The Pressure of Dominance

Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget how stressful it can be to wield power over and take responsibility for another person.

Up until this last week or two, things had felt very different between me and my partner. We’ve been having sex much less frequently, and really playing even less. In part, this is due to conflicting and busy schedules, but can largely be chalked up to stress. There have been an increasing number of nights in which I expect we’re going to at least have sex, and he just wants to cuddle. He feels bad; I feel bad; we go to sleep feeling awkward and distant.

As is the case with most of these sort of problems, the only way to deal with it was to spend an entire evening just talking about it, crying, and talking some more.

While talking about it, I mentioned that all this seems to have started with a disappointing flogging workshop we attended at the Citadel a few months ago. In this workshop, attendees were expected to try out techniques on each other: to simply split up into pairs and practice, without hands-on teaching or any real supervision. He wasn’t able to do it. He felt so nervous and intimidated by the whole thing that we ended up leaving, which of course made him feel even worse — especially because I’d been feeling fine about the whole thing and had been feeling more and more interested in that sort of public play. It was an incredibly demoralizing experience for him, he told me, one that left him very shaken and insecure about his dominance.

Since then, it’s become an underlying issue affecting our play. It’s hard to be dominant when you can’t shake the feeling that your submissive wants more than what you can or want to deliver; it’s hard to top someone when you’re feeling pressured to do so more often and harder than you yourself are comfortable with. And recently, that’s been our dynamic: I ask for a scene, I talk to him about classes and workshops we might attend, new things we might try, and all of it just makes him shrink away. When I push, when I try to direct things, when I’m pursuing him, it’s difficult for him to not feel pressured — and pressure, of course, is always a great killer of sexual desire, but especially when you’re supposed to be the one in control.

Immediately after that conversation, a few weeks ago, I was at a complete loss. I knew the appropriate response from me was to just back the fuck off, to stop bringing it up, to stop pressuring him into playing, to put ideas of further workshops and public activities out of my head completely, to give him the time and space to feel confident in his dominance and to play with me because he wants to, not because he feels like he has to. And ultimately, that’s what I agreed to do. For two weeks, I wouldn’t say a word about sex or play, and would let him take his time and initiate it when he wanted.

I hated it. Every time I wanted to play and couldn’t ask for it, all I could really think is, “Why doesn’t he want this? We have time and privacy, why isn’t he just tearing off my clothes right this second? Is this losing its appeal? Am I losing my appeal?” on top of an underlying “Goddamn I want to be beaten and hurt and fucked right now.” And then, of course, I started thinking, “How long is this going to go on? Can I really be happy if this ends up being the norm in our relationship, with sex once or twice a week and a long play session maybe once a month? Can I be happy if those play sessions involve the same few activities over and over, if he’s not interested in ever learning new things or trying new toys, in inventing new games and tortures and ways to make me squirm? Can I be happy if he’s never as interested in this stuff as I am, if he never wants to prioritize it in the way that I do?”

And of course, that’s a lot of nonsense. I realize that now that a few weeks have passed, and our d/s seems to be back in full force. He was right — all it took was a little time in which I wasn’t putting on the pressure, and his dominance came right back out. The less I push to get what I want, the more I actually get what I want. All I needed to do was trust that he wants all of this as much as I do, and I very quickly was able to see the same desire reflected in his eyes. So many times I get to this point, this not really believing that he wants me in this way, and every time I realize it’s a silly and unfounded fear. (A fear legitimately rooted in bad past experiences, but nevertheless unfounded, at least with my current partner.)

Relationships are at once so complicated and so simple, whether kinky or vanilla. Everything I’ve written here, everything I’ve learned from this experience, all boils down to the same clichéd phrases: time; space; talking; listening; trust. How is it that such simple words describe the most difficult challenges?

7 comments so far

  1. Meer on

    The words aren’t so simple. How do you define them? Are the definitions always/often consistent?

  2. Dev on

    Wow, did you ever nail it with this post. As usual.

    I think we all have our moments (so far not weeks for me, but I can imagine it easily enough) of lacking the confidence to go forward. I was about to have a scene with Joscelin Saturday night, and I felt I was a little shaky but mostly OK, and then he said something like, “Please tell me that I don’t have a choice.”

    And I basically realized, no, I can’t do this in this mood. What I saw was that if he asked me, in the scene, something like, “Is it all right that I hate this?” (the kind of thing he often says), I wouldn’t be OK. I wasn’t OK with him not liking it, and yet the scene I wanted to have was not one he would like. Unfair conditions. Impossible.

    So we took an hour or so to deal with my insecurities (the whole crying/talking/holding thing) and then we did have the scene and all was well.

    Pushing has been an issue for us in the past, but not for a while. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s more satisfied or if he just decided not to push anymore. I kind of brought this up last night and got a scary non-answer, so…more talking.

    Sorry – did not mean to dominate your comments with my own experiences here.

  3. subversive_sub on

    So much of what we do is bafflingly contradictory. “I hate it when we do this. I want you to do this. I want you to be okay with the fact that I hate it when you do this.” What a twisted set of ideas to simultaneously hold in one’s mind! With my partner, I’ve found that sometimes, there’s nothing that turns him on more than knowing I hate something and will do it anyway — but other times, the times when he’s feeling insecure in his dominance or unsure of what I can really take, it’s impossible for him to hear things like “I hate this” as anything other than an indication that he should stop whatever “this” is.

  4. jeffliveshere on

    This is a great post…I’m consistently amazed by how much self-awareness (coupled with communication) is required of kinky people.

  5. devastatingyet on

    Yeah, I am exactly the same way – sometimes I am fine (even happy) with hearing “I hate this” – and other times it makes me feel bad. I try hard not to do things he will hate if it’s going to make me feel bad if he says so, because I feel like that’s not fair. It’s my responsibility not to go there.

  6. Berior on

    I have the same problem really, at time I want , enjoy and get very excited by the idea that my partner doesn’t like what I’m doing but is still willing to go trough it (If she wasn’t she would use our safeword to make it really clear)

    But at other times I simply can’t do it if she doesn’t enjoy it at all. And it’s made worse by the fact that I do enjoy bringing her pleasure (albeit on my own terms).

    I would also like to point this out. While domination alone isn’t too hard to deal with, sadistic pulsion can really freak someone for feeling them. After all human being aren’t supposed to hurt one another. Personally I’m still struggling to accept and control that aspect of myself and it can become really debilitating at time.

  7. Bookmarks about Relationships on

    […] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by ralfshaftoe on 2008-11-17 The Pressure of Dominance – bookmarked by 6 members […]

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