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A gentle introduction to the art of pulling

I first thought about doing a pull at the 'Hungover in London' barbecue way back in August 2002, but changed my mind quite late in the day, largely because I felt my lack of ability to discuss the pull, and my reasons for wanting to do it, with my boyfriend suggested I wasn't fully mentally prepared. When we did get round to discussing it, he raised valid concerns about scarring etc, and I realised I hadn't put as much thought and research in as I should have done. And so the whole idea went onto the back burner for some time, while I went off and explored other, arguably tamer, avenues in ritual modification such as play-piercing, and solo blood play.

In the summer of 2005, the idea came back to me again. Actually, first of all, my impulsive streak took over and I thought about doing a suspension. I made some vague enquiries about suspending at a Body Evolution meet in Norwich, but eventually it didn't come to fruition because I was unwell the weekend of the meet where I had considered suspending. Also, I think when it came down to it, I would have bottled out. It was a very impulsive idea and I was not necessarily ready to go through with it.

At that suspension meet, a friend of mine had done a solo pull, and said she would like to do a pull with someone else in the near future. I just couldn't get the idea out of my head and so I volunteered. I'd seen and experienced a lot more since that first London meet where I'd failed to pull, and this time was satisfied that I was prepared. I discussed my plans openly with my boyfriend, and discussed his concerns, but made it clear that my mind was set on doing the pull.

And so it was we made arrangements to pull at the 'House of Wah' suscon in early September 2005 (The suspension group is now named 'Constant Elevation').

The day of the pull was kind of mad to be honest. I was giving a paper at an academic conference in the morning, so the social gathering and pull were something I was very much looking forward to, to wind down after the stress of presenting my doctoral research to the great and the good. I bunked off the afternoon session of the conference, wandered around Camden and visited an old university friend before meeting up with Zoe my pulling partner, and Aleks, my boyfriend. We headed up to Harlesdon and the house of Wah, where we sat around chatting to other IAM people, and generally chilling for a few hours.

It was probably about 8pm when we got ready to do the pull. Vampy and Benoit set up the piercing room, and Zoe and I changed into the white vest tops we had co-ordinated to wear (I couldn't resist after she told me how much her solo pull had bled). Zoe was hooked up first, so I had a chance to see the procedures before I was pierced. It was all very slick, the hook followed straight through after the needle, it was all one swift movement. That was a huge relief. Zoe took it all in her stride and soon had two 3.2mm hooks sticking out of her chest, a huge smile on her face, and a heart-shaped lollipop to eat.

So now it was my turn.

I sat on the bench while Vampy cleaned and marked me up, two sets of marks running diagonally on my chest. I laid on the bench and Vampy prepared me for the first piercing. I totally failed to get the concept of relaxing as a large needle went through my flesh. I tensed up shamefully, and it hurt like nobody's business, and gave me a bit of a dead arm – I think most of that was not from the hooking but from my own excessive tensing of my pectoral muscles. Vampy reminded me to try and relax for the second piercing, as it would really help both of us... and I think I managed to do a bit better the second time. I was certainly glad when it was over though! I sat up on the bench, with my lollipop and two slightly dead arms, glad the worst was over, especially glad I didn't feel sick like Zoe had first time she'd been hooked up for a pull, and trying to get used to the feeling of metal sticking out of my chest. It's quite an unusual sensation, quite heavy, and tender – unsurprisingly really.

We went outside and after briefly showing off our hooks to the assembled masses, went over to the middle of the garden where some matting had been laid out for us to sit on and pull. Vampy gave us a tray containing some thin rope, and the wherewithal to attach it to the hooks. We each had one bit of thin rope, which we tied each end to a hook, then the two ropes were joined in the middle with a karabiner (like this). We found a good distance to sit apart and get the right tension, realised actually early autumn evenings were quite cold and put fleeces on to keep warm, and got ready to go.

I am very glad I didn't do my first pull solo. I was quite tentative, not really knowing exactly what to expect, and to start with let Zoe dictate things. Gradually I came to reciprocate the tension she was putting on the rope, and gained more confidence about pulling back a bit harder and increasing the tension on the rope. Whereas we spoke to each other at the beginning when we planned to pull a bit harder, with time, it just became an unspoken understanding, it's quite an exercise in trust, allowing someone else to hurt you and pull your flesh around.

For the most part the pull was quite private, though it was in the open in the middle of a meet. People were just milling around elsewhere and tended to leave us to our own devices, there was just me, Zoe and Aleks, a cool breeze rustling the trees, and the sounds of suburban North London: a drone of traffic and the occasional sound of a plane flying overhead. It was really calming, just detached from the usually hectic world. Except when an apple fell out of one of the trees we were sitting under and landed near us. That made me lose decorum and laugh, not least in relief that it hadn't landed on one of us or on the rope, which I imagine would have been extremely painful!

Zoe seemed to zone out a bit more than I did, I tend to be a bit hyper and extremely curious at the best of times, but my mind was really racing, at the novelty of the whole situation, and I couldn't stop looking at the way my flesh was pulling, getting gradually stretchier over time, and looking to see if I was bleeding (I barely bled at all, to my surprise and disappointment).

I don't know how exactly long we were pulling for; I was totally unaware of time, in some ways it felt like only a few minutes, but I'm told we were pulling for well over half an hour. Eventually, chilly and fatigued, we decided to call it a day. First of all the karabiner linking the ropes was undone, then after I'd spent a little time playing with the rope, attempting the solo pull against my feet as Zoe had done previously, pulling in different directions and so forth, I unclipped the rope from the hooks, and dropped them into a little tray of disinfectant, and we made our way back inside to have the hooks removed.

Nikwho (I hope he won't mind me saying) is something of a veteran of suspension meets in the UK, dealt with hook removal, assisted by Aleks, whom he showed how to take out the needles and massage the piercings with technicare to expel any air bubbles (I didn't seem to have many). Before long Zoe and I were cleaned up and had dressings secured over the wounds.

Soon afterwards, we had to leave the meet, in order to catch a train back to Cambridge. I left my half of the money for the pull with Zoe to pay the following day as I had to go back to the conference I'd bunked off to do the pull! Somehow paying at the time would have felt wrong. The intense emotional and physical experience would have been somewhat curtailed by being brought sharply back down to earth by recognition that there was a transaction involved. I can't remember exactly how much it cost – I think my share was probably around £15-£20, but it was over a year ago so I'm a tad hazy on details like that now.

In terms of healing, I kept dressings on the wounds for a few days afterwards, but other than that just kept them clean – washed them with provon in the shower – and didn't do anything particularly special with them other than that. I had some bruising lateral to the piercings, but did not find this particularly bothersome. I do tend to scar quite easily, and a year on, the entry and exit points of both hooks are marked by small scars. One of these is more markedly raised (a little under 1mm), but to be honest I haven't felt it necessary to do anything by way of scar reduction to it, and I can wear low-cut tops without people noticing and/or commenting on the scarring.

Details

submitted by: Anonymous
on: 25 Dec. 2006
in Ritual

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Artist: Vampy
Studio: House+of+Wah+Suscon+September+2005
Location: Harlesden%2C+North+London

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