A guy wonders how to handle his girlfriend who wants to have a master/slave relationship. Josie and Eli call in Noah Brand for a third opinion from inside the world of kink.
Dear Sexes: My girlfriend just recently told me that she’s into s&m and she knows that I had a master/slave relationship in the past. What she doesn’t know is that it’s not sexual to me. It pulls up a very ugly repressed emotions/mentality. I want to do whatever I can to fulfill her fantasies, but I’m pretty uncomfortable with mentally accessing that part of me far enough for ME to enjoy it. Is this a common feeling? How safe is it for me to try this out? And when can I call it quits, having done my duty?
She Said: First and foremost, the way you just phrased that to us is probably the perfect way to explain your feelings to your girlfriend. There’s a chance that she may just want to explore the s&m side of herself, and isn’t even sure if it’s going to be something she needs, in which case you’d be off the hook.
There’s also the chance that she thinks that somewhere deep inside, because of your former relationship, that you need some element of BDSM to be fulfilled. To me, this is a case of you two just needing to have an open-hearted conversation.
However, we wanted to reach out to our friend, Noah Brand from The Good Men Project and No Seriously What About Teh Menz, who knows more about less-mainstram sexuality than we do, in order to get you a more knowledgeable response. Hopefully between the three of us, we can help!
He Said: I know this question is about s&m, but forget about that aspect for a moment. Your girlfriend wants to try something romantically/sexually that you’ve tried in the past, aren’t particularly into now, and sort of object to personally. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you do, and you should not force yourself to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Additionally, your girlfriend would (most likely) not want you do anything that compromised your values, or even personal tastes.
On the other hand, you’re in a relationship, so compromise (often) and communication (always) are required. Sit down with your girlfriend and discuss your fears, goals, and ideas about this scenario. Make sure you get your thoughts out, and do your best to listen carefully. The two of you may have more common ground than you think. And the more open you are with each other, the better chance you give each other to succeed.
Now, a few words from our guest expert – Noah, take it away.
Noah Said: It’s hard to give specific advice without knowing specific details, but if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that you’re worried about being an abusive top. (You are the top in these scenarios?) Rather than just being a fun kinky thrill for you, you’re worried that this kind of power play taps into a darker and more dangerous part of your psyche. If that’s not actually your problem, please write in again and explain more and we’ll tackle the question again.
To answer your question, that’s not all that uncommon. Most conscious and responsible tops feel some level of tension between the enjoyment of power and the fear of abusing it. Sounds like in your case that tension’s a bit higher than most, but that’s not necessarily an insurmountable problem. The solution is the solution to literally almost all kink problems: communication, limits, and boundaries.
First and foremost, talk openly with your girlfriend about her specific fantasies and your own feelings. Do the things she wants even overlap with the things you fear doing? Did you just start to answer that question without asking her first? You say she doesn’t know about your repressed emotions, I say she probably should. Talk about these things very specifically and very honestly, with minimal “Oh, you know what I mean” or “I guess just anything” or phrases like that. The kink worksheet created by the great Cliff Pervocracy is a good starting point.
From there, you need to set clear limits and boundaries, and you must be clear that you are BOTH allowed to set those. You have every bit as much right to say “I’m not comfortable doing that to you” as she does to say “I’m not comfortable having that done to me.” It will help if you can do some trust exercises: the trust needs to go both ways. You need to know that she can safeword if she has to, that she can look out for her own safety and well-being, and she needs to know that you will respect her safeword, that you won’t go too far.
What I’m saying is that you may be wrong about not being able to explore this side of yourself safely, and you may also be wrong about not being able to enjoy power dynamics on a sexual level. With communication and boundaries, you can potentially construct a space for yourself and your girlfriend where you can both have a good time, and even if it doesn’t work, you’ll both be able to understand why, and learn from the experience without getting hurt.
Unless, of course, the nature of your problem is that you’re thinking “Communication? Boundaries? Safewords? I don’t want to do those things!” In which case you were right the first time, you’re a shitty top and should not play with anyone.