Kink is complicated
May 28, 2014 1:02 PM   Subscribe

My partner accepts 90% of my, as Dan Savage puts it, "a fetish-too-far", which is pretty great, considering. We have discussed it at length, she'll never come the last 10%, and I understand that. Two issues, though...

1) I do feel somewhat in mourning that we'll never get to play out the full fantasy. Ever.  And 2) She's convinced that I'm going to leave her within 10 years because of this unscratched itch. 

How do I best deal with #1 to avoid #2. I do not want this to break us up, ever. Is this something you can discuss with a therapist without freaking them out?

Other pertinant details, we have a 24/7 D/s relationship going on 6 years, and everything else is pretty great. We hit about 100% right vanilla-side. 

Visiting a pro is probably not a great idea because of Issues. 
posted by hwyengr to Human Relations (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Visiting a pro is probably not a great idea because of Issues.

If we don't know what the kink is, or why meeting your need outside the relationship isn't an option, then it's sort of hard to answer this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

Is this something you can discuss with a therapist without freaking them out?

Depends on the therapist, really. I don't know where you live but googling "kink friendly therapist" should put you on the right track - I can't do it for you what with I'm at work.

As far as how to deal with it - I guess I'd need more information. Particularly: Is this something that comes up a lot? Do you fight over this? If so, how frequently?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2014

Through the MeFi Mag, I met Dr. Susan Block (we ran an article on her looking for a live-in copy editor), who can at least point you toward some other resources — I don't know how good a therapist she is, personally. But she's in LA and is even more sex-positive than Savage. If you reach out to her and she's no help, let me know. I'm still casual acquaintances with Nina Hartley and Ernest Green, who have extensive experience in healthy kink (including d/s) stuff, and also a fantastic network of people to recommend.
posted by klangklangston at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe get some perspective? Most people don't get 100% of what they want. You deal with it by distracting yourself and by reminding yourself of what you do have, which seems to make you insanely lucky.

Not trying to be rude. It's just that acceptance is largely a matter of dwelling on what you have instead of on what you don't have.

And less time in communities that focus on things like fulfilling fantasies...I mean, there are endless fantasies and no one is entitled to be satisfied in all of them. Like, I would love to be a billionaire, but what will obsessing over it do for me?
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:31 PM on May 28, 2014 [68 favorites]

You may wanna have the mods anonymize this so you can post more info, because as is, this is VERY hard to answer - there are many different options and opinions depending on the kink in question, and depending on that the Issues regarding professionals may be.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:34 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

To be more specific, the kind of people who do D/s in a lifestyle way tend to highly prioritize seeking personal sexual fulfillment. Which is fine. The thing is that a lot of these people all together can create a sort of echo chamber. I've experienced communities where you can tell people that you're not able to get your girlfriend to do a multi-day bondage/cuckold scene, and they'll respond by saying "oh no! What are you going to do???!!!" instead of "dude, you are so lucky that you can talk to her about that stuff without her freaking out" which is the attitude that will help you accept this and move on.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:54 PM on May 28, 2014 [55 favorites]

Is this the kind of kink you can work out in text (e.g. writing short stories/novels/plays) or via some other artistic venue? Many people deal with unattainable kinks via art.
posted by skye.dancer at 2:03 PM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding working out the kink, if possible, via another artistic venue. For example, many of my friends engage in online role-playing or illustration. This (illustration) is how I deal with some of the kinks in my head that are simply: a) not plausible in real life for whatever reason b) something my partner isn't into and c) just plain ridiculous.

But I also agree that you haven't given us much to go on here. Does the kink involve bringing another person into your sex life? Does it involve venturing into playing with someone of the same-sex? Is the kink inherently unsafe or otherwise dangerous? Does it involve humiliation/degradation? Does it involve bodily fluids that most people are repelled by?

You might get more useful help with more detail here. After all, the advice you'll get for wanting to include another person in your sexytimes will be vastly different than what you'd receive for wanting your partner to wear a specific thing or behave a certain way during sexytimes.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:37 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is this something you can discuss with a therapist without freaking them out?

A professional therapist: absolutely, yes! There are shitheads and wankers out there, as in every profession.

A good way to filter for those most likely to help you is to search for therapists who mention "sexual relationships" or "sexuality" as an issue they speciailize in.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2014

I tried to avoid discussion of the kink so as not to let that get off on a tangent. It's not illegal or dangerous, but she's not being unreasonable for not being interested.

Seeing a pro domme isn't a viable option, mostly because I don't trust myself. I worry that I might in fact stray from an otherwise healthy relationship over a single aspect, after getting a taste.
posted by hwyengr at 3:19 PM on May 28, 2014

This is perhaps going to sound crazy, but it's about virtue formation and learning contentment as one of those virtues. As others have noted, cultivating an attitude of intense gratefulness over good things we do have can go a long way towards learning contentment.

We live in a time in which desires tend to be viewed as properly basic, or simply are, and as such are not always considered subject to crituqie. Considering that it might be good to sometimes have unmet desires is an okay thing. For one reason (and perhaps the least of them), it's statistically unlikely to find a life scenario in which they are all met, and as such, we would be dooming everyone to a life of discontent if we argue otherwise. But there are in fact plenty of happy people who don't get all of their desires met, so there must be something to this. A life project for most people is figuring out how to actualize that kind of reality.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:07 PM on May 28, 2014 [15 favorites]

Seeing a pro domme isn't a viable option, mostly because I don't trust myself. I worry that I might in fact stray from an otherwise healthy relationship over a single aspect, after getting a taste.

This is definitely something to talk over with a therapist. Not for strategies to prevent "straying", but because this level of anxiety/fearfulness/feeling of lacking control is not necessary. The fact that you are not compulsively engaging a pretty good sign that you are able to maintain control over this aspect of your life.

The "forbidden" aspect of kinks can be part of what's fun and sexy about them, but it can also be a source of shame and anxiety for a lot of people.

(The Kink-Aware Professionals database may help you get in touch with someone.)
posted by kagredon at 4:09 PM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, then, she's right to be worried. And honestly, I have a hard time not feeling angry at you for being willing to trade your relationship for this specific act. I know you're trying to avoid that, which is smart, but when I think about how your girlfriend must feel about this I really feel awful for her. She has this cloud hanging over her simply because she's not willing to do one specific sexual thing with you, something that you presumably can have a great sex life without. It just feels like such a devaluation of what you say is a wonderful relationship. That's why I mention getting some perspective. Surely what you've built with this person is not worth ruining over this, so why are you telling yourself that it's a big deal?

Again, this runs to the idea that fantasies are a Really Big Deal. But they're not. Your individual sexual fantasies being fulfilled to the letter just aren't that important when compared to your (sexually compatible) girlfriend's peace of mind. You're not entitled to get every single sexual fantasy. I think part of you knows this, and again, it's good that you're trying to move on from this, so I'm not trying to be too harsh, but I have to be plain. There's no "loss" here any more than there is a "loss" that I can't get with literally everyone I want to get with. It's just life. It might be mildly disappointing and then you treat it like other mild disappointments--you move on. You get a new hobby, or watch a movie, or whatever. You move on.

I know that attitude runs counter to a prevalent ideal in kink circles, which is that everyone has the right to pursue sexual fulfillment via their kinks/fetishes, and that not pursuing one's kinks is akin to suppressing one's homosexuality. This ideal-by-analogy makes some sense when applied to literal fetishes* and similar. This idea--that one's sexual preferences are inherent and that they must be expressed for a full and honest life--becomes more and more damaging when one gets further and further away from your core sexual needs, and into these kinds of less important fantasies/preferences.

Let me give you an example. It would be reasonable to leave an otherwise happy marriage because your husband won't tie you up and you haven't had decent sex ever as a result. That tradeoff makes a lot of sense. Conversely, it makes no sense to leave an otherwise happy and sexually fulfilling marriage because your husband won't spend every weekend treating you like you're a horse and scooping your poop, and would rather roleplay for a few hours instead. Obviously, those examples are extremes, but you seem to be approaching the far extreme here.

On a more personal note, I have seen so many submissive guys ruin relationships with their feelings of sexual entitlement. They make it clear that their girlfriend is falling short when it comes to fulfilling all their fantasies, and they fail to hide their subsequent anger/frustration/disappointment. Most dominant woman complain amongst ourselves about this serious sense of entitlement and how unsexy, unattractive, and frankly, downright unfair it is from someone who also wants us to "dominate" them.

So with that covered, I ask you, why does this even come up, either mentally or in conversations? Do you read/watch a lot of porn featuring it? If so, stop. Do you talk to a lot of other people who are into it? If so, stop. Pick up a book, watch a video, turn on your PS3. Distraction will work wonders. Conversely, indulging yourself about this will feed it.

If you absolutely can't get over this, then maybe it's a bigger deal than you thought, but I highly doubt it. I suspect instead that if you recalibrate your approach to this and actively seek to deprioritize it, you'll stop thinking about it at all unless you're reminded of it by seeing it. If not, then maybe this isn't the relationship for you. But like I said, I think it would be beyond foolish to sour an otherwise great relationship because your girlfriend is a person with limits and preferences, vs a menu from which you can order sexual dynamics/acts.

*but not all, because there are fetishes that are dangerous and/or immoral because they include non-consenting parties, etc.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2014 [57 favorites]

Also, I'm sorry if I'm preaching to the choir, but I know so many great men who have a hard time shaking this particular mindset, and it's really sad for everyone involved. I'm glad you're looking to move forward, which is great, and I wish you and your girlfriend the best of luck in your relationship.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:16 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I read the Bust Guide to the New World Order. (I think that was the book, anyway.) There was an essay called "Confusion Is Sex," written by a kinky girl who had a horrible time trying to find someone who was compatible with her kink-wise AND compatible with her outside of the sex. She described a guy who she was good with sexually but not emotionally, the guy who she was compatible with emotionally but he tried to be kinky and just didn't like it (GGG, y'all!), and the guy who was kinky in different ways from her and now she was the one trying it and not liking it. Moral of the story: everything is not going to line up for you with one person. And like the young rope-rider, I feel sad thinking that a good relationship that's 90% there can and may be ruined or tossed aside or cheated on for this 10%. I concur that you need to do your best to not pine and dwell over an extreme fantasy, which would probably not be as fulfilling as you think it would be (especially with someone who's not into it), and it's probably not THAT mindblowingly awesome that it's worth blowing everything else for.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:55 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

hwyengr: "Seeing a pro domme isn't a viable option, mostly because I don't trust myself. I worry that I might in fact stray from an otherwise healthy relationship over a single aspect, after getting a taste."

This is why #2 is an issue for your partner - you are straight up saying "I would leave over this one specific fantasy". Sure, it's a 'maybe, if X' scenario, but you're hardly inspiring confidence in your own fidelity, or ability to moderate your sexual behaviour. You can't say "I don't want this to break us up ever" if you're also saying "it would totally break us up because I'd just be wanting it all the time". You're making this some externalised controlling factor when actually you do have control.

the young rope-rider has some really good points about 'feeding' the fantasy, and about the way community can escalate these kinds of issues. And that no-one gets 100% of everything fulfilled. Focus on some generalised mindfulness and gratitude, rather than a part of a fantasy that has nothing at all to do with the relationship you say is important to you.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:46 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I probably shouldn't have mentioned professional sex workers at all, but I was trying to shape the question more as "how do you cope with an unattainable fantasy". Sex is weird, and when you fantasize about something since you were 10 years old, making it your primary masturbation thought until you've settled down with whom you expect to be your lifetime partner, it's not so easy to just let it go. It feels similar to addiction, which it probably genuinely is. And in some cases, which you have all been gracious enough to emphasize, abstention is often the treatment for addiction. But it's hard.

For the record, I absolutely do love my partner and never want the relationship to end, which is why I posted this question in the first place.
posted by hwyengr at 5:11 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some would disagree, but I do think there is such a thing as sexual addiction. In that sense, it makes sense that you would be concerned about not "acting out" on things that you feel are a very strong compulsion for you. Would you consider going to see a specialist in this area? There are many counselors who would know exactly what you would be talking about when you say that you have a strong desire sexually, and you are concerned that you don't act on them for the sake of your relationship. It sounds to me that you are in a place in which you simply need some input on how it is that we go about controlling desires, learning to sublimate them to higher order desires that we have (i.e., relationship values), and learning to live, on some level, with unrealized desires. All of those questions are healthy to be asking, by the way, and part of a normal progression of personal growth. You would not be the first one to grapple with them by any means. Unfortunately (as is the state of the human condition), obvious answers are not always forthcoming but we can seek the help of others who have thought deeply about these things.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:01 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're making this some externalised controlling factor when actually you do have control

Agree on this point. Take responsibility for acting; if you only react to external forces you'll feel miserable about the outcome.

Concerning what's happening: many sexual turn-ons are hot in part because they're forbidden. This is what makes self control difficult. Your desire not to pursue the thing is amplifying your desire to pursue it.

Unwinding from such a pattern is hard, complicated work. It probably won't involve removing the turn-on entirely, but it might eventually involve (say) developing a second one you're equally turned on by that is agreeable to your partner, and/or decisively letting go of wanting to enact a fantasy and allowing yourself to leave it as just a fantasy. Those are hard processes to go through though.

I'd recommend the second section of The Erotic Mind, it has some broad discussion of strategies for adjusting your relationship with "troublesome turn-ons".

Good luck.
posted by ead at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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