What Your Mother Never Told You
Advice from Uncle Bill & Auntie Andrea
Dear Uncle Bill:
My partner and I have been in an open relationship for the past two years, and we've known each other as friends for much longer. We enjoy a fair amount of S/M and bondage in our relationship, although things have sometimes seemed a bit stale recently.
Lately, my partner has been practicing S/M with a couple of friends. One pal in particular concerns me because his style of S/M is very heavy and intense. My partner (the "bottom") seems to like the abuse. But this guy's doing some pretty extreme things with my honey-pie, and it's causing me a lot of anxiety.
What can I do? I don't want to come across as a spoilsport, but I can't go on hiding my feelings, either.
Ask yourself which is bothering you more: your concern for your partner's safety and well-being, or your concern that your partner achieves a greater degree of intimacy via S/M with this guy than is available to you via S/M or other activities. If the issue is safety, then you need to talk in practical terms about what makes you queasy. Once you've talked, your partner may need to re-negotiate limits in playing with this top in order to avoid causing you excessive discomfort. But if you don't bring it up, it'll never happen.
On the other hand, if it's an intimacy issue -- as is often the case -- you need to ask your partner why she or he feels it is necessary to go outside the relationship for extreme forms of intimacy. You may want to talk mutually with a counselor or other impartial third party to sort out the barriers to intimacy between you two. Sometimes a lot can be achieved in just a few sessions by focusing on how a couple is intimate, and where intimacy breaks down. Often it's a problem that can be reduced by working on communication skills.
Naming feelings is important. You shouldn't have to hide yours. Withdrawal is seldom a satisfying solution; it just gives the negative feelings a chance to multiply. You need to talk with your partner about your anxiety. If the thought of this causes you even more anxiety (!), then practice your approach by writing a letter to your partner in which you describe your anxiety and what triggers it. You probably don't need to share this letter with your partner; it's really a chance for you to organize your thoughts and rehearse a face-to-face discussion.
Many partners in a non-monogamous relationship feel a loss of intimacy once the "honeymoon" part of the relationship subsides. That's natural, but it's important to do something about it. Talking about what turns you on -- and off -- is vital to nurturing your growth as a couple. So is experimentation. Not every experiment will be a smashing success, but you'll probably find some new items to include in your sensual repertoire.
Finally, remember that there are many ways to be intimate outside of the bedroom -- or dungeon. Shared activities can build trust and bring you closer together. Make a list of possibilities --a good joint project, by the way -- and then try some with your partner.
I wish you luck!
Dear Aunt Andrea;
I'm a 35-year-old bi guy who has always been very feminist, but recently I've been having very powerful fantasies about subjugating and raping women. In my fantasies, I rip their clothes off, beat them until they're bruised and bleeding, and pound into their cunts until they're sore and whimpering. These new fantasies are very hot for me, and very intense. Do they mean I'm sick? Should I seek mental help? Do these desires make me less of a feminist? I still hate injustice against women and want to work against the inequalities in our society, but I feel like such an oppressor and sexist pig. Why don't I have these fantasies about men? And why are these desires surfacing only now? What has changed in me?
-- Feeling Sick (But Horny)
Dear Feeling Sick:
Plenty of men and women have variations on fantasies about being overpowered, abused, and taken. Likewise, plenty of men and women fantasize about being the ones to do the overpowering and taking. Are all of these people sick anti-feminists in need of mental help? No. Let's face it: Sometimes the stuff that gets you hot just isn't necessarily "politically correct."
If these fantasies only live in your mind and you never want to physically act them out with another person, then that's fine -- the only one who has to consent to something you don't do is yourself.
From the tone of your letter, it sounds like you already know the difference between fantasy and reality, and your conscience would stop you from actually trying to play this scenario out on an unwilling female. If it wouldn't, then you really should be seeing a counselor.
But what about playing this scenario out with a willing female? There are, in fact, independent, intelligent, staunchly feminist people of both sexes who enjoy fantasizing about playing the supporting role in a scene similar to yours.
Suppose that a submissive person and a dominant one got together, discussed their fantasies, agreed on a time and a place, and a scenario -- say, perhaps washing dishes when a "burglar" breaks in. Perhaps they'd agree to do it right there on the kitchen table, and that physical force such as shoving or pulling hair were acceptable, but nothing that would leave bruises (actually beating people bloody has this annoying tendency to result in broken bones and other such non-erotic nastiness). Perhaps they'd even agree on a special word that means, "That's too much, slow down." That way the submissive would be able to struggle a lot and yell, "No, stop!" as part of the fun. This could be very fulfilling (and very hot) for both of them!
Some people feel uneasy about S/M and dominance/submission in general, and when a form of eroticism happens, for whatever reason, to intersect with institutionalized forms of oppression, it seems only logical that a socially conscious person would acknowledge the larger implications involved. Does that mean that you shouldn't enjoy your fantasies even if you don't hurt anyone without their consent? No!
As a woman who enjoys plenty of submissive fantasies of her own, let me attempt to ease your mind a bit: For a woman to identify her desire, define the terms under which she is comfortable attaining it, and then move forth and freely explore it, is inherently a feminist act.
To join with her in pursuing a mutual desire by helping her act out her submissive fantasies hardly sounds oppressive or sexist. Oppressive sexism would be telling her that she shouldn't have these feelings at all, and must suppress them! Credit her with the ability to make decisions for herself about what she can and can't do and enjoy with her own body, and you're not being oppressive at all, even if the activity you're engaged in may superficially appear to be.
Why are you having these feelings now, and why are they only about women?
I don't know. I do know that there's no reason to feel bad about having dominant sexual fantasies, and there's also no reason to feel bad about acting them out in a safe, consensual manner with an informed, willing partner.
If the question of "why now, and why only women?" continues to bother you, or you don't feel comfortable with your fantasies for your own moral or ethical reasons, perhaps a sex-positive therapist, who can understand your history and give informed advice, would be able to help you sort things out.
What your mother probably never told you was that Uncle Bill & Auntie Andrea are available to answer all your questions on sex, love, relationships, etc. Send them c/o Anything That Moves, 2261 Market St., #496, San Francisco, CA 94114-1600, or email advice@AnythingThatMoves.com. We'll only use your initials or a pen name, so don't worry, your mother won't find out...
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