Craving subspace
December 22, 2010 4:06 AM   Subscribe

I've recently come to the conclusion that I need sexual submission and abandon in order to be happy. But I'm concerned about how to do this in a way that both feels authentic and is emotionally safe.

I was in a long-term relationship with an extremely abusive and sadistic older man throughout my teenage years. He damaged me emotionally in a lot of ways, and I'm still recovering from them. However, we had an amazing sex life. You know how they say that the sex is the first thing to go? Well, this was not true for us at all. Even when it was at its worst, when I was crying almost constantly, having panic attacks, and contemplating suicide daily -- the sex was still great.

Even though I hate him in many ways, and haven't seen him in years (and will never see him again), I still fantasize about him. Even after a lot of other relationships, he's still the best I ever had. He would create these long story lines about me submitting to him, involving deprivation and expressions of submission, and build it into an almost hypnotic tale that made every day full of excitement. And I loved the physical aspect on its own, the rough sex, being dominated.

I've been non-exlcusively dating someone long-distance, who pushes these buttons in me. We have lots of interests (and a social circle) in common and like each other a lot. The sex is really good, in the way it was with my ex... but the thing is, he's very self-centered and kind of a bastard. I'm stronger than I was when I was with my ex, and he's not as violent and sadistic -- but still, he's manipulative, extremely selfish, and demanding. (Examples: he would demand that I change my schedule to see him and then cancel on me, respond to my emotional concerns by calling me neurotic, not ask about my life at all, etc.) We've talked about it somewhat, and he's admitted it's a problem that he'd like to work on (something my ex would never do). He acknowledges issues he has with his mother, anger at women, etc.

But it's still a big unnecessary hassle compared to having sex with a more emotionally mature and sensitive person (which I've done, and enjoyed -- but don't crave like I crave this).

So why don't I drop him? Basically, because I want what he's got. I really need that feeling I get when I have sex with him. So now I'm trying to find other ways of getting that feeling that don't make me so anxious and afraid. I don't trust him, I fear he will retaliate vengefully if he ever gets mad at me, and I don't like feeling so out of control with him.

Things I've tried:

I've been to a few BDSM meetings and they don't really do it for me. The thing is, I really loved my ex. I admired his strength and forthrightness, his uncompromising ability to stand up for himself -- and he was smart, read widely, and was very interesting. I'm not 100% sure why BDSM doesn't work for me, but part of it is that a) I don't like the costumes (latex, etc.) and explicit roleplays (yes, master, etc.). b) I don't like the tools and technical aspects (I don't care about the intricacies of knot tying and don't want to be tied up) c) and I want more intimacy. In other words, I want it to be "real". It's only satisfying if it's real -- at least to some degree. It's real when it's with this new guy. It sucks in a lot of ways, but it's real.

Porn is okay -- and I enjoy a lot of it -- but what happens is that I get close to someone who is sexually dominant, like my ex, and I just melt. I want to do whatever they want me to do, I feel closer to them than I actually am, and I let them treat me like crap.

I had a crappy childhood and etc. etc. but this doesn't feel like something I can "grow out of". At some level, it may just be something I need. I want to "use" responsibly.

I don't necessarily need a long-term relationship, am not looking for marriage, no kids, etc. I can focus on finding a healthful solution to this problem. I'm in therapy and working on other issues, but would like a mefi perspective.

My questions:
Have you felt something similar? What did you do?
What is this called?
What should I do?

Above all: How can I get what I need safely?
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

I will read that post in a moment, but let me recommend the People from Metafilter on FetLife group to you. You don't have to post nearly anything in your profile there to sign up and what you do post can be fake, but many of the people who give excellent advice on this topic on AskMe hand out there.

Good luck!
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:12 AM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You're basically looking for the love of your life, plus kink. I don't think there's an easy solution for that. It's hard enough to find the love of your life.

It's possible that when you find the love of your life, the kink will happen to be there. It's possible you will find someone who wants you to submit to them but will treasure you and your submission. It's also possible that you can have an equal relationship out of bed that gets submissive and kinky in bed.

I'm not sure you'll find it in the BDSM community, necessarily. There's a fairly high geek factor in any ad hoc community like that. You're not looking for a bondage geek, I think. The person you're looking for probably doesn't go to clubs or munches. (He might read People from Metafilter on Fetlife, though.) I'm not sure your best bet isn't to just look for love, and someone who fits your ideal of a human being, and either hope the kink is there, or try to seduce that person into being kinky with you.
posted by musofire at 4:20 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ok, just read your post. First of all let me congratulate you on the clarity and expressiveness with which you answer this question. It is so incredibly difficult to talk about this stuff for so many people.. The fact that you are so clear and know so much about what you want sets you well on the path to getting it.

There are so many people on the same page as you - they're everywhere in every kink community - but in many places there is more outward focus on the formal skills of kink, be they physical or behavioural, because that stuff is easier to talk about. What you're talking about only comes forward when you get to know people better.

So I would recommend continuing to be involved in your local kink community. Eventually you will find someone who clicks.

More importantly you'll get the opportunity to make friends with people in the community, so if you do meet someone you will have common friends that can tell you if someone is a nut case. When you do get into a relationship you will have friends with whom you can talk frankly about all aspects of your relationship without them thinking you're nuts.

Good luck, I'm excited for you!
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:34 AM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your help! I guess I should also ask about what I should do with this particular guy. I'm supposed to travel to his area to see him in a week, and I'm really ambivalent. I want to have sex with him, but I'm afraid I'll tell him personal things about me that he'll later gossip about, or that I'll let him manipulate me into changing my plans. I don't know if I can maintain my boundaries with him, and if it's even worth it to try.
posted by 3491again at 4:38 AM on December 22, 2010

Oh you should obviously drop mr shitty dom, dude.

1) He's manipulative and inconsistent
2) He's untrustworthy
3) He's an asshole

You want to replicate the good bits of the early relationship you had, not the bad ones.

There are huge numbers of people out there who are dominant through and through but aren't assholes. Many of them, however, may already be in relationships. Many of them are polyamorous, though.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:45 AM on December 22, 2010 [10 favorites]

OK I can't really address the main topic of your question but you asked also for advice on the guy you're dating. And from your description he sounds really cruel and unkind. Maybe when compared to your first boyfriend he's a real prince, but I cringe when reading how he treats you. I do believe that there are men out there who can fulfill your sexual needs without being abusive to you at the same time. You may crave that submission in the bedroom but I still think you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. No matter what you've been through, you're a worthy human being and should be treated as such.

Please take care of yourself ... all of yourself. Don't go see him next week. There are tons of guys who would love to have sex with you and explore all your desires, while still being loving and decent to you. You've survived a lot .. you're strong and you deserve all the best. Keep looking for it.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:49 AM on December 22, 2010

You can get the dominant aspects of the sexual part and the respect and love of a healthy relationship, at the same time. Just because assholes in general are assholes in bed, it doesn't mean that is the only way. Use your history as a learning experience, and think about your long term happiness. Everybody needs love.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:55 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm going to weigh in despite not having relevant personal experience regarding your specific situation and say no, do not go to see him. Drop him. You have sexual needs, and you have emotional needs, plus you are in an "at-risk" category due to earlier abuse, and need to guard yourself against particular harm related to this. This man satisfies (and only to some degree) only one of those essential aspects while imperiling the others.

I agree with Grace and others that you should at least check out the intelligent/evolved fet scene, even if only to make friends at this point and get advice and a network that understands all these needs.

Good luck! Don't see him!
posted by taz at 4:58 AM on December 22, 2010

I don't know if I can maintain my boundaries with him,

Don't go. If you don't think you can keep boundaries and you don't trust him enough to keep them himself, then don't go. You deserve better than that. (And even if you don't always believe that, act as if you do.)
posted by rtha at 5:46 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh you should obviously drop mr shitty dom, dude....

You want to replicate the good bits of the early relationship you had, not the bad ones.

If you listen to nothing else here, please listen to this. This guy is a worthless turd. He sounds immature, borderline (or more than borderline) abusive, and just not worth the time it takes to type about him. Dump him like there's no tomorrow.

It's 100% absolutely possible to have a good, loving, supportive, and equitable relationship that provides all the kinky and rough sex you want. Those things are not at odds, and there's no reason to date a nasty person to get it.

Like you, I've found the (very few) specifically bdsm events I've been to pretty unengaging. Paraphernalia is boring; intimacy and trust are hot. So while I think there would be a lot of value for you in finding a community of people like yourself (smart, submissive, etc), that might come online or in real life, and probably won't come in the form of bdsm workshops and seminars.

Also, a lot of non-bdsm people, who would never in a million years self-identify as kinky, can be crazy kinky in the bedroom. It's not an aspect of themselves that they might have had the opportunity to explore or even knew existed, but an awful lot of us are wired that way. (I mean, look at sales figures for The Story of O, or how many romance novels center on dirty, controlling sex -- this is stuff people like to think about.)

tl;dr: Dump the current dude, look for twue luv with a kinky edge, and remember that there is no contradiction between being submissive and being able to stand up for yourself.
posted by Forktine at 5:54 AM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think that the “authentic” experience you’re looking for is not going to come in an emotionally safe package. Yes, there are really nice, wonderful people who play kinky games, but they are playing games, which are by their nature NOT authentic. Men and women who desire and are able to continue being “dominant” once the orgasms are over have controlling personalities and, if they are not blatantly abusive, they are at the very least selfish and non-supportive. There may be an exception out there. I doubt it, but if so, the chances that you’re going to luck upon that person and they’re going to HAPPEN to be into it exactly the same way you are (no outfits, no “yes, master” stuff) and HAPPEN to be single and HAPPEN to be attractive to you and HAPPEN to be interested in you are very, very slim.

So, accept that you’re going to have to settle for a fun but possibly “inauthentic” experience with a nice guy who will respect and care for you too much to make the experience as “authentic” as you might like, which also means accepting that just because you REALLY want something doesn’t mean it’s good for you. See heroin, donuts, etc. Sex is important, but if you really think that you can’t be happy at all without a very specific kind of sex life, you might need to seriously reconsider your priorities.

Yes, I know this is a minority opinion, and I’ll probably get flamed to death for it. I couldn’t care less. If it talks like a controlling, abusive asshole and walks like a controlling abusive asshole, well, you get the picture. Decent men aren’t going to be able to treat you the way you want to be treated. Life’s a bitch sometimes.

So, to answer your questions, I have felt exactly as you feel right now. I did everything I could to find what I wanted, realised it didn't exist and that the dogma around the "scene" was about 78% bullshit justification for selfish behaviour and that I was hurting myself, and then I put sex way, way down on my list of priorities while I sorted out the rest of my life. I still like things a little rough, I guess, but that's perfectly normal, and the idea of the uber-dominant partner that I thought I HAD to have a few years ago is absolutely laughable to me now.
posted by Wroksie at 6:02 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Disclaimer for employers, etc.: I'm not in this scene, but have lots of friends who are and have talked about these topics with lots of people.)

I keep coming back to your use of the word "real." It sounds like a lot of what makes the hot sex part of this "real" for you is the presence of the (your word) abusive behavior in other parts of the relationship. And yeah, manipulation and dismissal of your partner's needs sort of fall on the spectrum of abusive behaviors. The fact that you call the guy a total bastard is telling.

And that's problematic, because there are actually healthy and non-abusive people who do this; "dominant" need not equal "rude asshole." The problem then becomes, "How do I make this seem 'real' without dating cockbags?" And that may be an intractable problem unless you can alter the way you think about these things. I once heard someone refer to dom/sub play as a "consensually-created illusion," which feels sane. It may be helpful to remember that when you're fooling around the dom/sub dynamic is authentic. Hot sex doesn't become less hot just because the guy treats you with respect and consideration in other areas of your lives!

Here's one person's advice on how you can safely get what you want:

1. You draw a distinction between what you want and BDSM. And that's understandable, because the whole "yes, master" thing can be cheesy, rubber shirts are fucking expensive and too warm to wear for more than a little while, and you don't wanna get tied up. But the things you are looking for in bed/from relationships fall squarely into the realm of BDSM play.

So, check out the local scene. Make it known that you're more into the play part of it than all the accoutrements. There are definitely people who have the same vibe. Granted, a lot of people who might be compatible won't be there, for the same reasons you've eschewed getting involved. But their friends will go to community events, and they'll help hook you up. (In other words, all the stuff Grace said previously.)

2. When you're initially talking with a potential partner, definitely have the hot sex conversations to see if you have compatible kinks and chemistry. But pay attention to all the other stuff too. Does he ask you about your bedroom interests too? What are his thoughts on aftercare? Has he had successful relationships (long-term or play-oriented)? Do the scenarios he describes sound hot to you? Does he balance a dominant bedroom vibe with a considerate nature?

3. I see that you're talking about other issues with your therapist. Consider talking about this stuff too. Most therapists are going to be aware/accepting of kink, and the person you've been working with will be able to connect these concerns with other things you're already discussing. If your therapist is judgmental of your interest in being submissive (probably not the case), you can find a specifically kink-aware therapist in any major city.

It seems like you're figuring this stuff out in a healthy way. Major props to you. I'm sure you'll find what you want.
posted by the_bone at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

How can I get what I need safely?

I feel like the people telling you to find someone who loves and respects you and treats you like an equal generally, but just not in bed, are not really reading your post, in which you say that feels inauthentic to you and you want someone who will fully dominate you in all aspects of your life. It's hard for me to escape the conclusion that you're craving the drama of an actually abusive relationship because your identity was formed by the experience of abuse (childhood and then adolescence). People who find themselves drawn to abusers have to train themselves to look for, and enjoy, something different from what they're drawn to.

I had a crappy childhood and etc. etc. but this doesn't feel like something I can "grow out of". At some level, it may just be something I need. I want to "use" responsibly.

Well, growing out of it isn't quite right -- more like working your way out of it. Developing a healthier sense of yourself, in which your safety and peace and say in your own life are worth accepting the trade-off of an inauthentic experience of sexual submission.
posted by palliser at 7:59 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone -- lots to think about. One thing to clarify is that I'm not looking for true love right now. I've decided to lower my expectations and assume that love will come in its own time.

What I'm looking for is a way to scratch this itch in a way that feels authentic without hurting myself. I guess that's a rough sex buddy who's nice to me most of the time, with whom I have good conversations out of bed.
posted by 3491again at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also, just to clarify, this guy is not in any kind of BDSM or fetish scene, and I'm not looking for a traditional master/slave relationship. I just want to scratch this itch safely.
posted by 3491again at 8:37 AM on December 22, 2010

he's manipulative, extremely selfish, and demanding


I just want to scratch this itch safely (emphasis mine)

These things don't go together. There's someone out there who can meet your needs and whom you can trust, and this guy doesn't sound like him.
posted by rtha at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2010

By The Grace of God already nailed this one to the tree perfectly, as usual, so let me just add a vote: this particular guy is definitely not good or right for you. On the other hand, everything else you describe sounds reasonable and well-grounded, in terms of your own expectations, desires and life plans.

So find what you need and be happy... with someone else.
posted by rokusan at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: Bullies should not be dom(me)s, and dom(me)s should not be bullies. This is the first rule of BDSM and of power exchange.

It sounds like you want more of a power exchange relationship than a traditional BDSM relationship. This is findable, but it's obviously more complicated because you're fishing in a narrower pool. So keep looking. Search out groups/online forums of folks who are more focused on power exchange play than on bondage, etc.

This guy you're considering now sounds like a jerk and a bully. Don't confuse power mastery with jerkiness and bullying; it's not just that it will subject you to petty bullshit, it's also that bullies aren't actually good dom(me)s, so you won't actually get what you want.

While I'm here, let me suggest that you think about your self-narrative. Right now, it seems like your self-narrative is "I had an early relationship with a cruel person and that left me with this kink" but I would suggest that you take more ownership of your kink, and pride in it. It's not a defect acquired from use, but part of your core self, yes?

So maybe reframing the narrative as "I have this kink, and that's why I got off so much on the sex in this early relationship, and now I'm looking for that kind of sex but with a partner who isn't a petty bully" will help you get what you want more easily.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

i am nursing a baby, so this is typed one-handed. plz forgive typos &c.

I know a guy who fits all your criteria. Sadistic without being cruel, dominant without being as asshole. respectful, intelligent, totally genuine.

also totally unavailable. but if there's one, there's more than one. don't let anyone treat you badly except in the ways you want. you're too precious.
posted by KathrynT at 11:07 AM on December 22, 2010

Check your mail.
posted by kataclysm at 2:57 PM on December 22, 2010

I have read your other askme questions. It seems to me that right now might be a time in your life to be seeking healing and stability, as opposed to unstable, short-term relationships. Look, it's complicated enough to negotiate all of this stuff when it comes a long-term relationship, especially with your complicated past. It seems to be that you think a short-term relationship will be easier. But in your particular situation I don't think it will be. Finding someone who will totally dominate you who you can emotionally trust, but have no relationship with (or a non-exclusive one), and will end up being a positive for your mental health? May be possible in theory, but man, that is some pretty damn expert-level relationshipping, difficult even for someone very saavy and in a good emotional place to obtain.
posted by yarly at 6:41 PM on December 23, 2010

« Older Scan of Designers in Playboy July 1961   |   Is there a how to manual for self-hosted Wordpress... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.