How can I learn to be more dominant in bed?
March 20, 2010 1:00 PM   Subscribe

How can I learn to be more dominant in bed? (NSFW)

Mid-20's male here, in a long-term relationship with a mid-20s female. We've been dating for a year, and while I find our sex life satisfying, I constantly worry that she doesn't. She's unable to orgasm when she's not by herself, and she's uncomfortable talking in a specific way about sex - what turns her on, her fantasies, etc, and she's made it clear to me that she's been this way in all of her past relationships. Recently, however, I stumbled upon some things on our computer (actually accidentally - not in a "I was innocuously reading her email" kind of way) that have revealed that her fantasies have a pretty significant submissive bent, and that she would probably prefer me to much more dominant/rough in bed. This makes me slightly uncomfortable, especially because some of her early sexual experiences were nonconsensual - though I know it's ridiculous, and that such fantasies are normal and perfectly healthy, I worry that the two are related, or that I'd be feeding into something that really is unhealthy.

It's not that I feel generally uncomfortable being sexually dominant - but most of my past relationships were with women FAR more sexually aggressive than myself, and I felt comfortable being aggressive/dominant because they were able to tell me what they wanted. In this case, because she doesn't feel comfortable frankly discussing these things, I get nervous at the prospect - the feminist in me feels douchebaggy trying something new/rough because she hasn't made it explicitly clear that it's alright.

How can I get over these hangups? Is there some kind of "how to be dominant in bed" manual out there?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I'm sure you know this, but please make sure to speak with her frankly and honestly about anything like that before you try it out in bed. This is a partial answer to every relationship-related AskMe for a reason - you need to talk it out with her. Not that you can't get pointers elsewhere - I'm sure others will drop by with great advice - but honesty and open dialogue in a sexual relationship is really the key to solving all other sexual issues.
posted by ORthey at 1:03 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can always ask her directly. You don't necessarily need to mention how you got the idea (because you found out innocently and weren't snooping), but the next time you're talking about what she likes, you should suggest that you start being somewhat more dominant in the usual ways (old Ask questions will be useful here). Hopefully she'll be interested (if inclined by personality not to spill the full extent of her interest);once she no longer has to be embarassed talking about submission period, she may be more willing to discuss specifics. I realize you're caught in a bind here between letting her be submissive and asking her to assert herself so you feel comfortable being dominant, but I think you need to take the chance.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:06 PM on March 20, 2010

"Hey honey. I know you're uncomfortable talking in detail about this, but I was thinking it might be hot if I tried being a little rougher in bed and wanted to make sure that you were comfortable with the idea."
posted by 256 at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Try one small move first. Check out the reaction. Test things. Don't let your insecurity, normal as it is, to push you into doing what you think she would like.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:18 PM on March 20, 2010

Try switching. Tell her you want to be rough with her compliant and the later in the week, or whenever, reverse things to see a whole larger perspective and what may be delightful for both of us...and then we can see what we ought to do beyond that, who will be doing what, based in part on what we discover in our explorations.
posted by Postroad at 1:24 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

God, please do not just 'give it a go' - small move or not. Survivors often have BDSM style fantasies that are JUST fantasies. They're a method of coping. Not to mention reading something doesn't correspond to wanting to do it. And as a survivor, my partner simply launching into something dominant would be...not good. Really not good. Not good in the sort of way that would probably mean I went along then fell apart afterwards. Your girlfriend might be different but I strongly encourage you actually asking her. Make it a game, make it sexy, make it casual, whatever works, but talk before you may launch into something that may be not good for her.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:06 PM on March 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

I kind of wish you'd given a throwaway e-mail, but here goes...

I am the proverbial lady in the bedroom. I'm not interested in even the most innocuous of "kink." However, I do like a man to be the more aggressive one, so here are some things that I like that are probably within anyone's definition of normal bounds, but can put you in the right direction and then you can gauge her receptiveness. This is in addition to trying to talk to her as other people have suggested.

I don't want to be tied up, but I do like when we're in missionary and a guy gently pins my wrists above my head.

Another good one is sex up against the wall -- pick her up while you're face to face and pin her against the wall (you might need to do some propping up of things).

This advice is dependent upon whatever her specific experiences were -- obviously don't do this if she were violently tied up or something.
posted by thebazilist at 4:14 PM on March 20, 2010

"Hey honey. I know you're uncomfortable talking in detail about this, but I was thinking it might be hot if I tried being a little rougher in bed and wanted to make sure that you were comfortable with the idea."

I like this a lot, because she can just nod or shake her head without saying a word, if she wants. Don't be all heavy and serious -- and definitely don't ask this in bed in the middle of sex.

Even if she does give you the nod to actually be more dominant (which is far from a certainty, since people's fantasies can have very little to do with what they want in real life), start very, very mild. Lightly hold her wrists, maybe, rather than break out the leather straps and chains. And only do this if you are super, super tuned into her reactions -- you want to pick up immediately that she hates having your hand on her neck, rather than waking up with your dick super-glued to your stomach as revenge.

Also, if you've been paying attention, and if you've been having sex for a while, you should already have a pretty clear idea of what works and what doesn't. Does she welcome and invite sexual positions and actions that put her in a more submissive position? Or is she really neutral about that, or even the reverse, preferring to have sex in ways that emphasize her freedom and control?
posted by Forktine at 4:23 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some thoughts from a switch (meaning I am sometimes dominant, sometimes submissive) who has some really traumatic shit in my past:

1) BDSM-style sex can trigger bad, bad mental things. Then again, so can regular sex. BDSM stuff tends to ride that edge a lot more.

2) Even if everyone knows what's up and you're being conservative, bad things can still happen. One time I ended up sub-verbal due to a really mild D/s restraint (the equivalent of, say, holding someone's hands down). I did not see that coming. Problem is that it really freaked me out and I became so terrified of my partner that I was unable to communicate for a while. There are no guaranteed "safe" activities.

3) So...don't spring anything on her. This might just be a fantasy. Or she might want it but decided it's not worth the trouble it could cause. Or you might pick an activity that she hates but it just happens to be in the porn that she likes.

4) If you both decide that you should get your bossy on, set a timer for 5 minutes, try it out, then talk about how it went. Short is better. You can always do more. Err on the side of being nicer and gentler than you think you should be.

5) Maybe I am acting out my weird daddy issues, maybe not; either way, it's not my partner's fault and (s)he doesn't have to feel bad about it as long as (s)he is acting ethically and kindly. Nor do I feel the need to squelch my sexual expression just because I was hurt in the past. Maybe that's how she feels, maybe not! It's my opinion that you should LISTEN to how she feels and what she wants and make that the priority over what you (or I) think she should want.

6) I find it easier to communicate things that seem embarrassing or shameful when I'm not looking at the person and I'm physically close to them and feeling very held and safe. I also find it the best time to talk to partners about the things they want and feelings they're uncomfortable expressing. Might work better than sitting her down across from you at the kitchen table. Of course, everyone is different!

7) Feel free to memail me at any time if you have questions or just want to talk.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:25 PM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Is there some kind of "how to be dominant in bed" manual out there?

Why yes, there is.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:04 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of people (myself included, fwiw, I'm not just speculating) like to read/see stuff that is really not something we want to actually DO in real life. There are scenarios that for whatever reason turn your crank to read about or so or fantasize about, and BSDM falls into this category a lot.

But there's no need for you to try to be aggressive if you're not into it or just to try to make her happy based on an assumption. If you think maybe she's trying to tell you something, maybe consider being a little more assertive. There's a lot to be said for your partner taking the lead. It doesn't necessarily scan to "I want to be the submissive party," It's hot to see the super-duper-nice awesome boyfriend be more forthright as an indication of just being REALLY aroused.

The problem here is that you don't feel like you're satisfying her sexually. The solution is to find some way that she can tell you want she might want.
posted by desuetude at 8:22 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can absolutely learn to be more dominant in bed. Practice, I think, is the best way... specifically, practice with the person you want to dominate. You can always pick up ideas from books & websites... but ultimately, I think that doing it is the only way to really get good at it. It's almost like performance art... and it takes practice to get comfortable.

That said, I really think that first, you should learn more about how to be a supportive partner to someone with a traumatic past.

I had zero trauma in my childhood. And I have zero problem indicating to my partner what it is that I want, in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. If that's not there, I worry that she might not be ready (especially after reading upthread).

If there weren't any issues in her past, then my advice would be:

Try asking her if there is any erotic fiction she wants you to read. Tell her you want to know her better, and you want to please her. See if she responds at all. There is a wide variety of styles in the bdsm genre, ranging from the very mild, hands-on-her-wrists while you kiss her gently, up to the more hardcore stuff. If there's anything she can point you to that turns her on, that would give you a clue on the types of things you might start with.

BUT... there IS trauma in her past. Be careful. You might want to read up on survivors of sexual abuse, and maybe see a therapist, counselor, or some other kind of professional first.
posted by eleyna at 8:58 PM on March 20, 2010

well it sounds like she has got a fair amount of embarrassment or at least doesn't feel comfortable sharing this with you yet. It's one thing to read about stuff online and have fantasies about stuff, but to actually do it brings up a lot of complications for many people. Your gf sounds like me a few years ago. I was disgusted at myself for what I wanted to do and full of internalised social stigma, and if someone had brought the topic up I would have been unlikely to react well. It might be good to encourage her to be more comfortable talking about sex in general so you can get a bit more context from her before you do anything.

As regards her past, that is quite common. You shouldn't feel uncomfortable with that a priori but it's another good reason why talking is good :)
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:36 AM on March 21, 2010

Why yes, there is.

Is there anything similar online somewhere in free access?
posted by megob at 5:37 AM on March 21, 2010

If she's had nonconsensual experiences in the past, suddenly being rougher in bed could trigger some bad things for her. Talking about it first is a must.
posted by stargazer360 at 5:58 AM on March 21, 2010

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