Lessons from failure as a slave
I guess that in a way, I turned to an SW not for any of the reasons that I have written about up until now. At least not explicitly. My marriage was a marriage in all but name, for quite a long time, possibly since before our children, when I discovered we were not going to be partners as I had dreamed of or hoped. Perhaps from the moment that I discovered that not only were we sexually incompatible, but worse, I disgusted her. Or perhaps from the moment that I told her if she felt that way, I could never have sex with her again. Of course, any of these things could be said to be expectations, and to have expectations is to sow the seeds of failure. And for this, my wife, I am sorry.
There is an important backdrop. Since I began dating, I had been looking for a partner who was different. For a woman who was attracted to a submissive man. A woman who did not find that weak, but rather strong, appealing, attractive. This was a life quest, and it was laced into my conception of love.
The growing up part is related to understanding:
- Submission isn’t about kink fulfilment and how to get off, even though that is how probably most of us get there—because it is sexy…it is about genuinely being supportive of the person you love. Reading Uniquely Rika helped reinforce this line of thinking.
- That we are not responsible for the other person’s happiness…we have to take care of ourselves, to be whole people. That has been the hardest part of growing up as an adult…for when I think of how I experience “little space”, the energy that is provided is one of acceptance that comes from the outside, not from within, and that is a crutch. My wife said to me that it was cruel of me to tell her that I couldn’t be responsible for her happiness…cruel. I hope that she learns to look into herself for this, or she will never be happy.
I could feel the weight of my wife’s expectations and I could feel her “getting old” in the sense that her innate conservatism was strengthening and her desire to do things or think outside of the box was becoming increasingly dull and retiring. She was thinking like an old lady.
And I guess, I just realised that my main life partner was not providing that one thing which I had always sought in life—to find love as a submissive man. And on the one hand I know that this amounts to an expectation, and so is wrong, but on the other, to deny it is to deny my nature, to pretend I am something that I am not, to set up a false stall to make myself acceptable as a love partner…and the cumulative cost of this is the ultimate wreckage of my marriage.
It may have been inappropriate to approach a domme and to explicitly state that this was what I was looking for. Right? One of my therapists pointed out that if I was to be true to my stated goal, then to look for anything at all was to traduce myself. But I spent a lot of time looking for someone that felt as if the chemistry would work. I also approached submission to her with a pure heart and every intention of doing what it would take to be selfless. I also had lot’s of struggles along the way, which is part of why I enlisted a posse of therapists to help me work through it. I also went and meant a number of wonderful dominatrixes along the way to reassure myself that to fall in love with a domme was perfectly acceptable, and rather commonplace.
I also communicated my feelings openly.
It didn’t work. As a friend said, “you are asking for the impossible. You are trying to get a professional to fall in love with you.”
“I’ve always loved a challenge,” was my cheeky reply. But in truth, it had to be a professional for many reasons, first among them was that I would not be unfaithful. It cuts against the grain in a profound way. I was given parameters by my wife, and though those were old, they were clear, and made sense. It would have been totally inappropriate for me to do this with a non-pro, the risks were too high.
First discovery: sex (one of most professional’s boundaries) was really not critical for me for love to flourish. At all. In fact, on several occasions, Mistress and I discussed how liberating it was to have no threat of sex for our dynamic. [Unsurprisingly, this is not the case for many men…who pay lip service to the no sexual contact boundary. For me, it was a big part of amplifying the attraction—that I didn’t have to fear that sexual desire would be there].
Second discovery: there are different ways love can exist…and while when we love someone, we want them to love us back, how they love us does not necessarily have to be the same as we love them. There is a particular kind of affection that some dommes develop towards their subs. A kind of protectiveness, but also gratitude for the contribution, a joy in the respect given—all these things that help build someone up can be a real tonic for a person in any walk of life. And many a domme finds the devotion deeply nourishing, and that becomes a source of affection in return.
I thought of this in context as I was amazed that I never felt the slightest twinge of jealousy towards the domme for any aspects of her professional or personal life—I took joy in her work, joy in the bits of her life that she shared with me. That is something that has eluded me in my vanilla life—the burden of expectations we place on others with whom we are intimate…and yet, here, perhaps because of the power dynamic, it never even occurred to me. She taught me the word “compersion”, to take pleasure in the parallel life of another, and it was true.
In my fevered mind, I began to see the true possibility that one can really be loved as a slave. Unsurprisingly I have never doubted the reverse, that a slave cannot love. We talked about this from time to time. The kind of love I felt was very different than the kind of love I associate with romantic partnerships. And while people outside of the world of kink might cringe at the comparison of the devotion of a dog to a master, the metaphor is not totally wrong.
Interestingly, in conversation with a very well-known professional dominatrix a few months ago, I asked about this very metaphor. Her reply? She didn’t think it worked, because, as she said, ”a dog’s love is unconditional.” One of my favourite submissive readers noted, “but that’s the point!” and as a fellow sub, I have to agree.
Some people have likened aspects of BDSM to spiritual practice. This has certainly been true for me. Mistress’s reading list for me included many religious and spiritual titles. Much of our conversation focussed around meditation, presence, spiritual practice. So much of her “work” with me related to improving me as a person through these avenues. It was a mixture of therapy and God.
Eastern religions regard submission, true submission, to life, to God, to being, as the highest form of Enlightenment. To let go of everything, the desire to possess, the tendency to expect, this is a higher state of consciousness. The dominatrix I spoke to of course was not thinking along these lines, but rather of play and just how far play would or ever could go. The dominatrix I saw, while ranging far beyond the concept of session play, was still rooted in this same context. Understandably, as that is a form of professional boundary, and when things become disorienting, the solidity of boundaries helps remind us all which way is up and which way down.
I struggled with the word “play” because of its frivolous aspects. And yet, one of the great theorists of Western thought, Johann Huizinga, wrote a seminal philosophical tract called Homo Ludens, essentially meaning “the human who plays”, in which he argues that the single most defining aspect of our humanity is that we play, and how we play. Play, especially in its complexity, for Huizinga, is the essence of what makes humankind different. He would have had a good time observing the frolicking of the domina and me.
Frivolity is beautiful. The riotous laughter that broke at times in mid-session was a tonic for the soul like no other. To laugh at oneself, to laugh at a situation—gosh, it is so refreshing. To do so robs nothing from the sanctity of the experience. But I struggled with the word play in a different sense.
“Play” connotes entertainment. This was something I couldn’t get my head around. To get off. To have fun. At least for these to be the objective felt wrong–but as a byproduct, absolutely–after all, laughter is a most potent medicine. I couldn’t see myself going to a dominatrix for such things. It felt self-indulgent. And perhaps, my Puritan upbringing is so deeply ingrained, but such things seemed counter to my own character, but also disrespectful of the time. And this latter makes no sense to me. I think the entire pro-domme/client industry is based on the idea of having a time-boxed fun interlude that may have some form of release (which in my case was hoped-for sobbing), but I could never get my head around that. Being with a dominatrix felt bigger…and perhaps it was because I sowed the seed of trouble by starting from a proposition of love.
The consequence was my own discovery of my own boundaries. And given that my therapists have now come into line on this idea, that one of the core areas that I need to work on to grow, is to learn to protect my own boundaries. In this case, the boundary was that love could not be separated from intimacy. Their collective joy at the end of my tine with this dominatrix was based on what they felt was me asserting this important boundary for myself.
And I am certainly capable of sublimating myself to the point where I override my own boundaries to keep the other persons affection. I’ve been doing it for decades with my wife. The temptation to do it with the domme was strong, but that would not have been healthy. I knew that. And I also know that it would have been a betrayal of what brought me to her in the first place, that love can exist between Master and slave. And in my case, it appears that intimacy is inextricably linked to love and therefore also to submission. There is something which I would call a natural ease—a kind of frictionless interaction, which is only possible when there is intimacy. Service cannot thrive without it. Relevant service, even more so.
Intimacy can take many forms, but is founded on an interplay of trust and risk. And as I felt the genuine stirrings of non-traditional love within the dynamic, my need to feel the intimacy (as the risk increases dramatically the more risk we have from being open to one another) grew with it. Perhaps not a surprise to you, but this put my boundary in conflict with what is most likely the boundary of any professional.
As I look back over a year of sublime experiences, there is one that stands out above all others. It was not session, it was not play, it was silence. We sat next to one another in silence, fully present, fully connected, and not a word was said. That is relevance. That is intimacy. That is ease.
We spent some months living out an exploration of how to accommodate this tension, but in the end, it didn’t work. On the one hand, that is a shame, perhaps. On another, though, I did taste for the first time in my life that a slave can be loved, and that has given me so much fuel to propel me forward. To say that I am grateful for the experiences is an understatement. My sense of self, my life direction, my desire to live a true and full life, my groundedness, my sense of autonomy, my purpose, my refusal to be bullied by life and relationships, my energy and vigour, and fundamentally my courage, and desire to be with people who accept me and love me as I am have all changed fundamentally. I didn’t do this. I didn’t even know it was there. And while I feel that I am still only at the foot of the ladder, I have finally understood that the destination doesn’t matter, it is the journey that counts. How we live in the moment is a million recurring reflections of who we are. This is much more than a gift. And I give thanks to the person who showed me that.