Who says #feminism means skipping sex appeal, dance rituals, and shirking the role of sex slave? We get to have it all, but it's getting harder to fit it all in! In this article, we detangle a woman’s need to play slave girl, touch on conflict created by a feminine surplus (and masculine deficiency), and learn why the Princess Leias of the world want more than a Halloween party to ply their craft.
Dear Sweet & Low,
I moved to San Diego to be with my boyfriend and found a job as a paralegal while I work towards my MBA. I find the people here a little strange but refreshing. I come from a small town and consider myself a "salt of the earth" person. Where I come from there doesn't seem to be such a need to show skin or be open about our sexuality. My family isn’t hardcore religious, but we believe in a higher power that advocates humility, respect to our elders, and hard work. We don't put a lot of stock in making our needs everyone else's business.
I would say that my parents are old-fashioned. Mom raised us while Dad worked hard to ensure she could do that. She later went back to school and became a teacher. Maybe it’s the SoCal air or the culture shock, but I’m conflicted about what kind of future I want to create with my boyfriend. I keep fantasizing about being his slave. I'm hoping you can shine a light on what it’s like to be a sexually empowered woman who wants to be submissive in her monogamous-but-potentially-polyamorous relationship.
My guy is super friendly, relaxed, nature-loving, and an introvert. He works as an IT specialist, and most of his time is spent behind a computer. When we're not working, we go hiking and biking, spending Saturdays at the beach with friends. In our social life, I can hold my own. I don’t feel like I have to hang on his arm, or tell him where I’m going or with whom, and he doesn’t insist on anything more than a heads-up to know I’m safe and if I’ll be out late or need a ride home. Truthfully, I’ve been here for eighteen months and can count on one hand the number of times I decided to stay out past 10 PM. I mention this because it seems to be a prerequisite when talking about power exchange. In all the chat groups I've been on, most of the members make a point of asking if I'm being coerced and if we have talked about boundaries. Kudos to them for being on the ball, but the more I thought about having to map out everything I want and the appropriate responses, the excitement of my fantasy grinds to a halt. I don't want to kill the fun! We're both considerate, intelligent people. Is it really so easy to be manipulated? I thought couples got into BDSM because, at least from what I've seen, it's easier to communicate things like rules and boundaries.
In college I had two steady boyfriends, both of whom were sweet, but nothing in the fireworks department. The sex I had with them left me feeling unsatisfied, like I was playing a role of the good girlfriend. The most intensive and memorable sex I had was with a guy I met at a concert. He had tattoos, smoked, and was a typical bad boy. Nothing about our brief interlude said long-term, and I was happy to keep it casual. On the fifth and last date, he came to my apartment for the first time and was very quiet. I don’t think he wanted to know me as a person, just continue existing in our haze of sex. I was thinking about how long the meatloaf had been left in the oven when without warning, he pushed me up against the couch, bent me over, and put his hand in my panties while talking dirty. I don’t remember being that turned on or incapable of protest. The sex was a little rough, and I liked the idea of it, but at some point I couldn't help thinking, “Why am I letting him do this to me?” I was incapable of having an orgasm, but this didn’t concern me at the time. We parted ways through text, and it wasn’t a big deal.
I’ve told my boyfriend this, and he’s expressed interest in role play, but he says I need to figure out how I want to be treated. I go back to that scenario with the bad boy. I want to feel again that overwhelming desire to be handled like I’m a pleasurable object, but also want a connection that is loving and genuine.
Here’s my fantasy. I’m a slave girl in his harem. I know, it’s corny, but my favorite Disney movie was Aladdin. I loved the costumes, the magic, and the flying carpet. I love to dance. It makes me feel free and uninhibited. I like to wear clothes that show off my body in an erotic way in the privacy of our home. In my fantasy, I entice him to stop working and take me on the floor or couch, like it’s my purpose to be used in such a way. Sometimes the fantasy extends into him telling me to strip for him while dancing, to get on my knees, to worship his cock. I crawl on my hands and knees. I say, "Yes Master!"
When I imagine doing this to him, I get excited, but then I look in the mirror. This isn't how I was raised. Crawling after a man?! So far, none of this has extended to fantasizing about being told to scrub toilets, expose myself in public, or other acts of humiliation. Does that mean I don't really want to be a slave?
I’m a hard worker, career-driven, and feel like this could be good for bringing in a level of erotic excitement, but I don’t want to lose myself in the process and forget my goals. All my life I’ve wanted to be independent, create my own security. Relying on a man to fulfill my needs used to make me furious. Now, all I fantasize about is doing exactly that.
Slave girl, I’ll be straight with you. If we were having coffee and you told me this, I’d high-five you, probably be a little turned-on by the fantasy contact high, and ask, "So what's the problem?"
That's not to say imagining women being submissive turns me on. It could, given a solid friendship and the permission to be honest, but we haven't established that boundary. As much as I would love to say the BDSM community has a better handle on open communication, negotiating boundaries, and sharing a natural reciprocity with our fellow kinksters, it's the same with any niche: communication is an evolution, and practice makes perfect.
BDSMers are more verbal out of necessity. If you're tying up a man's junk and zapping his nipples with electrical current, it's good to know if he has recurring nightmares about his little brother sticking a fork in an electrical outlet and being rushed to the hospital. Once you go verbal, you don't go back. It saves a boatload of time and effort. Your vocabulary expands. You can ramble with purpose, letting the flow of thoughts translate into ideas and feelings you didn't know were accessible or relatable. The only downside is that small talk becomes unbearable at conservative dinner parties.
Nowhere in any book, manual, or self-respecting Domme house is it written that slaves must want to be humiliated, degraded, or accept pain/punishment that is outside their mental capacity to accept and use as an ultimate benefit. As a rule of thumb, if it's not good for the slave, you don't do it. Simple as that.
I think your issue has more to do with the boundaries you have with yourself than those you have with your partner. The fear of giving up independence and freedom is legit. If you're of a certain age bracket and haven't been sequestered by a cult or radical movement that believes female liberation is the work of the devil, you've been influenced by the stories of women who married before starting a career, had children, and live in regret. Then there are the stories of those that focused on their careers and never had the chance to have children and live in regret. Let's not forget about the women who had both children and career but felt guilty for spending too much time on one or the other--or the women who raised kids and went back to work, but felt too old to climb to the position they want... and you guessed it, live in regret. We wouldn't hear these stories if they didn't sound like any good-intentioned parent screaming from the sidelines, "DON'T FUCK IT UP LIKE I DID!" as if mentioning all the bad things that could happen helps kids make better choices.
There are plenty of stories that do the opposite, stories that empower and showcase having it all, some under dire straits, and many using the fear of living a life in regret as a theme. There are Judith Regan stories, Arianna Huffington stories, Oprah stories, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner stories, Gloria Steinem stories... If you spent the next year reading a positive story about a woman taking charge of her life, they'd all look different, and you'd be too inspired to let doubt keep you in chains that aren't the kind you like. Are any of them going to preach about being a love slave? I wish.
If you're conflicted, you have a right to be. The majority of females want the title and security of being self-made, but they also want the erotic space to be feminine, vulnerable, and submissive. With all these stories, what's a girl to do?
Except, you know what to do. Your fantasy has supplied you with the answer. It has given you a tent in the desert (far removed from social norms), an outfit designed to control and manipulate (while being colorful, comfortable, and providing easy access), and a purpose (to dance and make your lover go crazy). Furthermore, you don't have to worry about the tent's mortgage, food and water for the camels, protection from the desert bandits, or if a neighboring harem girl is going to seduce your Master.
Can you have a version of this in your life? FUCK YEAH. Let's set you up for success.
Enjoy your new environment. This allows you space to play, whereas being stuck in the same town, same friends, same space you grew up in could have been more of a deterrent. You decided in that space you didn’t want to emulate the traditional dominant male household. Cool. Watching your parents interact as you grew taught you one way to be. In many ways, those patterns are secure, comfortable, and easy to follow. Discomfort arises when you rebel against those teachings. You’re not rebelling against them, but the dictates of that cultural understanding, which itself isn’t bad or good. It’s just one way to be that worked for them. Take it easy on the comparisons.
Keep what's working. In past relationships you felt like you were “playing the girlfriend,” and you were. As natural as breathing, you were trying on a pattern of behavior to see if it truly fit your goals. It did not, at least not with those men. Now you know, and you can use that information to sculpt the relationship of your dreams. Keep what you liked and redefine the rest. For instance, if you liked having doors held open for you, keep it. If you didn’t like feeling as if you had to have dinner on the table every night, ditch it.
Being weak is bliss for strong women. You desire being handled and treated like a pleasure tool. The bad boy is an attractive figure to powerful women. He's not easy to manipulate, and there's a decent chance he'll do the manipulating. That's exciting... while it lasts. It's detrimental to those who don't have good boundaries. Either way, a part of you wants to be weak because you're strong enough to play that role. If it starts to get a little dark, trust your gut. If it says STOP, you STOP. You don't second-guess; you don't think, "But this is making him so happy!" Is it? Do you know that for sure? If you're disconnecting and he doesn't know that, he needs to know.
Create boundaries that feel like play. Your dude is open to what you want to do. That’s half the battle. He sounds self-aware and interested in playing with power exchange. In many ways, he may not want the traditional “head of the household” label any more than you want him to have it. There are dominant, masculine attributes that don't require calling the shots. To use a crude but appropriate example, in the HBO series Game of Thrones a tiny blond chick learns how to ride her massive pirate-looking husband like a war stallion, and he promises to conquer the world for her.
Seriously, I can't explain it better without going nerd. Watch the series before the next season comes out. No one will judge you.
Dance your heart out, butterfly. We are bogged down with the necessity to talk. Rarely do we share how we feel without saying anything, except in body language. It doesn't matter if you're doing it for him or yourself. DANCE. The music and movements will figure it out for you.
Trust your higher self. Will you lose individuality, respect, and sense-of-self by stepping into a role that is opposite of who you’re determined to be? Maybe. And that could be the point. It's not an accident or coincidence that you want what you want.
Here’s the accepted truth: To not have freedom is to be abused, used, and eventually discarded.
This is true when that freedom is taken without consent, using fear, force, coercion, sex, deceit, greed, and all manner of ugliness for the sole benefit of attaining (perceived) power. But when there's an exchange of energy and power? When the ultimate sign of respect is making room for the crazy and ugly and bizarre to show up? When giving up freedom feels good and right and necessary? When there's reflection, transparency, and the determination to let your heart lead the way? That's some next-level shit.
You both get to start from scratch simply by being committed to the person in front of you NOW. Yes, you get to take a break from being that image you’ve so carefully created. Yes, you get to try out different modalities that will help you define what’s important and what can be ditched. Yes, you get to be a slave with someone who respects you, loves you, wants to please you, and in doing so, is pleased. When the play is said and done, what remains is the purity of the person, the effort, the commitment, the give and take. The energy is exchanged, not permanently assigned.
*Cautionary note: If you mention establishing boundaries to your partner and that person recoils, acts offended, or believes this practice is unnecessary, insulting, or disdainful, this is not a good sign. Not only should you reconsider seeing him romantically, you may not be able to keep him as a friend. Those who can't agree to behave in a way that shows their partner respect and love--while establishing what they need at the same time--see boundaries as traps. If they can't act how they want, when they want, they can't manipulate you with drama. If they can't manipulate with drama, they will feel threatened, defensive, and most likely challenge you with their insecurities. If they can abuse you in some way, and you allow it by staying, it reinforces their belief that they are superior. In essence, they might be great people inside, but they have the emotional range of a two-year-old.
If none of that scratches the itch, it's time for CLASS. Last year, I attended DomCon LA, which is a convention of BDSM, roleplay, kink, and fetish merchants and practitioners, who invade the LAX Hilton to talk about their craft. Packed with workshops, demos, play parties, and those selling their fetish gear, it’s one of the coolest expos for a beginner, voyeur, or experienced player. One of the workshops was “Slave Dancing,” taught by a beautiful and voluptuous "sub" (i.e. submissive) who may succumb to her Master, but was fully in charge of that workshop. Teaching a group of mostly sub-type women, except for yours truly, who was there for the love of all things dance, she was able to show us submissive body language, how to roll the hips in invitation, how to use our facial expressions to convey intrigue, pouting, and surrender. It was a fun time! Plus, she just so happened to care about things like having a good job, owning her own house, and the joy of harem skirts. These kind of teachers exist, so find a way to take their classes!
There's no real reason for this graphic except the obvious. You're welcome.
This is an incredible time for women coming into their power. For my two-cents, it means we get to encourage anyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, or political association to reach for the highest, most expanded versions of themselves and gladly let them return the favor. Otherwise, we're no better than the men we think need replacing.