How do I protect myself emotionally as a submissive?
December 20, 2014 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm a bi female in my early 30s, just out of a decade long very vanilla relationship. I live in NYC and have been exploring my submissive side. Really enjoying it. Like, alot. I have never had better sex in my life and it is amazing. I am extremely submissive and I'm having a little bit of difficultly making sure I am emotionally safe. Because of the nature of my situation, I can't really talk to my usual family or friend connections when I need to vent.

I have been dating (I think that is what you would call it), a couple (one man, one woman, both dominant) for about 3 months now. We have a good dynamic in and out of the bedroom, and I spend a good deal of time with them hanging out in non-sexual situations. They call me their girlfriend or pet. There are a few things that are starting to bother me, and I am not sure how to deal with it and/or if this is normal:

1. They live together and we play at their apartment. After we are done having sex, I go home. This is making me feel sad and lonely because they fall asleep together and do regular couple things and I'm home in my bed by myself. I'm not allowed to sleep over unless I am specifically invited, which has happened 2 times.

2. He is active on FetLife and has shared pictures of me that I wouldn't share myself. He did not ask if it was ok or even let me know. She told me yesterday after one of the pictures was getting a lot of comments. He has a profile for the three of us there to meet other couples, but all of the pictures are of me.

3. They regularly invite other couples to play. I don't get to talk to anyone before we meet. We got together with another couple last week who was fantastic and I would like to be friends with them, if only to have someone other than this couple to talk about my BDSM feelings/experiences. I am not allowed to talk to them by myself.

I guess my main concern is that I feel like they are just using me because I am attractive and up for anything, and that they are limiting my contact with other people because they are threatened that I will find someone else. I feel physically satisfied and safe with them, I just find myself feeling kind of lonely and objectified more and more. I'm wondering if I need to find a different relationship, maybe just with one person.

If you are familiar with BDSM or polyamory, are there any resources you can recommend that would help me understand my feelings? Does this sound like an unhealthy relationship? How do I ask for what I want as a submissive?

Throwaway email -
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

It sounds unhealthy... to put it mildly. Good doms make sure their subs' emotional needs are cared for, the same as in any other relationship.

"The Topping Book" and "The Bottoming Book" by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (same people who did "The Ethical Slut") are IMO required reading (both of them, regardless of what you see yourself as) for BDSM. They cover the emotional and ethical stuff as much (or more than) the physical stuff.

As for how you ask for what you want: you take them out for coffee and set some boundaries, outside of any scene context, person to person. Tell them to take down the pictures, to stop inviting people over without your permission, etc. Although quite frankly, I doubt they're going to respect you, they should never have done any of that without your permission in the first place.

There are A LOT of shitty people in the scene, unfortunately. But you can find people who aren't shitty, that are loving and caring as well as dominant. It's just a matter of careful screening.
posted by zug at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2014 [22 favorites]

Your feelings are valid. You have the right to negotiate your relationship with this couple. It is absolutely not ok that they are using your pictures without your permission as 'bait.' You should make your own profile on fet and start reading about healthy BDSM relationships. Read and learn first, play second. Good luck!
posted by Requiax at 11:49 AM on December 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yes, it sounds unhealthy. You hold the real power here and you should be very deliberate in how you negotiate access to it.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2014 [11 favorites]

Yes, make your own profile on fetlife (you don't have to post your picture if you don't want to) and use that to connect with people in your community (carefully and deliberately).

Dump the couple. I think you should get them to take down any photos of you but I don't have any specific advice on how to go about that. It's absolutely not cool for them to post photos of you without your consent.

Go to a munch. My understanding is that these are social gatherings where you can get to know other people in the BDSM scene outside of a romantic context. You can make friends who can warn you off of people who have reputations for not treating their partners well, and who can be sounding boards who can offer you advice.

If you want, look for a therapist who is sex-positive and accustomed to clients who are engaged in BDSM. That could probably be another Setting good boundaries and being up-front about your needs is (or at least can be) therapy work.
posted by bunderful at 12:01 PM on December 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a poly kinky woman and if I knew people treating their sub like this, we would no longer be friends.

You have the right to set these boundaries. You have the right to ask for what you need. If they suggest you don't, you have the right to leave and seek other partners. Single bisexual women willing to exclusively date both members of a heterosexual couple are so rare that they are jokingly referred to as "unicorns." There are other couples out there that will respect your boundaries.

It's possible they're being stupid instead of malicious, of course. Communication may clear this all up right away. Ask to talk about things as a group in a non sexual setting, and bring up your concerns. If they say you're being unreasonable, LEAVE. They are wrong. If they apologize and change their ways, hooray! Continue with the awesome sex!

It's not uncommon for submissives new to the scene to be mistreated in non-sexy, nonconsensual ways, unfortunately. I'd encourage you to reach out to your local community and make friends. Go to a munch. Find a support network. Memail me if you want, I'm nice outside of bed.
posted by a hat out of hell at 12:07 PM on December 20, 2014 [39 favorites]

This sounds very unhealthy to me. I'm poly- and kink-positive and it's not those aspects that bother me. The fact that your needs aren't being met, they're violating your privacy and not getting your consent are the parts that are making my skin crawl.

It can be difficult sometimes for a kinkster to find a kinkster who is not only into the same things, but into them in the same way that you are. That just means you need to work a little harder to find someone. You have more information now about what you want, so get out there and look for that.

Being submissive is not the same as being a doormat, much as some dom(me)s and subs think that it is*. Part of the job of the dom(me) is to ensure that the sub's needs are being met. It's OK to ask for what you want. It's not OK for your dom(me) to reject it out of hand. You might be a sub, but you're also still a person, not a sex toy. If you're not up for being treated like one, then don't let someone treat you like one.

Have a read up on Submissive Guide. The woman who runs it talks a lot of sense about the scene.

*Of course, if you want to be a doormat, that's cool. But it doesn't seem like that's the specific case here.
posted by Solomon at 12:09 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

These people are dogshit and they do not respect you. You feel like they're using you because you're attractive and up for anything; you feel this way because that is exactly what is happening. Sharing pictures of you on Fetlife without your consent is goddamned inexcusable and so is having you play with couples you don't know.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:10 PM on December 20, 2014 [15 favorites]

I sent an email, but I'll mention it publicly while I'm still formulating an actual response: There is a "People from Metafilter on Fetlife" group.
posted by HermitDog at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2014

I'm out of the scene, and have been for awhile, but this is not okay. Just because you're sub, it doesn't mean that you have no agency. In fact, you're the one with all the power.

If you like this sort of thing, but want the feeling of being protected and cherished too...find people who are willing to provide that aspect of the relationship.

At this point, I'd ask Mr. Dom to remove my pics from their profile, and then break up with them.

There are much better people out there, you can find them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

All of this strikes me as super uncool and I'm certain that you can find someone(s) who will be much more solicitous of your emotional well being (and privacy etc.). Being callous generally—if that's not something you've specifically signed on for, I guess—is crap behavior and putting pictures of you up without asking is extremely crap behavior. (Especially since fetlife has worse privacy controls, in general, than livejournal or even facebook, for christ's sake.)
posted by kenko at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2014

Are you kidding me?! Everything they are doing goes against the main tenant of BDSM - informed consent.

You did not consent to have your naked photographs on the Internet, but they posted them anyway. Major red flag. You do not get to meet and screen other partners before a scene? Major red flag.

Dump these abusive assholes ASAP. They don't even give you proper aftercare?! Fuck that. They don't deserve another second of your time.

Go to some local munches and meet kinky people in your area. Yes, you are submissive, but that does not mean that you don't get to have boundaries, limits or input. Take care of yourself, you deserve a lot better.
posted by fireandthud at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

1. They live together and we play at their apartment. After we are done having sex, I go home.

Just so you know, this is within the norm -- they need to protect the primacy of their relationship with each other, and regular sleep overs may be too intimate for them. You get to decide if this is OK or not OK with you.

2. He is active on FetLife and has shared pictures of me that I wouldn't share myself. He did not ask if it was ok or even let me know.

This is completely and totally NOT OKAY. Being sexually submissive does not mean you don't get to have boundaries, sexual or otherwise, or that it's OK but people you play with to disregard your autonomy and not seek your consent. You need to email this guy and his partner and tell them that while it may not have been clear before, it is totally not okay for this to happen and you need these photos taken down immediately.

If there is any response except immediate compliance, these are not safe people to play with and you need to pull the plug instantly.

3. They regularly invite other couples to play. I don't get to talk to anyone before we meet... I am not allowed to talk to them by myself.

If you are playing with these people in the framework of sexual submission and not lifestyle submission, if this is not okay with you than it is not OK that this happens.

Overall, I am concerned that you are asking how to protect your feelings against bad things and not asking about how to make the bad things not happen. You need to learn to have very, very firm boundaries and very firm negotiation skills or as a submissive woman, you will be taken advantage of.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:13 PM on December 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

Esp. if you're in NYC there should be lots of resources (munchwise and otherwise) that you can use.
posted by kenko at 1:31 PM on December 20, 2014

Check out Sinclair Sexsmith's The Submissive Playground. They also have a bunch of good info on their blog.

And what everyone else is saying about consent.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi. Former pro Domme here...

Fire them immediately. Playing consensually is one thing, but posting pics of you on the internet w/out your consent, letting others couples "use" you without your consent? These are all BIG no no's.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Move on. Partake of the good advice above to apply safe sane boundaries as you find play partners, or even (hopefully) true love.

(Oh, how I wish I could fire them for you. grrrr. GRRRR.)
posted by jbenben at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

Oh. I just want to say...

There's no talking to these people about what happened. Either they don't know any better, or they do not care. Either way, they've already been too irresponsible with your wellbeing to warrant a conversation.

Politely decline further relations with them and move on. Do not invite scorched earth or bad mouthing. Let it go. But don't stay friends. Protect yourself, OK?

I want to make it clear that part of their responsibility is to protect you as the submissive. They broke all trust when they posted your pics to the internet w/out consent. It sounds like they did this in a "too dumb to know better" type way, and you found out because they bragged about how "proud" they were of the attention your pics were getting.

You're lucky you found out and this did not get too far.

I'm sure they don't mean you harm, but they are waaaaaaay too irresponsible for you to trust. Ditto, you don't need to "stand up" for yourself here to prove anything. Also, you don't need to go in head trip circles with them over this as part of your submissive training, or however they think of it (stupid gits.)

Just, nope, nope, nope.

Good luck to you.
posted by jbenben at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

". He is active on FetLife and has shared pictures of me that I wouldn't share myself. He did not ask if it was ok or even let me know. She told me yesterday after one of the pictures was getting a lot of comments. He has a profile for the three of us there to meet other couples, but all of the pictures are of me."

I do not need to be part of any scene to know that this is DEFINITELY not ok or healthy in any way. What's next? For all you know they've secretely recorded you with them and shared that online too... or at least it's headed in that direction. NOT cool.
posted by rancher at 4:32 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm with jbenben. Personally I think in all sex people have a responsibility to look out for each other and be good to each other because the realm of sexual and romantic interactions carries very heavy consequences- this is especially the case with a dominant and naturally submissive person (whether in the sack or otherwise).

Abusive people believe it's on a submissively natured person to stop themselves being abused or harmed. People with integrity believe it is up to THEMSELVES to ensure they don't abuse or harm others even if they see someone vulnerable/inexperienced or struggling to assert themselves.
posted by xarnop at 4:56 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Wow. That sounds like they're doing a lot of things without negotiation, and that they're not open to negotiating on things you want. Fuck that noise.

I don't ordinarily jump on the DTMFA train, but it sounds like they're treating you badly (and not in the fun kind of way), and life is way too short to be treated badly by people like that. They're *bad* dominants and they are behaving poorly and treating you badly and I think you should kick them to the curb and find some nice top(s) who'll treat you wonderfully and will negotiate and check in with you and make sure you're emotionally safe and healthy when he/she/they treat you mean.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:18 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

In response to your numbered points:

1. You have the right to renegotiate this with them. It's not terrible for them to have this boundary, but it's not terrible for you to express your feelings about it and ask for something different, and stop seeing them if you don't like the answer. I personally think they should be a bit more generous and considerate because you're new to the scene, but this is not inherently terrible.

2. Absolutely not okay. A huge violation of your trust. This is something else to talk to them about--ask politely that they take the pictures down. Ask that in the future they not take pictures of you, or that in the future they ask and get your explicit permission for every single picture they put up. Even if they take them down, though, this is still a huge problem and terrible of them to do.

3. I could see this being okay if you were okay with it (i.e. this could be a consensually kinky thing you do together). However, since you're not okay with it, you don't have to do it, and you don't have to abide by this rule. It is completely up to you if you want to contact these people or not. It's also okay for you to say that you won't play with anyone you don't meet beforehand, and again, this is something I'd expect them to proactively ask you about to ensure your comfort.

Hope that is helpful to you.

My number one tip is that you find other people who are also submissive, who you don't have sexual interest in (and vice versa), and make friends with them before you venture out into the dating/sex scene again. These kinds of platonic connections are invaluable to someone new on the scene.

I'm sorry they're not being more considerate of you. You really do deserve better.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:34 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also: in a healthy relationship, it wouldn't be difficult for you to ask for what you want. You might feel shy or silly about it, but you'd still be able to say "hey, when you do [thing], it really makes me upset". The fact that you feel like you can't is understandable given the dynamic that seems to be going on here, but in a healthier D/s relationship you'd feel comfortable being more assertive about your desires and needs, and the person you are with would understand that they need to reassure you and listen to you with an open mind and heart.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:38 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

1: Depends on everybody involved. Communicate, communicate, communicate X100.

2: what? No. Did you explicitly agree to this? Or at least to some sort of no-refusal relationship? (Often called slavery, total power exchange, or some other indicator that they have this right) If you didn't agree to the photo posting, thats a big red flag. Possibly illegal, depending, as well, if you chose to take it in that direction. (not a lawyer)

3: could be 1, could be 2. Sounds more like 2, to me, though, unless you skimmed over a consent discussion. Again, there is TPE, consensual-nonconsent, but it really is sounding like they aren't handling it well if there was TPE or consensual-nonconsent, and incredibly poorly if yall hadn't discussed this much.

Isolating behavior is usually always a red flag. Go to a munch. research! has forums and chats. Reddit has several bdsm and or poly subreddits. fetlifes probably got some good stuff. Look up checklists of activities, safewords, safe sane and consensual, and be prepared to communicate your needs, desires and especially your limits. Responsible submission requires communication. Responsible domination requires listening to the sub and respecting those needs, requirements, and limits.
posted by Jacen at 1:58 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with zug and many subsequent commentors. You are entitled to set boundaries -- even to say no to something you agreed to in the past -- and to have your emotional needs taken care of.

If they aren't willing to do so, then I don't see how you should feel obligated not to contact the other couple (which they should agree to let you do anyway).
posted by Gelatin at 9:50 AM on December 23, 2014

In fact, on further reflection I want to emphasize how much the "I am not allowed to talk to them by myself" bit sticks in my craw. Isolating behavior is abusive behavior, and while I agree that the motivation might be that you'll gain perspective to see your current couple in a different and less favorable light, having someone else to talk about your BDSM feelings/experiences is seems so obviously beneficial to you that it's shameful that they claim you aren't allowed to.

Insist that you can speak to whomever you please. From the sound of it, if they dump you because of it, you already realize it isn't much of a loss. I wish you all the best in your explorations.
posted by Gelatin at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2014

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