A conversation with a friend of mine recently helped me understand one of my own concerns about the type and response to S&M play with Ganymede. She's a switch, like me, and talked about how she "flies" when she is submitting - we spent a while waxing lyrical over the deep joys of letting go, bottoming out, closing your eyes and just being done to - rather in the manner of women discussing cakes they had enjoyed eating. But in this case, our memories of pleasure were laced with current disappointments. Neither of us felt that we were giving our partners the same depth of submission, the same overwhelming sensations or crazy, head swimming, lost-from-the-universe jouissance.
I've used that word deliberately, more on gendered reactions to sex later, hold that thought. Kristeva theorised that jouissance is a type of writing that only women were capable of performing, which interested me in terms of gendered sexual expression in BDSM. Capitalising on previous theories about how men are not taught how to express their sexual side in the way that women are - with the knock-on effect that women are overly sexualised or only valued for their sexuality and men find it hard to express submissive desire because sexual availability is seen as "feminine". This leads us on to the worrying assumption that women are "naturally" submissive, and men are "naturally" dominant. A point which is bunk, pure and simple. However, this is a social perception, and it's also a reflection of how different gender roles are assigned. What this means is that it can often be easier for women to be sexually submissive than men and that whilst many men desire sexual submission it can trigger complications, including a difficulty in "properly" submitting as well as other thoughts on guilt, shame and their own masculinity.
Could it be that men find submission harder than women? Are there tools and techniques we can use to help get over these barriers? Conversation helps. As always. Communicate and try and understand not "what is wrong" but "what submission looks and feels like". It could well be that it's a simple case of different people having different experiences, however it could be that there is something deeper driving it. Gender aside, everyone responds to play differently and that we
can't expect others to have matching responses to ours. Pleasure looks
different in different bodies. Just as certain people are warmer or
cooler on different toys, sensations and situations so too submission
looks different in other minds.
Reassuring her helped reassure myself. We both worried that we hadn't been able to give our partners that experience of sub space we ourselves had enjoyed so much and felt like worse dominants for it. But being practical, I know that I am good at what I do, I'm very skilled and experienced in both practical and psychological techniques of control, pleasure and pain. I know my partner, we talk a lot and although we are still relatively knew, I know a lot of his buttons and the more we play, the better we get.
Yet, there is also another factor. Just as dominance is an art that needs to be learnt so is submission. The practice of relinquishing control and thereby generating sexual pleasure is not as innate as some people think. There is a huge gap between the fantasy of doing something and the reality of doing it - or to be more precise, having it done to you. Certainly the desire to do it has to be there in the first place, but a lot of these feelings - physical, mental and emotional - are strange when done for the first time and unfamiliar sensations take some getting used to. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more deeply you are able to participate. Of course, like natural athletes there are people who are just born to BDSM, who melt under a firm touch or thrill to the feel of twitching flesh under their hands. Their minds and bodies need kink like fish need water. For most people, BDSM can be an exciting addition to their lives, and their sex lives, but it isn't a need, they can - and do - play every now and then with kinky things, but it's icing on the cake. For perverts, it's the cake. And the icing. And the box the cake came in. And the cake shop.
Ganymede is new to BDSM and D/s relationships with their hurt / comfort equilibrium of power exchange, rules of living and sexual activities that emphasises these power roles. Although we have fallen very easily into this way of living, in many ways this is sometimes not helpful. Not everything we do will be as easy for him, or as "natural" as others. My own experience and desires are only useful to a point because all they really do is outline what I want and what I like. Similarly, because he is new, we have to accept - and anticipate - that he might not be the same kind of submissive as I am.
To take a simple example, he likes verbal abuse, which I hate, he can grin and say "yes, I am a complete slut." in a way I would never have been able to do. To give a more complex one, the concept of serving me is one that he loves, wholeheartedly, especially sexual service. He is always available for me to fuck, whenever I want, for example. The physicality of this is familiar, he's had sex with people before, the difference is his ability to chose when, who and how, which is now denied to him. The denial is tempered with the fact that he wants to be used in this way. Pain, however, is still relatively unfamiliar, and not as keenly associated with desire. He doesn't have a high pain tolerance. It's something to be used sparingly, and it's something that he suffers through, because I'm a sadist...
But not that much of a sadist that I want my bottom to suffer needlessly. I'm a trainer, first and foremost and that means a reliance on the tools of carrot and stick. In order for me to enjoy what I'm doing, I need to know that he enjoying it, even if he's not enjoying all of it, or even if he is only enjoying it because of the context.