There are many gifts that I received by seeing a dominatrix, so many elucidated here over the past year and a bit. She infested my dreams, my waking ambition, sense of self, life direction, and triggered the confidence that has enabled me to step into my own skin, to accept and to give touch for the first time in my life and has awakened to me a great sense of the possible.
[There is an irony too. The first time I met her was the day I had planned to start GAHT (gender affirming hormone therapy). There was something about meeting her that made me stop—and it was an exploration of my own male sexuality—something which I needed to do but had also never really done before…and funnily enough, I discovered that my male sexuality was completely bound up with submission to the feminine, to female sexuality, to women. She also helped me to let go of gay fantasy, which was inextricably linked to experiences I had endured growing up which can only be described as inappropriate. None of these things were conscious, or even figured in our play…they were simply by-products of learning to breathe. The irony? I didn’t know that I needed courage to start GAHT, but I did, and once we stopped playing, I was able to ground into this path, and move on].
She also received my love and helped me to explore the depths of submission as love. Beautiful. It is possible to love and respect someone who is no longer in your life, to continue to appreciate them, to wish them well. That is where I am.
The relationship was also challenging, not always kind, at times hurtful, but in the end, those things matter little. She gave me many gifts, so many, both consciously and unconsciously, including many which originated inside of me. But the greatest gift of all that she gave? Teaching me about the importance of boundaries through my challenge to hers.
The importance of boundaries
The vanilla world has a lot to learn about the concept of boundaries from the kink community. I don’t think I ever had a conversation about boundaries, or possibly even knew what the word was until I first sat down with ex-Mistress.
I took great comfort that her primary boundary was actually mine too—that there would never be any sexual contact. While not explicitly discussed, it was also understood and came to define our play, that release of any kind was just not part of it (I don’t know if this is typical—I kind of think that most men expect to “get off” in one way or another). It was easy to comply. And let me tell you that being able to enjoy sensuous touch with someone when you are heavily diapered is so utterly liberating because of how safe it feels—the physical safety echoes the spoken word, the boundaries are manifest.
The other boundary, that I would never know her, was one that I struggled with in the end. There were times when I just couldn’t understand how what I was being asked to do, for me, for her, how I felt, could sit happily in that context. In truth, I still don’t, but I also understand that it doesn’t matter. What matters is the boundary itself, and to respect it.
Intimacy, Trust, Risk
It is easy to see how a BDSM dynamic becomes very intimate between Master and slave, even without sex—the emotional content is very real. This is certainly truer in a lifestyle setting than in a professional-client setting. Makes sense, right? The boundaries of a “play” session are so clearly delineated, that a kind of existential challenge which might arise in a lifestyle dynamic is unlikely to ever appear. And quite possibly, the kind of person who seeks a pro-Domme is not prone to these feelings anyway.
I am not a classic “session” client. I didn’t know that when I started, but I do now. For many reasons, I think that the pro-Domme is a safer and more appealing partner for me than a lifestyle person—I don’t know that I would have the strength to be so utterly willing to fold myself into someone with whom I also share a vanilla existence. And besides, the experience level of a pro is impossible to replicate. Experience equals range, absence of shame, a very real freedom.
What all of that meant for me was a desire for an ease of interaction, a normalcy, that runs counter to the formality of a protocol-driven, session-oriented, pro-client relationship. And this led me into collision with her boundaries.
Privacy, Reticence, Trust
In truth, I had no real interest in the details of her private life. I actually didn’t want to intrude—it was none of my business. I did, however, wish for the ease of interaction that comes with two people who are intimate with one another. Why? Because holding back, reticence, secrecy, small untruths, while all understandable, serve to undermine trust. Did I trust her to not hurt me physically and to be serious and careful with my health and well-being? Absolutely.
But other kinds of trust? Not so sure. And those are the ones that matter for emotional bonding. At least for me. While these might be excuses in my mind, there can be no justification for boundary violations—and pushing against them even without violating them is not really at all different…it is still pressuring the other person, and that is wrong.
Becoming a slave
I can’t really get my head around the idea of what it means to be a slave within the context of “play” as I understand it in BDSM. A slave exists to serve. To devote to. To exist for. To learn that this was my underlying motivation, what my soul craved, was another gift of ex-Mistress, and one which gradually emerged. When we started, I most definitely did not identify in this way, even would have said, “most definitely not,” and even said so to a pen-pal slave who pegged me as one even when I was saying I was just a plain old person with submissive feelings.
Same too, reading about BDSM as I tried to learn from books like Conquer Me or Real Service, I couldn’t see how someone would actually want to be a slave. In the end, I have discovered it in myself, and it is not something that one wants, but rather something that just happens.
A dynamic that heads towards Master/slave, requires an incredible investment of energy, emotion, money over time. Trust is vital. Trust does not flourish in the shadows of secrecy.
Trust, trust, trust.
I know now that I am a slave. I also know that I am a slave even when I am not in service to a Domme. Being slave has begun to permeate my life. And I would regard that as positively transformational in all of my relationships—professional, personal, love. One of my dearest friends who has accompanied me for years with my gender expression and is now in this with me as I transition, said to me the other day about why I am so good at what I do, in a testosterone-fuelled, ego-driven industry, “because you are without ego.” I was so touched and flattered. Perhaps the seeds were there, but now they are intensifying.
The Agency of the Submissive
Most BDSM talk about boundaries seems to revolve around the sub, the risks that the sub is taking, how the dominant party has a huge responsibility towards the sub, the importance of safe words, mostly geared towards the sub, etc. This is so prevalent that most BDSM dynamics only have safe words for the sub. And as a sub, I certainly get lot’s of protective energy from the wider domme community, both male and female, that I have met. I guess that there is a recognition of an inherent vulnerability in submission.
But a sub is an adult. A sub should never give up his/her agency. While so many subs (I generalise about men because that is who is online doing this) say they will fall on their knees and “do anything”. It is a pet peeve for many dommes. They are lost in a testosterone fuelled fugue, but they really don’t mean it. They are aroused by a loss of agency, and the temptation is real, but one that is most definitely ill-advised. A good and attentive domme is vigilant to this and help her charge through it, and do.
As a sub, we need to know our own boundaries and to be vigilant and self-protecting—we cannot rely on the domme to do this. And yet, this is a common problem. In some ways, you could be forgiven for thinking that the professional Domme would be far more likely to be aware of this as an issue than a lifestyle person and also more likely to demand the sub to self-protect. At least in theory.
In the pro-Domme world, and in Sex Work more broadly, we can easily understand that this boundary laying is subverted. There are very real safety concerns that SWs have that require, at least at first, an intense application of boundaries. It is also work, and as any of us do in a delineation between working and personal life, we take distance. This helps us manage stress, not take work home, etc. I even teach this to my clients. So why should SW be any different? I guess the temptation arises because of the emotional/erotic content of the dynamic. In most cases, however, there is no reason to think that it should be any different than any other work…one doesn’t typically fall in love with a therapist for instance. But finally, dynamics can end, and because of the intensity of the psychosexual components that can arise, and not knowing how someone will behave on the way out of a dynamic, there has to be some level of protection which militates for reserve. You don’t really know someone until you see them at their worst.
I got to a place where I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I had promised that I would communicate, and that I would follow wherever she lead, but I found that it was impossible to engage without openness. I have written quite a bit about what that meant in our dynamic, so won’t rehash it, and whilst I think that neither one of us really wanted it to stop, based on the ground rules that each of us had to protect ourselves, thankfully she had the strength to say this isn’t going to work.
Boundaries are a two-way street. There was an incident that arose between us which was a massive violation of my own boundaries. I had two boundaries, red lines, that I articulated when we first met. No humiliation [that merits a post on its own], and no public “outing”.
In one spectacular moment, she rode roughshod over both—ironically in an act of ceremoniously protecting her own boundaries. She didn’t mean it. She apologized later when I told her how upsetting it was for me, and castigated herself for not seeing it…and even though what followed was one of the best days I ever spent with her, that evening I cried in emotional pain for the first and only instance in our time together. I felt utterly humiliated by the idea that I was so deeply attached to her, was falling in love with her, but didn’t even know her name. Apparently, this is common, and I honestly don’t know how others get over it. I couldn’t. I did try. I really did. But I found it humiliating in the end to be so attached, subservient, etc, and not have at least the most basic knowledge of the person I was playing with.
I get it. To be excluded, held apart, is very often a part of the dynamic. It quite probably turns many on…both Top and bottom, and it plays into a power dynamic, power exchange, domme worship, subservient sub, but I found it humiliating. Even if I am aroused by humiliation, it doesn’t feel good or right to me. I tried to let go of it, but in the end I couldn’t.
Of course, we spent a fair bit of time together and various threads and other bits and bobs emerged, and so I “learned” about her…but in a climate of reticence, or even mild misrepresentation, regardless of the legitimacy of the reason, a scepticism grows. And in the end, not knowing when things were true infected how I interpreted her words and actions.
For the named incident, whilst I did accept her apology, and we did spend the most sublime and additional session together shortly after, a seed had been planted which I couldn’t shake loose: that to be with her on her terms was the erasure of me, of my own agency. Shame on me for not stepping away. Weak!
From that moment on, I booked with her thinking that each time would be the last but hoping that something might change. I really should have just stopped. But I wasn’t strong enough. I did try to talk about it, thinking that communication was enough, being honest and open, but this was regarded as pushing against her boundaries. And she was right. And I was wrong. I am sorry.
There can be no justification. So dear reader, if you find yourself in this situation, walk away. Nobody has a right to challenge someone else’s boundaries. In this context, she was right to call me a narcissist, right to make a condition of ongoing relations to accept and to work on my narcissism.
There is no excuse
I can tell myself that I had good reasons. I can tell myself that her experience would have shown her that there was a misalignment of interests. I can tell myself that by being open and transparent and honest, it was okay, but the reality is that it is never okay. I can tell myself that I was only pushing against her boundaries, but not actually violating them. But that is just another excuse—in truth there is no difference.
She was, however, very gracious in saying that she knew I didn’t mean it from a bad place. She could see my struggle.
The Consequence was Ugliness
When I say that being faced with my own ugliness is the greatest gift that she gave to me, I am not kidding. My therapists have shown me that I am not a narcissist. They have shown me that I have problems asserting my boundaries. This little story is a perfect snapshot of that—that I was unable to assert my own boundaries. The cruel irony is that the consequence of that was for me to push against someone else’s. And in the end, my weakness led to all kinds of bad outcomes.
I wasn’t getting what I wanted from our dynamic–and that had nothing to do with her–she’s fantastic at her job. Rather than accepting this and moving on, instead I tried to change the terms of the dynamic. Tried to change her. Awful, right? Shame on me. But also, what a great lesson. I am sorry that I had to learn it with the “right” person, but I might not have learned it any other way…and having learnt it I feel that I can move on, can grow And for this I am sorry too…nobody deserves or wants to be someone else’s training field.
I have had to accept that although I have never been a narcissist, what happened was that our dynamic brought some ugly things out in me. Sometimes when we are in positions of stress, traits emerge that have never been seen before, or have lain buried. Our shadows. When this happens, we have a great opportunity to cut them out. This is not the first time that something similar has happened to me, and it allowed me to identify something I didn’t like about myself and to excise it.
In life, it may be possible to delineate the before and after. That these moments become a sequence of learning experiences that help us to grow. Ironically, this is a part of why I am relieved about my divorce—my wife is so completely and utterly stuck, that there is only feeling sorry for her, and a hope that someday she does the work to realise that she is responsible for her own happiness.
And isn’t that ironic? I was telling myself if only Mistress would be open with me, I would be happy and satisfied. But the truth is that this is like trying to put a firefly in a jar. You can’t. If you do, you kill it.
What motivated me to stay and push rather than be supple and walk?
These are not meant to be excuses but explain to me a bit of what made me so willing to not exercise my own agency and to walk away, when I knew I should have, and instead push against someone’s boundaries in what can only be described as selfish.
I found her insanely attractive. Having bumped into her randomly in street clothes after the fact, this point was hammered home. My perception of her beauty is chemical. She once joked to me that “babies always feel that way about their mommies.” Whatever the reason, this remains true, she is beautiful to me in ways that always make the air around her shimmer—it’s almost like I can’t see her or hear her that’s how powerful her presence is on me.
She did things with and to me that I was so deeply afraid of and in love with at the same time, and she waltzed into those dark places inside of me and played with them in a health-giving, nourishing, and healing way. I can hear her laugh echoing in the halls of my psyche even still. Why wasn’t that enough? Is it because my attachment to BDSM is more existential and spiritual than kinky? Can you even make such a distinction? I don’t know that I will ever know the answer to those questions.
The way her mind worked just spoke to me. There were so many topics of common interest. And somehow, this made it worse…it might have been better to dabble in this arena with someone with whom I had nothing in common.
These are not excuses. I promised to never take. And yet, what is it to push someone’s boundaries? It is a very real kind of spiritual theft, entitlement, ugh. There is no difference between violating a boundary and pushing against one—they are both equally ugly.
I take joy from knowing that there is this magical person out there doing what she does. I am also happy that we stopped seeing each other, as it moved away from being healthy and positive to something that was gobbling up my creative energy (and with good reason). I am glad for what she taught me, and I am glad for the ugliness in me that I have had to own.
She cut me plenty of slack
While never articulated in quite these terms she cut me slack, “I know you don’t mean it with malicious intent.” And indeed, I did not. And that is why it was easy to respect the boundary enough to not breach it even as I pushed against it. And I am grateful that even in this moment of sin, that she held space for me.
The moral of the story?
Boundaries are a two-way street. There is never an excuse for violating or pushing against someone’s boundaries—even when your boundaries appear to be in direct conflict with one another, or even when your own boundaries are pushed against or violated. We can make all the justifications and excuses we want for our behaviour, but in the end, it amounts to entitlement, and there is no word for entitlement other than ugly. I am so sorry for wanting something that was explicitly not on offer. And I am ashamed of myself for not being strong enough to act on it. I behaved in a weak way. And that is not appealing; especially not in a slave, who should epitomise strength. Period.
I am an adult. I live with respect for others. I respect people’s boundaries. I am learning to respect my own. Being confronted with my failure to do so has been a painful lesson, but perhaps the single most important thing to have emerged. It is a watershed moment that I can carry forward in my life.
This is a beautiful tribute to your time with her. It sounds like you learned a lot about yourself through these interactions and by reflecting and working through them after. While one way to look at things is that they went badly, another way to look at them is that they were imperfect, and that so much growing and learning came from this imperfection….making it the perfect situation for you to be in at that time. I continue to be impressed with how self-reflective you are, how thoughtful you are, and what a beautiful human being you are. And…as a therapist myself, I have never thought that you are a narcissist. In my world, that is a clinical term that shouldn’t be used lightly. We all are self-centered in our own ways, but that is far different. I am glad your therapist set you straight on this. Much love, my friend XOXO
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I had wondered whether you might be a therapist…you have always been so insightful, so it is doubly honouring and fun and rich to have you hear. Thank you. I did love her, and I am sure that I will always cherish the ground we covered together, the fun, but also the hard parts…I think I probably wrote different versions of that post as many as 20 times starting last November…but it has taken me this long to figure out that its okay to be wrong and to move on…thanks for stopping in.
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I LOVE being able to read about your journey, my beautiful friend. It feels like a real privilege. The hard parts are what inspire the most growth and it sounds like she helped you to grow a lot. I admire that you looked deep and figured out how you wanted to express yourself. Much love ❤
I clearly remember learning about boundaries. I am 43 and this lesson was taught to me about 7 years ago when I entered sobriety. My first thought was “why the hell wasn’t I taught this as a child?”. It didn’t make sense to me that something as important as boundaries wasn’t important enough to be included in my parent’s child-rearing. It upset me for a few reasons. One is that the lesson is easily teachable. Two is because I am worthy and deserve to establish boundaries. Three because others are deserving. I was truly baffled and a bit distraught. I immediately began teaching my daughter who was 10 at the time, boundaries. I also apologized to her for not knowing any sooner and for having crossed any of hers unknowingly. In my own parenting ways, I preach respect, respect, respect, and yet the highest form of respect, I had been jilted on. I confronted my mother and began to teach her as well. I am grateful for having learned about boundaries but even more so before it was too late. Seeing the ugly parts of ourselves is never easy, that’s why many choose not to. But you are a better version of yourself for having witnessed your less-than-lovely traits. Luckily traits can be improved upon and it is obvious that you are doing the work. Thanks for acknowledging that pushing a boundary is just as harmful as disrespecting it. I never thought of it that way but I wholeheartedly agree.
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Yes. This is so true. In the end, the ugliness we confront is the basis for all growth. It took me a long time to figure this out. I still am not very good at protecting my own boundaries, and in this lay the seeds of trouble for this example here. But I am learning, and I have been able, as you, to impart some of this thinking to my siblings, broader family, children…it is an incredibly valuable lesson. Thanks for sharing.
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It’s hard to implement boundaries if you’ve never done so. I’ve found it extremely difficult yet necessary. I too work on this daily. Forever a work in progress 🤓