W.C. Fields was right…(leeches)

I’ve always looked a little askance at Field’s wisdom. Through most of his life he took little digs at the boredom of Philadelphia…the most famous being his proposed epitaph from a 1925 Vanity Fair. “Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.” Philly has been a fairly consistently charming city for me (you know who you are), so I questioned his judgment.
He also said “Never work with Children or Animals” and after this week at camp, I think he may be right.
I suppose Children aren’t so bad. Camp Crucible is one of the few kink sites in the U.S. that welcomes ageplayers and has a strong, fun ageplay community. To a lot of more “straight laced” kinksters ageplay looks like pedophilia, and they’re against it without examination. To anyone with a touch of compassion, you see a huge range of play…from people just trying to recapture a period when they had no responsibilities and were cared for, to those attempting to redefine their early sexualization, to those grappling very directly with thier own issues with incest or childhood abuse. Traditionally the kink Community is supportive of people getting into dark areas to grapple with thier own issues, but in this area we sometimes fall a little short.
Be that as it may, Camp Crucible has a vibrant community of “littles.” And ribbing aside on the whole they’re fun. Don’t trust them with money, or sharp objects.
That leaves Animals, and therein lies a story.
For a long time, I’ve expressed that I’m really not a strong scene player. I do a lot of M/s a lot of D/s but when it comes to actual scenes, I’m sort of stymied. There are a lot of reasons for that. I see a lot of players who do the same scene over and over again. They bring the girl in, handcuff her to a cross, beat her with a flogger, finish with a Hitachi. That’s not really thrilling to me. I want to fuck with her head, and do something *interesting*. The idea of sameness runs against my theatrical background.
In my own way I do some standard scenes. I like rough body play…punching, kicking, choking more than I like flogging.
But I envy those folks who can pull brilliant scenes out of their ass…or barring that…plan them months in advance. And it seems with a background in impromptu theatre and roleplay, I ought to be able to do that. And I have on a bedroom scale, but not on a Dungeon Scale.
For Camp Crucible this year, I decided it was going to be *different.* I thought about strengths in terms of what I enjoy…what is fun to me…what is visually appealing…and what would be shocking and a little off the beaten track.
I decided to do a period scene with roleplay. Everyone has their specialties, and there are plenty of people who can make a scene of turning a girl’s back into a needle corset. I always believed in “stick to what you know” and a fun period roleplay scene would work well.
I have two partners and I had something totally…other…in mind for J. That may or may not ever get written about here…it was educational and personally intense. This scene was sculpted around M., and designed to play off her best qualities. She’s okay with laughing a bit during a scene, likes roleplay, and has a pretty good tolerance for pain.
So…what would make a Victorian Medical Scene “pop.” It wasn’t as if nobody had ever used a violet wand, or a speculum in a scene. My immediate thought was “leeches!”
The first trick was to obtain leeches. We contacted the reputable Carolina Biological Supply Company which made us jump through a number of hoops. They wanted us to be a business, they wanted a TIN and paperwork. The funny thing is that all this precaution was worthless. Our Household is a business, and has all the necessary paperwork.
I understand that Carolina is probably worried about kids ordering leeches for pranks. Otherwise, it seems…debatably ethical to keep clean medical leeches out of the hands of the public on the grounds that they’re medical, when the alternative is to go to any pond or bog and wait a few minutes with your foot in the mud. The only thing they’re doing is supplying a clean version of something that can be found in any stagnant body of water.
Some friends who’ve worked with Leeches before recommended Niagra. We found them much more reasonable, presumably working from the sane point of view that very few people set out to buy leeches without having some knowledge of what to do with them.
The one issue with leechplay is that I was violating the “go with what you know” precept.
It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with leeches. People asked me that. “Are you familiar with leeches?” My response was that I was very familiar with leeches, but not with clean medical leeches whose welfare and health I had a positive interest in. At one point it was my job to every few months rig a pump housing which pumped water to a filter. The water was pumped from near the surface of a pond which was fed by mountain springs, then filtered and chlorinated for drinking water. But rigging the housing required standing in foot-deep muck which would often produce a few….”hangers on.”
I was familiar with detaching leeches from me.
So…we were going to do a leech scene. Another goal of the scene was to practice safe blood handling. There’s this weird disjunction between the Kink world and the Normal world. In the normal world, when Miranda gets a cut, I slap a bandaid on it and go on my way. I don’t really worry if I get a little of her blood on me, or vice-versa. But in the kink world there is a perfectly reasonably concern about handling any fluid as potentially contaminated with all the darkest diseases from hell, starting with Hep-C, and I understand and support this. I’ve been working on playing more with strangers and new people, and adapting my playstyle to people I’m not sort of “quasi-fluid-bonded” with is important. I’d been to a fluid handling class by Del presented by BR Education a few weeks back, and I wanted to be very aggressive about doing all the safe fluid handling things we’d learned in the class.
In the weeks beforehand, I learned a lot about leeches, mostly thanks to Pyrategrrl. She’d also referred me to Lady Greene who I spoke to onsite. This was useful, because the online sources for handling leeches in a Fetish context are…thin. I’m sure somebody will respond to this by linking me to the ultimate leechplay site, but I didn’t find much and what I did was mostly some “rah rah” stuff put out by medical companies. Niagra’s site had some good basic sense. I ran into a lot of sites that seemed to come through Google Translate or be cribbed from Niagra, with phrases such as “With 8 leeches the blutverlust for the patient is including to the Nachbluten with approx. 200 to 350 ml blood.” While it’s charming to know that the Germans actually have a word for “Blood loss” (and who is surprised) overall the page was less than clear.
I heard an amusing story about someone who had bought leeches, but didn’t realize they needed treated water. They rushed out to the store to get water treatment, and told their partner “check on them to make sure they’re alive.” She refused, on the basis that “I’m not going to give it mouth to mouth or perform CPR if it’s not.” The leeches in question were fine…they’re hardy and tolerate quite a bit.
The Leeches
I named the leeches Lenny (Leonard), Larry (Lawrence), Lenore, and Lorena. I printed out a little tag for their travel bottle. I’d thought I’d be clever and have them travel in a carafe that had a screw on lid. I didn’t want to take a chance on transporting them in the glass display bowl and having it broken. I could leave plenty of air in the neck, and screw the lid on only when in transit. This worked swimmingly (no pun intended) at first. Then came time to transfer them to their bowl. Now leeches don’t actually spend most of their time free-swimming. They mostly hang onto the side of the container with thier little suckers. I got the first one free swimming and knocked the other two loose. It had been suggested you could just slide them up the side of the container, but the carafe was too narrow for that. I was easily ten minutes getting the last one (Lorena) out and into the nice glass display bowl I’d brought.
Being myself, I provided personalities and commentary from the leeches from time to time. I suggested that because they lacked true brains, they were, as might be expected, birthers, and also that 9 out of 10 leeches supported Sarah Palin in the last election. On exit polls, 80% gave their reason as “warm blooded” and the other 20% responded “moose” which analysts are still trying to figure out. Periodically through the week I would voice ads for the leeches, typically starting with “Have you ever been in a car accident! Are you the victim of medical malpractice!”
I found that personalizing them and talking to them made them a bit less scary to Miranda, while also generally creeping out most other people I met, and causing them to doubt my sanity, which is always good.
A Man, A Plan
I started the scene with a little roleplay then got my “patient” strapped down on the table. I’d already decided that leeches would be the first element because they took a long time to feed.
I had a plan and it was a good one. I’d get them started feeding, then do the rest of the scene while waiting for them to drop off. I’d heard there could be a little pain and discomfort when they attach, but Miranda has done a hook pull, so I wasn’t worried about a little pain from a leech. I knew they didn’t hurt for long becuase I’d certainly never felt any of the leeches that attached to me. Leech saliva has an interesting analgesic property that has been described as morphine-like, and as of writing in the *Journal of European Medicine* and *Journal of Biochemistry* ten years ago wasn’t fully understood.
But…it works, and I figured I’d do the rest of the scene with the leeches on, and that would make it theatrical and awesome.
No plan survives contact with the annelids…
The Set
I’d build a beautiful set. We’d gotten permission from the Dungeon crew to do bloodplay outside the designated medical area, as long as we brought our own tarps and floor coverings, and cleaned up well. I hung up a nicely printed victorian sign that said “Hysteria Clinic.” I had three theatre scrims that I used to hang gold curtains to give a backdrop and a brass stand for the leechbowl, along with my usual collection of ancient and dubious looking medical instruments. There were some photos taken, but I don’t have hands on them yet.
The Blood
The first problem came with my presumption that Miranda was a warm blooded mammal. This had seemed a pretty good bet, but once strapped to the table she behaved almost precisely like a five day old corpse…except for the part where she talked to me, which would have been more alarming were she in fact dead.
I’d just found my lancet gun, and not really planning this as a pain scene, I’d decided to use the gun to raise a few drops of blood. I’d used it before and it always raised a nice little globule…not too messy just enough to let the leeches know “here be dinner.”
Four lancets later I had yet to raise so much as a tiny pinprick drop of blood. This was followed by skin staples, and a brief moment of comedy while I figured out how to use the remover. I’d been told how to use the remover, but there hadn’t actually been one present the first time I used skin staples. It really only took a moment, and would have taken less time in brighter light.
Did I mention the light? So, all in all Camp Crucible was a great deal of fun, and the lack of restrictions on what you can do and how you can behave at outdoor/cabin festival events really outweighs a lot of the downsides. But…there is nature. And around the middle of the week the termites swarmed.
Termites aren’t harmuful if you aren’t made of wood. They don’t bite, or even particularly care about you, and they’re less trouble than mosquitoes. But they are attracted to bright light. And Camp was well lit. This means that anywhere there was really bright light there were swarms of termites…and they are kind of clumsy.
In the main dungeon it really wasn’t too bad. There was a cloud…it’s hard to describe how thick it was…swarming in front of the big halogens out front. Only a small swarm made it inside, and they were attracted to a series of lights strung across the dungeon, and as long as you didn’t play under those you were fairly termite-free. But this meant we were conducting our scene in…subdued light.
In any case, I removed the staples…and…nothing.
I then tried with a standard sharp. This hurt a lot because I wasn’t trying to be nice. I was trying to induce bleeding…and…
Nothing. Miranda was an onion.
I finally got a few tiny specks and hoped that the leeches would find them. This was followed by a few minutes of leech-wrangling. Again this really wasn’t so bad, but it was less than expert. I tried with the glove, and the small forceps and decided I liked the rubber tipped forceps best. I got two on my first try, and tried getting them both on, but neither wanted to attach and they both kept struggling away, leaving me in one case to pull them off the floor. Miranda kept putting her arms down just as they fell off her chest, leaving me to fear they’d attach to her arm or armpit which would just be awkward and certainly not theatrical.
I had a brief moment of joy when the first leech attached…this was followed by…consternation.
The Pain
Now…let’s remember, I’m a sadist. I don’t mind putting people in pain. But I like that pain to be controlled and managable, and I like to be controlling it. This was leeches, and their miraculous analgesic effects didn’t seem to be working.
I’d anticipated that they might sting. But…this is something that I’d had done to me without it hurting at all. Miranda was in shreiking, intense pain which she described as “like someone was poking me with a needle over and over again, in the same place.”
The screams and wrenching against the straps were very pretty. I got her calmed a little and got the other leeches on. I felt bad about putting all four on her, but I knew I couldn’t mix them once they’d fed, so they all needed to feed or it would be inconvenient for me to store them. And I am a sadist. And I also believed they’d stop hurting any moment now. I will say something about putting leeches on someone screaming in pain does bring out a bit of my inner monster.
But they continued to hurt. I managed to distract her a bit with the violet wand (she hates and fears electricity) and a cane, but really the leeches were stealing the show. They hurt and would break through whatever else I was doing, including hypnotic pain management.
Eventually she got up to go to the bathroom and after that they hurt less. I walked her to the bathroom and back to make sure any detached leeches were cleaned up, though there were none. I realized she had blood toys on her, but figured that they qualified as capped needles, being attached and close ended.
The Scene
The scene was basically “Miranda suffers with some leeches on her while I do a little other play.” The leeches stole the show and submerged everything else. We did get some good pictures and it was certainly a taxing scene.
I had to deal with massive infrastructure cleanup. Also our order of Tegaderm hadn’t come yet, so I was using some low end bandaids that weren’t quite up to the leech wounds. Miranda did a good job of cleaning and bandaging herself. I went back for a few minutes to give her hugs and aftercare, then went back to break the scene down.
After Action Analysis
I have a whole rant on playing in a cold dungeon. I see tiny slips of girls that can play in 40 degree weather and still be fine, still cum, and fly around like Kylie Minogue in Moulin Rouge.
I do not know these people. I find that when I play with girls, if the temperature is low room temperature or below, they get cold, and when they get cold their pain tolerance goes out the window, and they have trouble cumming. This makes any scene involving actual bondage particularly problematic since that runs counter to the whole idea of keeping warm by keeping active.
Camp was hot the first four days then settled into lovely cool days that led into slightly chilly nights. It was getting chilly as I set the scene up (we had to run after the auction so about ten thirty to eleven to start) and while that calmed the termites down, it also made Miranda chilled.
Miranda was also a little scared. I know from my biology classes for hypnotherapy when you’re anxious your body draws blood in from the surface of the skin and holds it around the organs in order to minimize bleeding if you get in a fight. It’s an old instinct, older than primates.
And that leads to the other guess. My other surmise is that in order to work well, the analgesic found in leech saliva needs good circulation. Miranda was shut down like a bloodless corpse. The leeches couldn’t find much blood and kept gnawing to get deeper or increase the flow. This made the pain worse which shut down circulation more. As circulation shut down, the analgesic was dispersed poorly or not at all.
And when we got her up to go to the bathroom, she moved a lot of blood and put things right. The leeches didn’t hurt much after that.
Summary of “What I learned on my Summer Vacation”
  • Leeches need dechlorinated water, like fish. They’re okay in stagnant water so they don’t need an air pump. Basically treat them like a betta. If you’re keeping them, do a partial water change weekly or so, though they don’t seem to manufacture as much filth as goldfish.
  • Their bowl needs a breathable cloth cover secured with a rubber band (in the old days I imagine this was a double leather lace pulled tight). They can creep out of most anything else, but they don’t gnaw through fabric. I used an unbleached cotton muslin that looked very 19th century, but also used a rubber band.
  • Leeches are described as being shipped in a thermos, but mine came in a tupperware with some gobs of gel that I suspect had originally been a coolant of some kind. No water though there was moisture. Honestly I think they’re pretty fucking hardy buggers.
  • Don’t mix hungry and fed leeches. Hirudo leeches are cannibalistic annelids, and unfed leeches will eat fed leeches.
  • A full leech is a blood contaminated toy. Don’t forget that. Even well after eating, leeches are going to have whatever was in the bloodstream of the person they fed on.
  • They aren’t reusable. Obviously they’re fluid-bonded to the partner they sucked blood from. But you shouldn’t re-use them on the same person either. Their environments aren’t particularly sterile and as someone put it “you can’t brush thier tiny little teeth.” I’ve chosen to keep mine as pets, largely for the amusement factor. The Victorian Library at the manse seemed to need a leechbowl.
  • Unlike the Audrey II, you don’t have to feed them human. They’ll eat bovine intestine with some blood wrapped in it, and one report says they can be fed by placing them on a blood soaked cloth. I’ll experiment with that in 50-70 days.
  • The suggestion for handling them was two layers of gloves. The idea is to keep them from smelling you and trying to attach. It isn’t clear if anyone has determined whether or not they can bite through a layer of nitrile, but it’s not unreasonable to assume they might. I used a heavy electrical glove I have.
  • The recommendation was using plastic forceps. I got a pair of these, but also got metal rubber tipped forceps, and these were the best for handling them. http://www.regulation-london.com/attachments/images/product_large/rubber_tipped_forceps_v1.JPG . Apparently they are pretty tough.
  • Generally it’s recommended not to detach them before they finish feeding. Teeth or mouthparts can break off and contaminate the wound, etc. However it’s also mentioned you can remove them with a thin object like the edge of a tablespoon, and in one case we did that. You really have to slide under them.
  • It was suggested you can interest them more in certain areas by raising a little prick of blood. The theory seems sound, but the person has to bleed.
  • They take between 20 minutes and two hours to feed. The usual time given is 20-40 minutes. We found they tended towards the high side of that under our conditions
  • Warm the skin by rubbing it. Get the person warm and active with some basic exercise. Then apply leeches.
All in all, I’d probably use leeches again. I know a lot more about them now, and I’d bee much smoother and quicker at handling them. I believe I know how to limit their capacity to steal the show. It was a learning experience and all in all a pretty good scene but definitely reminded me that W.C. Fields was right….
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