This is a superb Web Site you've created but what is it? You talk about Traditional Relationships, but you say you don't think it's Natural and you're not religious. Is it a DD site? Parts of it look like a Spanko Site. There's a lot of D/s on it, are you D/s? It's confusing because you've said comments against BDSM but the Site could be a TPE one.... except you don't accept the slave/master dynamic. What are you????
The short answer, Mary Lou, is that on a personal level I have a bit of an aversion to being put in a box or given a fixed label, and in terms of the web site, I don't want to get into arguments about words. The idea of having big discussions about whether or not Taken In Hand is a DD site or a D/s site, or both, depending upon what you mean by that, or what the definition of such-and-such a term is... well I'm nodding off in boredom already, just thinking about it. It just doesn't interest me.
However, since this seems to be important to some readers, here are my thoughts on this. I do hope that nothing I say here will offend anyone. (Fear of upsetting people is another reason not to have an explicit discussion of terms, I think!) The last thing I want to do is offend anyone. None of what follows is in any way to criticise anyone else's choices. Each person must follow his or her own path in life, and in no way do I want to suggest that paths other than mine are wrong. I have enough trouble following my own path, never mind sitting in judgement of anyone else's! :-)
Part of the reason that I avoid labels is that I think that the best relationships are those that arise and evolve naturally as a result of the interactions of the two unique individuals involved. There is no magic formula for relationship success: we have to make our own magic, starting from where we are as individuals, and jointly creating a relationship we both value. A good relationship is a dynamic, evolving entity, not an immutable set of rules. When I imagine being in a relationship that is stereotypical, static, and easy to label, my reaction is: what's the point? Perhaps others understand things better than I do, but to me, it sounds mindless, boring, unchallenging, tedious, unsatisfying.
When I first became interested in the idea of what I now call Taken In Hand relationships—or rather, when I first faced the fact that such a relationship was what I wanted—I had not read anything or talked to anyone about it. So it is not really surprising that I do not think in terms of labels such as “domestic discipline” or “D/s”. Why suddenly attach a label to a set of ideas that has taken shape and evolved in my mind long before I had ever heard of those labels/“lifestyles”? (I personally don't even like the idea of a “lifestyle“, because that, to me, sounds somehow artificial, fixed and clearly defined.) I have no objection to others attaching any label they find helpful to Taken In Hand, I just don't feel inclined to pin it down myself.
My aim in starting this site was to create a new kind of site—not a standard relationship site on which it is completely taken for granted that to have a good relationship, husband and wife must be equal and seen to be equal (whether they like it or not)—and on the other hand, not a standard traditional site on which it is taken for granted that the wife should submit to her husband—but also not a BDSM / D/s / SM sex site (which all leave me personally completely cold, if not queasy). I wanted my site to be free of the cliquey language, embarrassing rituals and modes of address and the surprisingly narrow thinking one finds on some D/s and BDSM sites; and as a non-spanko, I wanted a site that would also not be a DD/spanking site.
I wanted the site to be free of posts advocating self-serving narcissism. I wanted the site not to be irresponsible. I wanted the site to do no harm. We stress that the husband in a Taken In Hand relationship puts his wife and their relationship first because that is the key to creating a marriage in which the man is in control in a good, healthy and sustainable way.
I imagined a site on which lovers of books like Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged would have deep philosophical discussions with lovers of Jane Austen's novels, and where men who appreciate Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore?, by Manis Friedman would happily rub shoulders with women who love books like Helen Andelin's Fascinating Womanhood and Laura Doyle's The Surrendered Wife.
I hoped to create a positive, warm site that would be neither anti-men nor anti-women.
I wanted to create a site that, while being firmly focused on relationships in which the husband wears the trousers in the relationship, was not hostile to other paths. The idea of Taken In Hand as a prescription for all is against everything I believe in. This is a free choice, or it would be an abomination. Taken In Hand is not compulsory! Whilst I wanted my site to focus on Taken In Hand relationships, that is just because that is my personal preference. I was not trying to create a huge site catering to all preferences, but that does not mean I think everyone should share my preferences.
I wanted the site to be supportive of lifelong, fully committed, sexually exclusive, faithful marriage, by showing that monogamy need not mean monotony but in fact can be much more exciting and sexually fulfilling than less focused (e.g., open or poly) relationships, staying single or having adulterous affairs.
I wanted the site to foster non-stereotypical, evolving, exciting unlabelled relationships in which the spouses do not feel trapped in ill-fitting role boxes. I wanted to provide a forum on which women would feel free to be themselves rather than trying to squeeze themselves into a rigid stereotypical D/s-style ‘submissive’ box, and where men would not feel pressure to put on a ridiculous swaggering stereotypical ‘dom’ act.
Taken In Hand wives respect, honour and appreciate their husbands and strive to please them, but they tend not to claim to be submissive, because they do not feel the deep need to serve that so many believe is the essence of submissiveness. I don't believe that there is any duty to submit, any more than there is a duty to be in charge. For me these matters are individual preferences, not duties or burdens to suffer.
There are many many sites out there for women who have a very deep desire to serve, and many others for those who choose to submit to their husbands for religious reasons. But until I started this site, there was no site for those women who worship the man who actively masters them and submits them but who otherwise don't feel submissive, and there was no site for men who enjoy the thrill of actively dominating and submitting their wife and who would find it boring to be in a relationship without at least a little of that.
I wanted it to be clear that the purpose of creating a Taken In Hand relationship is that, for those of us who like this sort of thing, it creates a white-hot sexual connection, and thus a rock-solid permanent bond between husband and wife. I wanted it to be obvious that if the Taken In Hand idea is not your cup of tea, it is not for you!
The Taken In Hand relationship is neither all about the man, as in some D/s relationships in which the man has control, nor all about the woman, as in some DD relationships—it is for both. I wanted that to be very clear on my site.
I wanted to create a thoughtful site that would be about ideas—the philosophy and the psychology of these relationships, the underlying substance—rather than experiences or particular practices. I had in mind a more analytical, deeply interesting (to me) site that would raise and discuss interesting issues that would help people create vibrantly happy marriages and improve relationships more generally, as opposed to a site that would just have a lot of posts detailing posters' experiences. Sometimes experience posts do raise interesting issues but often they are just experiences. Experience posts also tend to give too much information (for my taste, at least), and the more such posts we have on the site, the more it attracts similar posts.
I wanted my site to be one free of exhibitionism—one on which private information (such as intimate details about what a poster did in the bedroom on a given occasion) would remain private rather than appearing on the site. I wanted my site to appeal as much to readers' parents or grandparents, as to individuals who might also read obviously racy, graphic sites.
I wanted my site to be free of religious proselytising. On the other hand I did not want my site to be hostile to religious people. I wanted it to appeal to Orthodox rabbis and conservative Christians as well as fellow atheists.
I wanted a site that would take it for granted that different men, and indeed couples, have wildly different preferences in regard to how the control can be manifested in a Taken In Hand relationship, rather than being a site that would be dominated by one preference in this regard.
I hoped that readers would be able to see the beautiful substance beneath the overt form of the Taken In Hand relationship in general, and of individual couples' relationships in particular.
I hoped that people would see this site not as a throwback to darker times when women had no choice, but as an expression of the real choice women (at least Western women) now have. I hoped that this site would give women who have, in psychological terms, had no choice but to choose so-called equality, the psychological freedom to choose a Taken In Hand relationship instead of that miserable (for them) so-called equality. And I hoped that this site would, similarly, make men, too, feel more free to embrace their preference for a Taken In Hand relationship. In no way do I want to make anyone feel compelled to change any preference they might have.
On some sites, there is a snobbishness that I find unappealing. There is a sort of hierarchy of posters, with those not claiming to be ‘experienced” being deemed less likely to have good ideas. What nonsense! I wanted my site to be free of posts arguing from authority. I wanted my site to be free of posts talking down to other people.
I wanted my site to be free of meta comments—endless arguments about meta issues such as how to post, how the site should be run, how x's response was judgemental, or y shouldn't have posted in z manner. I hoped that posters would address ideas and issues and not get into uninteresting petty squabbles about what is acceptable behaviour on the site.
Have I achieved my aim? Erm... not yet, not perfectly at least, but nevertheless the site does have its own unique identity, and people seem to be discussing Taken In Hand relationships—and using my chosen phrase, “Taken In Hand” to do so—all over the internet.
I chose the phrase “taken in hand” to distinguish my site from sites aimed at those who believe that if a woman wants to live under the control of a man, she must be a very obedient, already-in-hand women with a deep need to serve and obey.
Many D/s ‘doms’ want to be served and obeyed and would never countenance the idea of dominating and submitting their woman. Some are positively scathing about the idea. There was no site in existence for those who do enjoy dominating and submitting their woman. I wanted my site to be for those men, and the women who love them. The phrase “taken in hand” highlights the activeness of the husband's control, and does not suggest that it is a wife's duty to be already in hand. It suggests the sort of dominance that involves submitting the woman, as opposed to the sort of dominance that requires the woman to act as if she has already been submitted by the man despite the fact that she hasn't.
Please do not conclude that I think any man has a duty to dominate and submit his wife. I do not! If submitting your woman is not a thrill for you but instead a disagreeable chore that you find entirely uninteresting, then Taken In Hand is not aimed at you. This is not about fixed prescriptions and proscriptions, it is about individual preferences.
I also like the fact that the phrase “taken in hand” suggests interaction, connection, and movement towards an ever-better relationship.
This is real life we are dealing with here, not a fantasy, not people acting out roles. In real life, women often would hate to wear the trousers in their relationship, and long for their husband to take charge and not take any nonsense, but unless their husband takes charge and actively gets and keeps the upper hand, by default the women will continue to run things, because that is what they have been doing (painful though it is for them) in the absence of their husband's control.
Likewise, wonderful, loving husbands have tried so hard not to boss their wife about, because they have had it drummed into them from childhood that that was the way to have a good marriage, that it is sometimes difficult for them to take charge (despite how much they hate not to be wearing the trousers). I wanted this site to provide information and respectful support for men trying to take charge in their marriage.
The last thing I wanted was a site in a constant battle about labels instead of discussing more interesting matters.
But let me go through a few quibbles I have with each of the labels the poster asked about, to make it more obvious why I hesitate to use them:
Many years ago, in my read-all-the-classics phase, I read Julliette and Justine, by the Marquis de Sade—and wished I hadn't. I also read Anne Rice's Beauty series, and was unmoved by them. I have read Story of O a couple of times, and that too does not really speak to me. Also, I have no interest in the whole pain thing. I don't get the appeal of causing pain, or indeed receiving it. I conclude that I am no sadomasochist.
On the other hand, if it is the case that if there is any hint of violence or intensity in a relationship, it counts as sadomasochistic, then I must put myself in that category. I do not think of all (consensual) violence/intensity as being sadomasochism (SM), but apparently others do.
The few things I have read that are aimed at the BDSM community have made me think that BDSM is not for me. It is absolutely not that I have any moral objection to BDSM, it is just not my cup of tea. There is quite a distinct BDSM sub-culture, with its own language and rituals, and quite specific, even stereotypical, ways of interacting (and no, I am not just referring to the internet).
To me, it feels artificial, and there is a certain exhibitionism associated with it, that I find distasteful. Not immoral, just not my cup of tea.
I personally am not interested in the master/slave idea, stylised scenes, the human toilet idea, dungeons, wearing kinky costumes, rubber or leather (except occasionally, for fun, or when attending a fancy-dress party), intricate lists of often rather bizarre rules and consequences, instruments of pain such as nipple clamps, humiliation, play parties, munches, or anything requiring a safeword. The idea of a grovelling, obsequious, quivering, submissive woman desperate to serve and willing to be humiliated and punished for the slightest thing leaves me cold. My fantasies don't revolve around masters and slaves, or men shouting at women, or making women eat out of a dog's bowl (whether or not it's been washed).
For me, Taken In Hand is not a mere game to play at a particular time on a particular day, with a set of toys and equipment. Toys and equipment might be fun on occasion but they are not the whole point, and for me it has to be twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, even to mention that it is 24/7 seems all wrong to me, because it suggests that one could say, this week, let's take a day off. The man's control needs to inform the entire relationship. If it is possible to take the day off, the control simply isn't there for me. It would not feel real. And I want it to be real, not just feel real.
Of course the husband can choose to give the wife a freer rein on a particular day, and he can rein her in firmly on a particular occasion, but that is not the same as engaging in a BDSM play scene, or having a conventional relationship which is BDSM in the bedroom. Lots of BDSM web sites and books and BDSM folk I have met IRL stress the fact that the relationship is strictly equal/non-dominant in every respect except in the bedroom. That is not for me. In the sense of “equal” they mean, I'm all for a bit of inequality. (It doesn't seem unequal to me in any bad sense, just different.)
Whenever I come across an explicitly D/s person or web site, I find statements that are just not consistent with what I want. I particularly dislike the very serious, dutiful, self-sacrificial, disapproving atmosphere on many D/s sites. For me, if it's not hot for you, why do it?! I wanted my site to avoid the idea of dominance as a burden, submission as a duty, and instead stress that the reason we are doing this is that it is hot and fun and thereby bonds the couple together in a joyful, happy marriage with a white-hot sexual connection.
I also dislike the custom of using lower case to denote submission and capitalising references to the dominant person: “when i know i have pleased my Master, only then will i be able to feel my own happiness.” I personally prefer standard English.
Many D/s sites and individuals I meet seem to emphasise the issue of whether or not a person is Truly Submissive, and whether or not she has jumped through enough hoops to qualify for the label submissive. They seem inordinately excited by rituals and what they call ‘protocols’. They tend to contain a lot of posts frowning on those who only feel submissive when actively dominated, and by extension, on those who are more into dominating and submitting the woman they love than simply being served.
I also dislike the fact that many D/s sites are very much opposed to the whole idea of love, and sexual exclusivity, and that they do not stress that the dominant partner puts the submissive partner first. On many such sites there is an assumption that it is all about the wishes of the dominant partner. Again, I am quite sure that in many D/s relationships there is love and sexual exclusivity, and the dominant partner does indeed put the submissive partner first. I just wanted my own site to stress that Taken In Hand is for both as opposed to being all about one.
Moreover, D/s and M/s sites tend to take the view that there are different levels of submissiveness, where to be more submissive is to have a greater desire and ability to serve. That whole concept of submissiveness as having a need to serve leaves me cold. Similarly, many D/s sites assume the, to me, very peculiar idea of dominance I mentioned above, namely, dominance without active dominating.
The whole D/s idea seems so very rigid and stereotypical and boring to me, but again, that's just me. To each his own. I make no claim to understand D/s. And no doubt someone with different preferences would feel the same about my preferences.
I prefer the idea of individual men and women exploring their nature fully and freely rather than to try to squeeze themselves into someone else's idea of what they, as a man or a woman, should be. I like the taming idea, the idea of subjection. Where is the fun in being handed submission on a plate? The husband in a Taken In Hand relationship enjoys a little challenge now and again, and doesn't hesitate to take his wife in hand when necessary. It is all part of the fun of being in charge in the relationship.
Again, I have only recently heard of “TPE” relationships. I like the idea of power exchange and have read a few such web sites. As with all these labels, there are elements of the descriptions of TPE relationships that do sound consistent with Taken In Hand. But most of the TPE sites I have found seem to be heavily BDSM-inspired, so are not to my taste. Moreover, I have no interest in collars, tattoos, or piercing or branding, whether in reality or even just in fantasy. This is not a moral judgement, just a difference in preferences.
Taken In Hand can sound boringly conservative and conventional to anyone with a penchant for some of the more elaborate, painful, ritualistic, theatrical, humiliating BDSM practices, but it is hardcore and extreme to anyone who doesn't like the idea of the man's control not being confined to set scenes and times. Perhaps TPE is where Taken In Hand meets BDSM. But given the fact that TPE is part of the BDSM subculture, only a small proportion of Taken In Hand relationships could also be described as TPE.
Because of the way my ideas developed, and because of my (very limited) experience of folks who consider themselves “spankos,” I don't think of myself as a “spanko.” I was interested in what I now call Taken In Hand relationships long before I discovered the existence of the spanking/DD community.
The husband in a Taken In Hand relationship might or might not use spanking, but either way, it is not the spanking per se that is the point, it is the husband's active control of his wife.
My impression is that this is a slightly different emphasis which makes all the difference. To me, spanking per se is not erotic, and many Taken In Hand inclined individuals have no interest whatsoever in spanking, whether just for fun or ostensibly for discipline or punishment, so it does seem as though Taken In Hand does not quite fit the mould of a spanko site.
However, one thing I like about the spanko community is their wonderfully vibrant sense of fun. I'd like to see more of this spirit on Taken In Hand actually.
Again, I only heard of “DD” relatively recently, and do not think of myself as being DD. But as with all these labels, I am very glad that lots of individuals who think of themselves as “DD” love Taken In Hand.
Different individuals have different ideas about what “DD” means, and I find some of the ideas associated with it questionable. For me, the idea that this is about correcting the bad behaviour of a faulty woman is a mistake. Why would a man want to be with such a woman? I don't get it. For me, the idea that this is about helping a woman who has difficulty functioning as an adult, or saving a woman from herself, or preventing her from harming herself, is unappealing, to say the least.
Just as D/s sites sometimes appear to be all about the dominant partner, so DD sites often appear to be all about the one on the receiving end of the discipline. I wanted my site to be for both, not all about either the man or the woman.
When I first discovered the DD (domestic discipline) community, I was struck by two things: first, the heavy focus on spanking and punishment, to the exclusion of all other forms of control, and especially to the exclusion of more subtle forms of control; secondly, the astoundingly vehement denial of the erotic aspect of so-called “discipline spankings”. Here were people who on the one hand were obsessed with spanking and most certainly finding it erotic or they wouldn't be reading erotic spanking stories and the like... and on the other hand, adamantly denying the connection between that and “real discipline”. It is completely inconceivable that there is no link between the two things.
I personally don't really like the DD focus on punishment, and many or most Taken In Hand relationships do not involve physical discipline. You can maintain control in many ways, not least by the power of your personality. See also the terrific articles by DeeMarie.
Another thing I noticed was that lots of DD sites talk about contracts, rules, and fixed punishments for misdemeanours. As with BDSM sites, it all sounds too fixed for me, too stereotypical, too static and boring, not individual enough. (Sorry! I do not mean to suggest that others should find BDSM or DD boring, merely that I do.) A relationship must be evolving to continue to be fulfilling in the long term, and it must also be unique to the two individuals involved.
I am delighted that many readers have discovered Taken In Hand after reading Jane Austen, modern romance novels, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, Laura Doyle's The Surrendered Wife, Helen Andelin's Fascinating Womanhood, and other such books. Elements of the ideas in these books appeal to me greatly, but I am not very keen on the “surrendered wife” label, and in the case of the latter two books, the men sound decidedly hypersensitive and weak. Apart from the phrase, “surrendered wife”, the only other I have thought of here is “being a man”, and as a reader quite rightly pointed out to me, using that phrase might suggest that one thinks that men who have no wish to take charge in their marriage are not real men, which of course is not true.
In the past I have said that Taken In Hand is about celebrating “traditional relationships” but this has caused no end of misunderstandings and offence, so I conclude that using this phrase is a mistake, though it still has some appeal for me, because these relationships do have something in common with traditional relationships, except that the Taken In Hand one is freely chosen and thoroughly consensual.
But for some readers, the phrase “traditional relationship” conjures up the idea of tyrannical men and uninteresting docile miserable resentful nothing women devoid of autonomy and having no choice and no opportunities to pursue their own dreams. So to use this phrase risks giving the mistaken impression that Taken In Hand is advocating a return to the Dark Ages when there was no choice for women. On the contrary, I think that unless this is a genuine choice, it is thoroughly bad. Indeed, one of my criticisms of some strands of feminism is that they end up replacing one set of prescriptions and proscriptions with another. I think individuals should be free to pursue relationships and ways of life that they themselves prefer, not feel compelled to follow someone else's prescriptions. Moreover, to some, a “traditional relationship” sounds like a static, fixed relationship, and that description seems not to be a good fit for the kind of Taken In Hand relationship a tough woman who has been on the front lines in Iraq might prefer. Nor does that idea work for people like Eric. So the phrase “traditional relationship” is all wrong.
As you can see, I am at a bit of a loss to know what labels to use to describe Taken In Hand, but perhaps the person who has put it best is Ben Nathan, who writes:
In this comment, he adds:
This site is about very traditional relationships (like marriage/ monogamy), it is not about religion (though it does seem to follow the Judaeo-Christian ethic of love), it is about domestic discipline (who has not, man or woman, mentally or physically disciplined their lover), it is a 'spanko site' (because some of us spank or whip), it is D/s (because some of us use D/s methods), it is BDSM (because, if we are honest, we all love to be tied down and 'taken'), it is TPE (because we all exchange huge amounts of power when we give ourselves to each other)... we all incorporate PART of all these systems (and many, many others) into that great and gorgeous brew we call love—with marriage, partnership, care, freedom, equality, the kids.. everything all gets mixed in.
Clearly I can't speak for the site owner—whether or not he or she is into D/s or heavily into TPE or whatever... but since he or she appears to be a very human being, he or she is, presumably just like the rest of us... taking whatever he or she needs from wherever to be a unique human being... just like the rest of us.
Thanks Ben. I agree.