Young couple hugging while lying in bed in the morning

I don’t think I’m very good in bed. My focus has always been my partner’s pleasure since I’m so easy to satisfy, but after starting an actual long-term relationship, I’m seriously questioning if I can satisfy him. I ask him what he wants and he says he wants to be dominated, but gently. When I asked for clarification, he says it wouldn’t work if he has to tell me what to do. It seems every time we do it now there’s something I’m doing that he doesn’t actually like and he has to tell me to stop, and when I try to do things he likes I can’t seem to do it right or with the right timing. He says not to worry about it, that it’s biological  and there’s nothing to be done, but still. It’s starting to affect how I enjoy sex as well, cause I’ve always tied my pleasure to my partner’s so if he’s not getting off it makes it all the harder for me. I’m so frustrated. Any ideas for what I should do?


  • Michael Castleman says:

    First, how much do you know about the type of sex he enjoys, bondage-discipline-sado-mascohism (BDSM)? If you haven’t read much about it by sexually well-informed writers, you may not appreciate the fine points. It’s normal, just another way to play. And psychologically, people into BDSM are typically mentally healthy and fine. They just enjoy their sex a little kinky. I suggest you read a few chapters in my book Sizzling Sex For Life.

    Beyond that, your guy needs to rethink one key thing, his refusal to tell you exactly what he wants you to do and precisely how he wants you to do it. Lovers CANNOT read each others’ minds, especially a kinky mind. It’s unrealistic and unkind of him to expect you to know how he wants to play by intuition. He MUST tell you. This is the very essence of BDSM contracts. The two people plan their scenes with each knowing the others’ limits and how both people want the play to unfold. If he remains adamant in his refusal to specify, You might also benefit from reading other chapters in my book.

    Finally, in BDSM relationships, it’s more challenging to be the dom than the sub. Once doms agree to subs’ specified limits and the two plan their scenes so the sub enjoys them, the sub’s work is done and all he/she has to do is follow instructions and be submissive. But doms have to orchestrate things, which takes thought and planning and effort at every step. Some doms are “naturals.” They feel totally comfortable in the dominant role and can’t wait to issue orders, spank, flog, etc. But for a surprisingly large proportion of doms, erotic domination in BDSM is an acquired taste, often one that’s acquired slowly. It sounds to me like you’re in the latter group—willing to play his way but unsure of yourself. In such situations, it’s the sub’s responsibility to coach the dom in every detail that’s important to the sub’s enjoyment. The sub must also be patient as the dom learns the ropes, as it were. So here again, your guy MUST talk with you, or write you a letter, or communicate in some productive way that helps you please him—and yourself.

    I urge you to share this reply with your guy. People who are seriously into BDSM, even the gentlest forms, often reap tremendous sexual satisfaction from it. In fact, many say the pleasure of BDSM is so intense that it goes “beyond sex.” But to enjoy that special pleasure, subs and doms MUST communicate very clearly. Subs MUST tell doms precisely how they want scenes to unfold. I hope your guy can be persuaded to do this. Good luck.

  • JeremyZ says:

    I agree with Dr. Castleman’s advice. I’ve been a closet masochist or submissive for my entire sexual life. In relationships where I felt safe to reveal these desires, some women, as Dr. Castleman says, are “naturals” at it—in fact I’ve expanded my bdsm repertoire because of new things they’ve done with me, and yes, it is hugely satisfying. I’ve also had the mixed experience (good and not so good) of having a girlfriend with whom it became obvious she had the desire to submit, too (along with vanilla sex we had as well). And it was a bit awkward. She didn’t communicate well (about anything) and it’s like she wanted me to read her mind. What I really think was going on was that she suppressed these desires a lot, never rationally dealt with them, and was rather embarrassed by them even in the intimate setting of us having sex. And I believe she somehow expected that I would treat her, as a submissive, in exactly the way she privately fantasized about—perhaps assuming that all bdsm is the same or that I would naturally flow into acting out her fantasies once she went into eroticized submission.
    Well, it didn’t quite work that way for a couple of reasons. First, as was pointed out here, I couldn’t read her mind, and she didn’t communicate. Maybe out of fear of not getting what she wanted; I just don’t know even to this day. But the other reason was that she didn’t know that I was a secret submissive who likes it rough myself, and furthermore, I, at that time, detested those desires and behaviors in myself. Great shame, guilt, failure to have conventional sexual prowess, potential social exclusion; you name it. Instead I concentrated on making our sexual relationship ‘conventional’, although frequently doing it and at times doing things like making love in the living room (I know: ‘wow, how bold!) So what I did was something that I’ve learned is called “switching”: I became the dominant during those sessions. She still didn’t know I was a secret masochist, but I was able to dominate her with sexual acts and behaviors during our bdsm sessions by kind of flipping my perspective somehow. I understood her desire to submit and be dominated/humiliated, while eroticizing it, but at some level in my mind I was putting myself in her position and doing to her what I really wanted done to me. It worked. She liked it and said I was great at it. But she still didn’t communicate any specific desires and this became frustrating to me. We did it a few times, but our main sexual focus reverted back to “vanilla” — which was satisfying too, for both of us, after some early sexual difficulties were addressed by each of us. (Communication works!) Some years later I had therapy, the “taboo” nature of bdsm became de-stigmatized (and almost a badge of sexual ability), and I accepted the bdsm desires in myself. And, gently bringing them up in dating relationships, I’ve found that most women fantasize about them too and are willing to do it. I still regret a possible lost opportunity to do more vigorous s&m with that earlier girlfriend, and I fantasize about doing it with her now, years later.

    Anyway, my point of sharing this with you, besides letting you know that you and your husband are not alone, is that sometimes a closet submissive or masochist will not have thought out exactly how to communicate and deal with on a practical level, their bdsm desires with a partner, even a willing one. For the inexperienced submissive, there is sometimes an assumption that all bdsm is the same and his partner will not only know what to do, but want to do it naturally as if she’s been fantasizing about it, too, but kept it suppressed. This same thing was very realistically portrayed in the movie “Secretary” (2002, with Maggie Gyllenhall). Without telling him, she wanted to be paddled, she submitted herself into position and said “don’t hold back”, and her boyfriend didn’t have a clue as to what he was supposed to do, or what she wanted.

    So in my experiences, yes, being a Dominatrix CAN be work for some women, especially at first. There’s a short book called “The sexually dominant woman” or something like that which is a step-by-step guide, which a partner of mine used successfully. But still it was “work” for her, she confessed. I think some people (male and female) are just so afraid of not doing what they’re “supposed” to do in a sexual situation, to please their partner, that they freeze up in these situations or even become emotionally alarmed. But please be aware that it takes a while to “perfect” a fantasy (as Dr. Justin Lehmiller says on his website), by both partners. But with that said, it gets better the more you do it, and you both find your groove. With the partner I mentioned above who used the Domination book, I had rock-hard erections and huge, explosive orgasms at the end of our “sessions”. Sessions don’t have to be elaborate; you find what works after a couple, and I’ve found that even doing one element of bdsm, such as being strapped or slapped, allowed me to emotionally submit adequately and have satisfying sex. And it didn’t overtax her. And for you, the Dominatrix (in training!), it really, really helps if you would find your own things in the sessions that you enjoy. And it will be a different kind of enjoyment: It may be having a certain attitude, showing contempt, doing something especially obscene; and it doesn’t have to be directly “sexual” at all, although of course the sexual doors of communication are wide open. Believe me, he will be deeply satisfied when you reach that stage of enjoyment. Do it without guilt. Explore and develop a new side of yourself. He might not even know exactly WHAT acts he wants you to do; rather, he wants you to just go into that space with him where he can drop his ego and you fill the void by being a dominant version of yourself. He probably has some specific things he’d like to have acted out at some point, but a masochist wants them to be done TO him, instead of him taking the action to make them happen, so he doesn’t have to have mental responsibility for doing it to himself. It’s weird I know, its like dropping the niceness to each other, but that’s how it works. You might even develop a personal pride in your new-found sexual role and skills.

    Follow the advice and when you’re both not sexually aroused, get him to reveal his masturbation fantasies about these things, make a mental list of how scenes can unfold, and begin to weave your own fantasies into them as well. Negotiate the scene content and go for it. And have after-action reviews to help make the following sessions better. And BDSM doesn’t have to be your only sexual practice. So enjoy what you’ve got here. He’s revealed his most secret desire to you, and those desires will NOT go away no matter what you do or dont’ do—I”ve learned that, and the research backs it up. It’s safe, sane, consensual, it’s NORMAL, although of course you wouldn’t brag about it at the office. (In fact for me, the secrecy of it is itself an additional turn-on). As someone who’s been in your husband’s shoes, believe me, this will make your relationship a lot richer and he, and probably you too, will feel much more satisfied and comfortable in your own skins.

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