It’s a giddy-hot summer in Toronto and I am out having lunch with my new boyfriend (soon to be ex). My collar is chafing my neck in the sticky heat, so I unclasp the buckle and slide the leather off my neck and into my purse.
Boyf looks up from his menu. “You took it off,” he comments softly. “You should’ve asked first.” A wicked grin creeps over his boyish face.
I giggle and blush, but it’s perfunctory. When he says dom-y shit to me, it’s like I’m watching a porn scene: it turns me on, in an abstracted sort of way, but it doesn’t thrill my innermost subby self because it doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me.
Because he’s not my dom, not really. You are. And you don’t even know it.
I am a kinkster who loves a vanilla person, and it feels like this:
I plunge my hand between the bones of my chest until I find my heart. Closing my fist around it, I pull it out of me til it’s freed from my body with a sickening pop.
With the gingerest touch, I reach out and place my heart in your open palm. We both watch it, beating, twitching. My blood drips between your fingers and onto the floor. When at last I feel brave enough, I drag my gaze up to meet your eyes… and you look horrified.
“What the fuck,” you mutter under your breath, and toss my heart into the gutter. “Gross.”
I know you don’t mean to make me feel that way. But you do. It’s no one’s fault you make me feel that way. But you do. You didn’t choose to be the vanilla-est vanilla boy in all the land. But you are. And I didn’t choose to be collar-over-heels, sweetly-starry-eyed, dreamily-devoted in subby love with you. But I am.
I notice it first in the way I always sit below you if I can help it. The night we met, you sat on my piano bench and I sat cross-legged at your feet, staring reverently up at you like I was six years old and you were telling me a story (you probably were). It becomes a pattern with us: at your place or mine, in the bedroom or the kitchen, surrounded by friends or just the two of us, if you’re on a chair then I’m on the floor. It just feels… right.
You’re barely taller than me, and when we crunch down crowded streets together, we look like equals. I don’t want to be your equal, have never felt like your equal. Sitting at your feet restores a natural equilibrium I can feel but you can’t. I know you can’t feel it because you always ask me, “You sure you don’t wanna sit up here? You’ll be more comfortable.” You don’t get it. I’m comfortable when I’m where I belong: on the floor, looking up at you.
We trade sex secrets and carnal confessions over pints in the brew pub. Your eyebrows knit together in that way they do when you’re trying to understand something incomprehensible. In this case, it’s my kinks.
“I just kind of fall apart when someone calls me ‘little one,'” I tell you. What little nonchalance I can muster is being channelled into keeping my voice steady, trying not to betray how much this means to me. “If I’m having trouble coming, sometimes that’s The Thing that finally makes it happen.”
You stroke your chin in a broad gesture of thoughtfulness and reply, simply: “Interesting.” I wonder if you are filing away this piece of information to be used at a later date. But probably, you’ll just forget. You never call me “little one.” You never call me “princess” or “babygirl” or “sweet darling.” You just call me my name, sometimes. And never in bed.
Names are important to me. Names frame my understanding of a sexual situation. Names are the real-world manifestation of the archetypes and roles floating around in my white-hot kinkster brain. Names matter.
When you’re fucking me – with your fingers, a toy, or your cock – sometimes I want to call you names. They float at the periphery of my awareness; sometimes they ghost across my lips. My mouth forms the syllables “Oh, Daddy” or “Please, Sir,” but no sound comes out. I’m ashamed. I hide these silent pleas in the crook of my elbow, bury them in the warmth of your shoulder. I don’t want to ruin the moment or make you uncomfortable.
It’s agony that the words which would flip your switch from “on” to “off” are the same words that rev my internal motor. Sometimes you ask me, “How can I make you come? What would you like me to do?” and I list physical acts I know will work on the mechanical level, because I don’t dare ask for the mental-emotional-psychological stuff that might scare you off.
You ping my teacher’s-pet kink without even realizing it. One night I send you a draft of something I’m writing, wanting your feedback, and your critique jokingly begins, “Well, if you want to earn an A+ from me…” Of course I fucking do. I make all the changes you suggest, even the ones that conflict with my own taste and voice. I feel that old familiar sense of surrender I’ve experienced while tied up or getting spanked: the deep belief that someone else knows what I need even better than I do. When I show you the finished piece, you tell me it’s perfect, and I feel a rush of something halfway between “just got a 95% on my philosophy exam” and “just gave the best blowjob of all time.”
On bad mental health days, I feel like a useless, unsalvageable failure. Friends remind me I’m smart, funny, talented, kind, and valuable – but I don’t fully believe it until I hear it from you. Earning your A+ makes me feel accomplished, whether you’re complimenting my sexual skills, my writing, or my overall value as a human being.
One night, I’m anxious as hell about an impending deadline. It feels like an end-of-the-world emergency: if I don’t get this article done in time, or if my editor hates it, all will be lost. My head is swirling with panic; I hyperventilate at you via text. “You’ll get it done and it’ll be great,” you tell me, with more confidence than I have ever felt about anything. And suddenly, I know that you’re right. In the hours that follow, I get it done. It’s great. It’s all for you, and you’ll never know.
“Service submission” has never particularly resonated with me. I’ve occasionally fantasized about it, but I’ve never done it with a real-life partner, because I’ve never wanted to. Until I met you.
When I show up at your place with the exact kind of beer you like, or accompany you to events you’re nervous about, or ask a waitress to move us because a wobbly barstool is hurting your bad back, you tell me, “You’re a good friend.” But that’s not really what this is about. I’m not being generous; I am serving you. Being your good girl. Of course, you don’t see it that way, and I’ll never tell you.
When you go out of town to attend a work conference, I sit at home fantasizing about how I’d serve you if I was your plus-one. I picture myself bringing you your coffee first thing in the morning, made exactly how you like it. I would organize your schedule, prepare the documents you needed, choose and press your outfits. At the end of a long day, I’d kneel in front of you, slip your shoes off, and ask you if a nice blowjob would help you relax. I’d suck you off and then bring you a beer, and watch you drink it from my favorite vantage point on your floor.
Service-submission feelings toward a vanilla person are essentially a deep, carnal desire to be their unpaid personal assistant. I’m a feminist and so are you, so I get the sense you wouldn’t accept my “help,” even if you knew what it meant to me. We speak different languages; my word for “purpose and fulfilment” translates to “heartless exploitation” in your native tongue. This can never work. But I still sometimes think about shining your boots.
It occurs to me one day, as I’m walking home in a shirt you let me borrow because I misplaced my dress amid your bedsheets somewhere, that you’ve never left a mark on me. Other partners smack bruises onto my ass, bite toothmarks onto my fleshy hips, carve crimson hickeys into my neck – but you’ve never left so much as a friction-burn on my thighs. It’s ironic, I think, as I pull the sleeves of your shirt down over my chilly hands, that you’ve marked my heart more deeply and irrevocably than anyone else I’ve banged, and yet signs of you have never shown on my skin.
My one souvenir of you – which embarrasses me to even contemplate – is a dime on my bedroom floor. It fell out of your jeans pocket the first time we made out in my bed, and after you left in the morning, I just… kept it there. For the better part of a year. Friends who knew me well would visit and say, “So that dime’s still there, huh? When are you gonna move it?” I’d respond, “It makes me happy to look at it. I’ll move it when that’s no longer true.”
The day I decide to get over you, I text my best friend: “I picked the dime up off the floor.” They reply with a blue heart emoji. There’s nothing else to say, really.
Once, we’re out to dinner, and the subject of kinks comes up. (It always fucking does.) “I just feel like you could be such a good dom if you tried,” I lament for like the twentieth time. I’ve had too much rice wine and am being an asshole.
“Being dom-y makes me anxious,” you tell me through half a mouthful of sushi. I know this. You’ve told me this before. I hate myself for not wanting to accept this answer.
“I dunno, a lot of things used to make me anxious before I got good at them,” I counter. “Maybe if you practiced more, you’d feel more confident about it.” The conversation stagnates and we switch gears.
I’m wracked with guilt for days afterward, and text you: “Hey, I’m sorry I got kinda pressure-y the other night. You said taking charge makes you uncomfortable and I should just respect that. I won’t ask you about it again.” It’s the only decent thing to do, but it feels like giving up on the thing I want most in the world.
“It’s okay,” you text back. I sigh, from relief, or sadness, or something.