I keep an eye on the search terms people use to reach my site. Often they suggest topics for my blog. Here is one of the latest:
Q: How can a dominant respect their submissive?
A: Respect and sex are a tricky combination in our culture. We already talk about the “walk of shame” after a night of casual sex, and somehow women who “allow” men to have sex with them are worth less, forced to wonder if “he’ll still respect me in the morning.” Regardless of gender, this becomes all the more complicated when we bring kink into the mix. Though it is by no means universal in BDSM relationships, many kinky people enjoy various forms of consensual humiliation and objectification. Can a dominant respect someone after calling them a filthy name or forcing them into acts they find demeaning yet arousing?
There are a couple different perspectives on this question. An outsider looking in may find these relationships disturbing, if one cares about one or both of the people involved. How can someone who may seem very normal in everyday life want to do that? It can be hard for someone who does not share kinky impulses to understand how even painful acts are erotic in the right context. Many submissives spend years fantasizing before meeting the right dominant — in a healthy relationship, these acts are not coercive, but something both engage in with enthusiasm. After a scene, a healthy dominant engages in “after care” — cuddling, tenderly seeing to the submissives needs, and otherwise being gentle and loving. The fact that a couple can share these seemingly taboo acts can actually create a very deep intimacy between them, as both are revealing vulnerabilities in the process.
While some couples may choose to play with kink only in the bedroom or at parties and other appropriate environments, for others it is a full-time part of their lives. However, outsiders may not realize that even in these relationships, many of the day-to-day activities will be the same ones familiar to vanilla couples. Though the power dynamic will color these interactions, “24/7” kinksters still go on romantic dinners together, take in movies, share their feelings and support each other’s endeavors. Kink becomes a filter through which they live their lives, but that filter includes interactions every bit as loving as those who are vanilla.
Above I said there were other perspectives on this question — the other one is that of the person involved in the D/s dynamic. A dear friend of mine once told me it took him years before he believed that his submissive lovers were actually enjoying themselves too; despite their obvious pleasure and all their eagerness, he believed that no one could really want to be treated this way, and that all his lovers were only doing it as a favor to him. This kind of thinking is insidious and often harmful to a dominant’s self-respect. What does it mean for someone who loves his partner to want such things?
I touched on this in my essay “The Paradox of Kink” which I wrote earlier this year for Josie Whip:
The two create a shared language which may only be interpretable to them and imperfectly by others who play similar games — where words like “slut” or “rape” can transform to mean something very different. It’s not just limited to language of course. Behaviors that would be abusive in another context become acts of consensual eroticism. If I beat my lover till she is bruised, she doesn’t call the police; she purrs my name and cuddles closer. If we allow ourselves to peer deeper under the mask, these gestures are actually ones of affection, however much we Dominants bluster and threaten when we do it.
By letting out our darker impulses in negotiated ways in the bedroom, by turning our fears and insecurities into fantasies and pleasure, we are creating a place of safety and sharing, where two lovers can reveal their rawest sexual selves and neither flinches away. Rather than reducing respect for a submissive partner, we come to realize how deep the trust and affection goes and how much strength is necessary to submit. Life is full of suffering and uncertainty, but kink allows some of us to assert a measure of control, and transmute that suffering into pleasure.
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