I ask him if he would put his hands around my throat. As a beginner model I'm a little apprehensive taking my clothes off for a stranger, after all.
As an experienced photographer he wants more. "Do you mind if I spank you first?" he laughs. "I got an idea where your torso is in a dog crate, bone in your mouth, ass in the air. Very objectified."
I tell him that it's humorous that it would take less trust and comfort for him to smack my ass than touch my neck.
"I thought maybe it'd be good to get used to putting hands on you in another way first."
He refuses to acknowledge that it's going to be his hands and I find myself grinning. Innocence:
"I totally agree. Hands on delicate places like the throat..."
I taper off.
He explains the process as if it is another day at work. "I'll try to smack you until you're sore and teary, but I won't fuck you up. Makes sense?"
I find him intriguing in the beginning. He wants to objectify me first, keeps me distant, keeps me at a safe level so he doesn't become overwhelmed, infatuated (but he slept with me the night before the shoot and let me stay the morning after). The funny thing is that I love throwing myself too close for the hell of it; because infatuation is fiery, exhilarating, and I want it with him.
He'll come around in due time.
As a beginner model I do not expect the pain, the shame or the thoughts associated with being tied up, exposed, physically vulnerable.
I find myself in a dog cage the perfect size for me (face smashed into the floor), with my housewife dress on and blue tights pulled down off my ass. Dog leashes dig into my thighs, keep me immobile (wrist and knees numb, pressed hard against metal bars and hardwood floor). My dress is forced off my shoulders and a dog bone stuffs my mouth. I can't swallow because it is thick and tastes strange; my saliva accumulates around a trail of red lipstick.
A dog toy that says "Good Puppy" lays next to my head.
The beginning of the shoot was calm and lighthearted, but for this pose it is intensely quiet. I'm in pain and he's caught breathless by the sheer ugliness of objectification and pain, both of us consumed by our own memories and the desperate need to make this art.
The choke collar digs into my skin, into my collarbone, and my heart beats forcefully. My throat feels swollen, the welts sting, my teeth dig into the dog bone because it's all I can do.
And there's silence.
The baby oil (used to make my skin shine) is dripping down my face, curving around lips, blurring vision. While he's setting up the camera in front of me I blink frantically and brace myself for what's coming next.
But we both discussed this, so it has to be done.
The orange light blinks and the photographer positions himself on his hands and knees behind me. "Ready?"
My answer wouldn't really change a thing.
The first spank makes my body jolt, my chest presses deep into the collar and my wrists grind into the metal of the cage. The camera clicks, he spanks me again, hand spread wide on burning skin. I stare at the camera, begging to capture the intensity; and the camera clicks every few seconds as he tries to make handprints on sensitive skin.
When the sequence is over he massages me with baby oil, comes in close to take in the scent, but his gentle touch does nothing to soothe my suddenly vivid memories. He kisses me and I'm paralyzed, the hands on my ass suddenly not his hands, and I'm drunk all over again with a man I don't know taking my clothes off.
And the clicks of the camera are the sounds of a creaking bed, and his deep breaths are the exhalations and silent moans of a stranger, his touch the invasive grip of a monster. The camera lens is the eyes of the man who ruined me, is the face of the boy in my class who doesn't classify my experience as "rape" and belittles my pain and scars. The cage is my depression and all the pain inflicted by horrible boys my age who only want one thing, and the bone in my mouth is my pathetic inability to say NO.
The photographer cannot speak, can only glance from dog to woman with concern, but there's nothing he can do.
Long moments pass and the rawness of my ass subsides. But the metal daggers in my wrists are nearly unbearable, my knees are fit to break on the hardwood floor, and the collar's pressure is suffocating.
When he pulls the dog bone out of my mouth a string of saliva follows.
"Do you want to see the photos now, or do you want me to untie you?"
I see the passion and the inspiration in his eyes, the insatiable need to take more photographs, but it's been at least half an hour and there's pain in my bones. I truly do not mean to disappoint but at this point I can't help it.
With a heavy swallow I whisper, "Untie me, please."
Hearing the feebleness in my voice he immediately obeys the request. With trembling hands he unwraps and unwraps the leashes binding me to the cage. My arms shake as I lift myself from the dog bed, and I fall back into his arms, weak, spent.
I'm crying and he doesn't know what to do.
"That was intense." My voice shakes.
He nods, breathing hard.
"I thought a lot."
I cry in his arms, tights down to my knees, lace off my ass and he holds me tight, smothered in baby oil. He massages my neck that stings with welts, and he caresses my chest scarred by the collar. He inhales sharply to speak but no words come out for a long while.
"I don't know if I should apologize," he finally begins. We both knew the potential of the photo shoot and it's an outlet for both of us, even if to most it would seem cruel.
I glance up at him, clutch his fingertips as they run gentle circles upon my chest.
"But I'm sorry," he says with extreme difficulty. "I'm sorry for kissing you. Part of it was that I thought it would make you feel better," he laughs, "and I couldn't help it."
I laugh, wipe my tears away and the shame that, if I had been stronger, I would have told someone as kind as him "no." My response:
He had kept me distant, had objectified me, had kept me at a safe level by not talking, only taking photographs, not looking into my eyes. But it's okay now because he's breaking the distance and holding me tight, talking and making me a woman, not a dog.
It's for the sake of art, after all.