big soft breasts, and graying hair cropped high over her ears and combed back from her forehead.

“I’m bisexual,” I told the world that year.

And I haven’t looked back since.

Janet is the author or co-author of eleven books about alternative sexualities, including the bestselling The Ethical Slut. Her most recent book, Girlfag: A Life Told In Sex and Musicals, is a memoir about life as a woman who loves gay men and wishes she could be one.

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