Out of the Shadows: How Do You Talk to a Vanilla Partner about BDSM Interests?

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How Do You Talk to a Vanilla Partner about BDSM Interests?
(3 entries)

Email Address: annrkey@hotmail.com.

Q: I have always been incredibly turned on by the prospect of becoming a Domme. Having now found this site, I have more insight, but I am wondering how I would tell my boyfriend (mr. Vanilla himself) that I am interested. I am not into humiliation or mindfucks, but I am very interested in bondage aspects and domination. Not too much pain would be involved. I just don't know how he will take it all. We are very much in love, and communication is not a problem, I am just concerned that I will scare the **** out of him with this one....can anyone offer any suggestions?

Email Address: nflauren@submission.net.

A: Hi, Anna.

How to broach this subject to a vanilla lover is a classic question, and one where you always just have to play a lot by ear. The first book I know of to address this common subject, and still the best despite a few dated terms toward the back of the book, is Pat Califia's book, Sensuous Magic: A Guide for Adventurous Couples. In it she describes some ways to talk to vanilla partners about various kinds of BDSM interests. The best feature in my opinion is that she doesn't talk down to the reader or assume the reader needs basic instruction on how to communicate openly. Which I am also not going to do to you here.

The way most people I know have managed this discussion is to start gearing up in advance by thinking first about all the objections that the partner could raise -- the partner's potential fears, concerns, etc. -- and then making a practice of listening deeply to the partner's actual concerns. Which can in fact be quite different from what anyone expects. It's that ability to listen deeply and regroup that makes all the difference. You broach the subject in some small way; and then you do a lot of listening. : ) And sometimes even the things you are willing to listen for are not there; and then it is your job to make a place for your partner to speak to what is difficult to give voice to.

Some concerns that vanillas often have but do not always voice without encouragement are things like

  • "Does your wanting this mean that the sex we've been doing all this time hasn't been satisfying for you?!" and
  • "Does your wanting this and our potentially exploring it if I'm also willing open a dam that will never let us go back to enjoying all the wonderful things we've enjoyed and that our relationship has so far been based on?" and
  • "Does your wanting this indicate that you have desires I can never satisfy?" and
  • "Is this something that ordinary people keep to themselves, and does your wanting to take it to reality suggest that you might need some therapeutic help?" and
  • "Are you going to want something that someone else can give you and I can't? And if so, where does that leave me with you?! Does this also make our relationship change from monogamy to polyamory? What in God's name does that mean for me? What if I am a jealous kind of person? Don't you feel jealousy and wouldn't you feel jealous if I did such a thing as you describe with someone else?! Why am I not `enough' for you?" and
  • "Do you have a desire to abuse me? To retaliate against something that was once done to you? How do we know the difference between abuse and desire? Why do you want what you want? Were you abused as a child? What makes you want this?! Maybe you are sick!" and
  • "Is our doing this a violation of our values? Our religious principles? Do we have to rethink the meanings of these principles and values if we engage in these pursuits? Am I able to do that, or are my religious/customary beliefs and values so deeply ingrained that for me to even think about redefining them is going to destroy the love between us?" [To the astonishment of many, by the way, most standard religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism to my best information, do not in fact pass judgment against consensual BDSM in a marital context. (Unfortunately, they also do not pass judgment against nonconsensual BDSM, either. Stunningly and sadly enough, wife-beating is usually not condemned by most traditional religious precepts! But the curiosity here is that as a consequence, consensual BDSM passes most religious muster, though many priests and rabbis will certainly ask questions if you ask about specific concerns.) But multiple-partnering is usually not ok by religious precepts of any standard sort.]
Etc. You just do the best you can to try to anticipate such questions; and to address your beloved as well as you can.

So you think about how you will answer these questions if they seem like concerns; and then you wing it. And the only next piece of advice is to listen deeply to your partner's concerns, and be flexible and honest in response. Because listening is the key. If you can hear what your beloved has to say, and find ways to address his concerns, whatever they may be, then that is the direction to go next.

There are no cut and dried answers to questions like these. You have to speak from your own heart. And the good news is usually that that is exactly the right route to take, no matter whether your partner finds in himself a commensurate match for some or all of what you are hoping for exploring, or feels it is the time to separate lest things go somewhere he/she can't find any desire to go. For most people it seems better to find ways to speak than to spend 20 years together in silent fantasies which can end up pouring forth in frustration and destroying a good relationship, or being suppressed with the ultimate irony of both parties wanting such things with no way to speak out. But this is not a guarantee; and there are people whose relationships are destroyed sadly by opening the gates. I would be lying to tell you anything to the contrary.

The good part is that it might be that when your partner speaks out he will have interests that are almost completely perfect matches for what you dream of! And the "imperfections" in the best cases are when they make you yourself expand your own horizons.

The bad part is that you have to be prepared for the possibility that he has no interest in his soul that matches yours along these lines. And if that happens there is usually no way to create some interest where there is none. Which does not mean there was or is no love. If you are clear first in your own mind that no matter what the answers, the relationship and love between you both as it has been so far is precious and has been precious, and this is just a thought for something new to consider and to evaluate the necessity of for each of you in deciding on where to go from here, you will do just fine even if the answers are a decided No!

There is a sense in which it is the top's job to take the lead in discussions such as this; and your inclinations to be the dom between the two of you do place that extra burden on you. It's probably your job not only to present these issues, but to be the default recipient of the answers. A good top often has to be the one to make the final decision as to whether he/she has enough desire in him/her to provide for the bottom's wants and needs while also providing enough to satisfy himself or herself. You let the bottom/submissive speak; and then you decide if there is enough there to make it work. It's a lot of responsibility! My advice to newcomers is to place the relationship first in priority: if your relationship feels right, go with it, and forget whether it is vanilla or BDSM so long as you are both happy, communicating, and exploring. But if you can't explore and you feel frustrated, that is probably a problem that will not only not go away but might well build in short order.

Email Address: camipco@hotmail.com.

A: Obviously, I agree with all the comunication part, and won't repeat Anna's helpful words . But I think that for a dom its easier than talking. Personally, I am yet to meet a man who isn't aroused by at least a little bdsm. Buy a pair of handcuffs, smooch with your partner for a while then leave him naked on the bed. Then just dangle the handcuffs in front of him. If he's turned on already, he will say yes. I promise. Unless he's a real prude. What man isn't turned on at least a little by the idea of being tied up? Keep it slow: don't introduce too much at once and let him suggest going further.

If he does say no, just say no big deal throw away the handcuffs and have vanilla sex. If he really really isn't interested then he'll have forgotten about it by the morning. If he brings it up again, just tell him that you thought it would be fun, but reassure him that you're entirely happy with your sex life as it is. More likely is that once you've put the idea in his mind he'll think about it a little, and decided he likes it. Wait for him to make the second move.

Far more important is the emotional complexities of domination and submission. There's a lot more to dominating a man than tying him up and spanking him. Ask yourself: does your partner respond to you in a submissive way? Men are expected to be dominant in the bedroom by society, so any variance from this indicates a man who is likely to receptive to domination. How about just in conversation? Does your partner like to be right all the time, or is he happy for you to lead? When you start to think about it, it's actually quite easy to analyze your partners tendencies. Try just being a little more pushy in life generally and see how he reacts. Naturally submissive men tend to be turned on just by being dominated in conversation.

Good Luck. Starting a bdsm relationship, and revealing hidden aspects of your partners sexuality to him is the best part.

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