Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rebel Owen: Dreamer, Late Bloomer, Bondage Sub, Aspiring Writer, Early Victim

Rebel is the only man with whom I had sustained sexual history lasting more than a decade, though we never had an official relationship. I met him in the fall of 1972 and we had sex well into the 1980's. In the beginning, I had something of a romantic crush on him even though he was muted emotionally but always willing to service me, especially since we shared a quasi-master-slave fantasy.

I was the second man with whom Rebel physically connected; but technically his first since the first encounter was brief and tentative; he was already age 28. His lack of sexual experience was doubly amazing considering he had grown up in the pre-chichi Chelsea neighborhood, no less. Fearful of family attitudes and painfully shy, he had lived seriously repressed since his teens when he first recognized his sexual preferences.

In desperation, he posted a “male-seeks-male” ad in the East Village Other, a long-gone alternative paper that flourished in the Lower East Side in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was drawn by his physical description—six foot two, blond, inexperienced. He listed his phone number and a post office box. Naturally, I called and got him on the second or third try. He was eager to come right over. We made a date.

I recall standing in the window watching him approach my building. He was not a great beauty but had a wholesome masculine quality. He rang the bell and came upstairs. At the time of our first encounter, I had no idea that I was literally the first man he was with sexually. His only other encounter tied up and masturbated him but not to orgasm. We got naked and we jumped into bed. He was eager to try everything, and anything I wanted him to do sexually. We had a very satisfying afternoon that first time. I was eager to see him again.

In the coming weeks, we started seeing each other regularly and he began to express his sexual fantasies about submission and bondage. We were soon assembling a toy box of handcuffs, ropes, gags, whips and other leather accessories--all of which he bought or made per my instructions. He was extremely submissive and worked very hard to please me sexually. When we were together, he was in a state of constant arousal. Sex with Rebel was always satisfying.

At the time we met he was living in a studio apartment in the soon to be fashionable Soho. It was a crummy walkup, so bug infested he bought a gecko to feed on the roaches. He had built a loft bed and we used the posts to create places to restrain him. We did the same at my apartment with him screwing large bolts into a doorframe to restrain him spread eagle. Our sexual experimentation got more serious and we were seeing each other at least once a week. At the time, he was driving a cab and had a pretty irregular schedule. Like myself, he aspired to write; he kept journals and tried his hand at short fiction, poetry and essays.

Rebel had very few friends, and his closest friend was straight. We soon discovered that I not only knew that friend Thom—we ran in the same high school circles-- but I also knew Rebel's older brother Greg. He had married a friend of mine from high school days. I was amazed at the coincidence, since there had been the potential for me to meet Rebel a lot earlier. Over Christmas Rebel drove up to Maine to meet with a guy he had been corresponding with from his ad. I was a bit jealous but there was nothing I could do about it, so didn't say anything. When he returned, he was still mine sexually.

As summer approached, Rebel expressed interest in having his “pen pal” from Maine come to New York for the summer. I, on the other hand, wanted to spend the summer in Maine, where I had in previous years work at one of the beach resorts. We made a trade off. Since there would be more room for him and Todd at my place, he would take my apartment for the summer and in exchange, I use his car for the same period in Ogunquit.

Nonetheless, I had mixed feelings about leaving for the summer, especially feeling insecure because of his keen interest in Todd. Rebel drove to Maine to pick Todd up, and on the night they were to return, I stayed with an old boyfriend Jon S. (his remembrance to come). He lived in a nearby ground floor apt on East Ninth Street.

The next morning I returned to the apt to find Rebel and Todd comfortably ensconced in my bed. My stuff already packed, he gave me the car keys, helped me load the car and I was gone. Still not feeling good leaving Rebel with someone I felt he was more attracted to than me, there was nothing I could do about it. Best to pretend I was all in favor of him seeing other people, as long as the special relationship we shared was unaffected. And to that end, I tasked him to write me regularly describing the kinds of bondage and S & M activity we might try upon my return.

As usual, summer in Maine was a prefect break. Hanging with friends from earlier summers and making new ones. I got a weekend wait job at one of the high-end restaurants in Ogunquit. It gave me enough spending money to get by. And since the beach in Ogunquit is very cruisy, I managed occasional moon lit trysts.

When I got back to New York in the fall, it soon became clear that nothing with Rebel had changed. As agreed, he had sent me periodic letters describing fantasies of bondage and submission. He drove Todd back up to Maine, and when he came back, we resumed our intense sexual relations. I eventually learned that he and Todd had not hit it off physically.

The affair with Rebel went on and off for years. He eventually moved to Brooklyn to share a place with his friend Thom. We didn't see each other as much as when he lived closer, we still got together every few weeks. Even after we took other life partners-- I moved to the Upper West Side with mine, he met a Daddy Dom in Chelsea-- we still periodically met for primal encounters.

Eventually Rebel met a Puerto Rican leather twink and he became his first real lover. They moved into a tenement on East 17th Street. We tried a threesome, but I was ultimately not attracted to his friend. I made a point of coming by to see Rebel when his friend wasn't home. They were very much into the leather lifestyle, and I think Rebel was content with the relationship though we continued to have sex intermittently. After all I was his initial partner, so there was a strong attachment there.

On the night of the 1977 NYC Blackout I ran into them in the Far West Village. We went back to a friend’s apartment nearby I was house-sitting and had sex. The boys left. I fell asleep, instead of returning to the streets, where later I learned I missed one of the all time great street orgies at the end of Christopher Street.

By the late 1970s my Upper Westside partnership was floundering. We broke up. I eventually found my own apt and moved. Rebel and I reconnected. He started coming over. We continued as if it was the first time. But by the mid-1980s, things between us waned. The last few encounters had not been particularly satisfying. We finally stopped seeing each other.

I ran into him on the street a couple of years later. The AIDS epidemic was accelerating. He told me he had been sick but was doing okay. At the time, I made no direct connection between his remarks and the AIDS plague. He said he was living somewhere in the Village. We didn't exchange numbers. As far as I could tell he was still driving a cab.

The summer of 1988, the famous AIDS memorial quilt was on display in Central Park. I had a visitor from Germany. We spent an afternoon walking amidst the handmade squares reading the names of those who had succumb to the illness. I was shocked to discover two quilts laid side by side embroidered with the name of Rebel Owen indicating he had died in 1987.

I got tested and my results were negative.

This past August he would have turned 65 years old.