In the course of having this site and meeting people, networking, promoting, I have found myself in some very revealing conversations. I love when that happens because it energizes me and renews my interest in discussing relationships, sex, and sexuality. I love when people reveal their real selves and we get into conversations beyond the detached parade of “hi, how are you and what do you do?”
One of the most frequent questions put to me is how to get into BDSM, especially from “Feminist” guys who “don’t want to disrespect or hurt their partner.” And it’s not like it’s a secret. At some point, their girlfriend/ wife/ lover said something to them, they Googled how to do it, and even though they found info out there, are still at the conceptual stage of engagement. On more than one occasion, their girlfriend sent them a link. Sometimes more than one link, couched in a humorous or passively suggestive way like, “What do you think about this?” Women ask this all the time too, looking for how to talk to their guy about it. “How do I get him to (fill in the blank)? C’mon! Tell me already!”
Here’s where I start. First, your desires aren’t weird or abnormal. No matter what you want, there’s already a label for it because someone else – lots of someone elses – have wanted that same thing too. So here goes. Here are the high points of those conversations, in one swoop.
Your partner is (probably) not a pervert.
There are hundreds of kinks out there (see here). Personally, I’m not one for feet. I’m not really into leather and chains, either. But I can still get on board for either and enjoy them. My sexual preferences veer more towards the psychological – which might seem strange or “perverted” to some people. The only difference between “hot” and “weird” is whether or not you, yourself, are into it.
I think most of our fears, insecurities, or reluctance concerning kink has to do with cultural stigma because of Sigmund Freud. Right now, because Fifty Shades of Grey was so popular, people are still fascinated with BDSM but that’s “small stuff” – an introductory course in kink. Nevertheless, even though Fifty Shades was rampantly successful as first a book, then a movie, BDSM remains taboo. People generally feel there must be wrong with the people who practice and enjoy being tied up and/or told what to do. They don’t want to be labeled (or label themselves) that way, so they avoid exploring. Studies indicate that the opposite it true, though.
Your partner’s preference for being dominant or submissive is not a flaw or a result of damage. It is a fantastic opportunity for you to express some of the things you enjoy, while satisfying some of their deepest fantasies.
It’s not (necessarily) degrading.
Some people have a problem dominating their partner. This is absolutely, 100% normal when you start doing kinky things – it’s new, it’s unfamiliar, you’re not sure if it hurts, and you care about them. But if they are asking you to do something specific, and you’re listening to them, you’ll know whether you are hurting them or degrading them in some way.
I’m a big believer in something Maya Angelou said: “When people show you who they are, believe them. The first time.” If you respect your partner, you will not try to shut them down and scold them or tell them how “demeaning” their request is. You will recognize this person thinks for themselves and maybe it’s not such a bad thing if they get happiness from being called a “whore” – or from calling you one. In college, it was surprising to me when a former partner told me she liked to be held down and have her hair pulled while we were having sex. I had been raised to “respect” women and felt that meant that men should never hurt a woman or take her off her pedestal. But once I got on board with it, we had a lot of fun doing that very thing and came to believe that “respecting” her also meant respecting her desires in bed.
Years later, I was having a conversation about this over drinks with a friend and she said something to the effect of women think for themselves, and “many women go all gushy when you call them a little whore.” Some of them like to be held down during sex and told they’re bad girls. Some want to be spanked, slapped, tied up. Some want to call you “Daddy.” Some girls would like nothing better than for you to make them kneel in the middle of the room while you watch TV for an hour, then drag them into the bedroom by the hair and fuck them until they’re crying.
It’s important to point out that while Fifty Shades put BDSM out there for popular conversation at diner parties, it did not introduce anything new. In fact, I thought it was kinda “meh” because it wasn’t new or novel to me. In fact, if you were paying attention, you would know that a lot of the stuff we call “traditional gender roles” are tradition – or common practice – because of their prevalence. For example, a 1995 study* indicates that 89% of heterosexual females who are active in BDSM expressed a preference for a submissive-recipient role in sexual bondage and 71% of heterosexual males preferred a dominant-initiator role.
It’s not just women who want to be submissive, though. Guys have these same desires – often more frequently. So whatever it is your partner wants, don’t assume it’s some broken thing inside of them that they are hoping you will repair. No, no, no. She just wants what she wants, and she’s quite literally asking you for it. It’s not degrading; she’s asking for it because she likes it or thinks she might like it and wants to try it out. Again, the same is true for men. I know several guys that really enjoy being dominated by their partner – this is so common that it takes up large portions of porn and erotic sites online, magazines and books, e-novels, you name it. Way more common than you might think. And there’s nothing inherently insulting, disrespectful, or degrading about it for either men or women. In short, “it’s just sex.” Once you stop having sex, you can resume your “appropriate” relationship.
When in doubt, a healthy dose of cuddling and gentle words after you have sex or “aftercare”, then talking goes a long, long way to helping everyone feel much better about what happened.
Sometimes, they don’t want to have to ask.
Some people have a lot of shame associated with sex, and they may feel too shy to ask for what they really want in the moment. Your partner may have some difficulty bringing up their desire to be dominated. When they do, they may be looking for your approval. Does he think I’m weird? Am I going to scare her away? In other words, your partner might say to you, “I kind of like it when you, um, spank me a little bit and, um, pull my hair and stuff.” This may come off as a subtle request, but you need to hear it loud and clear.
Now, you know this person. If you are having sex with them, you should know them well enough to be responsible with them and their sexuality, so all of those “umms” and “I might like it if” really means “I want you to spank the fuck out of me and pull my hair like it’s the emergency brake.” Take note of what they like, and then do. it.
When you are in the moment, don’t ask permission, just spank that ass. If they’re not into it, they will tell you. Trust me. Pull her hair. She may protest a little – that DOESN’T mean you should stop immediately and say, “I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” That will totally kill it for her. Coming back to my college partner, when she told me she wanted me to be “rough” with her, she went on to explain to me – and I’ve always felt this was important – that she wanted to be told what to do. If your partner tells you that they want to submit to you, they want you to do these things to them. To “force” them. It’s not really forcing them, because they have already given their consent. But in the heat of the moment, when you “force” her to her knees and say, “Suck my cock while I pull your hair,” she suddenly has permission to be that crazy, wild, dark, dangerous girl she’s always wanted to be. When you force him to go down on you and worship your butt, it gives him permission to be your “little slave boy” treat you like a goddess. After all, you’re in control, right? You’re making them do these things, right? So how can they be ashamed when they weren’t in control?
It’s a subtle psychology that could be very important to both of you, so show some initiative, show some creativity, and see what happens. When they have given you control, you get to make those decisions – but with that power comes a lot of responsibility. Personally, I tend to be be a soft “daddy” dom, which for me means: I like to be in control, I like to be firm, I like to talk dirty (and be talked to in a dirty way), I like to spank, but I also like to cuddle and make my partner feel safe, loved, cared for, and attended to so that there’s no confusion that however forceful I am with her, it comes from a very gentle place where I would never actually hurt her. She is continually reassured that I care for her. That, to me and for me, is what it means to be a good dom(inant) partner – you spank when you need to, you cuddle when you need to, and you know the difference in between.
To be blunt, hurting someone is a tremendous turn-off for me. I don’t enjoy inflicting pain unless it’s within a safe context, and that’s why it’s important to discuss safety ahead of time.
Which brings me to my next point.
You’re in charge here. You’re responsible for your safety and theirs – especially if they are tied up or restrained in some way. Use a safe word. A “safe word” is a word either of you can call out during sex, bondage, or whatever you’re up to, that stops the action immediately. It’s like a red light. Whatever word you agree on, that word means stop doing whatever it is you are doing, because your partner needs a break.
As someone clever once said: “’Yes’ means yes. ‘No’ means yes. ‘Elephant’ means ‘No.’” Pick a word that is something you would never casually call out during sex, and agree that if either of you says it, you put on the brakes. (Obviously, if you’re using a gag, you’ll need to come up with a safe gesture. But we’ll save that for the advanced class.)
Safety is more than just a “safe word” though. Being safe could be using contraceptives or pulling out, it could be knowing where and when to stop (swats to butt are fine, don’t smack the testicles) and – of course – the emotional, mental, and relational safety that needs to come with dominating someone and taking them outside of their natural “head space.” To come back to what I said above, this is why it’s so important to establish boundaries, to respect those boundaries, to be safe within the sexual interaction, and to express a great deal of “aftercare” by reassuring them that you had fun, listening to what they liked and didn’t like, and generally taking care of them. Feed them. Take a shower with them. Talk gently to them. Laugh with them. Whatever it takes to show them that they are safe and cared for.
You’re gonna like it.
You’re telling me that the thought of your partner, obeying your every word, looking up at you with those big, sweet eyes, saying “Please more me. I’ll do whatever you want. Please, tell me what you want – I’ll do it,” doesn’t turn you on? Hell yes that turns you on!
Well guess what? It turns your partner on too. This is such a win! Seriously. Go with it.
Pleasing you pleases them.
For many submissives, what actually satisfies them is – get this – pleasing you. The sound you make when you cum, the smile on your face afterwards, even something so simple as the words “Good girl/boy” coming out of your mouth is like a warm infusion of love and acceptance injected right into their soul. If you could feel how they feel during those moments, you’d want to give that to them all the time.
When I have taken a more submissive role and get into that frame of mind called “sub space,” there is literally nothing more satisfying than satisfying my partner. It fills me with happiness. So, as a word of experience here, I want to assure you that if your partner feels safe and loved, feels respected, and feels like you are dominating them toward something that you will enjoy, that will make you happy, they will be enthusiastic about doing whatever it takes to satisfy you, “being proper” be damned.
Talk and talk.
Communication is KEY. Set aside time before and after “sessions” to talk about what they liked/didn’t like, what you liked/didn’t like, and get on the same page for future sexual experiences.
You’ll hear this all over the Dominant/submissive world (notice the capitalization there), but it’s true. Communication is key. It’s even more important than in “vanilla” relationships because of the nature of what you are doing together. Again, communication is vitally important here. Spend time immediately after your sexual time together and then revisit it later at a “safer” time away from the bedroom when both of you have had time to think about it.
Read lots, assume nothing.
Not everything shared here will be true for everyone because of the thousands of subtleties in D/s relationships, but it’s a general outline and I would encourage you to keep going out there and looking for information that will help both of you better understand your sexual activities. Read articles together and compare notes.
Also, I want to say this is a general outline. It’s not comprehensive, nor definitive because you need to find what is right for you and your partner(s).
* Ernulf, Kurt E.; Innala, Sune M. (1995). “Sexual bondage: A review and unobtrusive investigation”. Archives of Sexual Behavior 24 (6): 631–54.