Once in a while (and much more often of late, which pleases me), I get the opportunity to top my favorite top. He is, in reality, a switch, and one of the most experienced full-time submissives I know, but that’s not his life anymore, and for over three years he’s been far more of a Daddy to me than a bottom of any kind.
The urge has been there for him lately, though, as our hearts keep opening to each other more and more. And the way he opens himself to me is so complete that it nearly paralyzes me. When he wishes to give himself to me, he transforms into the most dazzling engraved invitation I have ever seen, delivered by a dirty and bloodied knight on one knee with his head bowing over his outstretched hand. And there I am, without a single pretty dress to wear.
In the face of his impressively masculine body laid bare and trimmed, his ass cleaned out in advance, his blue eyes wide and seeking approval, and all the tools I could want laid out carefully to hand, I almost don’t know what to do to him.
It is a truly beautiful thing to watch a piece of smooth, glistening steel disappear into a big hard cock, then have him push it out. A joy beyond reason to fuck a willing ass with a toy the texture and color of his skin until I come screaming. And an intimate and transcendent pleasure to fist him while we both do.
But it was the little things along the way that reminded me of who I am when I top. The way I like to grab his ear and move him around by it. The way I like to stick my fingers in his mouth and feel his teeth, and move his head around by the jaw as if he were a horse I was looking to buy. How I like to grab and squeeze him, both in strong places like pecs and quads and shoulders, and in soft places like sides and insides of elbows. How I like to bite his face and his lip, and just run my hands over and over the lean expanse of him. Mine. Mine. Mine.
He might ask me if I want this or that, if I’d like the knife to run over his skin, or the suction cups for his nipples, or whatever. There are ways in which he wants to please me so much that it can feel like he wants to run the show. And that’s okay, too, because that’s part of how I know what it is I want, which is what this is about. “Do you want the knife?” “No, I want to bite you.” “Do you want to sit and I’ll straddle you facing away?” “No, I want you on your knees with your ass in the air.” Gentle topping from below is just another means of clarifying. Just another way of letting me know what it is I want.
Because 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 topped him it was following his lead; in some ways, he’s still teaching me how to fuck with a strap-on.
But more and more, he’s reminding me. He’s bringing me back to what I like, and what I want, and what I need, from him.
And that is truly sweet.
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.
Dominatrix. Domina. Domme. Goddess. Mistress. Princess. Lady. Maitresse. As a pro-domme, I’ve gone through a love-hate relationship with them all.
I really appreciate Ivy’s point that a lot of it depends on who you’re playing with: if someone just decides that they’re going to call me Mistress, it tends to turn me right off. From time to time in sessions, though, I would tell people to call me Mistress – usually in order to have an excuse to slap them if they forgot. I don’t love the term on its own: the meanings that arise for me include “adulterous female partner” and “lame feminine cognate for Master, as of lands and/or slaves.” Both strike me as archaic and referring to some strange feminine mystery in which I don’t care to participate.
Nothing quite overblows that feminine mystery thing, though, like “Goddess.” I never could stand being called Goddess – especially by people who just decided that’s what they would call me without asking my preference. Bah.
Variations on the “dom” root tend to be more self-applied than what one is called during a scene: I chose “Domme” because I liked how it went with “Delilah,” and because I didn’t want to be called “Mistress” like everyone else. Nobody ever called me “Domme”; it just sounds silly.
So that leaves the two questions still open: how do I think of myself when defining my sexuality, and how do I like to be referred to?
Mostly, when I’m approached by strangers, I’d prefer to be referred to by my name. I enjoy basic respect, not overblown pedestalizing; I find the latter presumptuous and alienating.
Surprisingly enough to me, I’ve found that the term I like best during some scenes is “Ma’am.” It’s short, sweet, to the point, has the cultural weight of respect and deference behind it. But mostly, being named during a scene doesn’t have that much power for me. Five things I’d sooner hear out of a submissive’s mouth during a scene than “Mistress” include: “please…” “ow, fuck!” “nonononono!” “fuck me,” “god, yes…” The list goes on, but even more than the words are the sounds, and even better than the sounds are the looks in the eyes: the fear, the desire, the adoration.
So the short answer for all of that is that I’ve found it’s not that important to me what you call me: depending on the context I’ve enjoyed “Lover,” “My love,” “Ma’am,” “Mistress,” and so on.
But what do I call this thing I do?
I called myself a “domme” for enough years that I refer to what I did as being a “pro-domme” rather than a “dominatrix,” though more people know what that means. While, like Ivy, I kind of like the word “dominatrix;” like Cal, I don’t like how the word others female dominants, and I don’t like what the word refers to: that cartoonish image of the hired female dominant. I find it as strange and pretentious to refer to myself as a dominatrix in a non-pro scene context as I find it for men to refer to themselves as Sir Thumpalot or Lord Wankmeoff at BDSM gatherings.
The word I use most often for myself is Switch, since that most accurately reflects my true sexuality. Topping or bottoming is more something that I do than something that I am, and so much of it – and here’s the key for me – depends on the relationship. My labeling system, as a bi poly switch, is by nature chameleonic: though all of my selves are authentic, who I am depends on who I’m with. My struggle, as a pro domme, was pushing up against the boundaries of who I didn’t want to be: I’m good enough at being what others want that I had to draw the line when it came to whom I’d play with.
I should touch on another place my favorite terminology tends to come from, and that’s the gay leather scene. I don’t do ageplay, but I love playing with a Daddy in the leather sense. On some very special days I’m a boy. I love the word Master and the word Sir and it turns me on whenever someone calls a woman “Sir” on Battlestar Gallactica. My absolute favorite porn book is The Leather Daddy and the Femme, and interestingly, my least favorite part of that book is the part where the Femme is given over to a classic dominatrix for training. I adore the second chapter, however, where the Femme fucks the Daddy in the shower. Go figure.
Words, words, words. It’s complicated. Call me Delilah. I’m a switch, and if you smell right to me, I may want to hurt you. How’s that?
Since Cal kicked us off with a post on shifting the discourse on female dominance, I thought I’d introduce myself in this space by talking about what my version looks like – and how I got there. As Cal points out, it’s an incredibly valuable thing for as many women as possible who have an interest in dominance to come out and speak about what that means for them – so that we can stop thinking of female dominance only in terms of corsets, thigh-high boots, sneering looks and withholding sex.
I come at this from a particular angle, since I was a dominatrix by trade for about four years, from my first terrified session until I gave it up about half a year ago. Being a pro-domme – a leather-corset-wearing, thigh-high-boot-sporting pro-domme – both informed and detracted from who I really was as a dominant and a switch, and while I had many reasons for giving the work up, one of the biggest was how inauthentic I felt in the part much of the time.
The interesting part was that I started from the place of being a submissive – a late-blooming submissive at that. My journey into kink was a long time starting, and was finally kicked off when I was 26 and met my first poly, kinky lover. He was one of those rare animals – a male dom who never switches and is not an asshole – and I enjoyed the hell out of letting him do as he wished with me.
A while into the relationship, I began to entertain the notion of becoming a pro domme. It looked like a great career for someone who wants lots of time to write, and happens to be six feet tall, pretty, and intimidating quite by accident. I didn’t really play that side of the fence, but I’d heard that a lot of pros are submissives in private. I personally know a few women for whom this stereotype definitely does not hold, but it makes sense: a submissive knows what those desires look like, and can be incredibly suited to fulfilling fantasies even if they aren’t her turn-ons – as a kind of service.
As I trained for the work, however, and as I got more involved in the kink scene, I began to notice that I enjoyed it on this side of the fence. Tying people up, yum! Flogging – delicious, especially on someone who likes it. At the time I was also exploring some of my first relationships with women, and with that came strap-ons, which I found I was more interested in wielding than being fucked with. I quickly began to fantasize about fucking a man in the ass. I had found my switchy side in what might be the unlikeliest of places.
It turned out that that relationship wasn’t a good place for me to be exploring that work, and I eventually dropped the idea. But the kink stayed, and I sought more opportunities to pull hair, grasp throats, scratch and bite and squeeze.
Then, a couple of years later, out of that relationship and into a new phase of my life, I entertained the notion again, and my professional life as a dominant began. Very quickly, I found myself in a world of kinks I wasn’t familiar with, apparently typical protocol I didn’t find sexy. I read a lot of Claudia Varrin and Mistress Lorilei, and while I found them fun they weren’t really my thing. I read them as instruction manuals for pro-dommery (yes, I was a professional asshat), and took on their ideas as my own. After all, I didn’t even know yet what kind of domme I was. I had to put myself out there in a way that my customers would like. (It mortifies me now to think of the crazy shit I wrote for my site. At least I didn’t use inappropriate initial caps.)
Naturally, that meant various personas and capacities: I could be the Leather Amazon to your captive hooded slave, I could be the Victorian governess to your naughty little boy; I could be the Goddess to your foot-worshipping votary; I could be the bitch Princess to your simpering sissy slut. I found that the leather role was the only one I liked, but I did the others with far more frequency. I found that I’d much rather singletail someone until they cry then have someone lick my toes for half an hour, but the latter was what they lined up to pay for. I also found that I wanted to fuck men in the ass – but not these ones. I didn’t do it in my sessions, because it was too personal.
I found myself doing a lot of things I didn’t like, in the context of something that I normally enjoy, with people I didn’t want to do them with. I mean, what kind of job is that? And what kind of way to express your sexuality?
During this time, my sense of myself as a top continued to evolve. I started seeing a man to whom I bottom most of the time, and the things he did turned me on so much that I would take them and use them on my clients – and on other lovers. He helped me learn to use my voice and my words, to use fear and intimidation, to use pressure points and simple force to make my point. I loved it. And sometimes, he even lets me do it to him.
But it wasn’t what most clients wanted. And for the most part, they weren’t the people I wanted to do it with anyway.
At the same time, in a lot of ways, I’m really quite traditional when it comes to what I like as a top. I love a boy at my feet, his head in my lap as I stroke his hair – or pull it until he whimpers. I love using my strap-on on a man who loves it. I like to flog and whip and clamp and tease and electrify and collar and bind. And it’s hard to explain how I like these things, and how the way I like them is so different to how they look in most porn, or in most of the scenes that clients expect.
Am I different kind of dominant? Maybe. I don’t think of myself as particularly extreme, or into things that are particularly odd. I even enjoy the fetish wear from time to time – though I hate its being compulsory.
But it was indeed Bitchy Jones that got me thinking about what was so dissatisfying to me about the pro domme world, and my place in it. It was different when I started, and the sexuality I was commodifying wasn’t quite my own. But as I started developing my top side, it made it harder and harder to keep enacting this fake, watered down, strangely dull version of it. I no longer wanted to perform this weird opera of mainstream female dominance: I wanted to find and explore my own.
So hopefully my voice here will be instructive in some way to those who are looking to find their sexual authenticity. Naifs, waifs, and late bloomers more than welcome.