I am in South East London, underslept, a little hungover. I've been to a lecture, seminar and spent a couple of hours in the library.
I'm at the bus stop, waiting to make my journey into the West End and smoking a roll up, when a man jumps off a bus and demands, not asks, to be given one. He is 6 foot + and beefy, and looks me directly in the eye. There is something confrontational about his gaze. Usually, if someone asks me nicely, I happily share my tobacco, but he is trying to get me to give in by intimidating me. There is no-one else around. I have two paths of choice, and perhaps rather rashly choose the riskier one.
I say 'no, sorry' politely. Usually most people would shrug and wander off.
But he is clearly not in the mood to be refused.
"Why the fuck not, bitch?" he spits in my face.
I look straight back at him, fighting to stay calm. "I don't want to give you one", I say.
He begins shouting in my face.
"Give me a fucking cigarette."
I ignore him. I look the other way. I stay calm and attempt to look bored.
"Take that look off your face and give me a fucking fag or I'll fucking steal your bag and stick my dick in your dirty fucking mouth, you stupid piece of gash." he yells.
He comes over and leers over me, putting his hands above my head. But I have decided I will not give in.
"Fucking cunt! You look like a fucking dirty slag." he yells. But still he does not lay a finger on me.
I look up, and summoning every ounce of courage stare him straight in the eye.
"Leave me alone," I say, quietly and calmly. "And stop threatening me, please.
He steps away. He runs off.
It is not about the cigarette. Let it be known that I couldn't give a damn who I share my tobacco with, if they ask politely. This is about not allowing a man to dominate me because he is male, and I am female. And he is using my femaleness to show me that I am somehow weaker, that I am in some way there for his use - whether it's about cigarettes, my bag, or his cock. I won't let him dominate me. And he is clearly shocked by my refusal.
Bizarrely, perhaps, the more I delve into submission, the more I make sense of my taste for psychological masochism and degradation, the less shit I take in situations where I would usually be subordinate. I can imagine playing a scene of this kind - taking pleasure in it. Still playing myself at my most stubborn and insolent, still not giving way. Being forced, assaulted, taken. But my ability to consent to play of that kind only makes me stronger in situations where there is no consent, where my submission is expected, even at the expense of the certainty of my safety. It is the principle of the thing, and I have lived up, for once, to my own principles.
My bus arrives. I board, elated.