For a second Emily didn’t react. Then she jolted, as if she’d been hit by an invisible tennis ball. She blushed, equally suddenly, and looked away. “Oh,” she said. “Oh.” She turned back to look into my eyes. “I don’t know, Jaime.”
“You asked me to cane you. If I caught you smoking?”
But she saw the doubt in my face. “Well, yes… But that was then. Anyway, Jaime, you said you wouldn’t. You said you can’t punish me just because I do something you think is wrong.” This was true. I’d turned her down, with self-admiration. “Remember?”
Emily would’ve gone on apologising forever, and I’d have gone on making her feel worse while acting as if I was being nice, also forever. That would be boring. This was dramatic.
One thing we’d learned together was that we had a mutual taste for drama.
“I haven’t given you the right, Jaime. Not for this.”
“I think I should punish you.” Emily frowned. She knew I wasn’t convinced of that. “Well, what do you think? Do you think you deserve it?”
“Of course.” That was dismissive. “Well, okay. Yes, I do. I was really stupid. And I was mean. I hurt you. Of course.” That was less dismissive. “I’d deserve anything you did to me. Well, to my ass, anyway. But that’s not the point, Jaime. You said you wouldn’t punish me for real things. Not for real. You said you couldn’t. We’re supposed to be equals.”
“So you’d punish me for fucking another guy. But you’d want me to ask you to first. You’re saying that would make us still equals?”
“Um. Well, it’s your choice. And it wouldn’t just be for fucking Marty.”
“Oh, because you’re too high-minded to be jealous.”
“I never said that.”
“Jaime, you’ve got every right to be mad at me. And you are angry with me, you know you are.”
“Okay. That’s true.”
“So, I say I’m a bad girl and then you cane me. Only difference is that this time it’s real.”
“It’d be real.” I hadn’t changed my mind about the politics: I didn’t believe any adult has a right to tell another adult what to do, let alone punish that adult. Everything I felt about sexual politics, plus my basic anarchism, was against it. But this wasn’t between citizens. It was between Emily and me, and though we weren’t open about it, it was about sex as much as justice.
She didn’t exactly want the cane, but she wanted to have been caned.
Then she wouldn’t be in the wrong any more. Neither of us liked occupying the moral low ground. Punishment would make her good again: I’d have forgiven her, and more importantly she could forgive herself.
But I was certain that her real reason was the same as mine: sex. It had been one thing to play dominance and submission games. But this was about making my dominance and her submission real, with real-world consequences. That seemed hot.