“Mine,” I declared calmly, clasping his hands against my hips. My pace as I rode him was slow but insistent, and I could feel the heat building up in the wet intersection between our bodies. He seemed patient, though—too patient for my taste. I moved his hands back above his head, pinning each of his wrists firmly against the pillow, and whispered to him,
“Show me how much you want it.”
He didn’t say a word. He just wrenched first one hand free and then the other, grabbing my right arm with them and twisting it behind my back. When I fell forward onto his chest, he breathed into my ear,
“Put your other arm behind your back. Do it now.”
I swallowed and complied. He squeezed my two wrists together in one strong hand and pushed his other one through my hair, holding my head down next to his.
“Mine now,” he told me. I nodded helplessly, and resumed grinding my hips down against him as he began to thrust up faster.
So. … I’ve been switching a lot.
More than I’d realized I wanted to, even. When I talked to Leon before my first visit to him and Ali, I warned him not to get his hopes up; I was curious about bottoming but couldn’t predict whether I’d ever be in the mood to try it while I was there. I knew that there are a few typically bottomy things that I like—being pinned, grabbed, and otherwise manhandled, for example—but had never been inclined to genuinely give up control during sex.
So imagine my surprise, my first night there, when Leon was fucking me from behind and I suddenly realized that the thing I wanted absolute most at that moment was for him to grab my wrists and pin them down. And I didn’t want to ask for it—I was in no way prepared to have a conversation about it right then—I just wanted him to do it, because he wanted to and he could. Lost for words, I moved my wrists a little closer together and stretched them out, hoping he’d notice. Leon, bless his perverted heart, grabbed them. I nodded hard, to be sure he knew he’d read me right, and for the rest of the suddenly-much-hotter minute or so that we lasted I was his.
When we flopped out afterwards, I felt happy and satisfied, but also confused. Where had that come from? We experimented over the rest of the trip, approaching the same headspace from different angles—trying to find another way into it. We already knew that we liked fighting for top, but I came to realize that most of the time we both wanted him to win. I was fighting back not to gain control over him, but to make him earn control over me.
I wasn’t just refusing to submit without being beaten down first; I couldn’t. There’s a lion in me, and it bristles and roars at the suggestion that I lie down as quietly as a lapcat. I could eventually be made to take orders, but I had to be chained up or handcuffed, and usually under immediate threat of pain. Anything else would be dishonest and emotionally uncomfortable, with the intense mental dissonance that comes from playing a role that doesn’t fit.
And yet … for that minute, the first night, I wasn’t fighting and didn’t want to be. That was the closest I’d ever come to really feeling submissive, and it didn’t feel dissonant at all. It was comfortable and sexy, even while leaving me shaken by how vulnerable I’d been. Part of it was the appeal of relaxing my guard, letting go of the tension that comes with responsibility for deciding what happens next. Much of the rest was the relief of trusting Leon with that responsibility, and the delight of having that trust repaid with pleasure. As much as I was enjoying fighting him in the meantime, I kept thinking about the moment when I actually let go, and wondering how to get to that place in my head again.
It took about two months.
“Want to play?” Leon asked me, towards the end of a lazy afternoon. Just the two of us were in the apartment.
“Maybe,” I teased. “Did you have something in mind?”
“Yes.” He smiled mischievously and repeated: “Want to play?” He waited while I thought through the part he wasn’t saying: I have an idea. I refuse to tell you what it is. I want to be in charge. I think you’ll like it, but you’ll have to trust me. Do you want it?
“Yes,” I said.
Curious, I sat back and watched as he looped a piece of chain in a tight figure eight around my wrists and padlocked it there. When he was finished, he tugged on the loose end, pulling my arms around easily.
“You’re compliant today,” he observed.
I didn’t realize the answer until I said it, and then it startled me. “I don’t feel like fighting.”
Leon pulled me around a little more, noticing that I was indeed happy to let him move my wrists wherever he wished. He regarded me thoughtfully.
“I think I like you compliant.”
He tied a piece of soft dark fabric around my eyes, careful not to tug on my eyebrow piercing. Unable to pay attention to anything I was seeing, I found myself pleasantly free of the obligation to do so. My face relaxed, and instead of trying to anticipate what was coming, I sat patiently and waited to find out.
“Kneel,” he said.
Leon and I both kink hard on having someone kneel to us. It’s an unambiguous symbol of a degree of control bordering on ownership; when someone kneels to me, I feel possessive in the best way, proud of the treasure who’s offering himself to me or eager to show her off. As a gesture of submission, it is almost always given voluntarily, as opposed to taken by force. The very idea of kneeling for someone else brings out the lion in me—I can be bound, I can be beaten, I can be threatened into staying where you put me, but all of those things will be over my passionate resistance. I don’t just kneel.
The lion in my head thrashed and roared in protest. It felt muted, distant. In the space it usually occupies, I just felt curious, secure, but tense with anticipation. Leon stood in front of me with a hand on my head—he didn’t break contact, I realized later, the entire time I was blindfolded. Even without being able to see his face, I knew he was thinking about making me go down on him. Even without being able to see mine, he knew it wasn’t the right moment. I was too quiet, too thoughtful … so instead, he asked me to tell him how I felt.
I felt incredibly exposed—I think the word I used was “raw.” Like anybody, I have my public face: the bright, extroverted, always-okay one that anyone who’s met me has seen; and then a more genuine, relaxed face which I wear in smaller groups, followed in ascending order of honesty by the intimate faces which only come out in private. And then this. My defenses were as far down as they come. I wasn’t hiding anything, nor deliberately presenting anything—just being. I was also thoroughly mindful of what was going on in my own head, so caught up in observing my own feelings and responses that it was hard to pay attention to anything outside of them. The only similar experience I’d had before was a particularly deep meditation session.
I rambled to him about all of that, noticing at the same time how soft my voice was and how hard my heart was beating. He said nothing, just listened, letting me draw myself out as I tried to explain with half-articulated fragments of metaphor. It took a lot of effort to form sentences, as well as to physically say them; each of those things required pulling myself a little bit out of the slow, comfortable quiet that had settled over my mind, and bridge the normally narrow gap between my brain and his. If I’d really needed to, I could have snapped out of it, but it would have been difficult and unpleasant. I didn’t want to. This was interesting, and I was curious about it, and having given Leon responsibility for looking out for me, I felt safe taking my time to explore.
Later, after he’d taken off the chain and the blindfold, it took a good half hour of cuddling and soft conversation before I felt ready to interact like a human again. Even then, I remained calm and quiet until after we’d gone out to meet Ali and carry on with our evening. I remember realizing that this is why my local dungeon warns its volunteers to wrap up scenes well before their shifts start; I wouldn’t have trusted myself with any serious responsibility right then either.
We talked a lot afterwards, as we always do, about what had made the scene work. The blindfold was a big part of it. As a communication junkie, I had always been nervous about losing a major source of information, but in practice found it a surprising relief. Lack of ability to see means lack of responsibility to watch, and knowing I had two sources of protection (Leon’s good judgment and a safeword), I was able to let go of that responsibility without fear. This realization made me curious about playing with a gag, which I’d previously had the same concern about. Sure enough, we tried it a few weeks later, and I loved it. In retrospect, my misunderstanding was simple: it’s not only about not being able to talk, but also about not needing to. Or more precisely, about trusting that everything will be okay, even if I can’t.
The only thing in that scene that I didn’t seek to repeat was how disconnected I’d felt. I barely interacted with Leon beyond talking with him; we didn’t have sex, or do any SM. It was just intense D/s, with light bondage and a lot of conversation. While those are enjoyable, it’s not usually all we want out of a scene—we play to connect, and this experience, while fascinating, was aggressively solitary. So having succeeded in finding my way back into what was to all appearances a genuinely submissive headspace, my question was no longer “How do I do this again?” but “How do I do this a little bit less?”
There’s no turning-point anecdote about finding the answer to that; suffice it to say that we continue to experiment. I still mostly bottom to him, and am finding it easier to quiet the lion when what I really want is to give up control. That’s happened often enough for Leon to remind me that he does still like it when I fight back, and would miss it if I didn’t any more. I’d do more than miss it; it was disconcerting when I noticed that the way I’ve most often played in the last few months is contrary to the way I describe my role preference. I still identify as a dominant, and lovely experiences with Leon, Ali, and others continue to remind me how much I enjoy dominating. I just seem to also enjoy submitting, at least to the one person who’s ever successfully brought out that side of me.
When I originally wrote about the lion, I was thinking of it as a style of submission, but that interpretation is too simplistic to encompass my actual experience. The lion is the part of me that fights back against domination, yes, but it’s also the part that dominates. It has no place in the role binary because the role binary has no place for it; that’s just another false dichotomy, trying and failing to represent the world with only two categories. The lion ignores them and roams freely in my mind, coming out in whatever I do: when I’m in control, its strength gives me confidence. When someone challenges me, I resist with its ferocity. And apparently, for someone I like and trust enough, it can retract its claws and be tame.