By Sarah Sloane
What would you suggest for someone who struggles with expressing sexual and S&M desires? I have them…in spades…but I have issues asking for what I want, both because of fear of rejection but also struggling with seeming “too weird”. I have an odd play history, so there are a lot of basic things I have never done and a lot of dark edgy stuff that appeals to me strongly. It’s embarrassing to admit I have a large “gap” of both knowledge and experience in my play history. Top that off with limited negotiations at all in the last decade (only 4 play relationships where I submitted rather than bottoming)! I miss the old days but I know I need a better way to talk about things before I can just jump out there and be safe.
Signed, Do I or Don’t I?
That fear of rejection gets us every time. It’s the reason that many relationships never progress (or end in unsatisfying ways) – we hold ourselves back from asking for what we really want because we’re afraid that we’ll be criticized, met with silence, or even abandoned. Unfortunately, most of us have had the experience of having been met with negative reactions when we disclose what we’re into, so it’s hard to for our logical minds to argue with our gut fears.
I personally think that you’re on the right track by considering how to approach the opportunity before it actually arises. When we think through how to communicate our desires to someone ahead of time, it helps us “work out the bugs” in the system. And of course, when we’ve practiced saying things (even if it’s just writing them down) we get more confidence when it comes to actually opening our mouth.
First of all, if you haven’t done so yet, take a look at what your fantasies and desires are. What will it take for you to be happy with a new partner? What are appropriate levels of risk and trust in newer play relationships, versus those that are more long term? Exploring what feels safe for us to engage in, and what things we need to have in place before trusting someone to go there with us, can help us frame our conversations. And – importantly for those of us for whom it’s been a while – balancing our desires with a bit of reality can help us move safely through the process of disclosure.
Then comes the question of how and when to disclose. I personally take the attitude that dropping hints or asking open-ended questions ahead of time works well, as does looking for qualities like acceptance, enthusiasm, open-mindedness, and creativity – all of which tend to point towards a great possibility that the person that you want to play with will be more likely to accept (and be intrigued) by your desires.
As I see the results of those hints and “mini-disclosures”, I make a decision on whether I want to disclose further. In general, the deeper & further that you want to go, the more trust has to be built up – and that only happens over time…so taking your time in the “getting to know you” phase usually pays off well as things come to fruition. I am also careful to talk about what I want without automatically putting the other person in the position of having to fulfill those desires. Hearing “I have fantasized about wearing a collar and being led around a party on a leash” creates less pressure than “I need you to lead me around on a leash and call me slave all night”. Of course, we eventually do want them to do it, but when we share our desires, often they will respond with a desire of their own. Ah, the joys of negotiation!
The short – and long – of it is that in order to be happy in play relationships (as well as in any relationship), we have to feel safe to disclose the reality of who we are to each partner – and we need to feel that we’ll be respected, even if they are not interested in participating everything that we want to try. It works best when everyone brings most (or all) of who they are to the table – when everyone feels safe to share their fantasies, and creates the bonds of trust that, regardless of whether that fantasy is one that is pursued or not, will intensify the connection between us and our partner.