Ownership, Part One

I’m thinking this is going to be a difficult post to write.

A little over two months ago, I finally worked up the courage to ask my partner something I’d been thinking about for a long time: I asked for a mark to wear. Neither of us was too keen on the idea of a tattoo or branding, and we finally decided that a simple bracelet of some sort would be the way to go. I suggested something that I could wear all the time (i.e., that wouldn’t chafe in the shower or draw attention at work), and so we looked around on the internet until we found a stainless steel mesh bracelet that we both loved. It’s now sitting in a box on my dresser, waiting. The reason I haven’t begun wearing it, yet, is that while we’re both excited about it, we’re also extremely nervous about its significance for each of us.

It’s been hard to figure out exactly what this is going to mean for our relationship, and what each of us wants it to mean. At a very basic level, it’s a symbol of commitment and devotion, and a nice little reminder of our sexual relationship to make me smile throughout the day. But at a deeper level, it also connotes ownership — that in some sense, I belong to him. And that’s where it starts getting difficult.

About after a week after I brought the subject up for the first time, I had a strange and disturbing experience. He had organized an event that I had wanted to attend, but the weather had turned nasty, cold and rainy. I had rain gear with me, but it was a good three miles away, and I was already feeling sick. I was also feeling pretty distressed and overwhelmed, for a variety of reasons, and had a sudden panic attack that I was sure would prevent me from going anywhere that evening. Even though I knew it was important to him that I should be there, and even though I really wanted to go, I felt like I just couldn’t do it.

Then, I suddenly thought about the bracelet he’d agreed to give me, and imagined it around my wrist. I imagined him telling me to come to him, giving me an order. I immediately got dressed, got on my bike, and left. The ride through the rain was completely fine, and even enjoyable. And I ended up having a fantastic evening.

What the hell does that mean?

There are a few issues I’ve been struggling with, when it comes to this bracelet. The first is the sort of thing I just talked about: I associate it with an extension of our D/s to non-sexual situations. There are, of course, several different reasons for him to use his dominance in a non-scene way. One reason would be to assert himself in a way that gives us both a sort of sexual charge, with a promise of more to come later; he’s already done this a few times in semi-public settings, generally giving me instructions to not move, or forcing my arm behind my back, digging his nails into me, etc. I think this bracelet means, to both of us, that we’ll be doing a lot more of this, of course with the caveat that it doesn’t become too overt when we’re in public places. That’s the easy bit. The other reason, the one that makes me a little nervous, is that he could use his dominance in order to get me to do something I don’t think I can do or don’t want to do. (And really, the issue is more the fact that I’ve fantasized about such things rather than whether or not he’d begin actually issuing orders like this; I don’t think he would.)

Like it or not, I have a strong desire for him to use his dominance in this way — to order me to do something I don’t think I can do. Part of this makes sense to me, because receiving difficult orders from him in sexual situations has always made me feel strong and confident; I know he would never give me an order I couldn’t actually follow, would never tell me to do something if he didn’t have complete confidence in my ability to do it. When I feel that, it makes me realize that there are plenty of things I think I just can’t manage that I really, really can. But I feel like there’s a difference between him using our D/s to show me that I can take even more lashes than I believed possible and using it to help me get out of the house when I’m depressed.

I understand that there are some folks in D/s relationships who use that dynamic as a sort of general self-improvement for the submissive, helping him to overcome bad habits and encourage good ones. (Dev has a good post about this, here.) And I know that it probably works really well, for some people. But personally, it scares the hell out of me; and it scared my partner, too. Having him encourage me to do things I’m not sure I can, to take chances — that’s fine. Hearing him tell me that I’m strong and smart and capable enough to handle things I’m afraid of — wonderful. But to need him to make me do something in order for me to actually do it, to need his encouragment and support come in the form of an order…that makes me pretty uncomfortable.

I suppose it’s that “need” part that makes me nervous; the problem I have with this dynamic isn’t just that he’s ordering me to do something for my own good, but that I’m afraid I’ll come to rely on him for it, that I’ll become so accustomed to having him tell me what to do that I won’t be able to tell myself what to do. Part of me is just scared that I have such fantasies at all, and worries about what it all means. Up until now, when it comes to BDSM in my life, I’ve done a fairly good job at distinguishing fantasy and play from what I *actually* want my life to be like. But this feels very different to me. I can’t explain it away as easily, because it isn’t something confined to the bedroom, something I fantasize about because it’s a sexual turn-on. I mean, here I am, an independent, feminist, anarchist woman, daydreaming about my boyfriend directing my daily life in some very fundamental and seemingly non-sexual ways.

Of course, maybe the “whys” of this issue don’t actually matter all that much, when confronted with the overwhelming difficulty of the “hows” of carrying out such fantasies. After all, he doesn’t always know what the best thing for me is, especially in situations where I’m overwhelmed or depressed. In the situation I described in the beginning of this post, what if I was actually too sick to ride in the rain, and I’d ended up in bed with a bad cold for the next three days? Or what if I had gotten to the show and was feeling so anxious in the crowd that I had to immediately go home again? What would that do to the trust that’s so crucial to not only our D/s, but to our relationship?

3 comments so far

  1. alterisego on

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but a bracelet isn’t all that different from a wedding ring. It’s the actions that matter. If what you’ve already got cemented is a strong and good relationship, a bracelet shouldn’t have to alter that in ways you don’t want it to – only if you let it.

    But what do I know.

  2. subversive_sub on

    Oh, of course we’re not going to let a symbol change anything about our relationship that we don’t want it to change — this whole process is about figuring out what we DO want to change, what sort of power we do and do not want to put into this symbol. It can mean whatever we want it to. That’s an important thing I hadn’t written about: the fact that collars and rings and other such symbolic jewelry have acquired particular (sub)cultural meanings doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to accept the same meaning of my bracelet that it might have for others; the only thing that’s important to me, really, is that it has the same meaning to both me and my partner. Maybe even that isn’t as important as each of us understanding the meaning to each of us individually.

  3. Habu on

    (There’s lots of interesting and important points in your post, for now I’ll just stick to the bracelet aspect.)

    (Speaking as someone who has been wearing a titanium bracelet locked around my wrist for about a year and a half now, as a symbol of my Sir’s ownership,) Yeah, bracelets can be similar to wedding rings, but with one important difference; rings are easily slid on or off because fingers taper. Bracelets, on the other hand, if they’re a certain size, cannot be slid off without being removed.

    And yes, when imbued with meaning by both of you, symbols such as this can be both very solidifying and ‘grounding’ to a relationship, in that it can help you both know where you stand, what you’ve agreed to, etc. It provides a constant tangible reminder to you, and a visual reminder to your owner.

    Best of luck to the two of you with your new token, and Congratulations!

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