Does it have to hurt to be Taken In Hand?

Since discovering Taken In Hand a few months ago, I've been trying to get a handle on what it means to me. I can relate to many of the articles. However, those articles don't hit dead center for me. The one that comes closet is the boss's I don't want to be a servant or slave. In my view, Taken In Hand is not about servitude, or enslavement, or a martinet's discipline. Taken In Hand to me is more like a dance. The man leads, guiding both across the floor, but with each step she chooses to follow or not. She follows because she trusts him to guide them both through the swirling, ever-changing crowd of dancers.

Is this taking a lover in hand? I believe it is. Fundamentally, Taken In Hand is the consensual surrendering of some personal sovereignty to another. Sovereignty is the quality or authority of being independent and in charge of the conditions you live under. When you surrender sovereignty, you give another person the power to control some, if not all, of the conditions you live under. Realistically, we negotiate our level of personal sovereignty in every interaction with another person and that level is in constant flux. To be taken in hand is to allow some of your most intimate conditions to be influenced. Influenced rather than controlled, as you can always refuse to follow. This influence requires the most intimate connection between the individuals. Deep trust is required and that can only come in response to absolute and unassailable concern for you. It is this connection that is the fundamental element of Taken In Hand.

The different views of Taken In Hand are simply manifestations of this connection. Service, slavery, control, or discipline are all ways to maintain the connection between the two individuals. Each creates a sense of intimate sovereignty being surrendered. With each service performed, each command obeyed, each spank received, the sensation that you no longer control all the conditions you live under is enlivened. My feeling is that the connection can also be asserted through “care”. Can the sensation of surrender not be sparked by being bathed, being held, being massaged, being caressed, or having your coat buttoned? True, these are all things that might be desired or even demanded, but then so are spankings or serving another. The difference is attitude and timing. The difference is submitting to being bathed, or being held, or being spanked, etc., even when you'd rather not. Submitting by choice because you don't want to break the connection by refusing. Choice of submission is also key: you must choose to submit; force or coercion destroys the connection, breaking the trust.

So what does being taken in hand look like? Is it being tossed over a knee for sound spanking? Is it being commanded to do something? The recent discussion about the film Secretary caused me to consider when and even if, Mr Grey took Lee in hand.

It seems to me that when he tells her to stop the cutting, that is when he takes her in hand. When he brings up the cutting, she stiffens, preparing to be judged, to be questioned about what she is thinking, to resist. But he doesn't order her to stop, he doesn't tell her that she should stop, he simply tells her, quietly, that she's done with that.

I believe this is why she complies. An order would imply she should do it for him, telling her she should get a hold of herself would imply she should take control of her actions when in reality the cutting is how she feels control, but the way he just looks at her and says to stop, screams “I'm here to help you put that behind you.”

We see Lee hesitate, almost panic at the thought of losing her crutch, to her surprise she agrees. The voiceover after also implies that she isn't sure why or how she stopped. She simply states that she stopped bringing her kit to work, eventually tossing it away.

To me this is Taken In Hand. Being Taken In Hand is having someone you allow to tell you to stop. To stop doing something that isn't in your best interest. Something that interferes with your happiness, but more importantly your contentment. They don't order you to stop. They don't tell you that you have to stop yourself. They simply acknowledge what you are doing and tell you not to do it. They see you. They see the real you and care enough infringe your personal sovereignty, to cross the invisible borders we all have, to dare to attempt to influence the most intimate conditions you live under. They cannot use force but rather can only create opportunity and offer assistance that you are free to take advantage of or not.

Sounds simple? It's not! From the day we are born, we start fighting to become independent beings. A two year old ventures further and further from their mother. A teenager works hard to have a life separate from their parents. Giving up even some of this independence can be almost impossible. But while we strive to be independent, we also long for someone we have a deep connection with, for that one person whom we allow to influence the conditions we live under, for that one person who knows and accepts our true self. For someone who “gets” us.

Interestingly, you cannot influence someone's personal sovereignty without surrendering some of your own sovereignty. You cannot maintain influence over the most intimate conditions of another without fully accepting the enormity of the responsibility. That responsibility changes the conditions that you live under. Taken In Hand simply acknowledges that there is a natural tendency for men and women to be toward a particular side of this equation.

Taken In Hand need not involve domination and submission or even corporal discipline. It can be realized in small innocuous acts. A glance to confirm assent, being bathed, being massaged, deferring the final decision, are all small acts that affect our independence. Being taken in hand is not the act, it's the reason. It's not being bathed, it's allowing yourself to be put in the tub to be washed or to relax. It's not the act of deferring to a decision, it's trusting someone to decide because you trust that the decision will be in your interest. Taken In Hand is not glancing at someone for permission, it is being concerned how a choice affects that person. It is the connection the acts build and support.

This is my view of Taken In Hand. Submission, not by obedience, discipline, or control, but by the surrendering of small parts of your independence to the care of another. Taken In Hand is a way to keep this surrender fresh and alive. Taken In Hand is a multitude of small acts that daily confirm the surrender of sovereignty. Taken In Hand is dropping all your walls to allow the most intimate conditions you live under to be influenced by another. It is trusting another to care for you most intimately, it's caring enough for another that they trust you with their most intimate self.


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Wonderful article!

Jeff, thank you! I really loved this article. I feel like you've expressed very eloquently a lot of my feelings about the kind of relationship I strive for. I particularly like what you say about Mr Grey in "Secretary" (but of course!) and agree with you that "taking in hand" is fundamentally about expressing active and deep-rooted care for our partner, and not about dominance for dominance's sake.

You ask "Can the sensation of surrender not be sparked by being bathed, being held, being massaged, being caressed, or having your coat buttoned?" and I agree with you whole-heartedly in saying "Yes!" One of the greatest pleasures of being a dominant man in a Taken in Hand relationship is the licence one is given to be able to truly cherish your beloved. For me this is not because cherishing is a way of expressing control, but rather that because so many other boundaries are broken down, much greater intimacy is possible. We live in a very individualistic age and I believe that this experience of giving and receiving true intimacy is one that many of us long for—I also believe that for those of us who are inclined towards this kind of relationship, it can be a very successful way of achieving that.

I also think that you've hit on one of the fundamental paradoxes in this kind of relationship that I've been exploring for myself, when you say that "you cannot influence someone's personal sovereignty without surrendering some of your own sovereignty." For me this is one of the most important areas in which I find myself differing from my more BDSM-oriented brothers and sisters. In classic BDSM relationships (where the male is dominant) the master is served by his slave, whereas in the kind of Taken in Hand relationship I most want, the dynamic actually flows the other way. Although I am the dominant partner, I am very much in service to my lady. I'm not in service to her ego or her whims (although at times it is very lovely to enjoy indulging those),

but to her needs. My role in the relationship is to love, protect, enourage, nurture and empower and my lady so that she may become more fully and more joyously herself, not to dominate her for my own pleasure or for the greater glory of Max.

This is another way in which our relationship is (healthily) unequal, and in a way that I don't usually hear in discussions of male dominance: My obligations to my lady are far greater than hers to me. Not that I never want to be taken care of (and not of course that I don't expect the common respect and goodwill I expect of anyone I'm in a caring relationship with),

but the dynamic of the relationship is this: my lover grows through being able to receive my love as fully as she is able and I grow through learning to love as well as I can.

Great article!


Wonderful piece! Max, you too. :-)

Dan is also a "dominant man", rather than "A Dominant".

He loves to take care of me. Even spoil me. As I love to take care of him. It's mutual. He is the leader, but as leader, he feels it is his duty to take very good care of me. :-)

My $0.02 / random thoughts / rambling

(Due to lack of a better vocabulary, I'm using words like woman, man and girl where I should maybe have said 'the partner taken in hand' and the 'partner taking in hand', but please forgive me for the sake of readability)

I think Jeff is on to some of what this is all about.

I've been in a couple of different relationships with a 'taken in hand' part. One of the things I've learned, is that what this brings to a relationship varies a great deal depending on the partners involved.

In my current relationship, I think it's mostly about providing a feeling of safety. That someone is in charge of making things good where we've taken a wrong turn. Making sure she's well cared for, and making sure she feels it. Making sure she knows I will never leave her, because I'm strong enough to handle her, even when she pushes the limits.

Sometimes there can be a use of physical force, even against her will.

I think anyone who's been so down and depressed it numbs you completely, you stop caring for yourself, and just want to cut (or however you deal) knows what I'm talking about.

The feeling of knowing that there's someone who loves you enough to be there for you, even when you're doing your best to push them away.

The feeling of sitting down in the tub, your partner gently washing every part of you, when you just want to hide in a dark corner by yourself.

And yes, the feeling that someone will handle you in a safe way when you test their limits too far, instead of turning abusive, or leaving.

I've read a lot of different comments on the woman being 'weak', while the man being 'strong'. I've never seen a need for a woman to be weak in this kind of relationship. I would however argue that it is in part about giving the girl the security of knowing things will be oki if she does have a weak moment. A moment where she isn't able to handle herself, or her responsibilities. The feeling of being cared for, and not constantly having to be the strong head of the household.

It's also about giving the man the authority to live up to this responsibility. Noone is perfect, and living in a relationship with a constant power-struggle has proven over and over to be exhausting, and making it hard to live up to be the partner you want to be.

It's about making a conscious choice about how both partners want the relationship to work. It's about giving someone the authority to take care of you, and make things ok.

This is what I'm trying to bring into the relationship, but noone is perfect, and nothing is easy.

Forgive my rambling...


Sometimes you just want to be in that dark corner

Sometimes you just want to be in that dark corner, and I'd hope my boyfriend would respect that need for time to myself. Without that "isolation" time, I couldn't function well. I'm the type of person who, when I need to be alone, I need to be alone. That's not the time to insist on being with me, and I'm a lucky girl, because my boyfriend understands that and doesn't let his ego get in the way of allowing me my "isolation" time. When I'm ready to be seen again, he's there for me.

I love you honey.


Re: Sometimes you just want to be in that dark corner

I absolutely agree with you MJ.

I think 'alone time' is very different to different people. One of the things that can be hard to figure out, espesially in a new relationship, is when to leave someone alone, and when not to.

I have a huge need to be alone sometimes, and get simply seem to fall of the face of the earth for days, weeks, and months. During those periods, I tend to avoid contact with others as much as possible, and just want to lock myself in and be alone with my depression. At the same time though, if someone is close enough, it's different somehow. I don't mind being alone with them (for lack of better words).

Sometimes there's nothing better than being lying in bed, just being held by your partner when it's like this. Just quietly holding. Maybe gently stroking in a comforting way.

At least that's how I remember things from when I was living in a 'reversed' Taken In Hand relationship (for lack of better words).

It seems to be a lot like this in my current relationship, so I try to sort between when it's best to leave her alone, and when it's best not to.

It's important to me that she feels that I won't 'give up on her' or leave if she tries to push me away. But it's equally important that she knows I'll give her alone time if that's what she really needs, and that I won't force myself on her to ease my ego of not being enough or anything along those lines.

People are different. In my earlier Taken In Hand relationships, I've been quicker to just assure my girl that I'm there for her if/when she needs/wants me, then back off, and give her the time she needs. In my current relationship though, my girl needs me differently. It's a different, closer connection then I've ever felt before.


a memory

Jeff's article reminded me of a time long ago when I had a high fever. My boyfriend took my clothes off and carried me to the bathtub where he bathed me in cool water until the fever came down. And he gave me no choice in the matter. Of course he could have just given me pills, but this was so much more delicious. I hadn't thought of it as being taken in hand ...


Being that intimate

I read your article Jeff, and when I was done I could hardly breathe. You have so accurately described what I have been feeling and wanting for so long. The relationship you talk about oozes intimacy and closeness. It explains the driving force behind the spanking and discipline. It makes the relationship about loving each other, about a complete and honest trust that doesn't exist much today. It makes it more about them and less about you, but by being more about them, you are filled and content.

I read your words:

Deep trust is required and that can only come in response to absolute and unassailable concern for you. It is this connection that is the fundamental element of Taken In Hand.

and immediately recognized how true they were. Having lived through different kinds of abuse in my life, trust doesn't come easy for me. I think of submitting to a man who would care enough to assume that responsibility, who would care enough to invest the energy and time in understanding my needs (even if I didn't always understand them), and I feel my devotion to him would be almost limitless. Wonderful article. It is so good to see my feelings articulated in a way I've never thought to hear them. Thank you.

Blue Sunset

I always felt safe when I was with him

This brought back memories of a young man that I dated that did the most wonderful things for me; carrying me up the stairs,caring for me when I was sick, even doing my taxes for me. It felt so wonderful to have that loving care and I always felt safe when I was with him.

Great Analogy!

The dance analogy really struck a chord with me. It feels like the way I'd describe my own marriage. Once in awhile, I'll miss a step, and he'll catch me with a firm, no-nonsense "Honey, this is what you need to do" chat, but mostly, it's just a matter of him taking the lead, and me following his lead.