It's all my fault. I'm not like Ana, an innocent accidentally falling in love with a dominant man. No, not me. I'm over 50. I knew exactly who I was messing with the moment that I met him. Oh, I might have uttered "holy cow" a few times. But if there was any blush in my cheeks, it was there because he put the color just where he wanted it. I didn't flee my sadist, as Ana fled hers in Fifty Shades of Grey. Instead, every day since I met him, I've put on a beautiful necklace made of rhinestones and silver. Not a day goes by without someone noticing it and telling me how lovely it is. Every time they do, my fingers wander up to the clear, sparkling crystals and I smile. They think it's simply jewelry, but for me it's my beautiful secret. When they compliment it, I feel like they are telling me that my surrender is beautiful. That my commitment is beautiful. Of course they don't know that it is my "day collar," placed there by my Shihan, the man who Dominants me.
Shihan has a lot in common with Christian Grey. No, he is not a mega-millionaire, but he understands what he wants from a woman. These words that Christian utters to Ana so beautifully could easily have been spoken by my Shihan to me: "I'm not a sadist, I'm a dominant man. I want you to want to please me. I have rules, and I want you to follow and comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don't, I shall punish you and you will learn."
My friends don't know that every morning when I put it my necklace on, it reminds me of my submission to him -- this man who lives across the country and is not mine except for this agreement that we have. They don't know that every night when I take it off before I go to sleep, my mind flashes to bits of memory of my visits with him: Sitting at a sushi bar with his ropes tied into a harness under my dress. His arm around me, gently tugging on them through my clothing. My body yielding to the push-pull of the ropes. The pleasure that I feel in my body when I please him. Me, on my belly, tied to a four-poster bed, completely open to him. The necklace is my constant reminder, the trigger of sense memories that feed me between the long stretches of separation, that stitch our visits together. The memories can hit like a smooth wooden paddle. They can land soft and smooth with a gentle caress or strike so hard that I lose all of my breath. Because, for me, being with Shihan is all of those things.
Domination and submission, power and surrender, mean different things for different people. For some it's about having a chance to trust someone else to take control. For others it's the pure physical sensation -- spanking, flogging, licking, restraints -- that bends the mind, the antithesis of thinking in straight hard lines.
Being held in just the way you need to be by someone stronger than you are in that moment, being told what to do in the safe context of a mutually agreed upon power exchange, is pretty damn intoxicating. That is what Christian was trying to offer Ana. But she had too much resistance to truly understand the gift that he was offering. For her, it was an aberration -- something that seemed broken and disturbed. For me, it is nothing less than perfection.
No one would guess that I am a submissive woman, that I take pleasure in serving. After all, in most of my life I am the one giving the orders or, at the very least, taking charge. Perhaps that is why surrender calls to me. It is the path not taken, or perhaps it is the path that, as an American woman, I was taught was beneath me. Something to be avoided at all costs. Yet I would risk a lot to have this.
There is a transformation that comes over me in surrender. A softening of the hard intellect and practicality that is my usual way of being in the world. I love my yielding woman. I find her bewitching. My collar leads me to her.
There is ritual to mark this time of my submission. He always pulls the collar very tight at first before he settles it into a comfortable snugness. This always startles me, almost as unexpected as me finding myself on my knees. Yet I hunger for this, as much as my hunger embarrasses me.
I feel so self-conscious every time I participate in this ritual. Imagine, me kneeling. Kissing his hands in gratitude for whatever they will offer me in these moments. My eagerness to do this even though I almost have to force myself to my knees is unyielding. The freedom I feel in this physical expression of giving myself to this man so wantonly, the pleasure of my submission, rushes my body like a river overflowing a dam. And at the same time, I know that this scene would make some feminist somewhere completely crazy. Women getting spanked and men loving to do it? It's scary for a lot of people. Miss Steele is not alone in her fear. It's not politically correct, but it's my desire. And that's where decades of feminism should have brought us -- to every woman being able to speak and have her own true desire. And I was claiming mine.
For all the pockets of sexual freedom in which people can and do have their desires met, there are vast expanses where people live blunted lives because this deep, dark stuff must be relegated to porn or fiction or TV or freak shows. Why is that? Is it because we conflate BDSM with abuse? Unfortunately, it is even linked there in Fifty Shades of Grey -- and that is where the book fell short for me. We are once again hiding desire and sexual instinct behind a veil. The story that somehow Christian became a dominant man because of abuse is so unfortunate in that it perpetuates the myth that BDSM is a psychological disorder.
But that is not my experience with men who dominate women and the women who enjoy surrendering to them. BDSM and abuse are not the same, and we can't intellectualize sexual desire away. Public discussion by "sensible" people inevitably harkens back to what a woman will put up with for "love" (especially if the guy is loaded and handsome with a buried broken heart just yearning to be held). I'm so sick of hearing that women do "this" to please their man, that they submit for love. They may. We do lots of things for love. But I think we hide behind "love" so we don't have to take responsibility for our desire, which may have nothing at all to do with gushy emotion and everything to do with raw sexual pleasure. That is Ana's story. It's not mine.
How about the fact that lots of women want to feel dominated because it feels good. Period. And I was now on my knees and loving it even if I was debating my right to be on my knees in that very moment with my unseen critics. In this place, my pleasure comes from serving this man.
I think of Anastasia fleeing, and how I stay. Well, she is a girl who doesn't really understand her desires yet and shouts no as she flees from herself and her lover. I am a woman, and I whisper, "Yes, please Sir. Thank you, Sir," as I learn to stay.