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Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch Jill’s big black collar

By Lauren Rosenblatt / Staff Writer

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Boy and girl — we’ll call them Jack and Jill — were playfully teasing each other one night. Laughing about something Jack had said, Jill reached across to gently slap his cheek. Jack decided he couldn’t let her get away with it and gave her one right back. To both of their surprise, they liked it. 

The couple met through mutual friends in December 2013. After weeks of running into each other at bars, they began casually hooking up. Jack fell for Jill first, and spent a few weeks “on the hunt,” vying for her attention. Their first date came when Jack asked Jill to accompany him to his work party. Their second outing was a trip to Blush. 

A few months later, the couple started using chains and whips, and she began wearing a dog collar around her neck, with a gold plate around her neck displaying “return to Jack” if she gets lost.

“I wear it 24/7, except when I’m at work, which sucks, but you know professionalism and all that,” she said. 

Jack and Jill are in a BDSM relationship. BDSM — or bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism — is most commonly associated with the “kinky sh*t,” as Jill put it. 

Both are recent Pitt graduates living in South Oakland. Holding nine-to-five jobs, the two have laid-back, go-with-the-flow attitudes about the future, preferring to spend their time planning their next sexual adventure. 

Although Jill has always enjoyed roughhousing and playing around with her sexual interactions, this is both Jack and Jill’s first experience in a BDSM relationship.

In the 1960s, BDSM portrayals became popular in movies and entertainment, piquing the curiosity of observers and, consequently, increasing its prevalence. Now, according to an article on Alternet, 50 percent of the world’s population has engaged in some BDSM activity at one point in their lifetime. Submissiveguide.com, an online resource for BDSM participants, lists more than 30 upcoming BDSM and kink events across the U.S.

Jack and Jill don’t always look the part of BDSM participants. Jill has short, curly hair and is wearing — in addition to the collar — a modest cardigan with a T-shirt underneath. Jack is wearing a baseball cap, thick, black-rimmed glasses and a sweatshirt underneath his winter jacket. 

A thick, black band, some people have mistaken Jill’s collar for a style of choker necklace that was popular in the ‘90s.

“I’ve gotten ‘Wow, thats so fashionable,’ or I’ve gotten ‘Why are we wearing a dog collar?’ I always tell them [the truth] and they’re like ‘Wow, thank you for being so honest,’” Jill said.

In addition to the use of sex toys, Jack and Jill said they enjoy taking sex out of the bedroom. They’ve done the deed in the four major Pittsburgh parks — Frick, Schenley, Highland and Riverview — and have their sights set on universities of the area. So far, they’ve gotten freaky in classrooms, bathrooms and stairwells in Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, Chatham and the Cathedral of Learning. 

“There is a thrill of getting caught.  It certainly adds to the experience,” he said. 

The power dynamic in their relationship is clear.  Jack is the dominant member, or “dom,” as they abbreviate it, and Jill is the submissive member, or “sub.” 

“Its a 24/7 lifestyle choice, so anything he tells me to do, I will,” Jill said. This is where the rules come in to play. 

Following Jack’s every command was an adjustment for Jill, but she’s adapted. 

“It’s a really cool thing for me to experience as a very loud, obnoxious, stubborn and willful young woman. To break those rules of feminism and let myself be dominated — it’s an interesting balance of my personality,” Jill said.

The fine line between feminine values and submissive roles can be difficult to find. Margot Weiss, assistant professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University, is that embracing inner sexual desires during BDSM is a sure path to liberation.

“As a queer and materialist feminist, I worry about how these debates pare down politics to sexual choices,” Weiss said. “This seems to me a liberal understanding, where our fantasies and desires are private, ours alone to discover and nurture, and detached from a social or political world. Is that really all we might say about feminist sexual politics?”

According to Weiss, BDSM is a product of our social environment, not an age-old, unchanging orientation.

“Our desires reflect and refract — even when they rework — our social relationships and historical locations,” Weiss said, “This does not mean that women are necessarily submissive and men dominant. But it does mean that gendered relations of power structure our sexual desires.”

For Jill, being dominated by Jack is not an oppressive experience — rather, it is enjoyable. 

Jill recognizes the potential room for conflict but, instead, embraces the contrasting parts of her life and allows it to let her relationship grow. 

“Its really interesting giving over a significant part of myself and my free will,” she said. “It creates an incredible love and bond between us. I have to trust him so much with giving over the power … I trust him not to make me do stupid sh*t.” 

In a BDSM relationship, rules and punishments are written by the couple to “negotiate and formalize their BDSM agreement,” according to a website devoted to helping people learn the ways of BDSM. The contracts often include sections such as play time, limiting control and kinky clauses. Although Jack and Jill did not write a formal contract, they have spoken rules and punishments. 

Jack considers outlining and enforcing the rules and punishments as one of his “duties” as dom. Wearing the collar is one of Jill’s rules, and breaking it means punishment. 

When the couple first started trying out a BDSM relationship, they didn’t have many rules. But as they experimented more, they wanted more rules and punishments. 

The rules for Jill: Wear the dog collar. Don’t touch yourself without permission. Don’t talk back. Bring eggs to Jack every Tuesday.

“We were just having fun, and she was asking me for more rules, so I just had to come up with something, so I chose something ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t care if they’re cooked or raw, if there are one or a thousand — just eggs. But it got to the point where I had too many eggs, so now it’s just something consumable.” 

Jill has forgotten her Tuesday ritual only a few times but has trouble restraining herself from talking back. Neither finds this to be an issue, though, because breaking the rules is half the fun of having them.

“There’s things like talking back that I break all the time, but that also gives [you] another excuse to slap me whenever you want,” she said, laughing and looking at Jack.

But, despite the fun, the rules and uneven power occasionally puts a strain on the couples’ relationship. 

“We have our own things that would probably be small issues, but, because of the dom/sub thing, they’re inflated,” Jill said.

Jill said some of those “issues” that irritate Jack include Jill’s self-proclaimed flirty personality, while Jack’s comments hurt Jill more than his spankings.. 

“The last thing I want to do is make my dom upset. If he’s disappointed or upset with me, then I’m failing at my job, and I get very upset with myself,” Jill said. 

When situations like this come up, Jack often blames himself as well.

“I worry about being meaner than something would warrant or overstepping my boundaries or neglecting her needs as well,” Jack said. “I feel like communicating things poorly is part of being a bad dom, because part of being a dom is telling them what they need to do. Like, how can they follow the rules if they don’t know what they are?” 

The couple said most of their fights end in comforting one another.

“A lot of itgoes like ‘Ugh, no, I’m such a bad sub,’ and him being ‘No, you’re not,’ Jill said. “A lot of times we’re just convincing the other person they’re not bad [at their role].”

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Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch Jill’s big black collar