In the morning, we went into the office together. Suzanne was feeling pissed off and frustrated; I was feeling quietly horrified with myself as well as a little psychologically violated by the slew of well-intentioned but unhelpful questions that had followed (“Has this happened before?” “Are you just not attracted to me?” “Is it because of the cigarette smell?” “Were you abused as a child?”).
We sat down at our respective desks, and we began to type. Just as we had before.
And there it might well have ended. We became friends again. Suzanne began to talk about how she wanted to try and introduce her boyfriend to BDSM. Gamely - although not without more than one pang of regret - I encouraged her to take him to a bondage workshop where he could learn a few knots. I wasn’t sure what had gone wrong with Droopy Cock, but I was more than happy to try and put it to the back of my mind for now.
Aside from that - well, there were a few drunken lapses. One stands out.
It was the night before Christmas (fine, Christmas leave). The entire office team was lolling about in a basement bar in Soho at 3am. Suzanne and I were arguing viciously. I can’t remember exactly why. I think it may have begun with a poorly-chosen drunken joke on my part about how her vagina smelled. (It didn’t smell, not badly. I was so sozzled I accidentally pressed send before I was able to add a smiley-face to the text message.)
She’d responded by telling me that she didn’t think I had the ‘steel’ to be a proper dom.
Bullshit, I told her.
No, she said, possibly slurring her words. I know you want to, but I just don’t think you have the steel to give me what I want.
I snatched hold of her wrist.
She raised her eyebrows - and then leaned in.
You’re going to have to grab me, she hissed, a lot harder than that.
At this point I realised that a nice earnest-looking girl in her early twenties was watching us with a wary horror.
Oh God, I thought. I look like a domestic abuser. She probably thinks I’m a total bastard. Should I explain that it’s all OK, that it’s actually just part of a twisted sex game, or…
Instead I took Suzanne firmly by the arm and led her up and outside.
In the darkness of Soho Square, I pressed her hard up against a brick wall, holding her wrists to the surface, and told her in detail the things I was going to do to her; that she must never, never again try and tell me that I didn’t have the steel for this kind of thing.
She looked at me with bright wide eyes and said,
“No, Tom - no, I won’t, I promise-”
I was as aroused as hell.
I was as aroused as hell.
And at this point a uniformed policeman grasped me by the shoulder and said firmly,
“All right now, son, time to be going home. Lot of bad people around here.”
His colleague gave me a disapproving look.
I stared at them. The words, ‘It’s all OK, officers, it’s actually just part of a twisted sex game’ were rising rapidly in my throat. They seemed much more unconvincing than they should have been. Possibly because I could no longer rely on myself to articulate the words correctly. I looked at Suzanne for support.
She turned around without a word and tottered quickly away from us across the square and into darkness. The two policemen watched her go, and then turned back to look accusingly at me.
I blanched, turned and legged it towards home, where I spent the majority of my Christmas feeling very much like a guilty criminal, and half-believing that the entire Metropolitan Police force was out looking for me.
And that was the first time I was really forced to consider how our games could potentially appear to the people around us.
It’s surprisingly hard to casually research, given that Googling ‘police bondage UK’ results in a slew of both genuinely serious, tragic cases like that of Gareth Williams, and videos of BDSM stars being tied up in highly unconvincing police uniforms - but my country’s authorities actually have a very peculiar and antagonistic relationship with kink.
There’s the usual timeless ‘naughty’ material for lascivious tabloids, of course; the police who get called out to a kidnapping in a field only to find two lovers indulging in some al fresco roleplay, or who have to rescue somebody out of broken handcuffs.
But more fascinatingly and disturbingly, there’s the letter of the law which states that causing ‘actual bodily harm’ is illegal regardless of consent. Exactly what constitutes ‘actual bodily harm’ is spurious ('beyond trifling' is one interpretation, though other sources are clearer) which is why we end up with bizarre investigations like Operation Spanner or the raid on a Southwark S & M club night in 1994, during which police officers apparently donned leather outfits in order to infiltrate the premises, film the proceedings, and figure out whether the clientele were enjoying being caned and flogged too rigorously for it to count as legal.
The raid, at least, did lead to a truly wonderful witness statement.
Dr Michael Jack Frost, a 66-year-old retired lecturer in geology, is a member of the Club Whiplash and was on the premises on the night of the police raid. He said he saw the video, which was "tame", but none of the other acts described by police.
With porno, and the online world - well, that's when it all gets even more headache-inducing...