The Phenomenology of the Whip
Even when lying coiled on the chair, it looks alive. The braided leather, thick by the Turk’s head knot, gradually tapering, calls to mind the scales of a snake. The fall and cracker, the rattle of a rattlesnake, the sting of a scorpion. The leather glistens gently where it catches the light, a sheen that says it’s used, but not worn with use, a working animal. Yet when he holds it, moves his hands over its length, it is also a pet. If it had memory, speech, it would chuckle dryly, crackling, over stories of bodies it had stung, flesh it had pressed itself into until the welts came.
When he cracks it, there is a moment of equipoise, a point at which it lies in the air, invisibly suspended, motionless, in repose. Then the tail licks out faster than the eye can follow, a blur of red/purple as the cracker accelerates across the room.
The physics of it is something you already know. The energy delivered to the handle, its cross-section the thickness of a thumb, is passed progressively to the other end of the whip, tapering at the cracker to no more than a few strands of cotton. As the energy is concentrated, the end of the whip accelerates. The cracker meets, exceeds, the speed of sound. Hence the crack.
Even so it sounds like a pistol shot, a promise of concentrated violence, searing pain.
You are, as normal, spread-eagled, standing, wrists pulled up and outward on the frame, ankles placed wide apart so that your heels are not quite on the floor, and your weight is taken on the balls of your feet. You are, as normal, naked. Vulnerable, open, accessible to caresses, to suffering, to agony.
A whip can caress. Did you know this? He flicks it out and the fall wraps twice around your outstretched forearm. It’s gentle, sweet almost. The other whip, the one with the nylon fall, wraps but the nylon slides off your skin. This whip, having a leather fall, grips more easily. The wrap isn’t tight, the sensation is akin to the process of bondage – something circling a limb, cinching just enough to feel like a restraint, a slight pull back on the forearm, enough that you can feel your balance challenged and need to stretch your legs just that little bit wider apart, exhale and pull on the muscles of your stomach that little bit more, to return to equilibrium.
The wraps move from right forearm to right upper arm, left forearm to left upper arm, right calf to right thigh, left calf to left thigh, a lazy pattern, dulling your senses yet making you focus on your own body and the massage-like repetition of a foot or so of leather being wound around it.
When he moves to wrap your waist it bites just a little more, the greater speed required making you aware of the knot that joins the fall and the cracker as it makes contact with left or right hip.
Around your breasts. This time the knot lands on the outside arc of your left or right breast and the breast itself is made to bounce gently. The skin is more sensitive here, erogenous; and the tautness of braided leather across your breasts – because such a wrap requires half the length of the whip – makes you catch your breath at each stroke. The repeated impacts are light, refined, almost affectionate, yet somehow dangerous. They contain the promise of something stronger.
When he cracks the whip again, to your right, you feel only the wind of its passing yet the sharp retort makes you gasp involuntarily. It reminds you that the whip is a technology for tearing and mutilating flesh. For encouragement. For training. For ensuring compliance. For punishment. For what offence, even whether guilty or innocent, will not matter to the whip. Perhaps even the punishment of the innocent is a purer, cleaner, application of its capabilities.
Are you innocent?
And, imagining yourself as he sees you, nude, exposed, and with just enough freedom of movement to twist and dance on the end of the whip, it occurs to you that it has one further purpose.
The whip can tease. He stands back, allowing the entire seven-foot length of the instrument to extend, and flicks it out. The cracker is comprised of fine cotton, about twenty double strands, twisted tightly together and held with a knot. Beyond the knot, the very tip of the beast comprises forty or so short lengths of cotton, unbraided. You can feel, on your shoulders and arse, the subtle thwack of those cotton lengths, the last quarter-inch or so of the whip. It is sensation, not pain, because although the force is there the strands are very light. It feels a little like threading, where a single strand is used to abrade the very top layer of skin. The sensation is so odd it makes you laugh out loud.
There is only one place on your body that causes a different reaction. When the tip of the cracker finds the very centre of the shoulder blade, the scapula, there is a nerve, a pressure point, that is unexpectedly sensitive. With your arms outstretched and bearing half your weight, the sensation is magnified. It hurts, but it is not yet pain.
And you know that the whip, while licking at you, is being held back, controlled, like a wild animal on a leash. It’s saying to itself: tender flesh, tempting flesh, clean unmarked flesh, let me write on you. Let me write a story in angry welts on this cool, blank flesh.
What it really wants to do is bite.
Is there a confusion here between the whip and its wielder? The wielder, the man standing behind you, out of your vision, who you know only as ‘he’, is like an orchestral conductor. He moves his wrist. The whip, given motivation, extends its own interpretation to the movement. It can, like the bow of a violin, glide gently – or attack. It can switch from andante and piano to staccato, forte, con forzo.
But not yet. Nearly, but not yet. A stroke comes up between your legs, the fall lying precisely between the lips of your cunt, the tip nuzzling hard a few inches above your clitoris. This is new, unexpected. It is still gentle yet has the promise now of sexual viciousness, exacting cruelty. Again, the knot of the cracker has sought out a pressure point, a chakra. There are nodes there that in shiatsu, in acupuncture, are held to relate to the kidney, the liver… and what in Chinese terminology is sweetly called the ‘conception vessel’.
The blow makes you jump, makes your breath jump, reminds you of your helpless state. And it is undeniably sexual. The strike serves to remind you of your sex, in all its meanings.
Again. Again. The repetition, the emphasis on your sex, your passivity, is mesmerising.
Then the whip takes your arse in its jaws and tears at your flesh.
This is not pain. Not at first. It is so much more than the word ‘pain’ encompasses. The sensation is sharp, clear, overwhelming, almost transcendental. To call this ‘pain’ would be like calling a Leonardo da Vinci drawing, perhaps the Study for the Head of Christ, a quick working sketch.
It has several components.
First, the energy transmitted by the whip must go somewhere. It flings you forwards in your bonds. The shockwave travels up your body and you bounce against the cuffs holding wrists and ankles, every muscle jerking taut. You’d yell if you could, but a sudden spasm grips around your lungs, making noise impossible. And, truth be told, you feel that sudden spasm deep in your belly also.
Second, there are the thoughts in your head. The whip has an animus. It has, of course, its own identity, but it is being wielded by him. He hit me. He hit me hard. He hit me with malice. He enjoys my helplessness, my suffering, it amuses him. This level of violence and cruelty, directed and controlled, is a rare thing. It is outrageous – more so than if he’d slapped your face in a fit of temper, an argument.
Third is the fact that all this energy was forced through a piece of skin perhaps a quarter of an inch wide and eighteen inches in length, across the buttocks. Four and a half square inches. An amount of flesh considerably smaller than the palm of your hand. The outer layer of skin, the epidermis, is only a couple of millimetres – let us say one-sixteenth of an inch – thick. The stroke must have bitten in, pushing deeper, perhaps half an inch. Now the line taken by the lash threads out, nerve endings squealing and cells reacting to the sudden shock. A tracery of poker-hot flame runs across your arse, as if a thin stream of molten lead had been streaked across it, marking the line of what will shortly become a raised abrasion and a band of bruised muscle. You can feel every single hard diamond-shaped mark from the braid of the leather.
And fourth… fourth is the realisation that this was the first stroke. How many more will there be? How many do you think you can take? How much need will this stoke between your outstretched thighs?
There’s no hurry. Anticipation is a hungry, tension-making pleasure. And there is a great deal more of this particular human canvas to paint the colour of weals and welts.