Let’s go back to 1994 in South Africa one last time. It’s a different place and situation. Bloemfontein, Orange Free State.
They say Africa gets in your blood. It’s true. I have the recurrent malaria to prove it. But that wasn’t all I was destined to bring back from that most exotic of continents.
There’d been a murder. A five year old little girl had been killed and the circumstances were particularly violent. What I’m about to describe is hard for me, and I suspect it won’t be a lot easier for you, as this was a level of violence that, although I was acclimated to high degrees of violence, I found pushed me beyond my own limits.
A journalist and I had driven down from Jo’burg to find the house, get a few shots and then go and attend the court hearings. As it happened we arrived as the last of the police crime scene guys were packing up. I shot a few pictures discretely, and then, as the last of the police vehicles left, we noticed that there was no one about, we could easily get a few shots through the window.
I walked up to the front of the house, with a reporter named Cathy. We peeked in through the window, and as luck would have it a maid inside happened to see me. She came to the front door and asked if we needed anything more.
I smiled at her, and said ‘We’re nearly done, just need a couple of shots inside.”
She waved us in, clearly thinking that we were with the police. We were white, my hair was short and Cathy looked vaguely official. The maid invited us directly into the freshly examined crime scene. This sort of thing only happens in a press photographers most outrageous dream.
This was the equivalent of a resident of Troy seeing a nice looking Trojan Horse, and deciding it might be a good idea to wheel it into the centre of Troy, and stack all the resident army’s weapons right there.
It’s a lost art – if that is the right word for it – working on a story like this. To cut a long story short we ransacked the place. The crime scene guys were done, so there was no worry about disturbing evidence, and we worked methodically and swiftly.
What follows is absolutely true, and it’s disturbing. I’ll paraphrase in a highlighted box at the end of this section, for those of a delicate nature who can’t stomach what follows. If you are among those, jump forward from here. It’s ok. I don’t blame you.
There was a sideboard in the living room in which we found a file containing details of the man’s previous divorce, in which his former wife detailed allegations of sexual abuse against him. There were police reports of complaints about his behaviour with several children. There were complaints with references to the man being involved with others in sexual games and group activities involving several children. There was an organisational aspect to what was happening here. None of the complaints had been acted on by the police, by the look of things.
We moved through to the child’s bedroom. That’s where things went very bad. Immediately I entered I saw the lifesized imprint of a body on the wall, with blood spatter marks from the head, skidding across the wall. It was a hideous silhouette. Nothing prepared me for it, and like any silhouette it wasn’t what one saw, but what one imagined that made it so terrible. I was shaking with anger and upset and kept shooting for all I was worth.
We looked through the chest of draws in the room, and among the school clothes and kids pyjamas made another gruesome discovery, that haunts me to this day.
In one of the drawers, among the underwear and nylons, was a suspender belt. I looked at it and feeling I was invading someone’s privacy I drew it out of the draw. I know it’s a little incongruous that I should feel that. As I held the suspender belt I realised that unlike the underwear a woman might own, this was quite tiny. It had been cut down and modified. Someone had recreated this piece of lingerie, coloured for excitement and enticement, into a piece a child could wear. I tried to fathom the logic of it. Was it to create the image of the child as a willing sex partner, or even one driven by the idea of sex? Or was it somehow just to package the commoditized idea of sex in a manner appealing just to the man, or woman, that would participate in whatever was being done. I shivered with revulsion. As I rifled the draw, I realised all the lingerie was cut down to the size of a child of 5.
I stared at the flimsy garments and I noticed the stitching was neat and well done. It dawned on me that this was likely the work of a woman. His girlfriend had been in on this. She’d cut down suspender belts, a corset, erotic underwear all to fit a 5 year old girl. Even writing this I feel myself shaking with anger.
If you’re reading this it’s because you are interested in some things which require great honesty and a rare form of integrity. As such I don’t need to feel ashamed when I say that if I am fucked up, it’s for good reason. If I could ‘unsee’ some of these things I wonder if I would.
I’m not particularly smart, but I’ve done a great deal of this sort of work. I’m able to join the dots quickly on a few things. There was nothing simple about this murder. The child had been abused horribly many times, and likely shared. She’d been dressed up and served up on a plate to anyone who was ready to participate. There were a few aspects of the situation that to this day haunt me. It was organised, sordid and well thought out. Somehow the situation had gone bad (how does one quantify bad in these things?) and the man had killed the child.
If you are jumping ahead heres the summary:
A young girl was murdered. The circumstances made it clear she was part of an organised sex ring and both male and female parents had been complicit. A situation evolved in which the man killed the child.
What Cathy and I found in the house was appalling to anyone and even more so to a parent of two girls. What I saw made me question what possible good there was in the world when an animal like that could exist, even thrive in a community. Could it happen to my little girls? What could be done. How the fuck does one process this shit?
What I saw was an organised and methodical process. I saw control, a systematic process, and I saw the way a child was corrupted into something that ultimately took their life in the most horrible manner. If I could unsee those things I would in a heartbeat.
I asked myself where is God in this picture? Where is right and good and justice? Sure as hell they were in that house in Bloemfontein. I’m not going to go further into this. All that needs to be said is that the episode left me a changed man.
Let’s just relax things for a moment. You’ve come a long way in reading this story. Some of it has not been pleasant. It’s going to get a little easier from here on in. I think I can honestly say that there’s nothing contained in here that’s not pertinent to the story.
We’re getting there. So, now I’d like to take you to a scene that is not so very unusual for a crossdresser. Perhaps you’ve even experienced it. You could choose any hotel, but in my case it’s an opulent one. It’s mid afternoon, and I am there with Shannon, it’s 2018 and we’re being playful. Reading between these lines you know that I’ve been dressed up and I’m looking at myself in the mirror.
I have heels, stockings, a nice little pencil skirt and a blouse. I’m wearing an underbust corset and a slightly oversize bra. As I look in the mirror I can see that the bra is a little too high on my chest. Shannon adjusts it for me and looks at me with a look of amusement and mischief. She’s getting off on this as much as I am.
I think part of the appeal for the female partner in this is accepting the trust I’ve placed in her. While I am desperate for this to happen, there’s the sense that ‘she’s doing this to me’. And I’m allowing it, yet she’s steering it and in control. Somehow that makes it a little more acceptable for me.
One way or another it’s happening though. There’s been some wine and there’s a feeling of closeness, and I am putty in her hands. I would do anything she wants. She is statuesque and beautiful. No man in my position can refuse anything. And yet, I feel entirely safe. I am happy beyond imagining.
I’ve been seeing Shannon quite regularly by this time, and we are close. So close, I feel myself drifting into a place where I am a little afraid to lose her. If I’m totally honest about it, that fear prevents me telling her the way I’m feeling about her. Such an open expression of affection could move this relationship into a place that it’s not meant to go. While I’d like to express my feelings, the fear of loss is greater and wins out. Some words simply don’t need to be said.
There’s been a lot of wine and there’s been a hot tub and the clothes are beautiful, and suddenly I realise, I could do it. I could go out in public. I turn to her, and before the words are even out she knows.
“Let’s go to the bar.” You’ll see I don’t say who said that. I don’t need to. We both did.
Now, let’s just freeze things there for a moment. I want you to consider my background for a moment. I’ve been through a swathe of very dangerous situations in my life. I think it fair to say, I’ve stared death in the face enough times to say I am intimately acquainted with my mortality. I tweak the nose of death and poke him in the eye from time to time, and so far I’m still here. Now, consider this: I have never been more afraid than as we descended eight floors in the elevator, with the certain knowledge that I was to be entering a room full of people dressed as a woman.
I wore a wig Shannon had bought. She knows more about clothes, wigs and makeup than I could ever know, and here I was, tottering on some heels, out of an elevator into what seemed to be a crowded bar. As far as I was concerned it was as though there was a convention taking place in that room. I had to squeeze between the throng crowding in there, and shuffle past hundreds of people, all the time trying not to trip and go sprawling – legs apart and revealing some pink panties – as I made my way hand in trembling hand with my partner.
The reality was that the bar was virtually empty. There were one or two people standing around, and the girl behind the bar, but that was not the way it seemed to me. I might have been on stage at Maddison Square Gardens, in front of thousands of people. Keep in mind that at heart I am a very shy individual. And here I was putting myself through this. Sitting in the corner of a bar, my back to the throng (of about four people), shivering with fear and trying not to look as though I was clutching Shannon’s hand in terror. And I felt wonderful.
I can’t explain it. There was a heightened sensitivity to everything. It was amazing, and beautiful and a moment I would not sacrifice for anything. Here I was, with my Shannon. I felt more alive than I had in 20 years. When we make love later that night it’s more intense than ever. It’s a celebration of our trust and union.
I am completely in love.
It was a few weeks later that Shannon dropped into conversation that she was going to a sex club with one of her friends. It seemed so casual. I’m not really very familiar with such things, so it was a subject that was full of mystery and my imagination – probably poorly informed – and suddenly I didn’t even know who I was talking to.
I pretended I could handle this. I wanted her to share things with me, and I didn’t like the idea of things that we couldn’t share, especially after I’d allowed so much of my own naked honesty into the situation. And why shouldn’t she be able to tell me everything? When one is as close as we’d become, secrets or lies were hardly appropriate any longer.
To put it brutally honestly, after Shannon had been as fiercely intimate as she had with me, being able to share that she had some erotic plans for the evening should not have been so very hard for me. I knew very well she had other lovers, most of which she’d known for years, and yet suddenly I felt horribly unsettled by this idea that she’d be going with a friend to a planned situation in which she’d certainly be participating in things that were the very things we’d shared enthusiastically and with great openness. I felt as though my legs had been sawed away beneath me.
I tried to rationalise it. She’s a grown woman. If she wants to do this sort of thing, I can’t and shouldn’t wish to stop her. I don’t own her. And yet it hurt.
I am pretty sure she sensed my discomfort, but there Shannon was not the sort of person that wanted to be constrained and would fiercely fight her corner to allow herself to make these decisions for herself. She was adept in the language and justifications of polyamory.
“It’s my body. I’ll decide what to do with it.”
The words were not spoken, but they were understood. And it all seemed fair enough, and yet it hurt me horribly.
I am not a jealous person, and I genuinely believe I can accept it if someone else wants to fulfill a need outside of their primary relationship. However, this was hurting me inside like I couldn’t believe. I tried to tell myself that it was just a night. And I tried to let it go. I wondered about being there. Part of me wanted that, though I was not invited, and yet part of me found the idea unpleasant. I didn’t know what to do.
In the end I just tried to smile and put a brave face on it and say, ‘OK’.
Keep in mind it’s not like she needed my permission. And so she went. I think she had a nice time. I think she probably knew exactly what she was doing, it met her expectations, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
The following day I busied myself and kept so focussed on things other than Shannon, it was as though she was just a casual acquaintance. The next day it hit me like a train. How could she do something like this? It was so sordid. What could she possibly find of benefit from such things. I felt myself twisting on a hook, and it wouldn’t go away. Her friend would doubtless think me the most prudish fool if she knew of my pain over this, and reinforce Shannons own opinion that this was none of my business, and something I was not invited to. How could that be a problem for me. And yet, it was. It hurt horribly.
I had tried to be honest about things so I resolved to tell her, if she really wanted to do this then I didn’t want anything to do with her.
There are a lot of things wrong with this, I know. And you’ll see as we progress, that I interpreted so much of this poorly, mostly through failing to understand Shannon’s position. However, I met her at a coffee shop, and after a brief and heated conversation ended up storming out and tossing aside many months of friendship, because I felt I could not possibly accept this.
How could she treat me like this, after I’d trusted her with such an intimate part of my life? How could she shut me out of something (that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be in), just for a night of sordid ‘pleasure’?
And if she really thought that was ok, then she wasn’t the person I thought she was. And so, I left and felt part of my life amputated and devalued for me being a stupid impulsive and trusting fool. My life was suddenly empty.
For the following few days we moved back and forth. She told me I had no right to impose my values on her, and I told her I felt betrayed. I said a few things that came from the wounded schoolboy, rather than the man, and she said a few things that probably came from that fiercely independent girl child she’d once been, rather than the kind and loving woman she’d grown to become. She was not the sort of woman to be owned, manipulated or controlled, and here I was cast in the role of one trying to do just that. All of these things I understood. If it sounds like I’m trying to be soft on her, and myself, it’s true. I know I behaved selfishly, and yet I felt justified. After all, what is loyalty and trust, if it’s not avoiding betrayal, particularly in front of a room full of naked strangers doing similar things.
Eventually Shannon relented, and agreed that she’d refrain from this. She’d only once ever relented when it came to a partner setting up boundaries for her – and that was something she’d come to regret. So I was one heck of an exception. And yet, even being an exception, I felt horrible about this.
To constrain her was not kind. And yet my pain was terrible. And I didn’t even want to be ‘that guy’ that can’t handle this. I didn’t realise something else was in play, even then, that was destroying me from inside. It was a parasite eating away at my core and would not emerge for a few more weeks, but when it did my insides were already rotten and putrefying. If I thought this pain was unpleasant, I had a real surprise in store.
In that English Country Garden of my childhood there was nothing that had prepared me for this. Far away in that reality, people got married and lived happily ever after. There were no sex parties, or fists jammed into other people, or ‘group sex dynamic’. Hell, there was no sexual dynamic at all. There were hinted at ideas and murmured guilty insinuations. There was nothing that helped me cope with what was about to fall on my head like an avalanche.
I should point out that Shannon did have one or two other lovers. I was fine with that, not that she really needed my approval. In fact, my approval was irrelevant. I knew she’d known them for years, and if I was anything I was the newcomer and an interloper. Somehow, that was different, as you’ll see.
I’d met people involved in sex parties before, and while I’d thought them generally a bad idea, I had never really had particularly strong feelings about them one way or another. They were somewhat outside my experience, and so not something I concerned myself with. If I wanted to have sex with more than one partner at a time, I’d want them to be people I knew. People with whom I shared trust. Whether I was doing so crossdressing, which seemed highly unlikely, or in a more masculine role. Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to know who is sticking what in my body – or vice versa. Call it a personal preference.
In the work I do today I came across one individual who’d been part of a group of men who were a highly organised sex group. I’ll describe the situation for you and what they did, and you can decide on the morality of it.
These young men would single out women, mostly in a particular mall, and then look for an opportunity to date one. The objective was very simple. Date the girl, get her into bed on the first night, and then never contact her again. If that’s where it ended it would be one thing. Instead it went further.
The girls details would be shared. Birthday, where she worked, when her lunch hour was, and where she lived. Everyone in the group got the details and the next man in line would, after a couple of days, make a move on her.
Keep in mind, a young woman who had been somewhat taken with an apparently genuine young man who had got her into bed, and then not called the following day, is sure to feel a little insecure. When another comes along, full of enthusiasm and guess what – he’s also an Aries! He also like horses! It’s a match made in heaven. And so it’s easy to be taken in. And of course, the morning after, he’s gone.
More details are added to the database, and shared. And by the time number three or four or five or whatever comes along the poor girl is so manipulated and controlled she’s ready to do anything to assure herself of her own value, and that’s exactly what these people pray on. It’s almost rape, but not quite. Technically, it’s totally legal. Now, think if that was your daughter, or your sister they drew into their net.
The individual I came across had slept with thirty or forty women in the few months he’d been a member of that group. He was a sad creature and I’m fairly sure had never had a relationship of any value. One wonders what becomes of people like this. I hope my own daughters have been taught how to protect themselves from such scum. However, these people continually adapt, and inveigle their way into peoples lives. They ruin people, the way careless handling ruins the most beautiful object. People are fragile. These people mask their actions with words like ‘liberal behavior’, and arguments that use phrases like ‘exercising sexual freedoms’, and it all sounds so modern and rational. And yet they kill people slowly from the inside.
That old woman who shuffles along the road and doesn’t speak to anyone. Who hurt her and how did she loose her vitality and vibrancy? Whose spell did she fall under as a young woman, and later found they sucked the life from her? Well, it’s people like that who destroy lives. They get away with it because they do it slowly, and they couch it with rational words. They escape detection because it’s good to be modern, and free thinking. Yet being ‘modern’ and ‘free thinking’ is also about being caring and loving. And so they are none of the things they pretend to be. They are scum.
They try to possess, they control, they manipulate.
They are also organised.
Please comment and then proceed to the final part of An English Country Garden.