Topologies

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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