SL Letter of the Day: Flirting vs. Negotiating
by Dan Savage
on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 4:37 PM
I'm a 30-year-old straight female. I recently broke up with my boyfriend because we weren't very sexually compatible (reading your column helped me reach that decision). I want to be more adventurous and explore new things with a partner who is interested in sex (I feel like my last bf wasn't interested at all).
So I've recently begun talking to this new guy, but we haven't had sex because we live so far away from each other. I like this, in fact, because I feel like I don't have to worry about doing something I'll regret. We've known each other for ages and we've been flirting pretty heavily through text message and video chat. Talks have been very sexual and exciting in nature. We've been talking about Dominant/submissive stuff a lot with me being the latter and him being the former.
Then last night he said he wanted to blindfold me. I think that sounds hot, but then he took it one step further and said that I wouldn't know who I was having sex with or who was touching me after I was blindfolded. I panicked and said I wouldn't want to be with anyone else, and he said that was the point. He said that the fact that I wouldn't want to do this was what made it hot. I sort of think that's not hot at all. In fact, it turned my stomach.
And here's why. When I was 4-5, I was molested by a 12-13-year-old girl. She would pin me down and make me do things. Then, in high school, I was held down in a public place and groped and fondled by two guys I thought were my friends. People saw me crying for help but nobody helped me. I felt so ashamed that it happened, and I felt like my other friends wouldn't believe me if I said anything, so I stayed silent. In both of these situations I felt like it was my fault—that I must have asked for it somehow. I was raised Southern Baptist and there was a whole lot of sexual oppression and shame loaded on me growing up. I think this is what leads to a lot of the sexual dysfunction I feel in relationships. I never feel like I can fully trust anyone.
So this guy saying that he wanted to force me to do something like that made me feel sick and angry with him. I feel like it would be a violation of trust. And it brought up all these old memories that I'm usually able to keep at a reasonable distance. Normally I don't feel like crying when I think of them, but the other night I actually did. And we were planning on meeting up in the near future but now I don't want to see him because I think he would actually do that to me. I feel like I can't trust him.
Am I wrong to feel like he is an asshole for saying that? Is this a thing some people actually like? I feel like he must not like me very much to want to do that to me. How do people navigate through power dynamics in D/s relationships? Is the submissive really not supposed to set limits and actually do everything the Dominant wants even if she feels like its traumatizing?
I feel like I can't even talk to him now because I just keep thinking that I can't trust him.
Swamped Under Big Sad
My response after the jump...
I can't issue an asshole ruling on this guy, SUBS, because you left out a crucial bit of info: How he reacted when you told him you weren't into being blindfolded and handed off to a third party. What did he say when you declared that particular fantasy scenario a non-starter, declared it out-of-bounds, and laid down a firm limit? If he responded with, "Sorry, but submissives don't get to set limits and real submissives do whatever the Dominant wants," then he's an asshole who doesn't know anything about safe BDSM practices and you shouldn't meet up with him.
But if you didn't tell him you weren't into that, SUBS, then he might not be an asshole.
It's relevant that you two weren't negotiating the specifics of an imminent BDSM scene, SUBS. You were flirting. It's common for Doms to flirt by "threatening" subs with all the awful things they're going to do to the subs once they have them under their control. A Dom wants to seem assertive and dangerous during a flirtation and a sub wants to seem pliant and intimidated. It's a combo that makes for a complicated, sometimes awkward dynamic when a Dom suddenly tosses something on the table that the a sub isn't interested in doing. When that happens during a D/s flirtation, SUBS, a sub might say something along the lines of, "That's not really my thing," which prompts a smart and/or good Dom to move on to other "threats."
When the flirtation is over and actual play is in the cards, SUBS, the Dom and the sub drop their roles completely—no Dommy glowering, no subby submitting—and negotiate the specifics of a scene as equals. What's in, what's out, what's gonna happen, what's not gonna happen, what the safeword is, etc.
So does this guy's particular fantasy prove that he's an asshole? Not necessarily. That fantasy isn't uncommon—a Doms sharing his "helpless" sub—and so long as he doesn't doing that with a sub who isn't into it, so long as he isn't violate a sub's limits and ignoring the sub's safeword, it's not an asshole thing to do or fantasize about doing.
There are also Doms who enjoy "forcing" a sub to do something the sub "wouldn't want to." And luckily for those Doms there subs who get off on being "forced" to do something they don't wanna do. But that thing—the thing the sub is being forced to endure to please the Dom—can't be something that leaves a sub traumatized. Since this fantasy leaves you traumatized, and since being forced to do anything you don't want to do isn't a turn-on for you, both are off the table. You might be hard to rule something out during a flirtation, particularly as a newbie sub, but you have to resolve to rule things out during a scene negotiation, SUBS.
My advice: keep fantasizing (maybe with this guy, maybe with someone else), keep flirting (ditto), and do a little more reading about safe BDSM practices and scene negotiation before you meet up with anyone.