Archive for March, 2006|Monthly archive page

Submission and Dependency

My last relationship ended with M walking out on me while I begged him, “Please don’t leave me…please don’t leave.” This, even though I was the one who’d insisted on putting an end to our relationship.

It was a profoundly disturbing moment.

For most of my life, I’ve been nearly obsessed with the idea of freedom and true independence. When I was younger, this took the form of isolation and dreams of “escape,” and as I got older, actually leaving home. In all of my adult relationships, independence has been a central theme; my most often-heard complaint was a feeling of being held back, or smothered, or that the other person was too clingy, too dependent on me.

When M walked out on me, that night, I realized that all this time, these past several years, I had been more dependent on him than he ever had on me.

As a child, I had frequent recurring nightmares, the most powerful and memorable of which involved me curling up in bed with one of my parents (though it was never clear to me which one), and being unable to scream as a monster of some sort walked into the room, scooped me up, and carried me out, without my mom or dad ever waking up. Once, I told a friend about this dream, and he joked, “Wow, you didn’t have abandonment issues.” I laughed – but it was startling, and something I had never thought of before. After all, I never had been abandonded, in any way (at least, not to my knowledge), and in fact had wanted, even as a child, to be far more solitary and independent than my parents ever allowed me to be.

* * * * *

In the foreward to his book SM 101, Jay Wiseman writes, “Some motivations [for BDSM] are pathological. Dominants may have “old stuff” going on regarding frustration, sadists regarding anger, submissives regarding dependency, masochists regarding guilt or self-loathing.” Of course, he goes on to say, this is by no means the norm – most people interested in SM do not have these sort of issues to work through, or at least (and this is important), no more than most other “normal” people do.

My fear in “coming out” to myself as a submissive (and even more, perhaps, as a masochist), is that it’s tied to my psychology; that there’s no way my desire to be tied up and beaten can be separated from past issues of dependency, guilt, and self-loathing. That notion’s only reinforced by quite a bit of what I’ve read on the subject, both fiction and non. Secretary, for example – the movie that really pushed me to start acknowledging my submissive sexual fantasies – features two characters that are far from normal. Mr. Grey, the dominant, exhibits a multitude of obsessive-compulsive tendencies, a need to control himself and his environment – not just his submissive. Lee Holloway, the sub, is introduced to us as she gets out of a mental hospital; she’d been placed there after her mother’s discovery of her self-mutilation/cutting. In her case, it’s made explicitly clear that her submission to Mr. Grey replaces her need to cut herself – she is able to stop because he tells her to. I’ve read other BDSM (nonfiction) erotica that has dealt with similar themes, especially in tying the submissive’s past of abuse, guilt, or low self-esteem to their eroticizing of those same feelings. It all seems to make some sort of sense – that one of the “reasons” for BDSM is to have a place to play with those emotions and traumas that haunt us.

But as satisfying and releasing as sex (of any sort) can feel, it’s not therapy, and really shouldn’t be treated as such. Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that I’ve been able to twist negative feelings of dependency and self-hatred into pleasant ones of sexual submission and masochism – but this sort of sexual play doesn’t “heal” me, nor does it lessen the experience to know that it’s tied to some rather unpleasant parts of myself. More importantly, having “issues” of guilt or dependency isn’t necessarily a sign of pathology; when Wiseman points out that BDSM folk don’t have issues to work through any more so than do “normal” people, it’s a really important point: We’re all fucked up, one way or another.


If you’ve found this blog, welcome. Currently, this blog is primarily my own outlet for writing about my experiences with BDSM and putting fantasies into words. Here’s how it all began.

I’ve always liked pain, I suppose, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to associate real pleasure with pain—before, it was always a way to find relief and focus, burning myself with a match or cutting on my arms and legs, a desperate attempt to find some sort of clarity when anxiety/depression became too much to bear. Mostly, that ended after I left high school, and found other ways to channel my frustration and tension. But some six months ago, following the breakup of my longest and most defining relationship, I began to burn myself again, at least once a week over the course of several months. While I had a vague sense of it being a “bad” way to handle the situation—inflicting physical pain to rid myself of emotional suffering—I wasn’t sure why, exactly, that was. The scars would be noticeable and long-lasting, to be sure, but I wasn’t really damaging myself in any dangerous way. And if it could provide me with the temporary relief I needed, then hell—how was it any different than popping a pill or spending 50 minutes with a therapist?

Months passed, and I became involved with someone new. I noticed him looking at the scars on my arms several days before he asked; he already knew the answer. I was expecting worry, concern—my last partner, I was sure, would have tried to talk me into “getting help.” He just listened. He didn’t doubt for a second my ability to handle the situation, or my judgment; he merely asked how it made me feel, why I felt like I need to burn myself, and (most importantly) if I felt like it helped me. He seemed to understand my need for focus, and that pain was a reasonable (if, perhaps, unusual) method of obtaining that. He did suggest that the permanent tissue damage maybe wasn’t such a great idea, but didn’t ask that I stop, or insinuate that my behavior was indicative of a troubled mind, a warped personality, a sickness, a mental disorder.

When I first recognized my attraction to him, his presence became nearly overpowering, though I had no idea why. The first time I fantasized about him, I imagined him pinning my hands behind my back, one hand grasping my throat, as he stared into me. Dominating me. Consuming me. The first time we fucked, it seemed completely natural when he encircled my wrist tightly with his hand, holding it firmly to the small of my back as I sat astride him, gently rocking, neither of us speaking, looking deeply into each others’ eyes. It was several weeks later that we finally talked; I was on my back, and put my arms up over my head, grasping the bed. He put both his hands on mine, kissing my neck, when I whispered, “Do you want something to tie my hands?” A pause; a silence.

“No…not right now.” He continued where he’d left off.

I was mortified. Of course he doesn’t want to tie you up, you stupid slut, you…my god, he must think…he must…”

He stopped, shifting to lay beside me. He put his arms around me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m just…was that too much?”

“No, it’s…what do you have to tie your hands?”

“Rope.” A pause.

“Yeah, I’ve never tied anyone up before. I tied someone’s hands once with a t-shirt, but it wasn’t…is it okay—can we talk about this?” I nodded. And we talked.

He’d been aware, he said, of his dominant tendencies, but hadn’t really done anything in the realm of serious bondage or s/m play. I told him that I’d tried, with my ex, but that it hadn’t ever worked out so well, at least for me. I told him about how uncomfortable I felt with my desires, that I wasn’t supposed to feel this way, and he understood: good feminist women aren’t supposed to want their partners to order them around; good feminist men aren’t supposed to get excited by women obeying them.

Over the past few months, we’ve explored, and pushed, and grown more comfortable with our roles. Each of us still feels twinges of guilt, and I still sometimes end play sessions feeling ashamed, even as I feel deeply satisfied and content. This morning, I cried in his arms, after a restless night of doubts, worries, feelings of humiliation, of what’s wrong with me, why am I like this.

Not eight hours later, I’ve just finished wrapping the switch I cut for him in black electrical tape; he’ll be pleasantly surprised, I hope. I lightly tap the switch on the palm of my hand, once, twice, then a light rap on my wrist. I pull up the leg of my jeans. Whap. The sting is pleasant, sharper and more concentrated than the belt we’ve been using. Only five hours till he gets home, and I can hardly wait.