Reader QnA: How does a sub say no?
How does a sub say no at all. I read you blog entry on what to do if your sub says no but a harder question for a sub is how do you say no. Numerous times I have had very bad experiences because I didn’t feel I could deny my partner.
Recently My Lady put me through a scene that was several hours long. It was something I knew I would not enjoy but I felt I could not say no. Negotiation can not cover every possibility, I had simply never thought of this kind of play before. Now a few days later I am literally feeling traumatised. When it is time to visit my lady I have always felt excited. Now there is some dread, and not the exciting kinky kind.
I don’t want to kill my Lady’s feelings of dominance, I want to encourage them. We have had a wonderful relationship and I don’t want it to end but I don’t know how to talk about this with her.
Can’t say no.
Hello ‘Can’t say no’,
I’m so sorry that you are going through this, AND that you have had bad experiences in the past, truly. And you are right, that IS a hard question, and you aren’t alone in struggling with it.
I want to be very clear that the post you are referring to (When your submissive says no) is about a submissive not living up to their end of the relationship agreement because they ‘don’t feel like it’. It is NOT about making your submissive do things that they have not agreed to or that they have legitimate reasons not to do.
I have so many things to say about this, and of course it’s complex. But the bottom line is this: If you can’t communicate with each other clearly and honestly, you are going to run into problems. It’s not an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’. So you both need to talk about how you do that. Which is the first challenge if you already struggle with communication (and also why the generic advice of ‘communicate!’ is often not actually very helpful: If everyone knew how to do that, and was capable of doing it, they would presumably be doing it already).
In my experience, most submissives want to please, and they hate to disappoint their dominant, so many find it really difficult to say ‘no’ to anything, even when it’s to their detriment. “I don’t know how to talk about this…” is really common because it’s just hard to bring up difficult things (I’d add that that’s true for everyone, not just submissives).
I have no idea what kind of relationship you have, but I’m going to assume a personal one where you know each other well, are close friends, and that there are good intentions on both sides. So for the purposes of this answer, I’m going to assume that you didn’t communicate your discomfort at the time, and that as it stands now, she actually doesn’t KNOW that you are struggling with it, and are feeling traumatised by it (if you expressed distress during your last scene and she ignored it, that’s a whole other issue).
I suggest you ask her for a time to talk. No play, no kink, just talking in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Tell her that you are having a hard time with the play you had last time you were together and that you need to talk it through. Explain what it was that caused the issues (too much pain? you were scared? you felt emotionally hurt? etc) and how you have been feeling in the aftermath. Then if you haven’t already, talk about your difficulty in saying ‘no’ in general.
If that sounds really hard (and it is!), consider writing down some notes for yourself that cover the points you want to make. You can even say that you are really nervous about the chat and that you have some notes to remind you what you wanted to say, and use them. If a face to face chat really is more than you can handle, then consider writing her a letter, but even then, I really would encourage you to give it to her in person so that you can both deal with it while being physically close, reading each other’s body language etc.
I would expect and hope that because she cares about you, she will be horrified to find out that you are struggling with it, very keen to understand what happened, learn how she misread the situation, and be eager to avoid it happening again. IF all that is true then the conversation should naturally lead to ‘what can I do differently?’ and a plan of action for the future.
Some ideas that might help:
Take any new forms of play being off the table until you get back into your comfort zone with each other, and scale back all play to things that you know you both enjoy a lot. This is to get back on track, and regain your footing.
If you don’t usually discuss scenes beforehand (e.g. if the activities are ones you have done before), you might want to start doing that to get into the habit of having that negotiation. Also maybe role play saying ‘no’. I know it sounds silly, but it’s worth a try: For example, agree that she will tell you what she is planning and you *have* to say ‘no’ to one of the things she is intending to do. She will say ‘Okay, fine’, and off you both go. It can help to normalise that interaction for both of you so that it’s no longer such a big deal.
If you have trouble saying no *during* play (for example, it’s too much for whatever reason), then maybe you can discuss a system where you have to say ‘yes’ for the play to continue. This doesn’t at all have to ‘spoil the mood’. I ask for ‘yes’ all the time:
“Do you like this, baby?”
“Do you want more of that, boy?”
If you don’t say ‘yes’ happily (that is, you stay silent, or say ‘no’), then she stops.
Alternatively, to get used to communicating during play, you could have scenes where you have to continually ask for what you want before she will do it. Again, it doesn’t have to be a mood killer, it can be lots of fun.
“What do you want now? Ask me for it.”
If she is new (implied by you talking about ‘killing her feelings of dominance’), then this will probably be hard for her to hear, and it might be a blow to her confidence (that is, she is essentially learning that she blew it and that’s never easy), but she needs to hear it or she will continue to think everything is fine up to and past the moment when you leave her due to the trauma and fear.
The communication practice is on both sides. You need to learn how to communicate your concerns and feelings, and how to say ‘no’, and she needs to learn how to create a safe space in which you can do that without negative consequences.
I wish you the very best of luck with it.