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Former Dom of sub friend or foe?
January 5, 2009 8:51 PM   Subscribe

D/s filter: Should I be concerned that my sub still keeps close contact with her former Dom?

I'm a newbie-ish Dom (mid-30s male) with a couple of short-lived D/s relationships under my belt, and am currently involved with a 23-year-old submissive female of 2 months. This is her first r/l relationship, but she carried on a 7-month relationship with an online Dom (50+ year-old male) when she was 18 years old. The problem is, she still chats with him on a near everyday basis, and claims that he is now a "good friend" with whom she can share her new experiences and ask for advice.

On the one hand, as I'm her current Dom, any contact with her former Dom seems unacceptable. On the other hand, if he has now become her confidante, I don't want to cut her off from perhaps her only (other) outlet for questions, doubts and fears.

Of course, I understand that *I* should be her primary source for any questions or doubts she may have, but I also want to make sure she has a third-party friend who can help her by offering an outside perspective.

Some details:

-We recently went on an overnight trip, and I took some photos of her. When I sent her the pics, she immediately showed them to her former Dom without telling me.
-They have never met face-to-face though he's asked to meet her many times since they ended their D/s relationship.
-He has made it clear to her that he would still like to have sex with her, and she has in turn made it clear that this won't happen.
-The reason why their relationship ended was that he was found out by his wife. It is unclear whether the wife is aware that they are still carrying on a "friendship".
-She has told me that if I wish for her to cut him out of her life, she would, but that this would make her very unhappy as she would lose a very good friend.

Question: Should I allow this to continue? Am I being hyper-sensitive by being worried at all? Do I have any cause to be concerned?

I have not expressed any outward concern to my sub. I am pondering my next move.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Is this a D/s relationship primarily, or a romantic one primarily? I mean, obviously, there's some of both, but which side does it lean to?

What level of submission is this? How casual are you guys regarding the openness of your relationship? What's your, well, policy on candor?
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 PM on January 5, 2009


I'm an ignoramus about the BDSM side of things, but her claims that this guy is purely a friend and confidant are absurd. While I believe that people can be friends with their exes, and with people of the opposite sex, no really productive friendship can develop when one party is so clearly hung up on the other. I'm assuming the photos you're discussing are of the sexy sort, and her showing these photos to him fly in the face of her claims that she's "making it clear" that they won't have sex.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:14 PM on January 5, 2009


"Dom" is short for "dominant", right? And "sub" is short for "submissive"? So this kinda means that like, you're in charge? Meaning your job is to order her around and tell her what to do, what you like and don't like, and so forth? So that, if the situation ever arose where she was doing something you didn't like, you, the "dom", could technically order her, the "sub", to stop doing it? And she'd have to obey? Because you're the "dom"? And she's the "sub"?
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:17 PM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


it sounds as if you guys haven't agreed on acceptable ground rules. as a new dom it is hard, some would say impossible, to know where hard lines should be. in my experiences, a sub's friends and confidantes should be other subs. other dom contact should pretty much always be suggested, approved, and usually supervised by you. this really all depends on how 24/7 your relationship is, but i couldn't imagine any dom using the terms you use and being ok with the emotional affair she's carrying on.

futhermore - She has told me that if I wish for her to cut him out of her life, she would, but that this would make her very unhappy as she would lose a very good friend.


this reeks of classic submissive manipulation. some subs, especially 23 year old online only subs, like to dom from the top - using their words to make you feel guilty. these types also tend to keep others in the wings. like a naughty mouse in a cage, she'll press your lever if yours is the cheese she's looking for, but if she wants a new flavor or smell, she has plenty of other levers that will give her satisfaction.

it would seem that it's time to have a real heart to heart about what each of you are looking for and if the other provides it. dom/sub relationships are about more than power exchange and pain. finding someone who wants to be hit/likes to hit - that's the easy part. finding someone who understands your heart, like for all humans, that's the hard part.
posted by nadawi at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


gah! dom from the BOTTOM not the top.
posted by nadawi at 9:25 PM on January 5, 2009


also - have you talked to him? have you guys discussed acceptable limits on their friendship? did you express to her your disappointment with her showing those pictures to any third party, especially an ex who wants to fuck her? i'm sure many mefites will come in with suggestions of books to read - but at the root of it - does this seem like the relationship boundaries you signed up for? subs like to test their limits, much like toddlers and teenagers, they are either looking for correction or looking for a guilt free place to run free and be stroked and pet for their misbehavior. which kind of dom do you want to be?
posted by nadawi at 9:30 PM on January 5, 2009


I think you nailed it with the third-party friend part. Since you posted anonymously, you're apparently not out, so I assume that she isn't either. It's really nice to be able to talk to someone outside of a relationship, and since she can't do it with her vanilla friends, she has to reach out to kinksters.

Daily seems a bit much, so you could establish guidelines, but I wouldn't cut it off entirely. Being a newbie sub is scary. As she gets more comfortable with you, she'll have fewer questions to ask him anyway.
posted by hwyengr at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2009


Place limits on how often she can contact him, and tell her you want to see anything she sends him first.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:53 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, I sure wouldn't be ok with this. Stripping out all the d/s stuff, how ok would you be with your lover being in daily contact with her ex -- and not just her ex, but an ex who openly wants to get back in her pants? Or to come at it the other direction, stripping out all the lovey-dovey stuff, why are you as a supposed dominant ok with having the nominal submissive be totally in charge?

Either way, this doesn't pass the sniff test, to me. But I'm not you, and I don't know either what the boundaries of your relationship are, or where you are hoping to go with this.

A lot hinges on the question Klang asked above -- is this a total "play" relationship, where you meet up for d/s sessions and then go on with your real lives? Or is this a relationship-relationship, with d/s as a major theme within it? If it's a play-only relationship, I'm not sure how fully you can expect it to carry over into the rest of her life, just out of fairness. Whereas if you are doing the 24/7 d/s thing, and there is some level of commitment, then what she is doing would seem to be in tension with that.

You need to be talking to her about this, not us, and definitely not the other dude. (Even in a heavy-duty slave situation, where you guys have decided that she is your "property," she's given that to you, not to the online guy, and he has zero voice in the matter whatsoever.) A serious choice here, that will probably set the tone for the rest of your relationship together, is going to be your decision of whether to have this discussion in character (that is, with your dominant hat on) or out of character (that is, finding neutral ground to discuss this with her, not as your submissive). There's not some abstract right answer to this question -- some people will need the first, and some the second.

Finally, I think that there is a really clearly articulated version of d/s that gets presented online (and that shows up in its purest forms with the people who find and enjoy online d/s relationships) that has very little to do with the complications and nuances of power dynamics in the real world. If that's where much of your knowledge of d/s relationships comes from (rather than a more hands-on learning experience, as it were), I can understand your confusion here. Online d/s stuff is super, super codified -- note the care with capitalization, for example -- and with a heavy emphasis on the "play" side of things. And if those things work for you in real life, more power to you.

My experience has been, however, that it's way more complicated than the online experts would suggest, and that the real power exchanges are found far, far from safewords, play sessions, and attention to labels. Again, though, the importance is that what you are doing works for you, not that anyone here gives a thumbs up or down on it. It's totally kosher to, for example, have a consensus here that her contact with the ex is ok, and yet for you to say, "No, I'm not ok with this, you have to either end the contact or I'm out of here." You're the one who has to live with this, not us.
posted by Forktine at 10:11 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't have a D/s problem. You have a "my girlfriend sent naked pictures of herself to another Dude" problem.
posted by 26.2 at 10:48 PM on January 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


Should I allow this to continue?
Yes, I think you should. Having friends you can talk to about d/s is invaluable, especially when you're just starting out. I disagree with the person who said that a submissive should only have submissive friends. I think getting a perspective of what it's like from the other side is just as important. Now, this friend being an ex who still wants to have sex with her is certainly less than ideal, but I think it's much preferable to having noone besides you to talk to.

Am I being hyper-sensitive by being worried at all? Do I have any cause to be concerned?
I don't know about that, but depending on the kind of relationship you have, you are possibly being hyper-sensitive for what seems to me to be the wrong reasons. If your relationship consists solely of playing together, I don't see how she interacts with her friend is your business at all. If you have a romantic relationship, I absolutely understand you being concerned, but I think that is then a separate issue from your d/s relationship - it's not a question of your "sub" talking to another "dom", it's a question of you worrying that your partner is having a relationship with another man that you're not comfortable with. In any case, it is, as previous commenters have suggested, no doubt a good idea to establish what boundaries you want to have and what's "permissable", for both of you. (Obviously, if you have some sort of 24/7 TPE relationship, disregard this, but that seems like the less likely alternative.)
posted by Signy at 4:02 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Should I allow this to continue?
What do you want to do? You need to figure that out in order to decide what action to take.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:13 AM on January 6, 2009


I think you're in a little bit of a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, you don't want your submissive to think you're just ending this interaction because of jealousy (and that is the wrong reason to end that interaction). On the other hand, out of your whole post, I only saw one thing that I would have a problem with:

We recently went on an overnight trip, and I took some photos of her. When I sent her the pics, she immediately showed them to her former Dom without telling me.

This is a red flag. But it could be pride on her part (e.g. she's happy, she wants to show her friend how happy she is), and they could have exchanged photographs frequently. I would be (gently) asking some questions of her: "How would your ex-dominant feel about you sending photos to someone he didn't know? Do you expect me to interact or intervene in your friendships? Where should I draw the line? How do you feel about the photographs?"

I think you have the right (that she gave to you) to place limits on her interaction with this individual. On the other hand, my philosophy of D/s (and maybe yours too) means that it's her right to give up (submit), and you can only make her do the things she wants to let you control.

I think some of the other answers to this question are overreaction. My own experience is as a poly switch mostly-dominant. I will say that no submissive i've ever had a relationship with in the past five or six years would think the picture-sending was OK, but a large number of them would not necessarily bother to consult me about their discussions with ex-dominants. Then again, some of them would.

Also, forktine hit it on the head with online vs other versions of D/s, and i'll add to that by saying that while however each of you feel has its own validity, I can say reliably and from experience that everyone has very different views of D/s, and I have met my share of both male and female submissive partners that had wildly differing views on what was OK and where their feelings of submission sprung from. I think as anyone would, I judge my partners based on that and I try not to bother having interactions at that level with people's views who don't match my own. (The ratio of the number of potential partners to the number of possible partners is pretty high, say 30 or 40 to 1.)

Feel free to mefimail if I can assist further.
posted by arimathea at 5:56 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, he's still her dom. If his only interaction with her is online, and he was her dom then... and she's still giving him naked pics and spilling all to him, inviting his input and critique... he's still her dom. d/s is about the mind before the body, right? Your geographical closeness to her is irrelevant in this case. Particularly if she's bought into the whole psychodrama of online d/s... where anyone can do anything and knows exactly how you feel, because you're feeling it for them.

I wouldn't tolerate this, myself, but you might feel differently. I do think that you need to figure out if you are feeling more challenged as a lover, or as her dom.

I'm trying really hard to not harsh too much on online d/s, but in my opinion, I think that either you are interested in bdsm and want to experience it in real life, or you are interested in the look and the fantasy of it and it's something you keep in chat and email and away from your actual sex life. This sounds like it's the first step towards actual d/s and away from the fantasy. You are far, far better off getting involved in your local scene and meeting other people who are interested in bdsm than you are in listening to anything this Online Dom guy says.

First off... he's an online dom. In other words, he spends all sorts of time talking to women online about bdsm and not actually being with real life women in bdsm scenarios. I doubt very seriously that this guy's knowledge of bdsm goes much beyond how to manipulate girls into giving him pics of themselves naked, and the power trip of them calling him Master. Really. He is the Master of Nothing in the truest sense of the words. You and your gf have moved into a different league just by taking steps to have a real life setup. This guy has nothing to offer either of you in that respect.

Second... you will learn lots that you need to know, from technique to local shops to repair gear, by getting your asses over to your local munch. An online dom can leave you hanging from a ceiling by your wrists forever, but a real life dom who tries that will have a trip to casualty if they do the same. You need to learn how to do this transition.

Third... you might discover that you love your gf, but you don't click with her this way. Or that you click better if you try different things that you learn about by watching it happen in real life.

Anyway, Online Dom Dude needs to really and truly be resigned to the friend bin. Tell your gf that sending him pics or discussing details of what you do together is a dealbreaker for you. If she doesn't feed him with pics and juicy fantasy details, and she only talks to him about the weather, what's on TV, and how much she loves being with you that ODD will go away of his own accord.
posted by Grrlscout at 6:04 AM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


She should submit for your approval any and all correspondence with him.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:54 AM on January 6, 2009


Seriously, I don't know a damn thing about this but it would seem that if you want to let her have an outlet but not be "topped" by her, you have to prohibit contact for some amount of time and then if she is "good" then she can talk to him again. That way, you are stil "domming" her (is that a word?) and not being jealous. Be really whimmy on this, like, allow some pictures to be sent and not others.

You could even be really cruel and make her send nude pictures of you. I don't know how far you crazy kids take this, but the punishment could be that she has to inform the wife you are still in contact.

This might be a sort of movie of the week idea of how these things are done.

Maybe allow her to contact him every other week. The key is that she has to acknowledge your domminess of her while getting her contact.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:35 AM on January 6, 2009


I think you have the right (that she gave to you) to place limits on her interaction with this individual.

We don't know anything about the rights that sub did or did not agree to temporarily give to anon.

On the one hand, as I'm her current Dom, any contact with her former Dom seems unacceptable.

What are you, 12?

Of course, I understand that *I* should be her primary source for any questions or doubts she may have

So, so false.

Look: "your" sub is a for reals person. Just because she enjoys it when you order her to do things doesn't mean she doesn't have real emotions and/or a life outside of you. It's wonderful to pretend as if that's true, but it's not.

Now, who knows what kind of relationship you have with your sub--the range of these relationships is vast and you didn't even give a hint--but you need to realize that the way you do things isn't handed down by God from above, and that other people (even your completely obedient sub) may have differing opinions on this. Why should sub think she's done anything wrong? They're just pictures, for God's sake, and presumably you guys are not very high on the prude-o-meter.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2009


follow-up from the OP
Thanks for all your advice and suggestions. Some clarification:

-The pics were not nude or even sexy in nature, but they were very posed, beautiful photos, showing her looking very beautiful.
-We are on a 3-month trial period (specified by contract), during which time we are free to see/sleep with other people. She, however, is not allowed to have sexual relations with any other doms.
-After the 3 months, we must decide whether we want to enter into a 24/7 relationship where the exchange of power will play a central role.
-She does not know anybody in the 'scene' nor does she want to. She is very shy and private, and cannot discuss this aspect of her life with just anyone. At the moment, her former dom is the only person she can talk to.
-She is the one with online experience, not me. I have never had an online sub or slave.
-She has had to be disciplined before for being manipulative, so this *is* an ongoing issue (nod to nadawi).

I understand that as her dom, ultimately it is my choice. I also want to be the best dom that I can be, and that means taking everything into account, and ultimately making the best choice for her as well as for myself. What I'm asking the community is, am I operating within reasonable bounds, or am I pushing it? (In either direction, of course, whether I decide to put my foot down and say no, or let this continue unfettered.)

Please use n00bdom@aol.com if you'd like to contact me privately. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn at 8:59 AM on January 6, 2009


-We are on a 3-month trial period (specified by contract), during which time we are free to see/sleep with other people. She, however, is not allowed to have sexual relations with any other doms.
-After the 3 months, we must decide whether we want to enter into a 24/7 relationship where the exchange of power will play a central role.


I'll be honest and say that I find this kind of codified stuff quite odd -- it's not the kink that's weird, it's the attempt to fit human relationships into a rule-bound set of practices that seems strange to me. I think it's because a contract (particularly one that would get laughed out of court) seems more like play-acting to me, compared with the much more complex reality of giving and taking of control, the interplay of consent and coercion, and so on.

I'm saying all that not as a criticism (as with most things, if it floats your boat and isn't hurting kittens or children, I'm all for it), but to try and make clear how some of us are contextualizing your dilemma as an outcome of your attempt at codification -- by seeking clarity, you are running directly up against these sorts of contradictions, and you aren't going to resolve them with contracts or by looking for an outside arbiter of who is right.

-She does not know anybody in the 'scene' nor does she want to. She is very shy and private, and cannot discuss this aspect of her life with just anyone. At the moment, her former dom is the only person she can talk to.

No. That's not "just the way she is"; that's a deliberate choice that she is using to manipulate you in this situation. Sure, she doesn't have to comfortable talking about her sexuality and her relationship with random people at a bdsm get together, any more than I would be. But neither is talking with her ex her only option for getting an outside opinion. It is, however, her only option for an outside voice that also gets her flirting, validation, and successfully removes your control. (Perhaps the deeper question for you here is why she is being so careful to make sure you don't have control -- are you guys really looking for the same thing here?)

She, however, is not allowed to have sexual relations with any other doms.

And here's the crux of your situation. If you see her relationship with this guy as sexual (which I think it pretty transparently is, but ymmv), then it is verboten according to the rules by which she wants to play, and you guys need to talk about this. If it's not sexual, and there is clearly no d/s subtext in her communications with him, then it's ok by these same rules, and you either need to respect that or renegotiate those rules.
posted by Forktine at 9:25 AM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


With the exception of Forktine (?? I'm guessing here), it doesn't read like anyone posting in this thread is actually a dominant. So, I am actually a dominant (albeit female), and I am married to my submissive. And this:
"Dom" is short for "dominant", right? And "sub" is short for "submissive"? So this kinda means that like, you're in charge? Meaning your job is to order her around and tell her what to do, what you like and don't like, and so forth? So that, if the situation ever arose where she was doing something you didn't like, you, the "dom", could technically order her, the "sub", to stop doing it? And she'd have to obey? Because you're the "dom"? And she's the "sub"?
is complete and utter bullshit. She doesn't have to do anything, because she's an adult and there is no such thing as real (legal) slavery. However, her actions have consequences, and you get to decide what those are, up to and including breaking off the relationship. Brandon Blatcher hit it on the nose: what do you want? Anything we say is useless if you can't answer this. You need to be crystal clear about what you'll accept in a relationship. This doesn't preclude flexibility in certain situations (say, you require her to be available on Friday evenings, but she has to work late), but the basic rules of the relationship should be known to both of you. Define your space together in a way that is acceptable to both, and she can choose whether or not to exist in it. I've learned from experience that it's more difficult to add stricter rules down the road than it is to set them up from the start and relax them as needed.

Do you want her to stop contacting him? Tell her so, and tell her why. IMO it's inappropriate contact and it detracts from your relationship with her. (And personally, I find the fact that he's married to be an unacceptable moral issue, but your moral compass may vary.) When I first started dating my sub, I expected him to focus on our relationship so that we could decide whether or not it was right for us. Playing with others is one thing, but having emotional attachments to others makes it hard to be clear about one's feeling of submission (or dominance) to a particular person.

I don't think you can underestimate the hold that doms have over their subs, whether online or real life, and it's extremely unlikely that this feeling just went away now that they are "just friends." He is, if not actively, then passively interfering in your relationship. I don't think you're being unreasonable at all. I would encourage your sub to make new friends. Surely there are groups/events in your area that you two can attend (if you are in the midwest US, I can be specific about these). Do you have any dominant friends? It's good for a new dominant to have people with whom to discuss these things, although each relationship is different and you'll likely get a wide range of opinions in real life as well as online.

"Am I being unreasonable?" is an extremely typical issue for a new dom. Please feel free to contact me, either on mefi or at the email address on my profile.
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


it doesn't read like anyone posting in this thread is actually a dominant

My apologies about this. Upon re-read of the thread, I was obviously wrong about arimathea and possibly some others. It was an unfounded assumption. I still think turgid dahlia's answer was BS, though.
posted by desjardins at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2009


Of course, I understand that *I* should be her primary source for any questions or doubts she may have, but I also want to make sure she has a third-party friend who can help her by offering an outside perspective.

I'm not in any way versed in the BDSM world, but as a vanilla sort of person, the first half of this sentence gave me a screaming case of the heebie-jeebies. You've already stated that you're a newbie at this, and she's not much better. While she should talk to you if she has questions or doubts, you sound pretty damned unqualified to be a 'source' -- half due to inexperience, and half because it would be your own actions she would be having doubts about.

Of course you would be pretty much okay with whatever it was she was asking about, or you wouldn't have done it in the first place. How would sounding this stuff off of you help her at all? You've already theoretically got the power in the relationship, and if she's cut off from other sources of information on whether you're abusing that power, she'll be in a bad spot -- not that I'm suggesting you are or will be, necessarily, but frankly, I don't know you that well, and I'm guessing that neither does she.

I feel like she absolutely should have outside support -- whether from this person (seems like a poor choice, given the various dynamics in play) or from other people who share in these practices. I think you recognize that -- but you still think you should be her primary source of information, and maybe that's part of the BDSM dynamic, I don't know, but it really seems scary and dangerous to me.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:31 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, I have to say that if you have the stones to post a question like this on AskMefi, even anonymously, that you more than have what it takes to go to a local club, meetup, munch, whatever they call it where you are. Your gf might be shy, but you're going to a meetup that has a kind of discretion filter built in. They aren't going to grab you and tattoo "pervert" on your forehead, are they? (not at the first meeting, at least :D) Most munches are meet and greets, in public yet discreet places, with the only rule being that you show up in street clothing.

It couldn't hurt for you to have a healthy dose of real life interaction and seeing other couples similar to your own. Seriously. What do you have to lose? Especially when you consider what you have to gain?

You've already had some terrific advice here. I wanted to just emphasise that this trial period you've agreed to is not a judgment on you as a dom. It's time for both of you to explore what you want and to see how you click together. She has only had experience submitting to a guy on the other end of a webcam or email. Not the same as real life submission.

If she was my sub, I'd say she was doing this deliberately to provoke some sort of discipline. It's the whole "look, see, what I've done!" bit of it. I think she's enjoying teasing this other dom, and in putting you slightly off balance. I wonder if she's waiting to see what happens when you right yourself and take control of the situation? Subs can smell ways to push buttons to get what they want. I've never encountered one that wasn't a bit manipulative. They can't ask you for what they want, because it's too much like them running the show? Or maybe it's my own karma, I don't know. Maybe you might need to tune in to her a bit more and see if that's where she's headed?

But yeah, you're well within your rights to tell her to not contact this guy during your trial period, at least.
posted by Grrlscout at 2:17 AM on January 7, 2009


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