Shyness and Emotional Intimacy

Posted in relationships by Cal Stockton on December 6, 2009

Axe recently (okay, about a month ago) wrote about a reader of his who’d asked for advice. She was inexperienced, and worried about making a fool of herself with the new guy in her life by doing something wrong. The guy had said that he likes strong, confident, aggressive women, and the reader worried that that meant she could never have a shy moment around him, or show it when she is overcome with emotion.

Along with some kind, thoughtful advice, Axe confessed: “As far as showing emotion goes, I’m ashamed to admit when I first started I was looking for someone who was cold, knew exactly what she wanted and would demand it from me and not show any weakness. I don’t know if this is the case with the guy you met but I think it’s a common problem that submissive guys have when they first start out. They have unrealistic ideas of what dominant women are.”

I’m awfully shy myself, so this post really stuck with me. Enjoying topping does not imbue one with magical social skills, after all.

My thoughts, vaguely organized and peppered with vignettes:

1. Shyness

The first time I braved going out to a TES event, Boymeat dragged me out to his extreme caning class and had to promise in advance that he’d introduce me to someone friendly to sit next to. (He promptly introduced me to a cute guy around my age, saying: “This is Cal; she’s looking for someone to hurt!” I don’t think I’ve ever stammered or blushed so hard in my life. It’s been a good long while since then, though. The cute guy is still a good friend of mine, and I no longer lack for people to keep me company when I go out to classes. Boymeat occasionally tells me how proud he feels, the smug bastard. (Mwah!))

And, well. Another man I know, back when we first started expressing interest in each other, once told me that he likes shy tops.

If you’re inexperienced, nervous, and worried that submissive men can’t handle your human quirks, just reread that bit. He likes. Shy. Tops.

Be still my heart.

I also vividly recall an evening of flirting with an amazing woman over IM, where after each message I would hide my face in my boy’s back before peeking over to see if she’d replied yet. (She was doing something similar over on her end. We are ridiculous.) How could shyness and dominance possibly be incompatible? My boy was providing excellent service, to use the formal vernacular, by giving me comfort and assistance with my silly shyness in the way that suits me best.

Confidence/aggression and shyness are not mutually exclusive. I have no problem expressing my desires, or seducing or forcing people to satisfy them once we’ve established that that’s what they’re into. I think the shyness actually goes along with a hyper awareness of the importance of establishing consent before taking control.

I’m shy with new people because I can’t know whether or not they’d enjoy my aggression. I’m confident enough that I don’t have to believe that everyone on the planet wants to be submissive to me. So we dance around it a bit, get to know each other, and then determine whether things should go any further. Being shy is perhaps just another way for me to signal that, not being an actual rapist, I won’t take control unless you offer it to me.

2. Showing Emotion

I tend to be very emotional and open about it, with my boy. And why not? I’m thoroughly in love with him, and we share a wonderful life together. (I think I’ll call him… Bulgakov. Or maybe Cassidy.) What a terrible thing it would be, if I had to cut myself off from that in order to have relationships that turns me on. He taught me what service is and how to accept it by holding me when I cry, knowing what sort of tea I want even before I do, and taking care of me in various ways. There’s no question that he’s mine, but I’m not sure why he’d want to be without the emotional intimacy that holds us together.

Trinity put it marvelously well in her comment to this otherwise hopefully irrelevant post: “My relationship is based on love and friendship and sex… There are D/s elements to our relationship, some of which have to do directly with sex and play and some of which don’t, but this idea that vanilla people have relationships and I have a misshapen thingy really bothers me.”

I fall in love. I make mistakes. I seek connection, openness, understanding. I want intimacy, and sometimes I think that all the vicious roughness is just a way to break into even deeper intimacy, for me – let me into your heart, and also your skin, your mind, your everything.

None of this is worthwhile if it creates a wall between us instead of bringing us closer together – even all those strange distances of denial, clothing, bondage, unfairness, and power are just another way to circle around and tease our way closer to each other.

I’m more of a barbarian than an ice queen, though, if we must choose our archetypes. No wonder I love the intimacy of thuggery without intervening toys. Hands on, hands in.

So, where does that leave us?

Yes, there are submissive men out there who have are only attracted to bizarre fantasy figures, but there are also a lot of submissive men out there who want relationships with real human women who happen to enjoy being sexually dominant (some of whom may very much enjoy being cold at times). I’m pretty damn happy to know a few myself.

(If you’re looking for wonderful advice instead of my musings, I think that Ferns‘s reply to Axe’s post was really the best. And for a more balanced and extensive discussion on the many contradictory expectations of dominance out there, just check out Sex Geek’s post on the subject.)

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Raven in the Library and Raven in the Library, Adisson. Adisson said: I started following this from a link on @maymaym's blog. I didn't think I'd get anything from it, but this struck a chord […]

  2. Delilah Wood said, on December 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I think the shyness actually goes along with a hyper awareness of the importance of establishing consent before taking control.

    This, oh yes. Thank you for posting this; there might be a post in this for me. I’m so glad to be sharing a blog with you two: I often feel I’ve got nothing to say until one or the other of you comes out with something amazing like this that I actually have some thoughts about.

    Also, I’m just in love with this paragraph:

    I fall in love. I make mistakes. I seek connection, openness, understanding. I want intimacy, and sometimes I think that all the vicious roughness is just a way to break into even deeper intimacy, for me – let me into your heart, and also your skin, your mind, your everything.

    I so often feel that the desire to each hurt or be hurt by my partners, or to choke or be choke, fist or be fisted – pick your intense, not-entirely-comfortable activity of choice – is less about how much it turns me on to do that activity and more about the way the intensity heightens connection, trust, intimacy. When you’ve had your entire hand inside someone, what is there that you don’t know?

    • Ivy O'Malley said, on December 11, 2009 at 7:02 am

      I agree about the connection and intensity being the major driver towards sexiness. I’ve had a hard time explaining this to new partners or would-be partners of mine in the past… that it’s not particular actions that usually turn me on the most, but the creation of a particular dynamic. I want to blow their minds, and for them to know who it was that made them feel like that. I want to create something that is particular to me and them, not something where I could be interchangeable spanking machine #42. I think it is this which makes most of my scenes good… because I turn down offers where I don’t think I can achieve that particular closeness with that person or in that way.

  3. Dominance and vulnerability « Topologies said, on December 10, 2009 at 12:45 am

    […] Wood on December 10, 2009 As seems to be becoming a pattern, one of my esteemed colleagues has written a brilliant post about something and now I’m inspired. In this case, the topic was shyness and dominance, and […]

  4. Carol Anne Caiafa said, on December 11, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    This is all very interesting. Still, where does that leave the ones who don’t want males at all, in any respect?

    • Cal Stockton said, on December 12, 2009 at 12:28 am

      Where doesn’t it? My thoughts on shyness and emotional intimacy apply just the same when I’m with female lovers. That’s just less common for me, personally. I’m not sure what you’re looking for here.

      • Carol Anne Caiafa said, on December 16, 2009 at 2:10 am

        My own concerns are about who gets what role, who gets into whose body. I would personally not be so rejecting of men if they didn’t assume my body is to be entered. Because that is not what I’m about… I’ve usually found women to be more accepting about we whose sexuality doesn’t fit the “norms”.

    • XtinaS said, on December 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm

      Do you think the dynamic is so different when you have two women instead of a woman and a man that this post has no value there?

      • Carol Anne Caiafa said, on December 16, 2009 at 2:08 am

        Sadly, I do feel that there is a world of difference. A lot of it is to do with privilege and who takes who, as far as I am concerned. I wouldn’t be so angry about men’s advances if they weren’t approaching me full of assumptions about who gets into whom.

  5. Rikibeth said, on December 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

    This is not particularly relevant to the theme of the post (still thinking about that! It’s interesting!) but I like the idea of you calling your boy Cassidy, because that was always one of my favorite Dead songs. And some of the lyrics seem very suitable. “I can tell by the mark he left you were in his dream.” Yay!

  6. Katie said, on December 16, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Love this post. It’s really helpful for me personally as well, to articulate some of the fear I have that people expect some larger-than-life, braver-than-life person rather than the very human and shy top I am.

    • Cal Stockton said, on December 16, 2009 at 11:24 pm

      Katie, thank you! I’m really incredibly happy to hear that it’s helpful for you. I hate the idea that tops have to be larger-than-life in order to be desirable; it’s both harmful and false.

  7. brandy said, on December 29, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    The person who commented on the male/female thing–I think they just want a little reminder that this blog isn’t totally heterocentric. That’s what I read anyway.

    I love this. I am eager to experiment with BDSM ever since meeting the man of my dreams–the man who will let me tease and torture and taunt him and call me “ma’am” every second of the way. I love to top; not being the dominant in a relationship irritates me to no end, and I do not do well partnering with other dominants–I have to know that it’s ME making you feel this way, or else the sex is just too awkward and uncomfortable for me. My current man lives to please me and it is a magical and intense experience.

    I feel the exact same way–I am shy until I am sure people can handle my personality, because I’m not somebody who lives to dominate people who don’t want to be dominated. BDSM is consensual, which is something people forget. I understand how this skewed idea of BDSM can make people look at a BDSM-involved couple as a not-a-real-couple.

    I admit dogboy (pet name for my slave) was rather off-put by the idea of BDSM. The IDEA that is. He’s admitted to me how much he loves feeling used and helpless (not just that, he has a personality that is drawn to dominant people, and that enjoys serving others). I then spun a fantasy for him–him naked and tied to a chair, me torturing him, arousing him without touching him, and then when he had reached his limit, screwing him senseless still tied to the chair. He preceded to blush and stammer and hide a very noticable erection. I had to explain to him that was what BDSM was, and with that, I am slowly changing his views on what BDSM really is, vs. cold, porny, abstract views on it. (:

    What I’d love to see is a post about first-time BDSM experiences, or your introduction into this culture since I’m still the newbiest of newbs at it… thank you all for starting a truly awesome blog! (:

    • Cal Stockton said, on December 29, 2009 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you! Sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job introducing the idea to your dogboy, and it really seems like you’re very good for each other. I’m so glad things are going well for you.

      I’d be happy to write more about first-time and early experiences and such. I did write a bit more about that sort of thing in earlier posts here already, but I’ll definitely talk more about it in later posts too.

    • Cal Stockton said, on January 6, 2010 at 5:17 pm

      Psst, brandy, I just put up a post about some of my very first early experiences.

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