Are your labels preventing you from seeing what you have?

This isn't about community politics, this is about how sometimes people can try to find themselves and forget what it is exactly that they were looking for.

I've always known I was kinky. And when I say always, I mean from the first sexual fantasy. I've never had a fantasy that wasn't some version of the “rape” or “master/slave” fantasy. I just didn't. And, for the record I was pretty sheltered, and not abused. (Just in case someone wants to pull out the: “oh you poor wilting flower; what have the mean old men done to you?” card. ;) )

Like many people who have this deep intrinsic need to be owned, controlled, taken, dominate", fill in the blank with whatever word appeals to you here, I searched on the internet for others like me.

And of course I came upon the BDSM and D/s community because it seemed an obvious fit. But there were all these collars and contracts and safewords and jargon etc. etc. and props and costumes and blah blah blah. It was just a lot of fantasy to prop up a reality that just wasn't there.

24/7 D/s seemed more my speed—because at least it was a way of being, rather than a game. But on some level even that was pretend—for me. Not that dominance and submission are games—they most certainly aren't for the people that live them. But that wasn't my “kink” for lack of a better term.

I had and have the “control kink.” I wanted to be really controlled, owned, blah blah blah. Not just pretend. But within D/s it's understood that in reality the submissive person has all the power and negotiates everything and often there are safewords and contracts, etc. (I'm not saying there is anything wrong with these things, they just aren't what I wanted.)

We started out with a safeword, but it was because I didn't want my husband to feel like an abuser, not because I had some real need or desire for one. Of course he just said: “You are property and property doesn't need a safeword.” (Please understand this was not abusive to me. This was him really “getting me” more than I thought he did.)

Of course, we weren't playing. From very early on, good behavior/obedience brought reward and bad behavior/disobedience brought punishment. Period. For a long time I worried that I wasn't doing things right, and that I was being abused—not because I actually felt abused, but because empirically, from a textbook definition, I was.

After all, what we were doing was not D/s. I later found a better label—“master/slave”—but even within that community there are extremists who want to redefine every word in history. As an example, some cannot be happy with just leaving the definition of slave as: “someone who is owned and fully controlled by another.” No, they have to get into all kinds of weird specifics that were never true even in a historical context.

Like people who say that you aren't really owned if you leave. Well if I leave, no, I'm not really owned anymore. It doesn't mean I never was.

There is so much competition within the “kink community” to be “more submissive” While I am submissive and want to please my husband and master, I'm not always submissive. Someone in this type of relationship doesn't always obey.

Because the need is a need to be controlled.

But what I'm really trying to say here is... I wasted so much time, lobbying for more extremeness in sexual encounters, not because that was what I actually wanted or needed, but because I wanted to make it more “real.” And I wanted him to know that he could be as extreme as he wanted and it wouldn't freak me out. It took me forever, despite being told and shown over and over that it was true, to really fully internalize that what I have is real.

Even though that was what I wanted, and it was what I was getting, rules and games within the kink community helped to obscure for me the reality of what was going on. In some ways it was more of a hindrance than a help. All the labels and jargon and rules and regulations of communities that have nothing to do with my personal relationship, just all stood in the way.

So it was a completely surreal moment when I realized “Hey, my needs have nothing to do with most of their needs.” I started keeping a journal because for some reason I didn't think my husband was being consistently dominant. I know...what the frilly heck does that mean? If you are the boss, you are the boss, whether you forcefully exert it every second or not. It was only through journaling and monitoring that I came to understand that:

A. What I had was real. As in he really is really the boss of me. We aren't just pretending he is. When we use titles we mean them. He owns me. It really can't get much more simple than that.


B. It was exactly what I wanted and needed—and everything else that I ever tried to lobby for or thought I wanted, was only a way to believe in an ownership that already existed.


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Not seeing what you have

It is not just a matter of labels (as I am sure Z would agree). Many focus on what they think they don't have, and feel dissatisfied, instead of focusing on and finding joy in what they do have. Those feeling dissatisfied might benefit from spending some time focusing on, for example, the things their husband does that do seem manly, in control, dominant, instead of focusing on what seems lacking. It has often astounded me that people (both women and men) have felt a lack of control, when, to me at least, their spouse has been clearly displaying the very thing they say they want. It is so worth trying to look at things more broadly, to see if you might be missing something wonderful that exists in reality in your life. As Z says, try not to be hung up on particular forms of demonstrating control, or being in control.

If you are a woman wanting your man to take charge more, strive to accept the control he chooses to give you instead of trying to make him do what you yourself think he should do. He is the one in control, right? Become more aware of subtle control, if you are a woman convinced that your husband is insufficiently dominant. Be appreciative of whatever control he does give you, instead of complaining about what he doesn't do.

Allow your relationship, and his control, to develop over time. Try not to boss him about or pushily over-encourage him. That won't make either of you feel good, ultimately, if what you want is for him to control you.

Another thing to be aware of, that is highlighted by Z's article, is that sometimes, when people spend a lot of time reading particular websites, books or other literature, or watching particular films or socialising in a particular subculture, they get caught up in the culture they are exploring, and end up losing sight of themselves as individuals, and of what they themselves actually might or might not want. By all means read whatever you want to read, but when you do so, try not to lose yourself and your individuality. Try not to assume that you will want what someone else wants, or even a great many individuals want. Anything that seems to be assumed by all in the particular subculture, or on the particular website or whatever, is something to question.

For example, if you immerse yourself in a spanking or Domestic Discipline site, you might start to become too focused on spanking for your own taste, as several people have told me has happened to them. And if you immerse yourself in hardcore SM literature, or D/s stuff—or for that matter sites based on the idea that relationships should be equal in every way or any other firmly-held idea—your focus might shift in that direction, and one day you might realise, uncomfortably, that the shoe does not quite fit as well as you had hoped it would.

When you have the feeling that the shoe does not fit, don't ignore that feeling, explore it. You do not have to be the same as everyone else. You are an individual, and your wishes and preferences will not necessarily be the same as mine or those of anyone else. The more you manage to pursue your own ideas, preferences and wishes, and the ideas, wishes and preferences you and your spouse create together, the more delightful you will be likely to find your relationship. Merely enacting someone else's idea of how things should be is likely to feel boring and unsatisfying. The real thing is that which you yourself, and the two of you as a couple, create together—that which arises out of who you are as individuals.

Absolutely! What drove me to

Absolutely! What drove me to keeping a journal was that I felt that he wasn't being "dominant enough" and I wanted to see if it was actually true or if it was only my perception. This was because at the time I hadn't fully internalized that I was really and truly "owned" and I needed constant reassurance that I was.

Once I started keeping the journal I started to realize how much, while I like frequent sex and I like kinky sex, it wasn't "about" that for me. It was the control kink. Once I figured that out and stopped conflating issues, it became much easier.

I started reading over my journal entries and I was like "Jeez, there is no time this man ISN'T dominant." It was literally everywhere, it permeated the relationship so deeply that I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it. (because I was focusing on one or two specific things that I thought I wanted, but I only wanted them because I thought they would make the control feel more real. Once I accepted the control was real, those imaginary needs fell away.)

If someone really feels their man "has potential" but just isn't dominant enough for them, from experience I would suggest the following:

Ask for what you want and need in a straight-forward manner (but not over and over, that's nagging), and then surrender. ACTUALLY surrender. Because if you don't, he might not believe you REALLY mean it. If there is a dominant bone in his body I think he'll respond.

Also, something else I've noticed is that the more you submit, if your man is growly and dominant it's just going to bring out the dominance. It SEEMS that misbehavior would bring about what you want, but that's not true. A lot of times when a woman wants more dominance she doesn't want to actually have done something that truly displeases the dominant partner, because his disappointment is often a greater punishment than anything physical. It's that they want to have that FEELING of being controlled, helpless, or whatever. That reminder that he really is in full control.

And very often what actually brings it about is more submission/obedience. Relationships, including this type of relationship are organic and take time to get where they're going sometimes. To submit and obey is to signal to your partner that YES you really DO want him to be in control. You don't just "think" you do, you really do.

Also I think submission just draws out dominance in those for whom it exists. Just like a really growly dominant male will bring out the submissive tendencies in a submissive female, I believe the opposite is true. It's that whole: "If you act like prey, you become prey" thing.

And I think it's why in genuine abusive relationships the woman can never seem to stop the abuse through good behavior because the more she submits, the more abusive he becomes. It triggers a predatory reaction.

In a healthy power exchange relationship, deeper submission works in the same way, except instead of abuse, you get more healthy dominance.

Its like when you buy a new car, suddenly it seems like everyone else in the world is driving your car. When I read my journal, it was like every single thing he did was so thoroughly dominant I couldn't believe that I had ever thought that he wasn't dominant enough. That would be like saying Jeffrey Dahmer wasn't cannibalistic enough.

And it was because while we had this went from..."play" to "just joking, but not really," to "real" with some playfulness added. And even though I desperately wanted it to be real, I doubted it for a long time. It took me awhile to figure out that he has as deep a need to control and own as I have to be controlled and be owned.

So once everything in some sense became about him in my own mind, everything just completely clicked into place. (in my relationship only, I'm not trying to project my relationship dynamics onto anyone else. I understand not everyone doing this or anything remotely similar wants everything to be about their partner.)


But don't castigate other groups and site. I never saw anything as a formula I had to follow. I always always felt submissive, just like you, I've never had a sexual fantasy, for me since age 5, without it being of this nature so I never doubted how I was. I found spanking magazines, bits in books, passages of men dominating women in literature, all those things helpful and some parts of site like this once the internet was invented and BDSM sites are uesful too but I would never use them as a straight jacket as to how I ought to be.

For me it would never have been about play. That's not the point at all. I wouldn't technically use the word owned because of how I define ownership but it's the same feeling however you want to define it.

So I suppose my point is that all the information out there is terribly helpful so people can have a look at what others do and understand more of how they are. I've never thought extremes were needed—that you were better if you did more extreme things. The extremity or for me the normality is being as I am and the depth of the submission, when I have someone to submit to.


Wonderful article, Z—thanks!

I've always known I was kinky. And when I say always, I mean from the first sexual fantasy. I've never had a fantasy that wasn't some version of the “rape” or “master/slave” fantasy. I just didn't. And, for the record I was pretty sheltered, and not abused.

I can relate to that, I bet a lot of women can. (And I was never once abused either, and it annoys me that so many people make that assumption.) But the thing is, I did not realize that the kind of romance I dreamed about was what people meant by "kinky" or that it had anything to do with all that "whips and chains" stuff. For me it was all about the man being stronger and more dominant, and I actually did not connect that at all with whips and chains, that seemed totally irrelevant to me.

Now, after some research, I can understand that there is a connection there, and why. And I'd even be willing to play around with that, if I belonged to a man who wanted the whole "whips and chains" mystique. But I'd probably also be happy to skip it, so long as he was willing and able to physically dominate me in less flamboyant ways (wrestling contests, yay!), and so long as he actually enjoyed doing that and got an erotic thrill out of it. Personally, I could not be happy with a man who never dominated me physically; that is as necessary to me as sex itself.

From my viewpoint I'd have to say that the bdsm "culture" and its various customs and rituals and terminology actually got in the way of me coming to understand that there were other people like me. That's not to say that it's not interesting, and it was one helpful step of online exploration along the way, because it really helped me to clarify what kinds of things I was and was not interested in. But when I found the Taken In Hand website, that seemed a lot closer to home for me than any of the BDSM stuff ever did.

I wanted to be really controlled, owned, blah blah blah. Not just pretend.

Personally, I don't quite go that far. I mean, I like the feeling of being owned by a man and controlled to some extent; but I also know myself well enough to realize that there are some freedoms that I would never give up. I want him to be the boss, yes, and to have the final word; but not to be a total tyrant. Even if he was very loving and considerate and always looking out for my best interests, there is still some sense in which I would never want to be completely owned, some part of me that defies anyone else's ownership. I really like the word "master" too, but for me it's more like having a boss than an owner. (Although I can see how someone else could find great fulfillment in the ownership idea.)

There is so much competition within the “kink community” to be “more submissive”

This has to be the single most hilarious thing going on there. I mean, what the heck?? Like a lot of women, it took some time and honest introspection and courage before I was even willing to apply the word "submissive" to myself at all, and even then I mean it mostly in a sexual or erotic sense. And once I embrace it as part of my identity as a woman, then what? Then suddenly I'm supposed to want to be as submissive as humanly possible, in all ways? The more submissive the better?? Suddenly I'm supposed to strive to be "more submissive than thou" and think that this makes me a better human being?? *ROTFL!* What a riot. It's that old "all or nothing" thinking again.

I guess it's the next step in the game:
1. Everything is compulsory. (The Traditional position)
2. Everything formerly compulsory is now forbidden, and vice-versa (The Politically Correct position)
3. Nothing is compulsory or forbidden, it's all just optional fun.(The pansexual hedonist position)
4. Everything optional and fun must be regarded as if it's compulsory and grimly serious, or else it means you're "not a real ___."

(I'm not sure yet, but it looks like maybe viewpoint #4 is trying to loop back to viewpoint #1.)

I think #3 is the sanest viewpoint, obviously. Even though there are some things that I personally happen to dislike (female-controlled relationships) that does not mean people should not have the freedom to engage that if they want. What I really like is the motto of the Church of All Worlds: "If you don't like it, then you can't have any." It would be hard to put it any more simply than that.