To begin, let us stipulate that Joy and I practice only consensual BDSM, in which all parties participate voluntarily in all activities. Within the realm of consensual BDSM, no one is ever really “made” to do something against their will—rather, they choose to give up control and obey. Truly forcing someone to do something they don’t want to is a textbook definition for non-consensuality, which neither Joy nor I advocate or support.
With that understanding in place, however, let’s recognize that there’s something magic about the idea of being forced to obey or submit (especially in a sexual way). This is true both from the viewpoint of the forcer (the Dominant perspective) and the viewpoint of the one who is forced (the submissive perspective). Excitement flows in both directions, and an enormous amount of energy can be created through this exchange of control.
I know this phenomenon exists for Joy because we have explicitly discussed it several times. For instance, at times when I spank her relatively severely, she moves her hand to try to cover her bottom and prevent the next blow. In the past, I would halt the spanking when she did this, interpreting it as a signal that she has had enough and wants me to stop. However, over time I have learned that this is wrong—it is not at all what Joy wants. In fact, she has come right out and told me so. Rather than stopping, she wants me to move her obstructing arm and hold it out of the way as I continue paddling her bare behind. When I do so, she becomes markedly more excited. My action fuels her fantasy of being made to endure her spanking and being helpless to do anything to prevent it.
I know, as well, that I gain excitement from compelling Joy to obey, especially when she finds obedience difficult. As an example, Joy does not like to be spanked on her genitals. It scares her. Despite this, I sometimes instruct her to spread her legs and then inform her exactly how I am about to employ the riding crop I hold in my hands. I know the effect my words will have, and I can watch the battle between her fear and her submission play out across her face. And when she eventually does comply, not just one time, but for multiple strokes of the crop across her tender vulva, it sends a thrill down my spine and into my groin.
You might think that this is all an extended role-play exercise. I pretend to make Joy do something, and she pretends not to want to do it. When she does it anyway, we both get goose pimples of excitement. That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? But it’s not nearly that simple. There’s actually a very fine line that must be walked here.
You see, pretending not to want to do something isn’t good enough. Oh, sure, there’s a place for role-playing submission during a scene:
Joy: How dare you, Officer! I could never do that! I’m a married woman!
Jake: Well, then, ma’am, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take you downtown and book you.
Joy: Book me! But I can’t go to jail!
Jake: Well, then, you know what you have to do, don’t you?
The eventual “submission” that the above conversation inevitably leads to truly is pretend, and while it’s fun, it’s not the same as the more authentic submission that I described above. It’s not nearly as powerful. To achieve true submission, Joy must, on some level, really not want to experience what I’m about to subject her to, or not want to do what I’ve instructed her to do. Her bottom must really hurt, and the genital spanking must really frighten her. Without this actual reluctance to acquiesce, the feeling of Domination/submission fades, and what we have left is the role play above—fun, but only a pale shadow of what it could be. When the reluctance is real, however, Joy’s acquiescence brings a powerful thrill to both of us.
“But wait!” you say. “I thought you started out by stipulating that in consensual BDSM there’s no such thing as forcing your partner to do something they don’t want to do! Aren’t you now contradicting yourself?”
Well, I admit the whole thing gets confusing, but the answer is no, I’m not contradicting myself. Submission seems to operate on two levels. There is the surface level, which is where Joy feels that she does not want to do something. But there is also a deeper level, the level at which her submission lives, in which she very much desires to obey…to be made to obey. This deeper desire trumps her surface feelings of fear or pain or shame, and in so doing, generates the energy I have described. While on the surface she does not want to submit, down in her depths she very much desires it.
However, as I mentioned earlier, one must walk a fine line. It is easily possible to go too far. If Joy’s fear or pain or distaste towards an activity I require is too strong, her inner desire to submit will not overcome it. In this case, if she forces herself to comply she will do so grudgingly and get no excitement from it. More likely, she will simply refuse. So, if I try to make her walk naked down the middle of our street, or eat her food out of a dog bowl, or seduce her best friend, Joy will say “No”. If I were to somehow make her comply anyway, she would do so angrily rather than with excitement, and at that point, the line between consensual versus non-consensual BDSM would have been crossed.
Fortunately, I seem to have some sort of inner guard rail built into me that acts to prevent this crossover, and I have come to suspect that most other Dominants have something similar in their makeup. I love…love…to make Joy do something sexual that she is reluctant to do. If she’s afraid of it, all the better. If she feels a bit of humiliation, that can actually be a plus. But she must, at some deeper level, want to do what I tell her, want to perform whatever activity it is that I require. As long as her inner desire to submit can overcome her fear or shame or reluctance and she feels excitement begin to grow inside her, I gain an incredible thrill. When I go too far, however, and her fear or shame overpowers any desire to submit, the opposite occurs. I gain no excitement, and any desire I have to make her obey quickly disappears.
The challenge, then, to maximizing the excitement of a BDSM relationship seems to be to attain the narrow strip of territory right on the edge of consensual submission, where the submissive finds it desirable, but not easy, to submit. That’s the sweet spot. Staying within this territory is not an easy thing to do! The boundaries of the sweet spot are unique to an individual couple, and change over time with experience. They may even vary from day to day based on the participants’ moods and levels of arousal. The only way to know for sure where the boundaries lie on a given day is to pay attention to your partner and read the signals, both verbal and non-verbal, that they give.
Of course, this is why Dominance is an art rather than a science. But who doesn’t aspire to be an artist?