BDSM lives in a world of inner conflict. In many ways, it thrives in a world of inner conflict. A healthy portion of the fun comes from the very idea that by playing BDSM games you’re being naughty, being bad. But…the inner conflict is real, and can sometimes prove difficult to handle. It can worry you, make you feel guilty, make you feel ashamed.

Joy struggles with inner conflict around her submission all the time. She feels great conflict between her desire to give away control…to be controlled…to subject herself to the will of another, and the beliefs that she internalized as she grew up. Popular culture in the USA says women should be strong, should be independent, should not need a man. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” was a popular slogan for a T-shirt back in the 70’s, while “I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar)” topped the charts for Helen Reddy. By Joy’s youth, the idea of Woman as powerful, needing no one, fully capable of making her own way in the world had been idealized by the mainstream, and it was held up as a goal to aspire to. It’s no surprise that Joy, who is fully equipped for success in just about anything she puts her mind to, adopted that iconic Woman as a goal.

However, at the same time, she tells me she has always been attracted to and excited by the idea of submitting to someone else. She used to read what she calls “smutty books” back before we were married, and she always liked the part where the woman had to (or was in danger of having to) give herself to the man. There was something about the idea of not having the power to prevent being taken, or being made to give away that power, that called to her. And as we have explored more realistic ways of taking and relenquishing power in our marriage, this desire has only flourished.

You can clearly see the conflict here. Joy’s “ideal Woman” needs no one and takes power onto herself. That’s what she has been told she “should” want. However, what she actually does want is to have someone who can take care of her, and who she can give herself to. This battle between the supposed ideal and reality often causes her considerable angst.

I, too, sometimes struggle with inner conflict. Mine arises from similar causes, though from the opposing viewpoint. My view of the ideal man holds up honor, responsibility, strength and honesty as virtues. I feel no conflict around the idea of taking control when it is freely given, so acting as a Dominant to Joy’s submissive causes no qualms for me. However, the act of spanking her, or causing her pain in other ways, even if she wants it…that can be an issue. The ideal man, in my view, protects his wife and keeps her safe from harm. When viewed from one angle (the vanilla world would probably call that angle “sanity”), causing her pain is diametrically opposed to this. And more than that, because I have helped Joy to spread her BDSM wings, learn new things about herself, and adopt practices that “normal’ people don’t allow themselves to enjoy, it’s also possible to look at my conduct and say that I’m an instigator, someone who has corrupted Joy, who has led her astray. Again, that flies in the face of my responsibility to protect Joy and take care of her.

I rationalize my behavior by telling myself that by spanking her, I give Joy what she wants…what she needs. In fact, she has told me that she thinks being spanked “makes her a better person”, because it helps her to feel as though she can safely give up power and control to someone else who is stronger (physically) than she is. It comforts her, and paradoxically, it makes her feel loved. I tell myself that it’s really for her benefit, and that the fact that I enjoy it…that I like it when she whimpers at the contact of the crop…is irrelevant. And usually that thought enables me to put the conflict behind me, at least for the moment.

You know what I wonder, though? I wonder how much of these inner conflicts, both Joy’s and my own, are really a battle between society’s norms and our own inner natures. What if Joy was raised in an environment where the powerful and independent Woman wasn’t idealized? Would that free her to more easily realize and relish her submission? And what if I had been raised to believe that its okay to spank one’s wife, that society wouldn’t look down upon that? Would I be more able to fully embrace the power exchange and my own mostly-well-hidden streak of sadism?

Joy and I aren’t alone in our inner conflicts with these needs and desires, by the way. No, many people within the BDSM community share them, and they apply even if genders are switched. Consider a male submissive, for instance–doesn’t he face an even more extreme conflict between the accepted view of a man and his own desire to be Dominated?

But you know what? A far greater number of people in the vanilla community share them as well…they simply haven’t allowed themselves to realize it. I don’t know what the percentage of folks who incorporate some element of TTWD into their relationship is. Though I’ve read many different numbers, my guess would be less than five percent. However, I believe that the percentage of people who are attracted to fantasies involving bondage, or spanking, or Dominance and submission, is far, far higher. I am confident that it is north of fifty percent, and I would bet that it’s north of seventy-five percent. All of these people feel inner conflict as well–they simply feel it from the other side. They conform to the societal norms, while all the while, somewhere deep inside them, their hidden desires to submit, or Dominate, or spank or whatever call out to them to be set free.

Perhaps we actually have it easier than they do…

Enjoy Yourself,


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