Dominance and vulnerability: A case study

After writing my previous post about vulnerability, I thought I’d follow up with an example of how it feels to me.

My boy and I had not been together all that long, I was at his place. It was about 10.30pm. It was winter, a foot or more of snow on the ground outside. I went to the toilet and used the last of the toilet paper on the roll. I looked around for more to put in holder, but didn’t want to go scrabbling around in his cupboards.

This is what happened next.

“Hey,” I said, and came out of the bathroom waving the empty roll.

He looked up.

“Oh…”

“Oh?”

“I’ve run out.”

I looked at him. I was staying the night, we would probably not go out again until we were hungry the next day. I made a face.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am. But I’ve got tissues!” he said hopefully.

I scowled at him, he lowered his eyes.

“Is it snowing out?” I asked.

We both went over to the window, I put a hand on the back of his neck. It was a gesture that had always been incredibly sweet between us. He melted under it, leaned into me slightly. Snow was falling lightly.

“Yes, it’s snowing…” he said.

“Hardly at all,” I replied.

“You don’t really want me to…” He let it trail off. The shop was a couple of blocks walk.

I looked at him and raised my eyebrows.

“Really?” he asked, “But it’s *snowing*!”

“Yes, really,” I said.

“What?!! Come on!”

“I want you to go out and get some more toilet paper.”

“Now?! It’s nearly 11pm!!”

“I know.”

He sighed. “I can’t believe you really want me to go out there…”

“Yes, I really want you to go out there.”

He trudged over to the coat rack morosely, shoulders hunched, got his boots and coat on.

“Be careful out there, boy.”

He gave me a resigned look, sighed. “Yes, Ma’am.”

————

But when I add my internal dialogue, THIS is how it FELT.

“Hey,” I said, and came out of the bathroom waving the empty roll.

He looked up.

“Oh…”

“Oh?”

“I’ve run out.” [What really? Ugh]

I looked at him. I was staying the night, we would probably not go out again until we were hungry the next day. I made a face. [This is a problem. I guess we can go out and get some. I wonder if HE will go out and get some…]

“I’m sorry, Ma’am. But I’ve got tissues!” he said hopefully. [I guess that would be okay, but I’d really like him to go out and get some now… wonder if he will…]

I scowled at him, he lowered his eyes. [Oh my god, he is so fucking adorable!!]

“Is it snowing out?” I asked. [How big a thing am I asking of him here? I’m not going to make him go if it’s a blizzard out there.]

We both went over to the window, I put a hand on the back of his neck. It was a gesture that had always been incredibly sweet between us. He melted under it, leaned into me slightly. Snow was falling lightly. [He is so lovely, he knows it’s coming now…]

“Yes, it’s snowing…” he said. [Hmmm… okay, he really doesn’t want to go…]

“Hardly at all,” I replied. [… but maybe… he will anyway…]

“You don’t really want me to…” He let it trail off. The shop was a couple of blocks walk. [Okay, that wasn’t too hard up against the idea… he’ll probably go…]

I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. [nudge prod…]

“Really?” he asked, “But it’s *snowing*!” [Hmmm… okay is he really resisting, or just needing a push?]

“Yes, really,” I said. [A little push.]

“What?!! Come on!” [I try to read him. He is half kidding with this over-the-top response, I can feel it. I’m pretty sure he will do it, even if he is pushing back…]

“I want you to go out and get some more toilet paper.” [Saying it as a full request now: “Yes, I’m asking this of you.”]

“Now?! It’s nearly 11pm!!” [Is this the final resistance? Or is he really not going to do this? I think he is just checking me… okay, let’s go… And quietly, I am going ‘please, please do what I ask…’]

“I know.” [Another push…]

He sighed. “I can’t believe you really want me to go out there…” [I feel the shift in him, this is acquiescence. I’m relieved, I know he’s going to do it… Then I get all melty warm: Yay, he’s going to do it!! OMG so lovely!!!]

“Yes, I really want you to go out there.” [Solidifying the request, so he knows he is doing this because I want him to.]

He trudged over to the coat rack morosely, shoulders hunched, got his boots and coat on.

“Be careful out there, boy.” [A sweetness, a pat, encouragement, an endearment]

He gave me a resigned look, sighed. “Yes, Ma’am.” [I melt, totally, at this]

I want to close that story to say that when he got back, he was skip-happy over it, that I’d ‘made’ him do it. I had feared that he might come back a bit sulky and I’d have to lift him out of it, but when he walked back in, he had a shit-eating grin on his face, all happy that I’d asserted my authority and pleased with himself for doing it. It was incredibly awesomely sweet. And the NEXT time, asking for something similar was no longer new territory, and my trust in him meant that the vulnerability around *those* things diminished.

So fucking lovely when it works!!

And THAT’S what makes it worthwhile to take the risk every time.

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36 Comments

  1. And THAT’S what makes it worthwhile to take the risk every time.

    Beautiful.

    And trust me — there are many such moments in the submissive’s life as well. And worth it every time.

  2. I know exactly what the shit eating grin is about too. It’s in the accomplishment of something that put a happy smile on the face of one you love.

    Many years ago, I was dating someone who had a baby, and she called me a little after midnight, because she had run out of diapers for the little one. This was up in New York, in the middle of the winter, and it was like, 13 degrees outside. Not only that, but the only store open at that hour, was a few miles away.

    I rolled my eyes, got dressed, and hopped into the car to take care of it. By the time I knocked on her door, diapers in hand, I was grinning from ear to ear, because I had made her very happy, fixed a problem that needed fixing, and I was able to prove my loyalty.

    She told me that she wasn’t sure if I’d really go, but in my mind, as inconvenient as it was, it never occurred to me to do otherwise. That moment still makes me smile.

    1. Have you beat slapshot. I went out for her once when we were snowed in with over half of a foot on the ground literally in Virginia to get milk and cigarettes, walked a mile in the snow because she needed the milk and cigarettes and she asked me to do it. I got back and she said “I really thought you would say no. I can’t believe you walked in the snow for me.”

      I just smiled that shit grin and said “Yes baby I walked in the snow for you.”

      Respectfully,
      mysticlez

  3. Ah. I wish I had more stories like this. I have maybe a handful over 10+ years and about 6 submissives. It’s probably a combination of my being a magnet for difficult personalities and also being significantly less patient than you. After about the 2nd instance of resistance, I’d have had my coat on and been out the door myself to just fucking get it done. Now I’m wondering if I spend more time pushing in the beginning of my relationships, it might pay off later on in compliance. It feels a bit like “I am testing you” or “make me” but maybe it can’t be avoided very often. I have only had 2 relationships where there was no resistance. (And now I’ve got Startrek running through my head… resistance is futile, you will be assimilated…)

    1. “After about the 2nd instance of resistance, I’d have had my coat on and been out the door myself to just fucking get it done.”

      *smile* I can understand that!

      I see that exchange as us feeling each other out, nudging up against each other to see what’s what (versus seeing it as him being a pain in the arse, and geez, I may as well do it myself). My objective was not to get the toilet paper, I really didn’t care about it. My objective was to have him go out to get it and for that act to be sweet for us and for the relationship.

      Now I’m wondering if I spend more time pushing in the beginning of my relationships, it might pay off later on in compliance. It feels a bit like “I am testing you” or “make me” but maybe it can’t be avoided very often.”

      This has really made me think.

      It IS a kind of mutual testing (though I don’t like the idea that we are ‘testing each other’ for the sake of it – to me it’s part of building the relationship).

      Still, I *am* testing what he will do for me, and he is testing whether I have the will to follow through, and we do it as a kind of nudging up against each other to see where the boundaries are.

      I expect that in the interests of open and honest communication, just doing it directly (“Do this!”) would be much better, but to me that backs us both into a corner. It makes me feel completely vulnerable because I don’t know his response, and it pushes him into a ‘no’ if he really and seriously doesn’t want to do it for some reason.

      The skirting around it a little to check where we are before I have enough faith in the outcome to outright ask is the ‘D/s lawyering’ I mentioned, where I want to be sure he will do it before I put the request out there. If I’m wanting something big, that ‘priming him for it/feeling him out/nudging him towards it’ stage can take weeks.

      It’s a funny thing, building the dynamic. If I capitulate at the slightest show of resistance, then I’m never going to get the relationship I want. The end result of that has to (surely?) be that I will only ever get what he is eager and happy to do when he is eager and happy to do it, and anything that he goes ‘aww geez’ at will fall out of our D/s relationship because he knows I will allow it. That doesn’t work for me (and of the submissives I have had, I know that wouldn’t have worked for them either).

      BUT of course every relationship is different and in mine, I WANT him to do things that he doesn’t really want to do because those are the sweetest. The way I get there is to learn to read him right and figure out how to navigate any roadblocks that stop me from getting what I want. That process is slow, and funnily, I consider myself very impatient, but I don’t get impatient with the process of getting there.

      Ferns

      1. “Still, I *am* testing what he will do for me, and he is testing whether I have the will to follow through, and we do it as a kind of nudging up against each other to see where the boundaries are.”

        Oh I love that you get the “testing” because from what I have seen and the little experience I have had so many Dominants I have seen automatically say that a submissive is trying to top them or is being a brat if we nudge them to get a feel of the relationship. I don’t know if she is serious, what is important to her, if she will follow through, etc unless I nudge to get to feel and figure that out. I will admit that yes I nudge and I have nudged to feel people out and especially if its someone I am connecting with to determine those boundaries. I get so frustrated though when people make it out to be negative just because I am submissive. *waves fist* No offense to all Dominants but its almost as if its seen as though okay if the Dominant nudges she is just exerting control and that is great but if the submissive does it oh wow he/she is trying to top or be a brat stay away..ugh

        Respectfully,
        mysticlez

        1. “Oh I love that you get the “testing” because from what I have seen and the little experience I have had so many Dominants I have seen automatically say that a submissive is trying to top them or is being a brat if we nudge them to get a feel of the relationship. I don’t know if she is serious, what is important to her, if she will follow through, etc unless I nudge to get to feel and figure that out.”

          There is, among other things, a language problem in explaining how this works.

          I don’t use the term ‘testing’ because it smacks of ‘I’m going to behave in this particular way or do this specific thing just to see what the other person will do about it… take THAT, you! Ha!’, and that seems manipulative and ugly.

          But *everyone* (D/s or vanilla) does some version of this to see how their relationship works, to build the boundaries, to work out what is acceptable, to find comfort levels… all that.

          We just never talk about it in a vanilla sense, and in a D/s sense we really only have *negative* language to describe it, so it always sounds like a terrible thing.

          Ferns

      2. You know, perhaps I should attempt to ask for things I don’t much care about. I basically never ask for anything I don’t have a pretty vested interest in. I can’t recall ever really asking for things I don’t care what the answer might be. But because of that, I have minimal patience for him giving much resistance. If I try asking for something frivolous, I might be able to develop that “feeling out” skill set. Right now, I don’t think I have it.

        At. All.

        I have trouble reading people to start off with. That doesn’t help. And I’m about as subtle as a freight train running into a 747. I typically do go the “Do this!” route. And I will happily explain why it’s important to me, and I will accept a thoughtful alternative if I think he has a more efficient way to do it. But I usually just… want it. So I don’t tend to feel him out much. Now what I will do is warn him that I’m going to ask for something I believe will be difficult for him and assure him it is important to me. I’ll also give him time to wrap his head around it so he has the best chance of being able to do it for me. And I will also ask for some things I know he doesn’t want to do. (During play, I’m 100% ok with that and have almost a 100% positive track record with it as well… no idea why I can’t translate that into non-play time.)

        As an aside, I haaaaave had 2 guys that gave almost no resistance. So I know they’re out there!

        1. What you are doing sounds completely and utterly awesome!! And honest and open and wonderful.

          If you are striking ‘nos’ (and I assume that’s the case or we wouldn’t be having this discussion), then the *only* circumstance I can think of where a different method might work is if you are striking cases where he is just not ready to do that thing *yet* (vs the guy is never going to do that thing, no way, no how).

          If you haven’t read him right, you may not realise that what you are asking from him is beyond his level of investment or trust in the relationship *at this stage*. That is, he’s just not ready yet. I can see that asking for things you don’t actually care about (ie you only care *if he will do it*) can give you some practice without making you all ‘Oh FFS, I’ll just do it myself!’

          Or maybe you just need submissives like those two that you did have. Maybe if you aren’t getting what you really want from others it’s more of a compatibility problem (vs something you are doing or aren’t doing or anything like that).

          Okay, now I’m just rambling *smile*.

          Ferns

        2. You know, perhaps I should attempt to ask for things I don’t much care about.

          Anon, that’s an explicit part of what we negotiated. And actually the spark came from me as sub: I want to have a few rules and directions that have no practical purpose or effect. Rather, the purpose is to ingrain the habit of thinking that she’s the boss, and I make like a frog.

          (I’m highly obedience-focused anyway — I can think of three things in the last two years that she’s reprimanded me for, and one of them was before the rule was official. In that instance, I asked for a consequence anyway, as I’d known the rule was coming.)

          It works well for us.

  4. I scowled at him, he lowered his eyes. [Oh my god, he is so fucking adorable!!]

    *laughs* So guess I’m not the only one who does the eyes lowering thing automatically.

    “It was a gesture that had always been incredibly sweet between us. He melted under it, leaned into me slightly”

    Awww that is sweet!

    “Really?” he asked, “But it’s *snowing*!” [Hmmm… okay is he really resisting, or just needing a push?]

    How do you tell the difference whether he is needing a push or resisting?

    “I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. [nudge prod…]”

    Guh! There’s always something about that look on a woman. The don’t push me yes I am serious but at the same time oh so hot look. *giggles*

    “but when he walked back in, he had a shit-eating grin on his face, all happy that I’d asserted my authority and pleased with himself for doing it. ”

    Yes! There are no words to describe the happiness in that. The warm proud puff my chest out I made her happy by doing what she told me too thing..yes that!

    Respectfully,
    mysticlez

    1. “How do you tell the difference whether he is needing a push or resisting?”

      I watch, I listen, I pay attention to body language, I make a judgement call. If there is *real* resistance, then the feel of the interaction changes from something kind of playful and sweet to ‘uh oh, here’s a problem’.

      Sometimes I get it wrong (though if I do, I mostly err on the side of ‘Okay, he’s not going to go there for me’ when really, he would have if I’d pushed a little harder).

      Ferns

  5. My first thought when I read this thread was, “What the fuck is up with these guys? Is it really such a big deal to perfom little acts of common kindness. And what’s so D/s about it? Fuck me, I used to do those even in vanilla.”

    I mean, really. Forty years of feminist discourse, and it’s a big deal to do a small favour? Purrrlease.

    Case history: when my kids were born, my wife didn’t want to breastfeed. So they were bottle-fed from birth. By me. So that the good lady could rest up and get her strength back. I was damn good at it too. I could get up, do the necessary on automatic pilot, and get back to sleep again without batting an eyelid.

    In the end, my kids gave up calling for mummy in the middle of the night. They called for me, and I loved every minute of it.

    1. I understand your outragey fist waving, but you are missing the point I was making. I’m sure everyone can come up with ‘stuff I did happily that was much bigger deal than this! Geez!’, including me.

      I was using this to highlight how it felt to ME. The ‘thing he was being asked to do’ was irrelevant (and if you read the first version of the conversation, it was a short, easy exchange and really *wasn’t* a big deal).

      If I had chosen something that WAS a big deal in this example, then I risked having this conversation going into ‘OMG, I can’t believe you pushed him into doing that!’ and THAT wasn’t the point either.

      In short, I’m getting defensive over my submissives here: there is *nothing* the fuck ‘up with them’!

      Ferns

  6. Very illuminating! Should be mandatory reading for male sub wannabes.

    All that said, as long as I felt physically safe, I would have made that trip unquestioningly; but I’m strictly part-time in my submission so can let go…

    1. I actually suspect that if I had been the type to just go ‘Get out there and do it’, he’d have done it unquestioningly also, but I don’t/can’t/won’t work like that.

      And I think your point is a good one. If you are having a ‘play weekend’ and are in ‘strict D/s mode: me Domme-you sub’, then these things are less ‘relationship building’ and more ‘play-ordery’. Lower risk, more ‘raaawwwrrr, go do it, boy!’.

      Ferns

      1. Yes, though not quite what I experience.

        For me it’s less play and more about mode. When I am a slave I am a slave. My mistress doesn’t have do dominate me, she just has to give orders, and disobedience is not in my lexicon.

        The advantage of short-term visits to this is that she doesn’t need to second guess me; if I’m bored or miserable for 12 hours, that’s just a risk I take.

        24/7/365 might be very different because she might feel the need to manage my mental state, either out of love, or to maintain the relationship.

        (I hasten to add that some people prefer more nuanced and dynamic D&S anyway. My automatic compliance would be very boring for some dommes.)

  7. “Sometimes I get it wrong (though if I do, I mostly err on the side of ‘Okay, he’s not going to go there for me’ when really, he would have if I’d pushed a little harder).”

    See.. for me, this is where my vulnerability seems to SCREAM!! Making that decision to keep pushing or back off makes me feel almost stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    You’d think after 3 years, I’d have figured out all the variables! LOL

    1. “Making that decision to keep pushing or back off makes me feel almost stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

      *smile* I can relate. If I know him well, I rarely have that issue any more, but you can still have situations in a relationship that change what is going on (Naga’s comment on my previous post is a really pertinent one on this).

      I STILL remember the very first time I pushed through and PAST my very strong instinct to stop in a play sense because it was ‘too far’. It was *really* hard for me (as it should be I think – that instinct is about not wanting to harm him or us). It was incredibly powerful for both of us.

      I wrote about it here if you are interested.

      Ferns

  8. @Miss Ferns

    “We just never talk about it in a vanilla sense, and in a D/s sense we really only have *negative* language to describe it, so it always sounds like a terrible thing.”

    Have you been able to discuss it somewhere near the outset of a given relationship, though?

    The reason I ask is that it seems such a simple thing to me now – but it didn’t, once, and things might have been less fraught had I’d been clear on this with certain partners.

    Is it possible to say, to new sub partner X, something like: “Now, we’re about to embark on a power exchange relationship. I need to feel that power, you need to give it. there will be boundaries, and we will work those out as we go along. But, for now, we must both accept that I will want you to do certain things that you won’t want to do – but you will still have to do them. I have to know that you will, in order to have the power I require.’

    . . . Or similar.

    1. “Is it possible to say, to new sub partner X, something like: “Now, we’re about to embark on a power exchange relationship. I need to feel that power, you need to give it. there will be boundaries, and we will work those out as we go along. But, for now, we must both accept that I will want you to do certain things that you won’t want to do – but you will still have to do them. I have to know that you will, in order to have the power I require.’”

      Yes, of course.

      That’s the basis of a D/s relationship, so I’m assuming that everyone who enters into one talks enough about it to understand how it’s going to work in an umbrella sense.

      But in the real day to day, under that umbrella, there are a gazillion little things that you never talked about specifically. And people are complex, situations are complex, and every decision I make has a ‘first time’ where it’s new territory, and I have to assess all the factors, and make a judgement call on it where I trust that he is ready and willing to do this thing *and* that it’s not going to damage him or the relationship.

      (I’d add that getting it wrong a few times is not going to kill the relationship, but if I keep getting it wrong over and over, I am going to have a problem)

      So if it’s a new relationship and I tell him to move in with me, it’s pretty likely that he’s going to tell me to piss off because the level of investment and commitment and trust isn’t in place to make a demand like that. I know that’s a really dumb example, but all you have to do is scale it down to see the point.

      There’s no blanket ‘You’ll do what I say even if you don’t like it’ coverall that works in some kind of uniform manner as if we are robots. Relationships of any kind are really about exploring each other and growing, and the first time I venture into new territory, I make a judgement call that he is willing and able to do that for me, and that opens me up and makes me feel vulnerable.

      Ferns

    2. I’d add that there is nothing *wrong* with being vulnerable. It’s admirable that some people can do it, fearlessly and with wild abandon. That’s what I WANT in my submissive, I adore and respect the strength it takes to be open like that. I’m in awe of it.

      I just don’t like it myself, so while I still feel it (as these posts show), I manage my relationships to minimise the risk that I’m going to be hurt when I show my soft underbelly.

      Ferns

  9. “Yes, of course.

    That’s the basis of a D/s relationship, so I’m assuming that everyone who enters into one talks enough about it to understand how it’s going to work in an umbrella sense.”

    Oh no, Miss Ferns, I don’t think that’s a safe assumption in all cases, especially that of newbies. People can be over-fond of the idea of ‘natural growth of the dynamic’. People also may not even have the words and the concepts to express it. Still, they can learn, can’t they? For instance, from this blog!

    1. You’re right of course. I was being a bit blasé throwing that out there as if it’s a given.

      I was concentrating on the point that *even if you do that* and have this understanding of ‘how it will work’, it doesn’t magically sidestep the complexity of these kinds of interactions, especially where you are stepping into new territory.

      Ferns

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