Dominance and vulnerability

Posted in identity by Delilah 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 how the two are by no means incompatible. About how dominant women aren’t all – or even mostly – ice queens with total confidence who know exactly what they want and how to take it.

In fact, a lot of us are really shy.

Cal asked me how I think my dominant side would have developed without having been a pro domme, and I had to admit that I didn’t know whether pro domming helped me find my true desires in that arena more or less quickly. But I do know for sure that going pro meant that I had way more opportunities than I might have had to play that role – and because of that, I gained a lot of exposure to different types of play – and thus had a chance to figure out what I did and didn’t like. More importantly, though, being a professional meant something very important for my self-image as a top: whenever I was with someone, I knew for damn sure they wanted to be there. After all, they’d paid me.

Believe it or not, especially in the beginning, the money didn’t even always convince me. Early on, I felt that people were paying too much to be with someone who didn’t really know what she was doing. As time went on, I got used to the idea that people were really paying to spend time with me, which I found almost equally strange. After all, who the hell was I? And who did I need to be to maintain this image of the person they wanted to spend all that money to be with?

All of that strangeness aside, I eventually accepted that I was worth what they were paying, and enjoyed many of my sessions where I felt my own competence, intuitive skill, and yes, allure.

But even after four years of that, my shyness and reluctance as a top in the scene, among my friends, hasn’t abated. Part of it is perhaps even because of that professional experience: after all, if they’re paying me I know for sure they want me to be there, and I know how to give them exactly what they’re looking for. But if there’s no money being exchanged. If there are emotions at stake. If a big part of what I want to do to someone is about what I want to do…well, that’s another kettle of kittens entirely, innit.

There’s still a part of me that’s afraid to let people know what I want to do to them. Still a part of me that’s terrified that they won’t like it, or don’t want it from me, or that I’ll go too far and scare them, hurt them. It’s different if someone asks me to do something to them – then I know they wanted it, don’t I. But that kind of asking is rare – and often, those who do ask aren’t necessarily people I want to play with.

This is a problem both of submissives (I’ve blogged before about “submissive sheep syndrome”), and of the particular aura I seem to give off without intending to. You see, one of the things that made me a good pro domme is that I am one of those Unintentionally Intimidating People(tm). Until someone knows me a little, I apparently come off as cold, or scary, or aloof, or all three. I’m fairly sure that most of these protective mechanisms have been built into what I project by years and years of being teased at school for everything from my height to my clothes to my general space-cadetness. An overall shyness in my personality seems to have hardened around me over the years into a shell that many seem to find it terrifying to contemplate penetrating. Add the pro-domme mystique to that (oh, she’s someone who gets paid to top people – why should she want to play with me?), and I’m kind of doomed.

As a result of this, and knowing how many available tops there are in my community, I’ve learned how to ask for what I want when it comes to getting play as a bottom. For me, offering myself in that way is easy: I understand my own desirability in that realm, and the (generally) men I approach who are interested are good at making that interest clear. (I imagine some of them are shy tops as well, only emerging in their full glory when they know they have consent.)

But when it comes to approaching people to top…not so much. In spite of all my professional experience – or perhaps because of it – I have a hell of a time believing that people want what I want to do. It was easy when it was about playing with men I probably wouldn’t play with in my normal life, doing the things they wanted to do, for pay. But it’s hard when it’s someone I’m attracted to, and have urges toward, and am afraid of freaking out.

Part of this is history, I know. I’ve had extremely mixed success with my desires to fuck men in the ass (part of the hazard of dating tops and top-leaning switches). The boys I’ve been attracted to for this activity have often seemed initially interested, then gotten freaked out for some reason. The type of youthful, boyish, slightly femmy skinny man that brings out my top side, when they are attracted to me, tend not to be kinky – and eventually are scared away by my intensity and/or too unrestrained lifestyle choices.

So yes, there’s some baggage. Add to that how few sub men there are in my scene, and the stars just don’t align that way for me nearly as often as I’d like.

What I’d really like to find is something like a male version of my girlfriend: she manages to project submissive sexuality in this incredibly inviting way that short-circuits my lesbian-sheepitude. I’m always the one who initiates, but I feel welcomed to do so – her signals aren’t ambivalent. She has somehow escaped the notion, common among women, that projecting sexual availability is shameful, and that playing hard to get is more interesting.

While I know – and fight hard for the fact – that submission is not equal to femininity, the roleplay involved can be similar: submission can often make people shy, passive, and I think submissives are more likely to sit around waiting to be asked to play. This isn’t very helpful for a shy top such as myself, who may sit around waiting for a sub to approach me first.

Back to that boy I’d like to find…a boy whose pretty, vulnerable face draws me. Who, if he has interest, shows it to me, and doesn’t withdraw it when things get intense. Someone who wants to be tied, and hurt, and fucked, who will make noise and maybe even cry for me. Who won’t feel the need to tease me about my desires out of some insecurity that he wants these things.

And that’s maybe the crux of it. Maymay and Oralndo both write eloquently about how difficult it can be to be a submissive male in our society: it’s doubtless just as hard for them to be open about their desires as it is for dominant women to talk about theirs. How much courage must it take for a man to reveal that he wants to be taken and used by a woman? How much does a woman risk who reveals how she wants to control and dominate a man?

A lot, apparently. Suddenly that shyness doesn’t seem so surprising. Nor does the way I often default to submission in my personal sexuality. It’s just easier. More expected. Safe.

I’m working on it.

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11 Responses

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  1. Cal Stockton said, on December 10, 2009 at 9:17 am

    It almost feels like your post should’ve been first, and mine more the reply! As usual, your thoughts are much more cohesively laid out than mine, and inspire more in me.

    I think the big thing to remember is that men get immense societal pressure to present as dominant, no matter what they want behind closed doors. Not that you should go around obnoxiously assuming that all dominant men secretly want to sub for you, of course – that would be as awful as the men who assume I secretly want to sub for them. Ugh. Just be generally aware that more men are open to it than it may seem, and be open and loud and honest about what you’re into. This is generally my way of things, and every once in a while I am very lucky and some surprising man of my acquaintance gets in touch and whispers about what he’d like me to do to him.

    Or I screw up my courage and go “ohbythewayIthinkyou’reveryhotandwouldliketodoawfulthingstoyouifyou’reeversoinclinedNOPRESSUREack”. That works out well, too, often! (Actually, I’d say this is my most common method of approach. Hesitant, shy, nervous as hell, but straightforward and damnit at least I say something.)

    Or the chemistry is simply there, no denying it, even though we’re both toppish, and we sort of look at each other and figure out together what we can do that we’d both be into. Sometimes the answer is nothing, and it fizzles out. But sometimes the range is broader than we’d expected at first glance.

    Still a part of me that’s terrified that… I’ll go too far and scare them, hurt them.

    Oh my god, that’s a whole other post! (I’ll just.. er.. start drafting it now.)

    I got burned on this with the former boyfriend I first started exploring all this stuff, who ended up a bit put off by just how interested I turned out to be. I am now delightfully aware that mileage varies, but I still tend to start slower and then work my way up when first calibrating.

    But then I’ve also been burned by people losing interest after a first encounter being too light or too slow, when seriously, the initial calibrations are not even remotely the full extent of what I can or want to do.

    The moral of this story: patient, responsive, encouraging people make me very happy.

    I’ve had extremely mixed success with my desires to fuck men in the ass (part of the hazard of dating tops and top-leaning switches).

    I’ve never had a man say no to that. I’ve met men who aren’t into it, but I haven’t been involved with them myself. I find it a bit hard to imagine. That, too, is a whole other post, though, and one that I’ve already started drafting. (Though I will need to finally pick a name for my boy in order to write it. You should’ve been there while he was trying to explain to a friend of ours why for men anal is better to receive than to give. It was absolutely delightful.)

    • Delilah Wood said, on December 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm

      As usual, your thoughts are much more cohesively laid out than mine, and inspire more in me.

      You’re too kind; too often I feel like I’m just writing out of my ass, and your style just blows me away. 🙂 But I guess that’s being a writer, right – everyone’s always better than you!

      About your boy, I must know: why Bulgakov, if that’s what you choose? He’s a favorite.

    • Ivy O'Malley said, on December 11, 2009 at 7:19 am

      Ha; I should write the post I’ve been considering about top-top interactions… I am particularly careful about assuming that my toppy partners will want to bottom for me, but it does often end up happening. So, I don’t want to be That Guy and assume that it’s inevitable, but you’re right that many men will. Even those who never put down their toppy identity. Which is totally fair; after all, I still identify as a top and not as a switch, but I happily date other tops and engage with them rather viscerally. Their meeting force with force does not change who I am.

      Re: go too far and scare or hurt them, I’d bet that all of us have something to say about that. It’s something that I’ve done, and I think it’s a risk of anyone who likes it edgy. So, I’d love to see what both of you have to say about it.

  2. Gorgias said, on December 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    “The type of youthful, boyish, slightly femmy skinny man that brings out my top side, when they are attracted to me, tend not to be kinky”

    Hah! Now if only there were more straight female doms in my area into slightly femmy, skinny men =)

    • Delilah Wood said, on December 11, 2009 at 11:56 pm

      Heh. Where d’ya live, sweetcheeks?


    • Rikibeth said, on December 15, 2009 at 12:02 am

      Seconding Delilah, especially if you wear eyeliner! *grinning*

  3. Carol Anne Caiafa said, on December 11, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    This is all very interesting.

    Still – I wonder? Where does this all leave dominant women who don’t want men?

    All I have to say to even the sweetest guys in existence is, “You’re very nice, and I respect you and all, but – do not want!”

    What then?

    • Delilah Wood said, on December 12, 2009 at 12:00 am

      I’m not sure what you’re asking. You say no…and then you say no! 🙂

      I know you’ve been asking a lot about how to pick up sub women. I think being shy in this regard leaves you in a similar pickle, except that sub women are probably even less likely to jump up and down for a dominant’s attention than a sub male is.

      If I recall what you were asking about previously, though: the butch sub woman is possibly the most elusive of all. But they do exist – I’ve seen them!

      • Carol Anne Caiafa said, on December 16, 2009 at 2:19 am

        I do feel OK about saying no to the creepers – and I’ve met plenty. The nice guys are rarer, however, and I do feel bad about turning them down. If only I had the desire – but alas!

        I would be interested in hearing from butch women who are submissive if they do exist. Though I am not personally attracted to them I am all for diversity!

  4. […] I can forget. In work, it was easy to forget. In being with him, in the way he tops me, I can forget everything. For a long time, even when I […]

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