Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two important points before you read this. One: in this blog post, I make some sweeping, gender-based generalizations, and I make them in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. I am aware that not every man or woman feels, thinks and acts in the ways I mention. This is a light-hearted blog post, not a feminist manifesto, so don’t get your gender-neutral panties in a twist, please.

And two: naturally every man of my acquaintance is an exception to all these statements. Naturally I’m not talking about any man I have ever known personally here. My goodness no.

Dear Mistress Matisse

I'm a 27y/o submissive bisexual woman in a D/s relationship with a dominant man named Tom. We were both fairly inexperienced when we met, and sort of stumbled into finding out we were both kinky. It's been really great. We're well matched and are enjoying trying out every little thing our perverted minds can come up with.

However, part of my sexual history has been pretty unpleasant. I was in an abusive relationship for nearly two years, and I had crappy experiences when I was growing up due to a combination of naivete and skeevy bastards. I've dealt with it in therapy and I certainly don't consider it as defining my sexuality. But it is there, and anyone I get into bed with gets a disclaimer: I have triggery points, and although I want to enjoy myself with you something we do may hit them. This history doesn't really have anything to do with kinky sex, and working through it has been more about learning to trust partners in general than anything else.

In getting closer to Tom I've shared more of that history with him. However, he hasn't ever really dealt with this sort of thing before- he grew up a bit sheltered, and has never been close to someone who's been working through, say, depression or trauma. Dealing with this freaks him out a little, and he doesn't really know what to do. It's not that he doesn't want to be there in the event that I need him, and I've said that I would tell him what I need in the event that something does come up. Honestly, it's happened just once in the time we've known each other (nearly a year now) and most of the time all I need is a cup of tea and some time alone/a hug. But it's the idea of psychological instability, no matter how minor, that unsettles him.

But since I talked about that part of my history (and really not anything near what I would consider the worst of it) he's been treating me differently in session. It feels like he's holding back and not doing everything that he wants to. I think that he's worried about bringing up bad history, but it's pretty frustrating. I don't want him to treat me with kid gloves- that's hardly the point of this endeavor. But it also makes me feel like he doesn't trust me enough to tell him if something's getting too intense, or as though he feels like he needs to take responsibility for my feelings. While I love that he doesn't want to hurt me (in the bad way) I really don't like that. He's said that he doesn't want me to ever get to the point where I need to use my safeword- that part of being a good dom is being able to know if something's getting too intense, that him crossing that line would be a personal failing on his part (and yes, he used the words 'personal failing'). I disagree - sometimes shit happens in session. It's not pleasant, but you move along and get back on the horse, assuming that things haven't been royally fucked up. And I wouldn't be playing with him in the first place if I thought he was the kind of person with whom things could get really bad.

I really like this guy, but I'm not sure what to do about this. Is it an intimacy thing that needs to happen over time? Am I missing something really obvious? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

This is not a wildly unusual situation. You’re both new at this. He’s still building his confidence as a top. Most people have to do that when they first start out, that’s normal. There’s not a magic-bullet answer for this, it’s simply a matter of time and experience.

You may, in all innocence, have overshared a bit and spooked him. It makes a top - especially male tops - nervous when you spend a lot of time telling them about how you might freak out if this or that happens. Believe me, everyone has their triggery points. We know this is emotionally intense stuff - that is why it’s hot. If it's true that all you’d need is tea, space, or a hug, then in the future, go light on the foreshadowing and just ask for that if it comes up.

I do think there’s a broader context to this, although you may not care for my ideas on the subject. But here goes: consider the possibility that you’re overthinking this - and that you’re being a bit controlling, too. You talk about wanting him to trust you – what would it look like if you decided to trust him, and his process? What if you said to yourself, “Okay, I want Tom to feel and behave this certain way, both because it would align with my wishes and because I think he’d like it too. But he isn’t choosing to do that. However, he communicates to me, both verbally and by continuing to do scenes with me, that he is enjoying what we do. I’ve told him what is true for me. Now I am going to stop second-guessing him and trust that he is the best and highest authority on what’s best for him right now.”

Luckily, whether it’s his nerves or you being too controlling, or a combination of both, the solution is the same: stop trying to do anything. Whatever is in Tom’s head is not yours to deal with. The thing you have complete control over is your own behavior. So you can choose to play with him, or not. You can ask for certain activities, or not. And then you can accept that Tom is the sort of top, and the sort of man, that he is. Or – not.


Here is where I go off on a tangent that’s not directed at the writer herself, but more at the culture in general. The idea that a woman can and should try to change how her male partner feels about things annoys me. Of course, I don't think anyone should try to control any other person's feelings, regardless of gender. But I get a lot of letters that sound much like this - and they are nearly always from women. Men have their own brand of bad habits (Lord knows I have discussed them extensively here), but I almost never get this sort of letter from men.

I place the blame on women’s magazines, publishing all those stupid articles about Ten Tips For Fixing Whatever The Hell Is Wrong With Your Man! It’s sort of borderline when said fixes are purely external. I have known and loved men who I thought really needed a different haircut, or some clothes from, say, the current decade. That’s minor stuff, and some men are happy to have a woman tactfully offer help with such things. Some aren’t, and then you have to either deal with it or not. But he couldn’t be that awful, or you wouldn’t be with him in the first place, right?

However, I strongly disagree with the idea that a woman should try to redesign the inside of a man’s head. If you want a romance with someone who thinks just like you, date other women. Men are different from us. Really. Their view of the world is neither better or worse than ours, it just – is. I myself think men are sort of like the Federal government. They do certain important jobs really well, but it’s best to keep their official duties simply defined. As far as I am concerned, the duties of the men in my life are: lift heavy things, defend me from hostile insects and rodents, tell me that I’m beautiful, and make with the sexy.

Perhaps there are some refinements to those tasks - cooking dinner, helping me with my taxes, clearing paths through crowds, et cetera. But I think with men, it’s best to stick to job requirements that are observable to the naked eye. If you tell a man what you wish to have done, he’ll either do it, or else he won’t. But if it's something both of you can see, then it's easier to discuss. Telling a man you want him to feel differently is hard to measure, and doing so rarely yields a satisfactory result for anyone, in my experience.

Again, I’m being somewhat flippant in how I’m expressing this. However, I am serious when I say: it is a mistake to try to get your partner to change how he thinks and feels. If you don’t already like how he thinks and feels, then why are you with him?

So you want a tip, ladies? Here’s a tip: take the man, or leave him, just like he is. You want to fix something around your house? Re-cover your couch. Or clean out the gutters, or organize your spice cabinet, or whatever. But fixing up a man? Bad idea.