I thrashed against rife’s sheets, pounding my fists into the rough wooden bunk house wall, upper back arched, shoulders off of the mattress, pelvis pressing down, down, harder into his hand still inside me, buried to the hilt. I came, and cried, and came, shuddering; waves of emotion and pleasure and release plummeted through my body.
We were sweaty, panting, naked. He was still and quiet as I sobbed, lying on my back, him on his knees between my legs, waiting. I had eased his hand out of me as I came, and I shifted my hips to close my legs as my sobbing softened into hiccups and then sniffles.
When I looked toward him, he was looking down at his hands, clasped together in his lap. He lifted his face to meet my gaze. His eyes were bright and large — surprise? Confusion? Concern? But he smiled, dimples framing his pretty mouth, lips pink and tender from all the kissing, and he reached for me. I held him close. We didn’t speak, just lay entwined together, sharing breath, sharing the thrum of pulse and blood pressure in our veins, syncopated.
It was exactly what I needed.
I quickly wandered into uncharted territory, both as a butch who primarily dated femmes and as a dominant whose primary experience was as a service top and a daddy, as rife and I fell deeper in love. We discovered master/slave theories together, through books like Dear Raven and Joshua (a queer pagan trans M/s couple’s advice column, basically, documenting the M/s questions they’ve received as they’ve taught authority exchange over the years). I sought out more power exchange classes at leather and BDSM conferences. I started to realize that Sarah and I didn’t work out in part because we had different needs around what kind of power exchange relationship we would pursue, but never talked about them directly. Our solution was to pull back from the D/s, but the problem was that though we had used the same words, we had meant different things.
I said “dominant,” but meant “master.” Some folks would argue that there’s little difference between a 24/7 dominant and a master, but others would say that while the relationships may look the same, the philosophies that drive them may be very different. The key difference, I came to understand through reading Slavecraft, is that the erotics played with between dominants and submissives are because the dominant’s and the submisive’s desires align. The dominant wants to be sadistic, or controlling, or restrictive, and the submissive wants to be masochistic, or controlled, or restricted.
But in the context of play, a slave’s key need is to do what they are told to do: to obey, and to be of service, and to be devoted. They may also want to be masochistic, or controlled, or restricted, but ultimately they are driven by fulfilling the master’s wants. Being told to do something, and obeying it, even if that particular thing is not what the slave wants to do — perhaps especially if that is not a particular thing a slave wants to do — is one of the most satisfying kinks a slave possesses. Some masters and slaves extend the roles far beyond play, into some or all aspects of day-to-day life.
(This, of course, is my current understanding — these roles are complex, consensual, contextual and cultural, so they vary widely. For example, as a white person, I hesitate to use the words master and slave, since the history of slavery in the US is predominantly specific to Black folks. Some folks use other words, like owner/property, as a nod to this. Others talk about the presence slavery has in most cultures throughout history, and though it is most fresh and recent to us in the US through the mass enslavement of African folks, there are many other cultural contexts from which to pull. At the same time, I’m a poet — and when I find the precise right word, the way things click into place is erotic and satisfying. Master and slave — in consensual, intentional contexts — are the precise words for the cravings I have in my heart and gut to own, control, protect and nurture my partner. Until I found the M/s communities, I didn’t have a name for what I wanted, and I thought I was a damaged freak. Finding the words was much like finding the words queer or butch or feminist — moments of awakening that brought me closer to my true self, and the ways I wanted to live in the world.)
Discovering my mastery side gave me a whole new approach to topping and dominance I had cultivated so strongly with Sarah. The nurturing, sadistic topping that I did in that relationship was magical and complex, but it still left me wanting something else, something more. Our power dynamic, and our communication styles, ended up being unsustainable — but the sex started out and stayed mind-blowing. I got to be the dominant top that I’d always wanted to be, offering her deep, intense experiences, and holding her through them.
“Why do I always cry when I come when I’m with you?” she had burst out, somewhat rhetorically, naked and writhing, her body still convulsing with the aftershocks of orgasm, when we were first together. I shared my understanding that we store emotions, experiences, memories, thoughts in our bodies. That’s why sometimes, say during a really good massage, people are flooded with a 15-year-old memory and can feel the flash of emotion as it were fresh. Memories can get stuck in the body — but movement and touch can create the muscular release necessary to let them go. In my experience, orgasm, sensation and connection are powerful tools that can dig down deep into the body and help to release those memories.
I asked her what kind of ways I could support her when she came and cried. I asked her if she liked to be held or pet, if I should get her a glass of water or a blanket, if I should let her be, if I should ask her questions. She made some guesses. We tried some things. I let myself be in service to her release in those moments, offering up pure holding, keeping the focus on her, putting my needs aside.
But that’s what started to happen all the time. I hadn’t realized it, but the kind of nurturing, sadistic topping that I’d set up with Sarah was all about her needs, all about her desires. Most of me loved that that was the case — there was something deliciously subversive about playing sex games where all of our talk was about how it was for me, how I was taking her, how I wanted it, how she had to shut up and let me have it. She squirmed, resisted, played a wide-eyed innocent — and had set up the scene, told me what she wanted, asked for more force, more dirty words, more name calling. There was something subversive about playing games that centered around my dick, talking about how it was all for my pleasure, when I literally couldn’t feel it.
Because our desires were so similar, I mostly didn’t notice. Toward the end with her, though, all of our interactions left me exhausted. I felt fatigued all the time. I didn’t have enough energy to go out with her, to play, to have kinky scenes, to have sex. Finally, I realized that it was at least in part caused by the energy between us: I was giving giving giving, and not open to receiving anything back. We were too stuck, too frozen in the dynamic where she needed to be taken care of, and I took care.
The kind of domineering, primal topping that I did with rife was invigorating and, at times, confusing. rife came along — full, and fully formed, and fulfilling every whim of desire I could dare to utter — and I was suddenly a flood of receptivity. Receiving emotional comfort, care, service, sex, submission, chores, tokens — the floodgates were open. I hadn’t realized that the ways I held others through coming and crying was something I needed, too, until it was offered up to me with devotion and intention. Just making a few small changes to the words we used and the our purposes behind our authority exchange, and the dynamic was completely new for me. I was so used to caretaking, to offering service, to crafting a scene based on someone else’s desires, that it was a complete one-eighty to focus on my own. Not so suddenly, I was getting fisted on a soft old bed, coming and crying and taking what I needed, getting used to requesting (and receiving) my water with ice and lime, and finally, finally, getting stronger.