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I want to be perfect in everything I do. I want perfect grades, I want perfect hair, and I want perfect sex. (Sex is really, really hard to get perfect.) And even more than that, I want to be a perfect submissive.
In my mind being perfect equates to liking everything the top I’m sleeping with likes, or saying, “Yes, Daddy,” when she asks me if something feels good, even when it doesn’t. The goal of being perfect feels harmful; I push myself past my limits in a way that feels unhealthy. Natalie-Portman-in-Black-Swan unhealthy.
For instance, I love getting bitten, being marked up, seeing proof that I got laid the next day like a gold “you did it!” star on my skin. But not on my nipples. I have nipple rings — I got one a little over a year ago, over Thanksgiving, and the other on a trip to the Bay Area during my school’s break last fall. I look hot with my nipples pierced, and when someone plays with them the right way, it’s like they strum a direct cord between my nipples and clit and my whole body simultaneously seizes up and relaxes. When someone plays with them the wrong way, it feels the way it felt when I got my septum pierced, but over and over. And I haven’t had much luck with finding people who play the right way.
I know when someone starts biting my nipple ring clean out of its piercing, they’re trying on some level to please me. But while other people might like that kind of sensation, I don’t — and I struggle with speaking up about it. I’ve gotten so good at articulating what I like and what I want that I’ve been accused of topping from the bottom, but articulating what I don’t like is completely different territory.
Pushing myself past my limits this way doesn’t make me feel perfect the way I want it to, either. I’ve let many a human munch away on my nipples and I just don’t like it and probably never will. Instead, I end up sore (in a bad way) and upset after having sex. I regret that I didn’t say anything, I’m pissed that the sex wasn’t as great as it could have been and I’m bummed that I didn’t practice all the things I value about consent and communication. Instead of feeling like the perfect sub, I feel like the worst for not liking it, and for not speaking up about not liking it.
When I talk about what I like doing during sex, it feels awkward, but part of it also feels really hot. That’s why it’s gotten easier for me to be able to have those conversations. But talking about what I don’t like feels embarrassing. It feels like I’m not enough, and it feels like I’ve already done something to disappoint my partner. I’m still working out how to get over that.
But submission isn’t just about doing what a top likes; it’s about a mutual exchange. What I like (or don’t) counts, too. The real way to being a “perfect” sub is by doing something that feels to me like the opposite: speaking up, standing up for myself, and making my desires — every part of my desires — part of the conversation.
My therapist always asks me to think about if I’d treat other people like I treat myself. Would I be upset if a partner told me they didn’t like something? Of course not. I’d want to do everything I could to make sure they were enjoying sex. Why wouldn’t I allow my parters that same courtesy?
Sex will never be perfect. It’s messy; that’s part of what makes it exciting. But it can get a little closer to perfect every time I communicate — both about what I like and what I don’t.