Please point me to resources to better understand "switching" in BDSM.
April 13, 2008 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Please point me to resources that describe the phenomenon of "switching" by some BDSM participants.

Some of the answers to this question reminded me of how I wish I better understood switching in BDSM. (For the curious: Wikipedia, one description, another.) I'm not asking, "how can anyone be that way?" or if it is "normal" -- as far as I'm concerned, if it makes you happy and no puppies are harmed, all is good. I'm curious because although I am kink-friendly and have been so for a long time, almost all of my direct experience, and most of the depictions I have seen in books/films/etc, are of people comfortable staying in one role.

The question: I am looking for descriptions of how it feels to switch between such different roles, how the dynamics of this can work within a relationship, and how these roles get negotiated. Basically, I'm asking "how does switching work, in real life?"

In addition to whatever direct descriptions get provided here, I would particularly appreciate suggestions of thoughtful and well-written blogs, articles, essays, or forums that address this issue, as well as novels and films. Gay/straight/bi/other are fine. The only literary example I can think of is the main character in the Story of O, who spends the first half of the book as a submissive and transitions later in the book into more of a dominant role; there must be others that address this in a more grounded and contemporary sort of way. A lot of what I found via Google was very jargony, very play-party oriented, very formulaic; I'm looking for more nuanced and rich descriptions that get at the contradictions, compromises, and complications of living that identity.

If you aren't comfortable replying here, you can send me a MeFi mail, or send an anonymous email to the address in my profile. (I have read the previous AskMe questions with the "bdsm" tag, which have hints to this but don't address it directly. Google searches haven't produced the exact results I am looking for, either, aside from the links I gave above -- if you are providing answers via a search, please give pointers as to how you got there.)
posted by Forktine to Human Relations (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not to encourage the purchase of porno or nuthin', but this is a regular issue dealt with by Nina Hartley in her SubSpace column, which runs in Taboo Magazine. I believe she dealt with it extensively in the May or June issues, but I don't know what's at the news stand without getting back to my desk. But her advice is always on the practical side of kink relationships, and this is a topic that comes up pretty often.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 AM on April 13, 2008


I've done this a few times. For me, it went like this :

I've been a hetero bottom for most of my life. Most of my fantasies do (and have) revolved around being dominated by a woman. I've had a couple of girlfriends who were into being dominated by a man. I found that by indulging their kink, they became more accepting of my kink.

When it came to topping, I mostly just played along at first, filling the role that she wanted me to play. But I eventually found that it was kinda fun. I can't say that I get the same gratification from being a top as I do from being a bottom, but it's fun enough to where I enjoy doing it.
posted by Jake Apathy at 11:06 AM on April 13, 2008


I could tell you what it feels like to be that way and how I handle it:

I am purely play oriented in my exploits, and have never tried a longer term D/s dynamic in a relationship, but for me I feel more well rounded if sometimes I'm in the down position and sometimes my partner is. Essentially I'm equally attracted to seeing an attractive male bound and at my mercy as I am, as a straight female, being in the same position. Constantly being in charge is very boring, and I am more attracted to a guy with a dominant streak than a strictly submissive one. I find one of my problems is that when interacting with a purely Dom male I feel compelled to 'take him down a peg or two'. Obviously I don't, as it would be unethical as a purely Dom male doesn't consent to it, but my big thing is keeping a rebellious male 'victim' in check without destroying him and inversely being checked without having my will annihilated.

Probably the core of my orientation is the huge nurturing streak. I'm the sort of person in a relationship who gives backrubs and brings breakfast in bed, either to my tied victim or Most Worthy Master, but on the other hand I also exert control via nurturing in either position. Purely sub guys are not attractive to me. I see them as vulnerable and I want to protect them, not molest them, and the same mental block that stops my sadism from harming those who aren't playing too makes a sub guy sexless. On the other hand being purely subby feels to me, impossible. I am a very ‘me’ oriented person and value my independence and personality.

In a relationship we normally say what we are in the mood for at that moment. I get frustrated if my partner gets hung up on one particular role or another for too long, but normally asking the person to switch has never been a problem. Sometimes my partner or I will initiate by doing, and it helps that because we both do rebellious and thus if we read that one party or another is not in the mood for the role they’re in, it’s easy to turn the tables.

About the only frustrating part is discovering I'm not only in the minority, but like being bisexual, people assume I'm indecisive.
posted by Phalene at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


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