Sep 142014
 

I came across a really interesting writing on Fetlife the other day titled On Personal Responsibility. The author has said some thoroughly problematic things about consent in other posts, but in this particular one she makes an excellent point:

But here’s another question, because in general, I prefer to be hated by both sides wherever possible.

Shouldn’t those upstanding members of the community also take personal responsibility for judging whether they are about to stick their figurative and/or metaphorical dicks in crazy, and choosing not to engage with those who qualify?

I’d have a lot more respect for the ‘personal responsibility! everything that happens to you is your fault!’ crowd if they put as much pressure on tops to be ‘personally responsible’ as they do on bottoms. While I can’t claim to have read everything ever written about personal responsibility in kink, what I have read seems to be all about pushing bottoms to take all the blame for everything that happens to them.

If the writing I quoted above had gone Kinky&Popular (the Fetlife equivalent of featured, for those who don’t spend much time there), I expect the comments on it would be full of domly doms whining and crying about how they aren’t mind-readers and it isn’t fair to expect them to be. But somehow it’s fine and dandy to expect bottoms to magically divine that the d-type who is being so lovely and charming right now, who has such a good reputation in the scene, is actually grooming them for abuse.

Fuck that noise. If bottoms have to responsible for everything that happens to them, then so do tops. Have a scene go badly? Should’ve done a better job of reading your bottom. Somehow run into the largely mythical malicious bottom who cries foul after a scene they seemed to enjoy at the time? Should’ve gotten to know them better before you played with them. Have a messy breakup that involves your now ex submissive screaming at you at 3 am? Should’ve dated someone with better control of their emotions.

When I put it like that, does the whole personal responsibility thing start sounding like an unreasonable standard to hold people to? If it does, that’s because it’s not actually about responsibility, maturity, or owning your shit for you. It’s about doms not wanting to take responsibility for their actions.

Maybe that sounds harsh, but think about it for a minute. Who benefits when bottoms are told that its their responsibility and only their responsibility to prevent themselves from being victimized? It’s certainly not bottoms. In fact, blaming the victim is a classic tactic of abusers.

Once more for the cheap seats: blaming the victim is what abusers do. You are not responsible for what other people choose to do to you, full stop.

Personal responsibility is great and all, but you’re got to apply it to everyone equally. For example, doing kinky things involves a certain amount of risk, and you probably shouldn’t play if you can’t handle things going wrong. No matter how carefully you prepare and how well you negotiate, there is always a chance you will suddenly discover a trigger you didn’t know you had, or equipment will fail, or you’ll misunderstand something your play/partner told you, or something that worked just fine last week will end with you crying your heart out this week. Shit happens, and the more you play, the more chances it has to happen to you. If you’re not at a place in your life where you can handle potentially feeling shitty for a few days after you play, it’s probably a good idea to play very carefully.

See how I’m not singling one group out to blame them for everything that happens to them? That’s how you talk about personal responsibility without grooming people for abuse.

Sep 072014
 

I spend a lot of time bitching about submissive guys doing it wrong, so for a change let’s talk about somebody doing it right.

Quite some time ago now my friend some_guy27 started a thread titled “questions from a newbie” in the Submissive men and women who love them Fetlife group.

I’ll be honest, when I saw the title I cringed a little. Most of the threads I’ve seen with titles like that were either questions that could have been answered in five minutes of reading the stickies, or thinly veiled personal ads. Some_guy27, however, really surprised me. Here’s the part of his original post that I found the most interesting:

I’ve been reading through some of the stickies and did some searches and found a lot of very helpful info, but a few of my questions weren’t really answered. For instance, this whole lifestyle is very new to me, and some of the suggestions you give are a bit intimidating and what not. Personally, I’ve always been the dominant one in my relationships. (Not really because “I” needed to be, but because “she” needed me to be) I kind of want to be the submissive one for a change, but I’m really not even sure that “submissive” is the correct word. (I’ve been bombarded with a whole new vocabulary since I joined the site) The standard advice is to know your limits and be up front with them. As a nOOb, I really don’t know what they are. I mean, realistically, I might actually REALLY like something that is currently off limits in my head right? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t even know what it is that I don’t know?

Did you see that? He read the goddamn stickies! For once, somebody did their own research before asking the same question a thousand other people have and boring us all to tears in the process. Not only that, but he asked an interesting question. It’s sadly rare for people new to the scene to even be willing to question whether they’ve found the right label for themselves, or to realize that they might end up liking something that they have no interest in right now.

In case you don’t understand how rare it is for someone to actually read the stickies, have a look at that thread. If you scroll most of the way down the first page of replies, you’ll see dominant women play fighting over him. Many submissive guys seem to have trouble getting a single dominant woman’s attention, given that the most common questions I’ve seen in the submissive men and women who love them group are “why is it so hard to find a dom?”, “where do I find a dom?”, and “how do I get a dom to answer my messages?”, and somehow this guy has multiple women fighting over him! All it takes to get that kind of reaction from us is putting a tiny bit of effort into doing your own research and being friendly and pleasant to people who try to answer your question. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the bar is just not that high.

Just starting a good thread is impressive enough, but another thing that some_guy27 did right was sending me an entirely adorable thank you note for responding to his post. Because he reached out, we’ve been corresponding off and on for the last couple of years. Come to think of it, that’s another point in his favour – we live in different countries, and while we both travel now and then, we may never meet in person. And he still acted like I was worth his time! I can’t tell you how many whiny posts I’ve seen by men who went to one event, one time, didn’t instantly find a hot dominatrix who shares all of their kinks, and decided in person events are a waste of time and they’re never going back. It’s a nice change to talk with someone who has an interest in you as a person, independent of your ability to directly fulfill his fantasies.

Now, I don’t expect every new submissive man to be as charming as some_guy27, because frankly that’s a pretty high bar to clear, but you absolutely can read the stickies, ask questions that haven’t been done to death, and be grateful to the people who respond to your posts. Yes, it’s a little more work than just asking “wherr all the domz at?”, but you too can have a thread full of dominant women excited about you if you just give us something to work with. We want you to be awesome, but we need you to meet us half way.

Aug 312014
 

While in general I think people in the scene could use a little more paranoia about getting thrown out of the scene if they behave badly, I also wish that people wouldn’t act like it’s the end of the world if they accidentally offend someone. We were all new once and we’ve all said the wrong thing or stepped on someone’s toes or spilled a drink before. I’m the queen of holding grudges, but if somebody did something that was minor, accidental, and they apologized for it, there’s no need to make them feel like they need to leave town and change their name before they can ever go to a kink event again.

Even if someone deeply and personally offended me, if offense is all it is then there’s no reason we can’t coexist peacefully in the same room. If you fuck up as badly as bobslave9 did I will viciously mock you on my blog and use you as a warning to others, but I’m not going to go throwing fits in public or anything.

So, here’s what to do if you fuck up:

1. Apologize. Do this if and only if you can bring yourself to apologize properly. A proper apology starts with a simple admission of wrongdoing, demonstrates understanding of why what you did what wrong, and absolutely does not contain the words “if” or “but.” If you cannot apologize properly, just keep your mouth shut. Do not under any circumstances say “I’m sorry you feel that way.” If what you mean is “Go fuck yourself,” put on your big kid pants and say it outright. And don’t be a little shit about it if they don’t accept your apology. Forgiveness is not something you are owed.

2. Avoid the person you wronged. If you’ve just dumped someone, skip the next few parties. Suck it up, you’re not the one who just got dumped. If all you’ve done is irritate the shit out of someone, make an effort to be in another part of the room. Don’t talk to them, don’t force them to squeeze past you to get to the snacks, just leave them the fuck alone.

3. Whatever you did to piss that person off, stop doing it. This isn’t absolutely necessary to coexist with the person you already pissed off, but if you blunder around being an asshole everyone, you’re going to run out of people who want anything to do with you.

Note that there is no step involving becoming friends with the person you pissed off. They don’t owe you shit. It doesn’t matter how badly you want to feel like everything is happy and shiny again, the only person who gets to decide if someone wants to be friends with you is that person.

That’s it. The scene is big enough for the two of you if you can just avoid being a complete douchebag to someone you’ve already pissed off. There’s no need to become a hermit or to throw yourself at the feet of the person you offended and beg forgiveness. Chill the fuck out, leave them the fuck alone, and things will be fine.

Aug 242014
 

“It’s not service unless the master wants it.” – Joshua Tenpenny, Real Service

It’s such a simple concept, but you’d be amazed how many people can’t grasp it. Hand washing your partner’s underwear may make you feel submissive, but if what she actually needed was her car taken to the shop then all you’ve done is waste your time. It really should be obvious, but doing what you want instead of what your master wants is in fact the opposite of submission.

That is, you’d think it would be obvious, but according to far too many discussions I’ve seen, including these two comments in a thread about kinky people with vanilla partners, the idea that you should try things your partner actually likes if you want to have some kink in your relationship is apparently a mind blowing revelation. In related news I have a theory about why so many men complain that their female partners have no interest in kink.

I understand that it can be hard to let go of the vision of your ideal relationship, but come on guys. Either you give a shit about the actual living breathing human being you’re in a relationship with or you don’t. If you care more about the fantasy than the person, don’t go acting all surprised when she doesn’t seem to care that much about what you want either. After all, you started it.

Even doms can fall into this trap. Credit where it’s due, Lily Lloyd talked about this either on her (sadly now defunct) blog or in her excellent book Discipline (no longer available). It’s terribly easy to get the idea that being a dom means you’re supposed to give your submissive all sorts of rules, particularly if your submissive happens to like rules. You can end up desperately trying to remember and enforce a set of rules you don’t care about until your whole d/s relationship feels like a chore. No matter how much the submissive enjoys it, it’s not service unless the master wants it. No amount of telling yourself you’re supposed to want something or beating yourself up for not wanting it is going to change your feelings about it.

I used to think I wasn’t actually dominant at all because I had precisely zero fucks to give about slave positions or making my partner ask permission to sit on the furniture. Given that being a dom is an important part of my identity now, you can safely assume I was pretty motivated to want what I thought I was supposed to want. It didn’t work. I still don’t care about slave positions even a little bit, and unless someone can magically making learning them stop feeling like a chore, I’m never going to care.

This, of course, makes me a terrible dom for a sub who loves high protocol. Neither one of us is wrong, we’re just a bad match. Honestly, if I found a high protocol sub I got along with and tried to convince him to stop loving rules and structure and doing things just so, I would be the asshole in that situation. I rag on submissive men more because I can’t understand how you can call yourself submissive while trying to mold your partner into someone they’re not, but self-centeredness is definitely not exclusive to men.

Finally, I would say that it is service if the dominant wants it, no matter how much the submissive enjoys it. A really excellent footrub, for example, given to a woman when she wants one doesn’t magically stop being service just because the submissive giving it happens to be a foot fetishist. Now, it certainly does stop being service if said foot fetishist makes things weird and sexual when she just wants to relax, but a submissive person especially enjoying something doesn’t make it not helpful or pleasing to the person they’re serving.

Service, like so many other things, is in the eye of the beholder. The person being served is the only one who gets to decide whether x or y is in fact service. You can wish they liked other things, you can look for someone who likes other things, but trying to make your partner like the form of service you like providing is blatant assholery. If you’re going to pull that shit, at least admit that you don’t care what your partner wants.

Aug 172014
 

First, a quick disclaimer: quite some time ago Lia Silver offered me a copy of her book Laura’s Wolf if I wouldn’t mind reviewing it. I like free stuff as much as the next person, but if I hadn’t enjoyed the book I would have politely told Lia so in private and you all would never have heard anything about it.

Laura’s Wolf is a paranormal romance focusing on the relationship between Roy, a newly turned werewolf Marine and Laura, a former con-artist trying to go straight. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would love to read on vacation while I sip cocktails, and although I ended up reading it in bits and pieces on my lunch break while I worked entirely too many hours, it still helped me relax.

What I really love about Laura’s Wolf is the way it presents female domination as a fun thing normal people choose to do sometimes. Sure, Roy is a werewolf Marine dealing with PTSD (which is not unusual – according to NIH MedlinePlus, in 2009 there were about 7.7 million adults in the US affected by PTSD) and Laura is a former con artist recovering from her own trauma, but they’re both enormously relatable characters. Aside from her colourful past, Laura is lonely but afraid to let people in. Roy, aside from the whole werewolf thing, worries that he’s broken and doesn’t have anything to offer a partner. Who hasn’t felt like that, even just a little?

At their cores, the characters are pretty normal people. Roy’s a regular guy, basically the exact opposite of the awful worthless worm stereotype. Laura’s a normal woman with more curves than society says she should have, not the kind of  icy bitch-queen that porn  and pop culture say dominant women have to be. And the way they relate to each other sexually is just the way they work, not a symptom of their problems (Secretary, I’m looking at you).

The sex scenes themselves are hot and well written, and perhaps ironically for a hardened perv, I like the fact that they’re not all particularly kinky and that they don’t go straight for whips and chains. One of my many, many pet peeves is the idea that once you explore kink you can never have or enjoy non-kinky sex again. That’s a  hot fantasy and there are people out there who don’t care to have vanilla sex, but I think most of us are perfectly capable of enjoying sex that involves nothing more than an enthusiastic partner.

It’s also nice to see kink shown as something you can do without spending a lot of money on equipment. I’m not going to say Laura’s Wolf is perfect, but there’s an awful lot to like about it. If there’s someone you want to introduce to female domination without freaking them out, I’d recommend giving them this book. If you’re already familiar with kink, it’s still an entertaining read. The next book in the series, Prisoner, is already out, and I’m planning on picking it up.

Aug 102014
 

Or, let’s talk about different styles of bottoming and submitting. This post will probably make more sense if you read the last one about styles of topping and dominating. These two posts were inspired by Xiao Yingtai’s brilliant post “Am I Just Selfish? Service Versus Control,” which you should go and read.

The gist of her post is that in addition to the service submissives who everyone seems to know about, there are also control-oriented submissives who (shockingly enough) just want to feel controlled during a scene.

Xiao Yingtai’s post blew my mind because she explained something I’ve literally spent years trying to understand: what the hell people are on about when they say they want to be “trained.” I always thought people who wanted that had spent too much time with one-handed BDSM reading and not nearly enough time talking to real people about how they actually live their lives. But it turns out that some s-types are control-oriented and love things that would make service-oriented submissives miserable. Or to quote from the post:

Constant micromanagement and correction? No endpoint? Sign me up for this!

I never realized that feeling controlled was the point when someone asked to be “trained.” I always kind of thought they were just bad at service or had the idea that there was some magical “right way” to do things and if they learned it they would be the perfect submissive and never feel sad or lonely or inadequate ever again.

The idea of “training” also irritated the shit out of me because if you assume it actually is about making yourself useful, then being trained by someone else before you look for a partner is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Even something as simple as how to make tea isn’t that likely to carry over, and assuming that all dominant women take their tea the same way (or even that we all drink tea) is a good way to convince your prospective dom that you see her as female dominant seven of nine, not an individual human being.

Where things get complicated is when people try to sell themselves as service submissives when making themselves useful is really, really not the point of the kind of scene that they’re after.

To quote Mistress Matisse’s article “Slave Labour“:

Some folks try to turn what’s sexy for them into something of practical use to others, in an attempt to attract partners. This rarely works. My friend Jae has coined a not-very-complimentary generic term for the breed of man who does this: “the Panty-Washer type.” The name springs from dirty-underwear fetishists who try to persuade you that hand-laundering your lingerie should earn them sexual favors.

Another example of that type are the boys who’ll offer to, say, scrub your floor. Oh–did they mention they’d be doing it naked? And you will be standing over them, supervising and disciplining them the entire time? In full fetish gear? With a riding crop?

Guys, there is someone out there who wants to have that scene (possibly for $250 an hour, but that’s a separate post), but you are absolutely not going to find her by trying to convince people that this is a good way to get their floors clean. For fuck’s sake be honest about what you want. I mean, I’m not even particularly control oriented but the way Xiao Yingtai puts it is just hot:

But some of us irrational types like being constantly pushed further. We actually live for that state of desperation, we get a kick out of providing entertainment through our suffering. Or, at the very least, the boot on our necks.

Entertaining me by suffering for me? Yes please! Desperation? I’m all over that. Tell me about that if you want to play, not about how clean my house is (not, let’s be honest) going to be.

It turns out “training” actually does mean something after all. It’s still not my thing, but it makes me so happy to finally have any idea what people who like it are talking about.

Readers, are any of you into “training”? Has anybody else struggled to understand what that hell “training” even means?

Aug 032014
 

Or, let’s talk about different styles of topping and dominating. Broadly speaking I think of reaction vs control as styles of topping  and service vs obedience as styles of dominating, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be obedience based play or reaction based dominance.

Personally, I’m a reaction top. When I’m playing with someone, what makes it satisfying for me is hearing them moan or curse or fight to keep quiet (as long as they’re not too good at it), watching them struggle against their bonds or brace themselves and take it. I want to know they’re right there with me. While there’s something uniquely satisfying about biting someone really hard, in general if my bottom has a lower pain tolerance all that means is I have to do less work to get the reactions I want. I’m also less interested in using any particular implement than I am in getting a reaction. If my bottom loves canes (or love to hate canes), I’ll use those. If sting just makes them angry I’ll use thuddy toys instead.

Other people, at least from what I’ve heard on sites like Fetlife, are more interested in having control. For them a scene (as I understand it, please correct me in the comments if I’m out to lunch here), is more about getting to do exactly what they want and feeling completely in control than about messing around until they get a reaction. I think bondage would be especially satisfying for a control top because of the power it gives them to limit or remove their bottom’s ability to move. I’m also suspicious control tops are just more organized than I am – I’ve heard of people planning scenes out in great detail where I show up with some toys and wing it.

As much as I may be making it sound like control and reaction are opposite ends on a spectrum, there’s no small amount of overlap between them. Part of the fun of getting a reaction is that it makes me feel powerful and in control. I imagine control tops also enjoy getting just the reaction they wanted, they might enjoy being able to play their bottom like an instrument.

With dominance I believe there is a similar spectrum from service to obedience. Service (particular the spooky mindreading sort of anticipatory service my boyfriend is so good at) makes me feel loved, for other people that kind of service is just irritating. Giving orders doesn’t feel natural to me at all and I avoid doing it if I possibly can. Other people love knowing that their sub will drop what they’re doing and obey as soon as they’re given an order.

There’s overlap there too, of course. Just because I don’t usually like giving orders doesn’t mean I never want my bottom/sub to just do what he’s told. Even the most obedience-oriented dom may want their sub to carry out standing orders without being told or to take initiative when the dom is particularly busy.

This may sound like a lot of philosophical noodling, but imagine how a scene would go with a sub who wants to feel controlled and a top who wants to try some stuff and see what gets a good reaction. Nobody’s going to have any fun and they’re probably end the scene thinking the other one has no idea what they’re doing and is probably a jerk to boot. If you’re looking for a d/s relationship, it can be even worse. So many of those ‘well if you were a real dom/sub you would have _____” conversations could be avoided if people had a better handle on just how many wildly different things “dominant” or “submissive” can mean. I’m not always fantastic at this myself, but I think it’s worth asking ourselves if someone just has a different style before writing them off as not actually a dom/sub.

Readers, where do you fall on the reaction/control and service/obedience spectrums? Did I miss your style of dominance?

Jul 272014
 

This thread has some excellent advice for shy people who want to get into their local scenes, but it also reminded me of a couple of my pet peeves. While I applaud the original poster for wanting help overcoming his shyness so he can make friends in the scene and hopefully find a partner, it irritates the shit out of me when people conflate shyness and introversion and when they treat being introverted like it’s some kind of terrible flaw that must be overcome if you ever want to find a partner.

Introversion and shyness are not the same thing! Being an introvert just means that spending time with people tires you out and spending time alone recharges you. Note that there is nothing in that definition about being afraid of people, disliking people, or having poor social skills. Being shy, on the other hand, actually does mean that you’re uncomfortable around people, particularly strangers. It’s not unusual to be both shy and introverted, but that doesn’t make them the same thing. I happen to be both shy and introverted and the feeling of exhaustion I get after a busy week is very different from the feeling of anxiety I get before I have to spend time with a group of strangers.

That anxiety and the awkwardness I feel when I talk with people I don’t know well isn’t a good time or anything, but it’s not exactly ruining my life, either. If your shyness is ruining your life, it’s possible you have social anxiety disorder. Please, please, talk to your doctor if you have one and check out some of the resources online. Anxiety can be treated, you don’t have to spend your life afraid and alone.

Back on the subject of garden-variety shyness, sure, it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable, but as personality flaws go it’s just not that bad.  It’s certainly less of a hurdle to finding a partner than being selfish, irresponsible, or thoughtless. Some doms think a bit of shyness is cute, and many of us like being given the opportunity to make the first move instead of being hunted down by someone we may not have any interest in.

As for a potential partner being an introvert, for me that’s an absolute necessity, not a flaw to work around. I have extraverted friends who are perfectly lovely people, but for a partner I need a fellow introvert. I need someone who understands my need to hide inside and not speak to anyone for little while after I go to a party, I need someone who won’t try to fill the house with people every chance they get, and I absolutely have to have a partner who can entertain himself when I’m trying to read (not that I’ve ever had terrible experiences with extraverts being unable to leave me alone for five minutes straight).

To bring that back around to kink, there is simply no level of kink-compatibility that would make me able to tolerate living with an extravert without getting resentful. Play is great and all, but it’s only one small part of a relationship. When I’m not playing, I still need to be able to be around my partner without wanting to smother him with a pillow.

You might not want an introverted partner, and you have every right not to, but if you think there’s anything wrong with introverts you can fuck right off.

Jul 202014
 

Lots of kinky people have heard the term subspace (if you haven’t, it’s the happy, floaty, blissed out state some bottoms can get into when they have a good scene), but it seems like fewer people have heard of top space.

For me, topspace is a relaxed but extremely focused state where everything inside my scene is fantastic and everything outside of it might as well not exist.  It feels like a type of flow state, but more altered, if that makes any sense. While my topspace isn’t quite as floaty and spaced out as I’ve heard subspace can be, I wouldn’t want to make any big decisions while I was in it. It feels really, really good but my judgement is definitely impaired when I’m in topspace.

If that sounds dangerous, it’s because it is. I can get so focused on landing the flogger exactly where I want it that I don’t realize just how close my bottom is to their limits. Fortunately I mostly play with people who are awesome at calling red when they need to so no harm was done, but since then I’ve been a lot more careful to stay focused on my bottom’s reactions when I feel myself slipping into topspace.

On the less dangerous and more funny side, a friend and I were once on the way home from a play party where we had both played and I got us completely lost by being too spaced out to navigate. All I needed to do was reverse the directions he had printed out to get us from my house to the party, but somehow I messed it up and we ended up driving around lost until we found some random people to ask for directions. Moral of the story: don’t play and navigate.

If you know you’re prone to getting into a spacey sort of topspace, I don’t think that means you’re an inherently dangerous top but I do think it’s important to know the signs that you’re getting into an altered state, and to correct for that by putting a little extra attention on your bottom. Personally I start feeling intensely relaxed, letting out happy sighs, and sometimes it seems like colours get brighter and my vision gets sharper. Being someone who has a lot of trouble really relaxing (not that tops are prone to being control freaks at all :), that intense relaxation can be so seductive that it’s hard to remember that I need to pay really close attention to what I’m doing.

Cautions aside, how do you get into topspace? For me, it’s easier to get there if I’m doing something rhythmic like flogging or whipping. Music seems to help too. And to go back to the flow state thing, it seems to work better if I’m doing something I really need to concentrate on. Flogging can get me there, but it doesn’t take the intensity of focus that using a whip does. I imagine needles or knives might do it too, but I still haven’t tried either of those.

What about you, readers? Do you go into topspace, and if you do what does it feel like? And if you have any tips for getting there I’d love to hear them.

Jul 132014
 

Some time ago now, I mentioned that dominant bottoms are a thing. I think it’s worth going into a little more detail about just what I was talking about, because that’s kind of an oxymoron for a lot of people.

First of all, credit where it’s due: I got the idea of human sexuality & kinky interests as a number of separate spectrums from Midori, who teaches fantastic classes and who you should definitely go see in person if you get a chance. She presented a really interesting class on the idea that if you were to graph any given person’s position on the spectrum of sexuality/kinkiness (because not everyone links sex and kink), you would need far more than just one axis for kinky/non-kinky and one for gay/straight. You would also need axes for interest in kink in general (don’t forget, there are plenty of kinks that don’t have to involve power exchange), interest in power exchange, interest in pain, interest in bondage, etc, etc. For example, a person might be could be very interested in giving pain, but that doesn’t mean they care at all about being in charge, and they might or might not have any interest in bondage.

To bring that back to the idea of dominant bottoms, there’s no reason that a person couldn’t be very interested in receiving pain, very interested in receiving bondage, and have no interest at all in actually giving up any control. That might seem completely contradictory if you’re stuck on the idea that actions have any inherent meaning, but if you can let that go it makes perfect sense. If, for example, a dominant woman with a masochistic streak orders her submissive to give her a spanking where and when she wants, exactly as hard as she wants, for only as long as she wants, she is clearly the one in charge. Receiving pain doesn’t magically make you submissive if you’re telling the person giving you pain exactly what to do, and giving pain doesn’t magically make you dominant if you’re doing exactly what your dominant tells you.

As long as everyone knows what they want and can express that, everything is great! But where things get complicated is where people don’t think through what it is that they really want. To use an example terribly common in the female dom community, if a dominant man with a fetish for bondage and pain play assumes that means he’s submissive, he’s going to irritate the shit out of every dominant woman he tries to order around and will probably end up lonely and frustrated because he can’t seem to find a “real” dominant woman. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad person (although I do sincerely want to smack that guy upside the head and tell him to be honest about what he wants already), and it doesn’t mean that the doms who get fed up and dump him are bad people either, it just means that a lack of self awareness makes it really difficult to find good relationships.

To complicate things even more, it’s totally normal for even really submissive people to want to act out their fantasies just the way those fantasies have gone in their heads. I mean, would you go into a scene thinking “Oh, you know that thing I think about all the time? Let’s do a scene where we don’t do any of that!” I know I wouldn’t. Having a bit of a fixation on acting out a certain scene in just the right way doesn’t mean the person who wants to bottom to that scene can’t possibly be submissive, but it does mean they’re going to have to work harder to convince me they really are interested in my needs too.

If you’re a dominant bottom, great! Good on you for figuring out what you want and looking for people who are compatible with you. I might even be willing to service top you if we have compatible kinks and you can make it through a whole scene without trying to order me around. However, that only works if you know what you want. If you’re a dominant bottom who doesn’t know it or won’t admit it, well, it’s going to suck to be you until you figure your shit out. Best of luck with that!