Dangerous Game: Is Giving in to a Partner’s Desires Empowering—or Just Submitting?

It’s a feat I haven’t killed the spider that lives in the dark corner at the foot of my desk. She reminds me of the time I was 13, on a hike with my parents and something bit me hard between my legs. Shrieking, I peeled off my pants and underwear and a crushed spider fell out. My parents ran over and saw everything. Covering myself, I sobbed, “I’m so sorry, I have pubic hair.”

The spider is small and blonde and her name is Pinkie. Every day she spins her dreams and waits for bugs. She does an awful lot of nothing so I took it upon myself to feed her. I swatted a fruit fly on a banana and dropped it on her web. She pounced. I stretched across the floor and watched her feast.

Pinkie resides in the center of her web. She’s so quiet I once blew on her like the wind to makes sure she wasn’t dead. Her stillness inspires me to turn within. The other day I was meditating Pinkie-style when an unwanted image popped into my head. I had been on edge ever since Mandy told Ellie and me about the circle of men. Mandy had wanted to make her billionaire boyfriend, Sam, happy, so she agreed to his fantasy. Sam found and vetted the men on Craigslist. They all had clean bills of health and signed nondisclosures. Mandy wore La Perla, and Tom Ford sunglasses to protect her eyes. As the men gathered into her new, 24th-floor Midtown East rental, she looked out her window over the flickering lights of Manhattan. The men talked among themselves about the weather, beer and some online business.

Sam proceeded to film Mandy as she performed fellatio on the eight men. She went around the circle twice while they lathered themselves with pineapple-flavored lubricant. And then, on Sam’s cue, they ejaculated on her. The whole thing took about 45 minutes. By the time she finished showering, they were gone.

I asked Mandy how she felt and she said, “Successful.”

I repeated the question.

“Powerful.” She bit her lip. “If you’re a great painter you want to paint. If you’re a great cocksucker you want to suck cock.”

I tried one more time.

“In order to do something like that you have to compartmentalize your feelings,” Mandy told us, spooning her latte.

“How many dicks does it take to fulfill your boyfriend’s fantasy?” Ellie muttered.

After further excavation, Mandy admitted she probably had some anger toward Sam. They hadn’t discussed what had taken place since and it wasn’t something she had actually wanted to do, but it was a cool video op. She liked to experience the totality of life, keep things positive, and had no room for regret.

I thought about how I’ve checked out during certain sexual encounters and how, in those fleeting moments, I convinced myself it was all in good “fun” and that the underbelly of feeling, my ever-lurking need for love, was inconsequential.

Once at home, I curled in the fetal position and cried. I assumed my tears were for Mandy, but more so, there was something about her disassociation that troubled me. She made it seem like it was no big deal. I thought about how I’ve checked out during certain sexual encounters and then I thought about my ex Jerry and the blowjobs in his car and how, in those fleeting moments, I convinced myself it was all in good “fun” and that the underbelly of feeling, my ever-lurking need for love, was inconsequential.

Just the night before, Jerry had texted me, “At Omar’s. Come?”

I had thought about ignoring him but hadn’t wanted to harbor that guilt. “You mean, you want to cum,” I corrected him.

“Did that this a.m.” 

“Then no wonder I’m on your mind.”

“Come. Not sexual at all. Promise… Was just thinking of you.”

“I’m ambivalent.”

“You’re being a little silly.”

Of course, I thought about going. I even tried on a leather Michael Kors mini-skirt.

“Thanks, but tonight’s not going to work.”

Everything was so light and easy breezy with Jerry. I wanted to shake him and I wanted to shake Mandy and shout, “Where are you in there? Feel something.” It was as if their detachment was a direct affront toward me.

I had this nightmare there were two escalators one going up, the other down. The upper world appeared to be safe but it was boring and devoid of raw emotion. The underworld was where passion and deep feeling lived. It was the kind of place a zombie could just jump out and kill you at any moment. It was where the spiders fucked and the strong ate the weak. One would be a fool to go down there.

Next thing I know, I’m heading south on the bad escalator. I’m curious—excited even, but then I hear the screams. Just beyond the glass doors, guarded by bouncers, is a mess of flailing limbs and open mouths clamoring to get out. Before it’s too late, I jump the escalator and head back up to the surface.

Upon awakening, I discover a second spider in my bedroom, which is not good. I live in Soho, not in some lodge upstate. Nonetheless, I bestow upon him his obvious name, the Brain. But I can’t continue to host these fiendish creatures. Why would I want to coexist with mini reminders of my fears? And what if they procreate? So I implore my father to help me capture them.

Upon awakening, I discover a second spider in my bedroom, which is not good.  bestow upon him his obvious name, the Brain. But I can’t continue to host these fiendish creatures. Why would I want to coexist with mini reminders of my fears? And what if they procreate?

“Don’t kill him,” I tell my father, who’s lying on his back by my closet, trying to catch the Brain with a glass.

He swipes away the cobwebs but the Brain gets away, which is disconcerting. We move onto Pinkie and I feel terrible. She worked hard on her web even if it is shoddy and in one swoop her world comes tumbling down. She scurries.

“Let it crawl on the piece of paper first,” my father instructs, “Otherwise, you’ll smush it.”

I’ve got her. I run out the door with Pinkie climbing up the glass and empty her behind the recycling bin in the hallway.  She seems shocked but I take solace knowing she will rebuild.

When I close my eyes I see a web of intertwining circles. I see Mandy surrounded by men and I wonder what kind of web she’s spinning. If she’s trapped by it or if she is its master. Was she re-traumatizing herself to bring up old wounds begging to surface, or was she overcoming a taboo, committing an act of sexual liberation? And then I wonder about myself. Can I  be casual,  keep cool and play? Can I compartmentalize? But then I think about the Brain on the loose in my bedroom and it all makes me very uneasy. 

Dangerous Game: Is Giving in to a Partner’s Desires Empowering—or Just Submitting?