But days have passed and I can’t stop thinking about the last four hours of Shirley Beck’s life.
As I writer, I choose my words carefully, always looking for the best word to convey all the shadings and nuances of my meaning instead of one that is merely adequate.
But we throw around some words so casually that their edges have been blunted. Words like horrified. Disgusted. Disturbed. Sick. Incomprehensible.
Those words are pale and tepid, not nearly heavy enough, not strong enough. Using them to describe what I feel about Shirley Beck’s death is like trying to smash through a plate glass window with a pebble when what I need is a brick.
Shirley Beck, age 39, was a “house slave” to four roommates, one of whom she called “mistress.”
On June 26, three of the roommates beat her to death while the “mistress” watched.
Beck was hung up, gagged, choked and beaten continuously for four hours. Martial art kicks, a bamboo rod, oxygen tubing and a metal pole were among the weapons used on her.
The story only gets worse.
The beating started in the bedroom, but when Beck “leaned” into the television, they moved her to another room because they were worried about the safety of the electronics.
Beck passed out a couple of times, but they thought she was “faking it.”
One of the murderers paused long enough to take photos of Beck, her body battered and broken, hanging from the ceiling.
Why does this haunt me so much? Because I know that yearning to serve, to be willing to accept pain and even cruelty for the sake of another’s pleasure.
Understand, I’m not really much of a masochist. I suffer in order to please my master, and I know what it is to just keep breathing, trying to endure. To simply hang on through the next blow, and the next, in the knowledge that it will finally end and I will be rewarded with a kiss, a smile, a tender embrace from the master who has never, in all these years, violated my trust.
What keeps tearing at my heart is that Shirley Beck got none of that. She hung there for four hours, just trying to endure. Four hours. There would be no tender caresses or aftercare when it was done. No one would tend her injuries with smiles. No one would say, “I am proud of you.”
She gave her trust to the wrong people. Maybe she went looking for BDSM for all the wrong reasons. But that doesn’t make what happened her to any less tragic. She still wanted to be a good submissive. She wanted to offer her body, heart and mind up in service to someone that valued her.
It breaks my heart.
Her murderers have admitted she asked them to stop. Did they really mean she “asked,” or do they really mean she begged? She must have. What words did she manage between choking sobs and muffled screams of pain?
For Shirley Beck, the suffering just went on and on. I can’t even comprehend that level of pain, the rising panic when it occurred to her that this time they were not going to stop. In the last moments of consciousness, did she realize that, to these people, she was nothing? To die in that kind of anguish, with that sense of betrayal, might have been even worse than the pain.
When tragedy hits in our kinky community, it is almost always an accident born from ignorance, negligence or just blatant stupidity. People just didn’t think. Or maybe they were being as careful as they could be, and fate just fucked them over with some accident no one could have seen coming. It happens, and many of us hope that someone will not be crucified just because the justice system and the vanilla world don’t understand what it is we do.
But this was not negligence or ignorance; this was just brutality. This case is the very worst of what the world thinks we are, and what they believe we do. It doesn’t matter that these people, while known to some of us, were not really a part of our community, and that their behaviors have crossed so far beyond the bounds of decency that we would hardly call them human beings, let alone practitioners of sane, rational and consensual BDSM.
For every person out there who is still carrying the burden of a secret longing, still struggling to figure out what those desires say about them, and what to do about them, this case is a staggering blow.
Yet I am not hoping that this will be forgotten, or knocked out of the news cycle by some new atrocity. People should hear about this. They need to know about this. Will it frighten some people away? Probably.
Maybe some people need to be frightened. If you want to be a submissive, you need to make damned sure you have your head on tight, and that you understand your reasons for being here, and if you ever think for even one moment that you really deserve to be treated like shit, YOU SHOULD NOT PLAY THESE GAMES. When red flags start flying, so should you.
But this case is not really about BDSM or kink. It’s about criminal inhumanity trying to hide under the sheep’s leather clothing, about the bastards who dare to drape their sins in our kinky flag.
Do they lie to themselves, really believing they are one of us? Or do they know that they perpetrate the worst perversion of all? They take the things we have worked so hard to understand about ourselves, all the lessons we have learned and taught, all the trust we have earned and given, and they grind every bit of it into the dirt. And then they piss on it.
When I first heard about this, I was sick at heart. Today, I’m angry. I hope these people are nailed to the wall, that they are punished in every way and to every extent the law allows.
But I just keep thinking about those last four hours of Shirley Beck’s life.