Forgetting

I’ve written some about forgetting to do things one has promised and whether or not it is abusive, and I’d like to add some thoughts to that specifically about what it means when a submissive forgets to do something she has promised her dominant, expanding a bit on my answer to The Eroticist’s excellent post on punishing a masochist and why it is likely to end a dominant up no longer having a submissive.  There are, of course, many other things a dominant can do that will have the same result, but let’s look at forgetting for the moment.

Eroticist posits, in essence, that forgetting to do something she has promised to do basically means that it has been done deliberately, and she likely no longer wants to be in the relationship.  A lot of people think in these terms in vanilla relationships, too, though, and all of it is fueled by pop psychology that tries to put all of human behavior into neat little black and white boxes.

Well, unfortunately, life is just not quite so cut and dried.

You need to remember that there are many reasons why a person might forget to do something (or decide not to do it) despite promising to do so other than deliberate disobedience and not wanting to be in the relationship any more.  I’ve outlined many of them in my prior post, which is somewhat more focused on whether or not forgetting is outright abusive.  Here we are talking explicitly about why a submissive in particular might forget and what it might mean to the relationship, particularly if the dominant calls her to task for it.  The prior post’s points about reasons for forgetfulness all still stand, but the twist of whether or not it means one wants to remain in the relationship was not mentioned there.

The notion of punishment in a BDSM relationship context is one that is very controversial.  Some love it, some hate it.  Whatever your feelings about it are, however, it is undeniable that it carries some risks – including both crossing the consent line into abuse, causing lasting psychological harm, and that of driving the submissive off entirely if it is done inartfully or inappropriately.

There is also no question that raising the issue of whether or not forgetting to do something means the submissive no longer wants to be in the relationship or not could well end up as Eroticist cautions with the end of the relationship, for many possible reasons.

A dominant is very likely indeed to lose his submissive (or at least end up with an increasingly unwilling and unhappy one), if he does things like continue to accuse of her of deliberately forgetting things despite knowing full well that she has a poor memory to start with, whether inherently or because of medical issues, and continues to argue the point, refusing to believe that there was nothing personal about her forgetting something whatsoever if she tells him that, and if he continues to hammer on themes like “If you really cared, you wouldn’t have forgotten”.

That latter idea is a landmine-in-waiting anyways.  It’s like the eternal, “If you really loved me, you’d <fill in the blank>.”  These sorts of expectations are often utterly unrealistic in any relationship, and inappropriately tie things together that frequently have zero cause/effect relationship to one another except in individual people’s minds.  Their partners may well have an entirely different set of constructs, and indeed, a lot of the strife that occurs in relationships results from such mismatched expectations.  There are few, if any, real universals about what people who really love or care about their partners will or will not do – and even those are likely to have some exceptions in certain circumstances.  There are different kinds of love languages, and even within each type, there are huge variations in how love and caring are expressed and thought about.

Once you set this kind of ship in motion, too, continuing to ascribe intent and deliberation to what is actually accident (and likely already very distressing to the forgetter), then it may very well become the herald of a greater problem where it never was to start with.

When people are browbeaten and accused of things they either have not done, or of doing something deliberately that was entirely accidental and coincidental in this kind of manner, it tends to breed both resentment and ultimately fear, neither of which tend to improve memory or performance. Contempt also tends to end up coming along for the ride, ultimately replacing both love and respect.

When people work in an environment in which they feel intimidated by their employers, for example, productivity drops, and errors skyrocket.  No one can work well in an environment of fear, and of being disbelieved, mistrusted, unjustly accused of doing things they never did, or having small infractions blown entirely out of proportion.

It is no different in personal relationships.  And when what one is accused of doing deliberately is a result of a condition over which they have little control to start with, particularly in an intimate relationship, the stress and pain will invariably eventually lead to the breakdown of trust and ultimately the whole relationship.

When you try to punish something over which a person has little control, and is already feeling distressed about, you create a no-win situation that will almost have to create a vicious circle that will destroy the relationship.

If you are in a relationship with someone who is forgetful, it would behoove you to just add this factoid to your personal databanks about their features as just another datapoint and try not to take it personally.  If they have explained to you that it has been a problem for them for a long time, you will likely also see a lot of distress.  But you should believe them, and take them at their word when they tell you it doesn’t mean anything about you, because especially earlier on, it almost undoubtedly would not.  Give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you’re seeing a lot of distress and contrition once they realize they’ve forgotten something – and recognize that she knows herself and why it happened vastly better than you ever will.

And why would you even want to believe that a long-standing problem somehow suddenly means that they have it in for you?

Now, if a given person doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who is forgetful, there is nothing necessarily inherently wrong with that.  To each his own.  Some of us have more flexibility than others.

The problem comes when the dominant is aware that there are other factors contributing to or causing the problem and does not adjust his own expectations to meet the reality of what the actual person he is with is like and continues to bash her for it vs just ending the relationship if he’s that unhappy.

Furthermore, even when it’s true that the forgetfulness is the manifestation of some ambivalence or problem in the relationship, it may only be about that particular area, and may not have global application at all.  If you try to force the issue of it being all or nothing, that she either wants to be in the relationship or not, you will lose a lot of nuance – and likely the opportunity to work out and negotiate something that will get past a particular obstacle that will allow the relationship to continue and flourish.  You will never, ever get 100% of what you want in a relationship all the time.  People are just not built that way.

No matter what the “party line” in the scene is, compromise and negotiation are the cornerstones of successful D/s relationships the same way as they are in vanilla ones.  This very much includes learning about and accommodating many of your partner’s personal challenges and foibles.  If you’re a “my way or the highway” kind of dom who doesn’t get this, you are likely to burn through a hell of a lot of submissives and throw out a lot of babies with the bathwater, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake.

Leave if you must, by all means – but please don’t brand everyone who is forgetful as automatically inherently unsubmissive, not wanting the relationship, a manipulator, etc.  It just ain’t true.

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Please do read Eroticist’s post and the excellent comments that follow it (and his comment below here), especially if you are interested in punishment dynamics.  He and I are looking at different aspects of one issue here.

Being An Asshole, or Topping From the Bottom?

Thank you to Devastating Yet Inconsequential for permission to repost this post.  My comments are below the double line.

topping from the bottom

Can we please, please retire this concept?

Listen, there is such a thing as being an asshole in bed, no matter what kind of sex you’re having.  These types of behavior might make you an asshole (depending on context):

  • constantly insisting on getting your own way
  • not letting your partner finish the sex equivalent of a thought before correcting them
  • trying to force your partner to do things they don’t like and don’t choose
  • pouting or whining that things aren’t exactly to your liking
  • giving your partner long lists of changes you’d like them to make
  • refusing to play along with any idea you haven’t thought of yourself

When bottoms do things like this, it’s sometimes called “topping from the bottom.”  But the behavior listed above is equally obnoxious from a top or dom.

Listen to your partner.  Give them space to try things.  Be “good, giving, and game” (as Dan Savage puts it).  Be willing to try things yourself.  Prioritize your constructive criticism and give it at a pace your partner can handle.  Recognize your partner as a fellow human being with their own needs and desires, which have an equal claim to be fulfilled.

And, whatever side you are on, don’t worry about “topping from the bottom.”  If you’re worried that you’re impossible for your top to satisfy, work on that.  If you’re distracted by your bottom’s constant comments, talk about that.  But let’s get rid of this concept that I’m pretty sure causes a lot more stress, grief, and reluctance to communicate than it could ever possibly be worth.

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First of all, I quite agree that the whole concept of topping from the bottom needs to go away, largely because of what Dev says, namely how badly it (and the fear of being accused of doing it) interferes with communication and the ability to resolve problems.  Even in a D/s relationship, you have a right to have your needs heard and respected, and that means you’ve got to be able to communicate them to your top without fear of this kind of nonsense.  Even in the most extreme M/s, TPE, etc. relationships, you ultimately still have those rights as a human being, even if you’ve negotiated them away.  A smart dominant will listen to them and take them into consideration no matter what the form of the relationship, just as any intelligent partner in a vanilla relationship will.

On the face of it, and without context, this list of behaviors can indeed be quite obnoxious.  I’d argue, actually, that many of them are considerably less appealing when a dominant does them than when a submissive does – and they are very much part of where BDSM may, and often does, cross the line right into abuse.

What the concept of topping from the bottom does is obscure this distinction, and that’s part of why it’s such a bad idea, because far too many people on both sides of the slash cannot tell the difference between topping from the bottom and protecting their own selves from abuse, between a healthy interchange of thoughts and respect for limits as well as attempts to accommodate a partner’s needs and desires, and outright abusiveness.

The notion of topping from the bottom is often pulled out by abusers to justify running roughshod over their submissives, and used as a bludgeon to shut them up and beat them into greater submission, even when so doing is clearly harmful to the sub.  It’s also used as a measuring device to compare one’s own submissiveness to that of other subs, by both subs and doms, when the reality is you simply cannot compare two people or situations, because of differences in individual needs.

Topping from the bottom is a concept that is not limited to what happens in bed, but is also often pulled out by dominants to justify all manner of abuses of their submissives in the rest of life as well, and to stop the sub from objecting.

If we remove the concept and term from our vocabularies altogether, the realities of what may be happening in a given situation are much easier to sort out.

Here are some examples of things that might look like TFTB, or being a jerk on the bottom, but aren’t – and are in fact much more abusive on the part of the top than anything else. Continue reading

Protected: Hypocrisy and Abuse

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I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading

Protected: Breaking the Rules

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Trust, Safety, and Surrender

From Deborah Teramis Christian:

“Trust, safety and surrender are a triad that, in combination, can unlock the doors to deep submission and connectedness between D/s partners. Creating that environment takes some work, though.

Here is an online talk I gave on the subject, getting into some detail about how trust, safety and surrender interact, and how to foster them. This chat is left with some participant’s questions scattered throughout, because I think they brought up some good points. Names are replaced by initials to maintain anonymity.

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I’m going to talk tonight about the triad of elements that I think best create a healthy foundation for effective power exchange: Trust, Safety, and Surrender. D/s is predicated on trust, unlike in vanilla relationships where we are often content to negotiate relationships that hedge on the factor of trust. You can’t do that in D/s and have a relationship that will endure. Trust is the cornerstone of what enables power exchange to happen (as I will be elaborating)

There is also a given here, a background assumption in what I’m going to be saying: namely, that communications skills exist and are being used, and that you and your partner both have a mutual dedication to creating a trusting and safe environment in which to do D/s. You cannot build trust one-sidedly. It takes two…just as it does to create safety. Continue reading

Can’t Get Rid of It…

Why can’t I get rid of this lust? This need?  This craving?

Despite abusive relationships and swearing I’ll never go near D/s or anything like it again on more than one occasion, I am still continually drawn back to… whatever it is about wiitwd that draws me and keeps me.  I’ve been saying that I’m going to go back to vanilla, but the thought is like death.  I’m afraid I’ll really be buried alive.

Reading Dreamwalker’s blog started reminding me of the kind of connection I’ve always sought, that I’ve missed so very much for so long, that showed in bits and pieces with R, but too quickly turned to dust because of…  well, because.  Because as amazing a lover as he was, and as “charming” as he seemed initially, he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) control himself in a way that kept me safe in any way.  Mr. Hyde won out, once he surfaced, and I finally had to face that that was who R really is, not the wonderful guy I thought I’d found initially (at least when I was able to ignore the red flags)…

And that’s no way to have a life or a relationship.  I can’t live walking on eggshells all the time.  I’m starting to learn more about why I put up with his shit for so long, but I digress…

I no longer believe that D/s is a particularly healthy relationship paradigm, since it’s now clear to me that too many doms in particular use it as a cover for abuse – but I can’t get away from it completely either.  Continue reading

What is Dominance?

This is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever come across:

“Dominance seems often to attract those that confuse dominance with power misused…its so not like that…imagine the best teacher, boss, sports captain… whom ever…did they lead by yelling?… or by bringing out your best and you WANTING to be even better for them?”

Thanks to @subzeero on Fetlife for permission to repost

Tantrums, Dominants, and BDSM

I’ve been reading in a few places lately about people throwing tantrums, in both the vanilla world and in BDSM. In an excellent post on the subject, entitled “That’s Life (Vanilla and BDSM Tantrums)“, Ooooohhhhyesss concludes that “Tantrums are tantrums independent of being Dom/me, sub or vanilla. It is a lack of training in being a social animal. In the vanilla world, you can blame your parents until you are an adult. In BDSM you can point to your play partners; however, your behavior shouts out about YOU and merely reflects on others”.

So what exactly is a tantrum, and how do they apply to WIITWD?

Tantrums are, first and foremost, a sign of complete loss of self-control.

Continue reading

Sub Frenzy

This is without a doubt the best article on sub frenzy I’ve ever come across. Doms should be aware of this tendency, particularly in newbie subs, and follow the recommendations below in order to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

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Submissive Frenzies

By Mistress Steel (steelbfl@sonic.net)

Submissive Frenzies are a state or condition that many if not all submissives will experience at one time or another. Many aspects of BDSM are similar to addictions in how they play out in the mind. From that perspective the Frenzies can be considered to be the ‘withdrawal’ stage. The peculiar thing about this is that a submissive need not ever have engaged in a real life D/s BDSM experience to actually go into this state of need. Generally the very first experience a submissive will have will be prior to ever engaging in a real life D/s event. Many submissives can chronicle a ‘longing’ or unspecified ‘need’ which may have begun when they were quite little. This sensation was always present though generally unacknowledged or openly reviewed. In many cases the submissive was not able to identify the source of this sensation. It simply made them restless and on occasion subject to frustrated outbursts.

With the ‘finding’ of the D/s BDSM community many submissives feel a corresponding ‘surge’ of excitement. Suddenly they sense or feel that this is the source. The realization or identification of this can be both positive and negative. For many there is a period of denial, anger, repugnance, fear, hesitation, temerity and hope. All of these emotions seem to occur simultaneously leaving behind confusion and anxiety. All at once they begin to ‘sort’ the events and motivations that have occurred over their entire lives. Seeing the patterns, the hints, the presence of their desires in so many different ways. It explains previous unexplainable actions they may have taken and views the actions of themselves and others from an entirely different standpoint. As they begin to process all of this new information they become fully aware that the source of all those supressed needs and desires is attainable. Not only that but in a fairly accessible in a timely manner.

What occurs next is a mad dash or race toward ‘finding’ that special person who can attend to those so long unattended needs coupled to a desperate desire to gather more and more information. This often triggers or propels the initiation of a state of frenzy. This is an increasing and progressive sensation of ‘need’. Continue reading