Kelly is a professional woman in her early forties. She is twice divorced, has two high-achieving children at university, owns a three-bedroom detached house in one of the more desirable postcodes in the UK, and an enviable lifestyle.
Kelly freely admits that she is an addict.
Her drug of ‘no choice’ is humiliation. For sex, or any other aspect of a relationship to work for her, there must be a high degree of humiliation involved.
I have met her several times since coming into contact with her as part of my previous day job. Now she has agreed to my interviewing her on the subject. No holds-barred.
We meet in her private office in In South-West London. It is an elegant affair as befits a senior professional. She is smartly, if formally, dressed and greets me with a smile.
I start by asking her what form her addiction takes.
‘In my professional life, I am a decision maker. I am in control and act with authority. In my personal life, I am just the opposite. But my particular brand of humiliation involves avoiding decisions, especially about sex and who I have it with. I do not like to choose, I need to be chosen, and then once chosen, to have to accept it and follow it through to the end.
‘No matter what?’
‘No matter what; or who.’
It is a big statement. One that hangs in the air.
It has an almost infinite amount of implications. I ask her if that means that she will accept sexual relations with any man who comes on to her? It is the extreme possibilities that intrigue me.
She pauses, stirring sweetener into her coffee. ‘Not exactly. It wouldn’t be practical in a seven days a week sense. But I do have certain nights when I go out knowing that I will do exactly that, go out and accept whoever comes on to me. It’s like first come, first served.’ She laughs.
Random strangers then?
‘Exactly, yes. As random as possible anyway.’
‘But is anything really random? Surely they can’t be entirely arbitrary. Can they? Things like where you go, where you sit or stand, how you act, and dress are all choices you have to make.’
She nods her head vigorously. ‘Absolutely, that’s how it used to be. But now I try and avoid even those choices by leaving the venue to chance; these days I never choose it myself. I have a list of eight possible places and an eight-sided dice.’
She reaches into her drawer and pulls it out and places it between us. ‘I keep this one in my office, I have others at home, and always carry one in my bag.’ She touches it gently, almost fondly. Like a friend.
‘So, if you throw a dice and go wherever? You never see the result and think, “maybe not” and throw again?’
‘Never.’ She seems always offended by the suggestion. ‘That would defeat the object. Once the dice have spoken, I never allow any change of mind.’
‘Never?’ I can’t help but be a little sceptical.
‘Never. I force myself to accept it. If I didn’t the whole system would never work again.’
‘And so what about dress?’
‘Similar. I have certain outfits especially for my “special nights.” But which items I choose on the night is down to throwing the dice. So when I go out, it doesn’t matter if I feel comfortable or not. I dress how the law of chance says I dress and that’s that!’
‘So’, I ask, ‘You have eight possible outfits for it to choose from?’
‘No’, she replies. ‘Not eight outfits. I have separate lists for each item. Eight tops,, eight skirts, eight pairs of shoes and so on. Actually only seven bras and knickers. I always have one of the options set to go without. I roll for each item separately.’
I ponder the implications of this. ‘So, in theory, then, you could end up with a set of items that don’t match or perhaps even clash? Sometimes you must have gone out in some strange combinations.’
‘Yes, and I often do. More often than not in fact. But in a sense that works for me because I don’t want to look coordinated or smart. I want to look inadequate; like I am trying too hard. It just adds to my feeling of shame, and it usually gets me, even more, attention because somehow it seems to reek of desperation.’
‘You say you have ‘certain’ items for your nights out? Can you tell me more about how you select them? How do they get onto the list of eight?’
‘Well, this is where I can’t totally get away from choice. Except that I will often, on principle, pick the lowest-cut top or whatever in any given shop. Cleavage sends such obvious signals, especially from a woman alone in a bar. I have quite a collection. All the bras are front fastening bra and all the knickers actually thongs. But the exact ones worn are chosen by dicey.’ She smiles.
‘So, let me get this clear. You always go out in low-tops? Sometimes the lowest you can get? Do you ever feel any embarrassment? Is there any version of low that is too low?’ I am putting myself in her shoes…and to be honest not disliking them.
‘Not really, sometimes when I buy a top I might think “Oh God, how would I feel wearing that?”, But when it gets chosen, I just have to live with it. Sometimes I feel embarrassment yes. If the top is too common or whatever, or the place just not “right” for that top I do. I look desperate, and then I feel hopeless. But that is all a part of it, my forcing myself to go like that no matter what. It is a heady cocktail for me. If more people are looking, it is all the more degrading and therefore more exciting for me.’
‘So, does it make you feel more desirable?’ The obvious question.
‘No, not really. That’s the point. I feel humiliated that more people are looking and rejecting me by not making a move; that I am being passed over for younger or more attractive women? And the more of myself that I have on show, the more humiliated I feel by the rejection.’
‘Does that happen a lot? The rejection I mean?’
‘Well, I am forty-three, and in a lot of the places, the average age for women is the early twenties.’
‘And you feel that the men will go for those before you, no matter how low your top?’
She smiles a rueful smile. ‘Human natures and experience tell me so. I hate it but on a deeper level it’s that kind of thing that I am there for. It’s hard to describe, it’s like hating the thing that secretly you love.’
‘And does that bother you?’
‘Well, yes and no. Yes, that its underlines my age and situation; no in that it is exactly that which is humiliating. Being in a place, full of younger women who suck up all the attention, and there I am with it all hanging out desperate for some connection.’
‘So, it’s the public aspect you enjoy?’
‘Well, the public is the foreplay let’s say. I like to look and feel like the woman on the edge of things. After all, I am not really after the guys who will chase the youngsters. I am looking for those guys who the youngsters wouldn’t give a second glance to.’
‘It seems to me’, I say, ‘That what you are into is a kind of public self-shaming?’
‘That is a good way of putting it. I don’t want to be just another face in the crowd. I want to be looked at, though pitiful, despondent, that I am an easy mark. That I am anybodys.’