Sometime in 1995. I’m a good girl. An exceptional, clever little girl. I know I am. I’m three years old and I’m reading aloud from the TV Guide to my mom. “Set in an apartment building in New York City, I Love Lucy centers on Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and her singer/bandleader husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), along with their best friends and landlords…”
“Okay, wait, wait,” my mom says, laughing. “You’re not really reading that. You just know Lucy ’cause we’ve watched it so many times.” She slides the small magazine from my hands, flips it to a page about some nature documentary or political drama, and hands it back to me.
I read it to her. Barely stumble on any words. And then look up at her with wide eyes, knowing (and awaiting) what’s coming.
“Oh my god,” she deadpans. “You can read now?” I nod. An addiction to educational CD-Roms will do that to a person. She gulps. “What a good, smart girl you are!” Yeah, mom. I know.
Winter 2010. I’m a good, smart, studious girl. I’m waiting for my 9AM high school philosophy class to start, and I’ve got my nose buried in some snappy, captivating tome – Alain de Botton, maybe, or Mary Roach.
My philosophy teacher walks in, toting his literature-stuffed messenger bag, thermos of cafeteria coffee, and signature charisma. “Good morning, plebes!” he crows. “Ready to talk about existential dread?!” He’s my favorite teacher, and I’ve had so many good ones. Nerdy, witty, and unflaggingly enthusiastic, he’s like if Adam Brody and Jimmy Fallon had a (breathtakingly handsome) lovechild.
My classmates continue to buzz and chatter like nothing has happened. While he waits for the slide projector to power up, he sidles over to me. “Hey, bookworm! I’ve noticed you share my love of the written word,” he comments, gesturing at the book I’m clutching. “What is it this time?”
I tell him. The details of my answer are inconsequential. I don’t remember what book I was reading, or what I said to him. What sticks with me is his reply. “Ohhh,” he coos, raising his eyebrows like I’ve just said the most fascinating thing in the world. “Good girl!”
I have no idea how to respond to this or what I am feeling – the hot burst of blood rushing to my cheeks, the flood of carnal butterflies migrating southward – so I just giggle and get back to my book. He strides to the front of the room and starts a lecture on Sisyphus. Or Sartre. Or something.
September 2015. I’m a good girl – usually. Good, polite, conscientious girls don’t sext when their friends are around. Unless, of course, their friends are cool with it. Mine are. I’m lucky.
“He said he wants to see how deep I can get him in my mouth,” I call out to the room at large. I’m in Bex‘s office on the air mattress serving as my bed this trip. Bex, Penny and Lilly are in the next room, watching TV or playing video games or… I don’t know, actually. I’m pretty absorbed in my phone. “What should I say?”
“‘Yes, sir, I promise I’ll do my best,'” Bex supplies. They’re way better at this than I am. I type the words into my phone unquestioningly and hit “send.”
I do that thing you do when you’re sexting with someone you really like and they’re a little slow to answer. I pick up my laptop, then my journal, then the pajamas I laid out to change into twenty minutes ago, but none of them holds my attention because right now I have zero brainpower for anything that isn’t the domly dude on the other side of that phone.
It buzzes. I lunge at it. “Good girl,” the illuminated screen tells me.
Before I even know what’s happening, I’ve screamed and thrown my phone halfway across the room.
“What?!” Bex cries, running in to see me. “What happened?” They look at my phone, lying face-down on their hardwood floor (both phone and floor thankfully unharmed).
“He good-girl’ed me,” I say, helplessly. I really don’t know why I threw my phone, or screamed, or had the breath knocked out of me. I’ve never responded that way to a sext before, not even a really, really dirty one. I’m stunned.
My friends make noises of sympathy that are hard to translate into written words. Hnnng. Unf. YESSSS. They understand. I feel less silly than I did in the moment when I thought I’d broken my phone, or Bex’s floor. But my body and mind still feel thoroughly unhinged, and when I awkwardly ask the group if it’d be okay if I jerked off, they don’t seem remotely surprised. They say yes, and I do, and it’s good.
October 2015. I’m a good girl, scribbling notes furiously while my psychology professor talks. My grade in this class has consistently surpassed all my other grades this semester. I tell myself it’s because the subject matter captures my attention more, or the late-afternoon class time works better for my sleepy brain. That’s not why, though. I’m doing well because my professor is appallingly attractive and gives me heart feelings and vag feelings and daddy-kink feelings. I’ve nicknamed him “Professor Hot Dad,” taken to calling him “PhD” as shorthand when I tell my friends about him, and they know it doesn’t stand for Doctor of Philosophy.
Today’s lecture is about developmental psychology, and I’m dying. “Some theorists say reinforcement and punishment are most of how we learn,” he explains, raking a hand through his sandy blonde hair and changing the slide. “Like, you know, ‘Be a good girl for daddy, princess, and maybe he’ll get you an ice cream cone.’ That kind of thing.”
I let out an involuntary sigh so loud that people turn to look at me. I grab my bag, get up, and leave the class for a minute, ostensibly to get a drink of water or use the bathroom. But instead of doing either of those things, I just stand outside the classroom, tweet, and try to breathe.
December 2015. I’m a good girl, waiting at Bex’s house all day for them to get home from work so we can drink wine, watch Magic Mike XXL and maybe spank each other on Periscope for funsies. But even good girls get bored sometimes when they’re cooped up inside. So maybe they send taunting texts to their domly fuckbuddies back home in Toronto.
Our digital flirting starts light, then gets heavier. And then he tells me to go get my toys and come for him. “Why should I?” I demand, full of sass and spunk.
“Because you’re a good little girl,” he replies. Um. Yup. Yes I am. I hunt for my Tango and Double Trouble in my suitcase and make excellent use of them, immediately, so I can tell him I did. He’ll be so proud.
February 2016. I’m a good girl, cheeks still glowing pink from a guiltily recent blowjob. We’re out for dinner at the brew pub and no one in this place can even tell what we were up to twenty minutes ago. Well, probably not, anyway.
Sipping a pint and nibbling my chicken club sandwich, I can’t get my eyes off my clever, handsome friend as he tells me funny stories, slips in and out of silly voices to make me laugh, gets all puffed up from the pleasure of sharing a jovial meal with someone who’s just blown you.
We’re talking about kinks. This is a frequent topic of conversation for us, two dyed-in-the-wool sex nerds, though we come at it from pretty disparate perspectives: I’m a burgeoning little kinkster, and he’s a self-described vanilla dude. “One of my exes used to call me ‘daddy,’ and liked me to call her ‘princess,'” he recounts, casually digging into his curry like he didn’t just drop a bomb on me.
I laugh a little too loud. “Well! I’m having feelings about you saying those words,” I tell him honestly, which I probably wouldn’t if I was just a little sober-er. “At least you didn’t say ‘good girl.’ Then we’d really be in trouble.”
He stares at me blankly. Vanilla people always do.
March 2016. I’m a good girl. I’m a good girl. That’s what my boyfriend keeps telling me as he roughly rubs his fingers in and out of me, scoring my A-spot with ecstatic stripes. “That’s your sweet spot, huh, babygirl? You’re getting so wet for daddy,” he murmurs against my thigh, speeding up his thrusts. “You gonna be a good girl and come for me?” I do. Immediately. What can I say – he’s got a way with words.
It takes me long minutes to catch my breath and slow my heart. He holds me while I recover from rapture. When I’m well enough to speak, I tell him, “Holy shit. You are really good at dirty talk.”
He shrugs. “Yeah. I’m pretty good at knowing what people want to hear.” And though I don’t say so, I’m crushed. Those words aren’t hot because I want to hear them; they’re hot because I thought he wanted to say them. I thought he was getting off on being my domineering daddy, same as I got off on being his good little girl.
We’re only together a couple more weeks after that, and one of the reasons is: I can’t trust someone who only tells me what I want to hear. I can’t go deep into my dark, taboo, intimate kink with someone who’s standing on the outside of it, performing the ritualistic rites without actually being part of the club. It’s a sharp, staggering betrayal that he thinks “good girl” is a character I’m playing, a mask I’m wearing. He doesn’t see me. He doesn’t see what I am.
Early April 2016. I’m a good girl, dutifully working on my last assignment of the semester, when I get a message from a domly pothead acquaintance who wants to take me to my first marijuana dispensary.
“I can’t,” I explain. “My deadline’s soon and I still have so much work to do. I can only go if I get a ton done tomorrow.”
“I’m sure you’re the highly responsible type,” he tells me. “Work really hard all day tomorrow. Let weed serve as a motivator. Agreed?”
He should not be allowed to talk to me this way when I have so much to do and need to focus. “Are you getting kinda dom-y with me right now?” I ask, and add a “haha” so I’ll seem cool and nonchalant, although I am utterly not.
“Just friendly advice,” he says. “Read into it whatever you’d like.”
I bite my pen and stare at his message for a few moments before answering. “Okay,” I say. “I’ll work extra hard tomorrow.”
“Good girl,” he says. Dammit. Now I have to actually get my work done so he can take me to the freaking dispensary.
Late April 2016. I am a good, brave, capable girl. That’s what Bex tells me, sitting in their car in the parking lot of a Minneapolis pizzeria where I’m about to go on a Tinder date with a total stranger. “You can totally do this,” they assure me. “It’ll be fine.”
I’m still anxious. What if Tinder Dude doesn’t find me attractive IRL? What if I don’t find him attractive? What if he’s boring and insufferable? What if he thinks I’m boring and insufferable? “What if he’s a serial killer?” I ask Bex, because that seems like a more reasonable concern than all of the smaller worries puncturing my resolve.
“He won’t be,” my best friend promises. “But just incase: I expect you to text me within 15 minutes, to tell me all’s well. If I don’t hear from you by 7:30, I’ll come back with a Double Trouble in each hand.”
I laugh. “Okay, dad,” I sneer, leaning in to hug them goodnight. “I’ll text you.”
“Good girl,” Bex says, and I get out of the car with renewed grit and mettle. Whatever happens, happens. I can do it because Bex said I could. I’ll be good and go on this goddamn Tinder date.
Later that night, when dude is inside me, I reach down to touch my clit to try to get myself off. “Oh, you’re touching your pussy for me, huh?” he jeers. “Good girl.” I laugh in his face, because I’m amazed that I feel absolutely nothing in response to his words. No rush of arousal, no dutiful call to action, no swell of pride. Maybe this particular loaded compliment – like sex in general – only stirs emotions in me when I’m emotionally invested.
This stranger from the internet who I’ll never see again after tonight? He’s nice, and fun enough to spend an evening with. But I don’t care about him enough to try to impress him. I don’t care if he thinks I’m a good girl.
May 2016. I’m a good, talented, gutsy girl. I mount the stairs onto the stage of the 519 ballroom. Me and my ukulele get a warm welcome from the boisterous Smut in the 6ix crowd. “I’m gonna play you a song I wrote when I was just coming into my identity as a submissive person,” I purr into the mic. “It’s called Good Girl, because, uh… that is a phrase that gives me a lot of feelings.”
I strum the opening Cminor7 chord and go into my sweet, kinky little waltz. “Tie me to the bedposts, kiss my wristbones, leave bruises on my arms,” I sing. “Do it really nice, though – gentle and slow. Don’t leave me lasting harm.” I can remember the mythical dream dom partner I vividly envisioned when I wrote those words – someone I knew hadn’t entered my life yet but was drifting around the periphery, waiting to arrive for me when I least expect it.
As I come to the last line of the song – “I’ll show you that I’m a good girl” – the room bursts into applause, and I glow from the attention. The act before me was a beautiful burlesque performer who shamelessly stripped on stage, and that image lingers in my mind and emboldens me. “Is it okay if I take off my skirt?” I ask the audience, and they holler their jubilant yeses.
I shimmy out of my pencil skirt til it falls to the floor, and I’m just wearing my figure-hugging gold lamé bodysuit. I have one terrifying moment of self-consciousness – does the lamé make my belly look fat? Are my thighs too pale? Is my cellulite showing? – before someone near the front shouts, “Good girl!”
Everything’s okay. I grin. I play my second song.