“[W]hile the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.
“He promised you order. He promised you peace. And all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.”
I remember wrapping myself up as snugly as I could in my blankets at night as early in my life as four years old. The soft sensation of pressure and compression relaxed me. It soothed parts of my mind that some would later call “unquiet.” I had invented my own hug machine.1
At that age, doing this wasn’t about bondage, or “getting tied up.” It was far simpler than that. It was about comfort. However, as I matured sexually, doing this to myself started to feel silly, and “childish.” Wrapping myself up in my blanket felt unfulfilling, especially since my desire for comforting physical experiences began to merge with my desire for comforting sexual experiences with other people.
During those early years of puberty, I reached out to the world around me for a solution. Using a series of pseudonymous Internet access accounts, I browsed an immense quantity of early online bondage literature and read endless BDSM forum postings. Without much trouble, I found one (and only one) answer: find a top to tie me up.
Now I know that answer was a lie.
Here is a fantasy I’ve had for a long time.
It’s been a long while since I’ve last had an orgasm. When I masturbate, the edge approaches quickly and I feel ready to burst. I like this feeling a lot, of being almost but not quite there.
I’m laying naked on my back, with three of my limbs tied and much of my body immobilized. I’m masturbating with my one free hand. Attached to that wrist is a cuff with a short leash on it.
When I get close to an orgasm, my hand is jerked away from my cock by a yank of the leash, leaving me breathless and panting in a paradoxical pleasure.
For too many years, here is the only way I’ve known how to ask another person to participate in this fantasy with me:
It’s been a long while since I’ve been allowed to have an orgasm. When I masturbate, the edge approaches quickly and I feel like I’m going to come. I really like this feeling of wanting an orgasm but not being allowed to have one.
I’m laying naked on my back, with three of my limbs tied down and the rest of my body immobilized in strict bondage. I’m masturbating with my other hand, but every time I get close to an orgasm, you pull it away. Maybe you’ve tied a short leash or length of chain around my wrist, so when you sense me getting close to an orgasm, you can deny it from me.
Far too recently, I realized there are more ways to describe a fantasy such as this. Here’s another way that turns me on:
I’ve been doing incredibly well keeping myself aroused and orgasmless for a long time. When I masturbate, even though I take my time with myself, the edge approaches quickly. I love savoring these sensations of unsatiated arousal that course through my muscles as they stretch and contract.
I don my cuffs and attach a short leash to the one on my right wrist. I ask you to tie me down on my back, with three of my limbs firmly restrained and my body held still. Then I take the end of the leash, hand it to you, and say, “Would you like to use this to help me stay just shy of an orgasm?”
In the first telling, my fantasy is about me and the experiences I’m having. It’s a story of literal happenstance; it only speaks of things that happen. Importantly, it centers my physical experience.
In this fantasy, there is only me. The mechanism by which my hand is pulled away from my body could be a person, but it could also be a machine, and both could be hot to me. This fantasy can therefore be partnered but, uniquely, it can also be solo. It could both be about (solo) masturbation and be, itself, masturbatory at the same time.
In the second telling, my fantasy is about the control “you” have over me. It’s a story of coercion, of things done to me despite my desire to do otherwise. It centers domination.
This time, I’m joined by one (or more) dominant influences. This framing is so common it is effectively the (domist) default in all BDSM Scene discourse, academic texts, well-known guides, and online articles. Typically, this influence is another person (a dom or top), whose control is felt through direct or indirect means. For instance, framing the fantasy this way, the mechanism by which my hand is pulled from my body right before I orgasm may still be a machine, but it’s a machine I’ve been strapped into by some dominant force.
Further, while this fantasy’s framing is as legitimate a frame as any other (for a fantasy), its hegemonic presence so thoroughly obscures the possibility of knowing other frames that it reliably results in a very predictable pattern of dehumanizing (fetishizing) behavior:
[The message I got] was a really perfect encapsulation of casual rape culture as it plays out in flirting—assumptions that I wanted to hear all about how I turned him on, unsolicited advice, suggesting when and how we might meet (next week, and dinner), and exactly zero regard for how I might feel about all of this. And, frustratingly, this came from a person who seemed geeky, educated and submissive—someone I might actually want to get to know.
Many (women’s) inboxes on dating sites like FetLife.com contain page after page of such messages. Authors of these messages aren’t treating the “you” in their fantasy like a person, they’re treating you like the fleshy wrapping of their fetish. To them, you’re a container, not content. You’re a brand, not bread. You’re a label, not substance. You’re a package, not a person.
To one degree or another, “you” are not a dominant woman in this fantasy. “You” are a stereotype. And no one, including myself, is innocent of this.
In the third telling, my fantasy is about my own submissive desires. It’s a story of self-control, and of cooperation rather than competition. It centers Submission.
But, here, there are infinite possibilities. Here, “you” may be a dominant-identified person, but you don’t have to be. “You” could also be a submissive-identified person. You could also be neither; the fantasy makes the very notion of a dominant/submissive binary unnecessary. It is a rolequeer fantasy.
It hurts a lot to realize that it took me almost two decades to even consider whether “Would you like to help me succeed in my submission?” might feel good to ask or be asked of a non-dominant person. Especially because now I know, holy fuck, it does!
The BDSM Scene’s cultish adherents will have you believe that a relationship between two submissive-identified people is bound to fail because they are both submissive-identified people. I’ve literally been laughed at more times than I care to recount when I describe my first three romantic-sexual relationships being with people who identified as submissive women. Moreover, our relationships suffered in part because access to queerer role models was simply not readily available; compulsory D/s is no less oppressive than compulsory heterosexuality.
The BDSM Scene’s consistent, repetitive brainwashing succeeded in indoctrinating me with the belief that I was foolish for even attempting to have loving romantic-sexual relationships with people who didn’t identify as “dominant” because I identified myself as submissive. And while I detected the pungent odor of hypocrisy on their tongues when they spoke of this, I am ashamed to say I silenced the part of me that knew to call “bullshit.” People who speak of submissive-submissive relationships in this doomsday way are nevertheless often able to name numerous dominant-dominant couples in their local Scene, and they often speak of those relationships exultingly.
I can name at least three such dominant-dominant couples in three different cities across the United States spanning from one coast to the other, right off the top of my head. I cannot do the same for submissive-submissive pairings. Can you?
These hypocrites eschew dating checklists with criteria like “must have good sense of humor,” “must have a stable job,” or “must have blonde hair.” They say such checklists are foolish because they needlessly limit one’s pool of available partners. Yet they insist that a submissive person must—for their own good, of course!—avoid relationships with anyone who isn’t able to tick the “dominant” box.
This is an unacknowledged epistemic violence against Submissive people. And it is violence. Treasonously so, in fact, as it is an abuse against our collective humanity’s capacity to love whomever and however we love. To challenge it, remind any of the BDSM Scene-State courtiers committing this violence of one simple fact: “The idea that “˜I am a woman, therefore I must be attracted to a man’ makes as much sense as the idea that “˜I am a submissive, therefore I must be attracted to a dominant.'”
The violent idea that submissive-identified people need dominants to be fulfilled comes from and persists by ensuring the survival of cancerous social and cultural institutions of the BDSM Scene. As an institution, the BDSM Scene is largely run by and prioritizes dominant people, mostly straight cis men. One person recently relayed to me the common sentiment, “Y’know what he [a straight, dominant cis man] told me? He said, “˜We’re all here [in The Scene] to get our dicks sucked.'”
Imagine an entire culture manufactured with globalized, industrialized precision designed to brainwash whole demographics of people into believing that they need to suck your (metaphorical) dick to feel fulfilled. Hot, right? Problematic, right?
What if you didn’t need to imagine anymore? How would you feel about participating in such a culture?
You need only look into a mirror.
What would you need to do to sleep at night? What have you already tried?
- For more information about a Hug machine, see “Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals” by Temple Grandin, Ph.D., or a summary on Wikipedia. [↩]