Wrestling is about trust. Whether you want to engage in a little make-believe hero-and-villain role-playing or pull off the gloves and beat each other black and blue, fight-club style, you must begin with a set of negotiated limits. You must establish "safe words" (the signals--spoken or tapped out on the skin--that signify that one of you has passed the point where he feels safe) and stipulate the rules or boundaries set for the contest. Between close friends, these limits may not need to be mapped out every time you wrestle. But the limits must be known and honored. There is no such thing--not really--as "no holds barred" in a fight--not if your and your opponent's safety and survival mean anything to you.
I have embraced the sadomasochism of wrestling from the beginning--or at least for as long as I have embraced the eroticism of wrestling. For some, I know, it's only sport--like football and tennis ... or shuffleboard. For me, the passion of wrestling pushes it further and makes it something fundamentally different than just a game or a form of exercise ... or entertainment, like rodeos and circuses. It has a depth that is both psychological and physical--"spiritual," too, perhaps, to the extent that it is creative, ecstatic, and liberating. As a form of intimate contact, it has its ritualistic aspects as well.
I am not hardcore. The closeness, intensity, heat, and friction matter more to me than the pain. I don't mind some minor scarring and bruising as side effects (to this day I proudly bear two chipped incisors from the roughneck days of my twenties), but I am not interested in causing (or receiving) lasting damage.
I am not particular about gear either. For me, personally, it would make me too self-conscious to plan what outfit I put on to wrestle. I prefer gear that is prosaic, garden variety--I prefer to wrestle in underpants only. I have wrestled naked and loved it. And I like wrestling in a T-shirt and jeans too. Swim trunks if we are wrestling on the beach--or near a pool. Yes, I am pretty boring that way. I have never owned a singlet, a thong, a mask, or wrestling boots. My wrestling fetish is not at all about attire.
But I do have a dark side, just not as dark (or as colorful) as some people's. I like a certain playful cruelty in a fight. It's fun even to work up a little anger--make-believe rage that can turn to angry sex--or simply serve as a proxy for sex. My ex and I used to carry things pretty far--throw punches that connect, shove each other into humiliating positions, trash talk (sometimes hitting below the belt with insults with real sting in them), and even "rape" each other (if it's even called "rape" when both parties know what the stakes are and accept them).
Because of my dark side, I am not usually interested in cute or pretty adversaries. Sure, I see the appeal of, say, Z-Man, Kieran Dunne, Cody Collier, beaming rosy-cheeked fitness models, and cheerleader types--but unless they can project (or I can project onto them) some badassness or even some wounded vulnerability, I may rather see them on a bearskin rug than on a mat or in a ring. If I can't easily picture a guy oiled up and sneering inside a steel cage, my interest in him will be platonic. I like men with hollowed out cheeks, dead eyes, and uneven teeth. I like faces that look like they have taken a few punches in their day. I like bodies with some bounce and thump to them. I have no interest in seeing Ryan Seacrest or Justin Bieber wrestle.
I like guys who like Dexter and True Blood and Sons of Anarchy on TV, who listen to Nine Inch Nails and Sonic Youth and Ministry, who read Rimbaud and Genet and Burroughs, whose skin prickles when someone shouts "Fight!" I like guys who can stare holes through you, who want to test their limits against other guys, who will take a dare, who think they can take you in a fight, if they had to, who'd rather wear war paint than bronzer, who have an appetite and talent for trouble.
This is the extent of my dark side in wrestling. It doesn't involve blading or thumbtacks or folding chairs. It doesn't require a fully equipped dungeon. It's not about slaves and masters--except for fleeting moments of triumphant domination and abject humiliation. It is more vigorous than destructive, more sex instinct than death drive, more proving ground than penance. What I feel about wrestling is deep in the blood, something primal, visceral, and spontaneous--and yet also something stimulating and exalted. This is not a manifesto, mind you--you are welcome to your own standards of pleasure--I'm just talking about my tastes, what I like ... what does it for me.