Vanilla vs D/s interactions

The truth is that I am harsher with men in my vanilla interactions than I am with men in my D/s ones. It’s not conscious really, it’s instinctive, but it’s absolutely true.

With submissive men that I am interested in, I trust that their heart is in the right place, that they are genuinely trying, that any issues will be easily and quietly rectified if I say a word or raise an eyebrow. Because that’s the kind of relationship that we both want. I’m also very aware of not waving my dominance over them like it’s some big stick, hyper-aware of consent, abuse, all that.

By contrast, with vanilla men that I am interested in, I come down like a sledgehammer on behaviour I don’t like because I don’t necessarily believe any of that. It feels more like I’m aggressively ‘standing my ground’ in order to cut down any hint of behaviour I don’t like before they assume it’s acceptable. I’m staking out the boundaries and defending them with clubs and hand grenades.

The tedious feeling of ‘protecting my boundaries’ in the latter scenario is a reason why I don’t seek out vanilla men any more. At best, I can do all that up-front and be done. At worst, I have to do that *every day for the rest of the relationship* in small and big ways and that’s an exercise in tedious futility and not one I’m interested in taking on.

I feel like I have written about this before, but it’s such a stark example, that I’m repeating it.

My last long term vanilla man (who I talk about all the time on Twitter because he’s still a good friend and he is completely awesome) was in my group of friends when we started dating, so we all had a familiar, jokey way of ribbing each other. Early on when we started dating, we were out at a pub. A few of us were going to a concert afterwards. Someone asked him if he was coming and he threw out a thoughtless ‘lighthearted’ response:

“No, that bitch [indicating me] didn’t get me a ticket hurr hurr…”

I gave him a look, did not crack a smile, was not going to ‘go along’ with an accepting chuckle.

“Don’t EVER call me that.”

Everyone looked at me. THAT tone. He had the grace to look embarrassed, but it wasn’t enough.

I stepped into his space, hard faced and soft voiced. “I’m going to the bathroom now. YOU HAVE A THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU JUST SAID.”

It was uncomfortable for me, for him, for all of us. I didn’t care one bit.

Either he would sincerely apologise (he did) and never do that sort of thing again (he didn’t) or he would get defensive or otherwise challenge my reaction, and we’d be done.

I did this with all of my vanilla partners in various ways before I ever ‘discovered’ D/s, and they all either stepped up, or I was done. I wasn’t at all subtle about it, and *some* version of ‘casual disrespect’ (being late, not doing what he said he would, ‘jokey’ rudeness, thoughtless dismissal etc) would come up relatively early, and I’d smack him down so fast his head would spin. The reason I don’t seek vanilla men any more is because there are generally *so many* ridiculous little power struggles day by day that I end up getting exhausted by having to constantly push up against it to carve out my space.

Had that scenario happened in a D/s context with a potential submissive, firstly I would NEVER expect that kind of statement to leave his mouth because he should already know that that kind of behaviour is unacceptable, but IF it happened, I’d expect that a pretty subtle change in my demeanour, a raised eyebrow, an ‘I beg your pardon?’ would have him falling over himself to apologise and correct himself. I wouldn’t NEED to get guns out to establish those firm boundaries.

So in the final analysis, I’m actually much more stereotypically ‘domly’ with vanilla men than I am with submissive men. A fact which is rather amusing to me, and which makes me a poor match for any submissives who might wishfully swoon over that kind of strong-arming. It just doesn’t make me happy to behave that way, so I won’t be in a relationship where I have to do it.

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  1. “I wasn’t at all subtle about it, and *some* version of ‘casual disrespect’ ”

    One of the things that interests me is the assumption sometimes made that the dominant partner always acts correctly, is mature, has good judgement, etc. I don’t think you make that assumption, but I am interested in the flip side of what you’ve written here.

    I totally understand you having a strong reaction to ‘casual disrespect’, and don’t at all think you are wrong to do so. What I wonder, though, is how you expect your partner to react to ‘casual disrespect’ directed at him. I’m not talking about deliberate, calculated disrespect as part of the D/s dynamic, but casual, thoughtless disrespect of the kind you describe.


    1. This is such a good question.

      Everyone gets to set their boundaries, and hopefully they partner with people with whom those boundaries are not a constant battle.

      But in my experience, *in general* (generalisations, the bane of good discussion!), men tend to be much more disrespectful of women than the reverse, and women are much more likely to put up with it without saying a word because they are socialised to be polite and nice.

      My experience with vanilla men is that they are not used to women identifying and holding strong to their boundaries. My experience watching vanilla women is that they will make a million excuses for poor behaviour from their men. Both of those things create a culture where the default is that men breeze along doing whatever they want and women either smile politely and make excuses or have to fight for their place.

      I know that sounds all aggressive, but in actual fact, those social norms are subtle and constant and passive. And pervasive.

      I know your question was really about submissive men standing up for themselves in the face of a dominant pushing too hard, but I had to get that out.

      On that, though, every individual has the right and responsibility to establish boundaries and to make their partner aware of them. And if they aren’t respected (d-type, s-type, vanilla), that person should reconsider the relationship.


  2. I am so lucky to not be in that position because I completely would react the same way. It’s awkward and annoying even in casual non-relationship circumstances.

    Snake says I have “the look.” I don’t think I use it very often because it isn’t in his nature to react that way. I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with casual disrespect on a regular basis. Relationships are hard enough without dealing with people who don’t make you happy.

    1. “Relationships are hard enough without dealing with people who don’t make you happy.”

      Absolutely *nodding emphatically*.

      And from what I understand you and SteeledSnake are both hugely lucky *smile*. Though on reflection it’s obviously less ‘luck’ and more ‘making great choices and putting in the effort to make it work beautifully’.


  3. I had to read this one a few times because it confused me and still kind of does. Or maybe it’s just been a very long day and i’m out of brain.

    My first reaction was “why would you be interested in vanilla men in the first place?” but then you say you no longer seek them out. I gave up on vanilla relationships a long time ago and it’s now a deal-breaker for me, so the minute i find out someone isn’t kinky, any potential interest i might have had in them as something other than friends is gone. Sure, there are people i might happily serve if they were into such things, but it could only hurt me to wish for something that isn’t there, so i try not to think about it. There’s just too big a part of me they would never understand and with which they would have no idea how to interact.

    It sounds, though, like what you are talking about, demanding, and enforcing as your right is basic respect, not deference. I would think you would want this from friends as well as partners, whether they be male, female, or other. I would also think that anyone interested in maintaining a relationship with you, vanilla or kinky, would be invested in being respectful and caring towards you regardless of a D/s dynamic. That’s just part of being a thoughtful, polite human being. It doesn’t take a submissive to realize that the behavior was wrong. At least, i hope not.

    You could have made it easier on him in enforcing that boundary by approaching him about it alone, later, but that would also effectively indicate to the rest of your group of friends that what he did was ok with you. Instead, you enforced your boundary of what behavior you were willing to accept from people you allow to be part of your life and you enforced it for *everyone* present. Then you generously gave him a second chance. You even gave him time to collect himself and think. As i see it (and remind myself of whenever i get corrected or adjusted in a D/s context, so i can interrupt the “I can’t believe i made that mistake” cycle), feedback indicates investment in the relationship. If you didn’t want to continue interacting with the person, you wouldn’t bother to tell them how to better fit your expectations.

    I don’t know if i have a point here, but it’s my response. For what it’s worth, I don’t really get strong-arming, either.

    1. *smile* Thank you for your thoughts.

      I think there are levels of acceptability. From a casual friend, the ‘hey bitch!’ level of interaction is fine. I get where they are coming from: It’s affectionate and ridiculous.

      From a partner, it is NOT fine, no matter their intent.

      And no, I don’t seek a vanilla man, but I have to say that I’m often tempted. The pool is so wide and deep and so very convenient. And the vanilla man I mentioned has been my longest term and most successful relationship so far, so there is a precedent.

      But watching vanilla (and dominant!) women navigate this shit reminds me why I don’t dip my toe in that pool any more. Why I’m all bristly about my boundaries. And that’s what prompted this post.


  4. That interaction would be totally inappropriate in the circles of acquaintances I roll with. And yet, I have heard it and know that in others, it is acceptable as casual humor. I just don’t really get it.

    I wonder if it is part of sub-cultures in the US and Australia, perhaps quite large sub-cultures, majority even, that feel that men are entitled. The whole reason why people support the goals of feminism. A symptom of the fundamental attitude that men are “more” equal than women, if you will.

    And, now we have men whining about being oppressed by feminism, as you touched on here:

    Just so alien to the way I think and understand the world, whether D/s is included or not. I still find it appalling that someone would use that phrase as humor. Even understanding the intent to be humorous, I find it wrong, mostly because I see the underlying assumptions and do not agree with them.

    But on a larger scale, it may not be vanilla men and relationships, but equality and respect you want, but your circles do not have that?

    This topic can get pretty deep as you ponder it…

    1. Ugh. I hate when you lose a reply that you’ve spent some time putting together.

      “But on a larger scale, it may not be vanilla men and relationships, but equality and respect you want, but your circles do not have that?”

      I want to be clear (to you and to Secret below) that the way he spoke about me wasn’t the point. It was just such a perfect and clear example to use to illustrate an incident, the calling out, and the social cost of it.

      Most casual disrespect is not as blatantly rude as that, which makes it much harder to call out. And quite a lot of it is completely accepted as the norm.

      I keep thinking of a little experiment a woman did where she stopped stepping out of the way of men walking down the street. They were SO USED TO women getting out of their way that a large number of them just ran into her. Fully expecting right up to the last second that she would move. THAT’S the level of casual disrespect that I think underlies my interactions with vanilla men.


      1. Sorry, I guess I botched up my point, because what you said in your reply is exactly what I was saying, the fundamental driver underlying your original post is this disrespect, or lack of equality in how men behave and think toward women.

        sure, D/s makes it easier to prevent that (or correct it), but the root cause is just a culture (or sub culture) that allows and fosters it.

        That study sounds well worth reading, do you happen to have a link or citation?



        1. Ahh… yes, we are misunderstanding each other a little then *smile*. Your reference to the language in particular and to my ‘circles’ led me to think you were localising that particular behaviour.

          It wasn’t a study: It was just a woman changing her behaviour to see what happened and then talking about it.


  5. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour, and it has always puzzled me – the casual disrespect, that is. The puzzlement is twofold: first that the perpetrator is comfortable talking to or about somebody in that way, and second that the recipient of this casual verbal abuse (“hey, I was only kidding, right?”), and most if not all of the other members of the group, seem to be fine with it. Perhaps it’s as you say, that women are to some extent accustomed to this kind of thing as at least a possibility, and learn to shrug it off.

    I do love what you say about having to be more “domly” with vanilla men than with submissive men. One thing I have always loved about being a submissive man is when I can be in a relationship with a woman who doesn’t need to ACT like a stereotypical Domme (or as a Dominant female friend put it, “a Disney Domme”. I love that our respective natures and our chemistry mean that she inspires my submission, and never has to force it with yelling, and harsh words. Submission is what I feel, not what I’m forced to do. Always.


    1. I think casual disrespect amongst friends where it ‘doesn’t mean anything’ is really widely accepted, and I’d even say that a lot of the time it genuinely *doesn’t* mean anything. It’s friendly ribbing (or here in Aus: ‘taking the piss’). And I get that. But I won’t accept it from a partner.

      I also think that women are criticised more for bringing it up (you’re being unreasonable/hysterical/over emotional!) so they learn not to do that.

      And yeah, I agree with you: for me the thought of constantly fighting for someone’s submission is exhausting (ditto the thought of constantly fighting for being treated the way you want to be treated, which is super common in a lot of relationships).


  6. Interesting, I find that I am the exact same way. I’m much harsher and maybe even a bit more judgemental of men in my vanilla life. I know, if my hubby ever to pass away and I thought I’d want another relationship it would, for sure, be a D/s type of relationship.

    1. I toy with the idea of a vanilla man and I suspect there are some out there who would work for me, but I only have to touch the edges of typical M/F interaction to be backing off and going ‘yeah… nup’.


  7. (After reaching the end of my comment, I realized that it might be helpful to know that I am a man, in my thirties and not submissive. I have been in D/S relationships, but mostly kinky vanilla ones.)

    Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting post. I have been following and enjoying your blog for awhile, but never commented before. As it’s always interesting to view another perspective, you have me considering a few things more closely.

    My experience has matched yours exactly when dating vanilla woman. I could parrot your complaint about men on women, but trying to be sincere and introspective about your post makes me question my own experience.

    The early part of any relationship can be tumultuous, as people attempt to understand their partner’s boundaries. Without attempting to be sexist, but merely conveying my past, I have felt that many women are completely and utterly shocked when a man says no to a request. I do not mean anything sexual or even that important; usually this is scheduling or contact related. My work involves a lot of reading alone, and the occasional surprise lunchtime meeting. I have learned to expect some (rude) pushback to the simple statements that I will need to work Thursday night, or that no I won’t be able to meet for lunch tomorrow. My assumption, from their reactions, is that they are more accustomed to men adjusting their schedule for them. Of course that’s part of a relationship; as is understanding when your partner cannot.

    Thanks again for the interesting blog. I have enjoyed reading.

    1. Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you are enjoying my blog *smile*.

      It’s interesting you say that. I have some female friends dating in the vanilla world, and I see some real problems that don’t at all reflect what you are saying. In fact, I’d say it’s the opposite.

      1. Many men treat them poorly (are late for dates, don’t call when they say they will, expect booty calls at the last minute etc), and the women make a gazillion excuses for them (oh, he’s just busy/forgot/something something)

      2. While they will complain about those behaviours (sometimes to the man, sometimes not), they also *ACCEPT* them (no, I don’t know why either), so the guy has zero reason to change. As far as he’s concerned it’s all working great (because for him, it totally is).

      Obviously everyone has different experiences and there are a million variables there, but in general, I don’t see that expectation from women. I see women doing contortionist-level manoeuvres to accommodate and excuse men who treat them poorly.


  8. The roots of the problem:

    Mainstream society has a M/f outlook.

    Many, probably most, men have a M/f outlook.

    So, in general, there is a tendency to consider women second class citizens.

    A M/f outlook is not really complementary with an F/m outlook.

  9. I believe there is a group of men (which I would now describe myself as such) who seem vanilla, but who might be open to an F/m relationship. Who, for males, have an average strength of will; who like women in general, and are polite to women. Men who likely end up in conventional marriages with vanilla women.

    Think of a man who is not exactly submissive in the BDSM sense. But if he met the right Dominant Woman, might accept an F/m relationship with her. Or to put it another way, respond to her greater strength of will by accepting her dominance.

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