cw: this post is about body writing, but contains mentions of depression, self-harm, body image & weight gain, disordered eating; mentions of consensual ownership and daddy kink
I’m seventeen, and my literary attention is largely taken up with fanfiction. A then-favorite author has posted something new, of a pairing I enjoy, not quite explicit but just barely shy of it. One character realizes that he can never leave a mark on the other during their secret trysts, physically or emotionally and, in frustration, signs his name on her skin. This turns into a thing for the two of them—she sneaks into his room at night, and he writes on her, words and stories.
I imagine it vividly. It’s written from his perspective, but my mind is in hers. I picture the scratch of the pen on sensitive skin, and the coolness of ink, and the way he must frown as he concentrates. In the story, somehow, the writing becomes more intimate than acts of sex. If you sign something, it’s yours.
I read the story many times. I think about it, sometimes, when I masturbate as silently as I can in my bedroom next to my parents’.
A few years later, the author’s original fiction sees publication. She deletes everything she’s done in fandom. The story is gone.
I’m twenty-five. Since moving in with my partner, I’ve gained weight. It’s not a surprise. Since my teens I’d eaten badly; undiagnosed anxiety kept me from the lunch lines at high school and college, and long work hours and depression kept me from cooking and eating enough well into my twenties. I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been, living with someone who cares about me and can help make food, but I see the weight as a failure. I’m unhappy with my stomach, my thighs, my arms. All the women I’ve ever been attracted to are thick like I am now, but on me, somehow, it doesn’t feel acceptable. The next time I see my mom, she’ll comment on my weight again as another mark against my partner.
I almost burst into tears when I try on a tank top I’d owned before moving in. But Damien says nothing. She lifts it up, draws a smiley-face on my stomach with eyeliner, and follows it with a kiss. I can’t help but giggle.
I feel self-conscious. But I wear the shirt. Eyeliner smudges the fabric, but washes out again.
I’m nineteen and miserable. I’d chosen to attend a Christian college, in part to please everyone I knew. I’m out of place. I’m politically liberal, and not quiet about it despite my shyness. I’m failing to make friends. Spiritually I’m beginning to doubt, and I’m afraid to tell anyone. Depression settles in, and I say nothing. Sometimes I hurt myself. Mostly I just shut everything out.
I doodle in notebooks and on my hands to get through classes. The pen on my skin feels like the self-harm I crave, but without the permanence and the mental anguish. I draw beautiful designs—suns and flowers and swirling nonsense. I write words and try out fonts.
With the pen I’m focused on creativity, which cuts a bit through the mental fog of depression. I can barely function, but at least I can enjoy pleasant daydreams. Sometimes I imagine climbing onto a bus and disappearing somewhere. Sometimes I imagine adventures on the Tardis. Sometimes I imagine sex. Bondage features sometimes, and other darker themes I’m not quite ready to face, but mostly it’s the vanilla, hetero, generic fantasies that are forbidden in this land of purity rings and male-only anti-masturbation support groups. Sometimes I write down the fantasies, secretly, where no one can see. The stories aren’t good, but they matter.
I’m twenty-eight and exploring kink. My partner has agreed to be my dominant, but we’re still sorting out what that means. I browse blogs, and Reddit, and random websites.
On Tumblr or Twitter or some other nearly ephemeral corner of the Internet, I find a simple, still photo of someone looking coyly at the camera, with “Daddy’s holes” written on their thigh. I stare, a lot. I’m still uncomfortable with “Daddy” as a kink honorific, so I try to ignore that part, though it still resonates in a way that I’m not ready to acknowledge.
I look up more about body writing as a kink. But most of what I find in that search is focused on hardcore humiliation and degradation, to a degree that passes a hard limit for both of us. Unsure how to proceed with what I actually want, I just shelve it all for now and go back to learning about other topics.
I’m twenty-three and living in my own apartment. I’m exploring sex toys, visiting the shops in Minneapolis and discovering what actually works for me and what doesn’t. It’s liberating. I don’t bother dating—I’m content as I am, and I tell people that I will only get into a relationship if I find someone I like more than I love being single.
I think about a fanfic I read when I was seventeen. One night, reading random smut somewhere, I remember it again. I find a pen, and trace it over my thigh. I like the sensation. But I can’t think of what to write, and I give up.
I’m in my late twenties, and heading into my thirties. Sometimes, just for fun, Damien still draws smiles or hearts on my stomach. She wants to make sure I love my big, round belly. She wants to make sure I love myself. It’s a reminder, all day, that she loves me, and it helps.
I’m twenty-one and nearly done with college. My writing classes are the only part of school I like, with the professors that are slightly more left of center than the rest, with the students that occasionally allude to things considered subversive in this pious, sheltered place I’m in. I’ve announced to everyone at home that I’m not Christian anymore, but I fake it here, knowing I have credits I can’t transfer to a secular school, and that I’m too close to graduating to quit now.
I’m writing a reaction to some book on writing. Later, I won’t remember what it said, or what I needed to respond to. I remember only what I said.
“Words are power,” I write. “We use words to tear each other down, to build each other up. In the beginning was the word, and word was with God and the word was God. Magic is done through words and chants. Faeries are named to control them. And one good word—or bad one—can change the meaning of an entire story.”
Words are power. Ink can break or bind. I like knowing this.
I’m 31. I’m comfortable with myself, more or less. I’m fat, but my self-esteem is better than it ever was when I wasn’t. I’ve found a spirituality that does not crush my soul, and does not belong to anyone but me. I write, and sometimes, other people read it. I’m a full-time submissive. I’m a sexual being. I am myself.
Damien sits me down, with a brand new box of Crayola markers. She knows I’d like something else, a sharp pen or a permanent marker, but she wants something non-toxic, she explains. Perhaps it’s over-cautious, but she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to me.
Property of Damien ♥, she writes on my arm, in blue, to see how long the markers last. The felt doesn’t tickle like I’d expected. It’s just a smooth, gentle pressure, with a hint of sharpness when she presses down. It feels like it’s scratching an itch I didn’t know was there.
The words are there all day, under my sleeve. Sweat smudges them, but doesn’t transfer them. No one can see them, but we know. We lounge around at home, and they’re there the whole time. She instructs me to masturbate, and I can’t see the words while I do but I can feel them the whole time.
They last until she determines that it’s time to take them off. The words claiming me, marking me, come off with a baby-wipe, leaving a soft, fading redness. But when she wants to—or when I need her to—she’ll put them back, or other ones. She can leave hearts on my thighs, scrawl her name on my breasts, write love letters along my spine. She can use words to build me up. Ink can bind. If you sign something, it’s yours.