There is an ancient Arthurian myth which seeks to answer the question in the title of this post -- what does a woman want. (To read the full text of the story, click here.)
The summary of the myth is that in order to save his life, a knight must within a year's time give a wisewoman the answer to the question, what does a woman want? The knight searches far and wide and asks everyone he meets for the answer. Ultimately, the answer he comes up with for the wisewoman is that what a woman wants above all is Sovereignty. In the myth, this answer is correct, the knight's life is spared and the wisewoman turns into a beautiful young woman whom he marries.
It's worth noting that this legend dates back to at least the 13th century. Even during an era when women were essentially property with no rights at all, the popular culture of storytelling acknowledged that sovereignty was a primary need in a woman's life.
Since myth is generally seen as roadmap into our personal consciousness, the general consensus is that the sovereignty in the story refers not to institutional or governmental power, but to personal sovereignty. That what a woman wants most of all is the right to make her own decisions, feel her own feelings and create her own life out of her own heart's desire. This is Virginia Woolf's Room of Her Own, dated 500 years earlier.
But what if part of a woman's heart's desire is to submit to another? What if she wants the sovereignty of the story, but also wants the comfort, security and feminine experience of submission?
As I've struggled over the past few months with the problems my partner and I are having incorporating domestic discipline (DD) into our relationship, I have thought often about this particular myth and what it means in my own life. My primary need for sovereignty is a big stumbling block for me in making DD work, as it clearly is for many, if not most, modern women drawn to the DD lifestyle.
I've written at length in prior posts about how many in our culture are still children functioning as adults, and I wonder if the issue of sovereignty vs. submission goes right to the heart of this cultural problem.
We live in a culture which, too often, encourages us to think in terms of having it all -- of being entitled to it all (whatever "it" is) without pointing out that there's a price to pay for everything we get. Corporations and Madison Avenue tell us we "deserve" a new car, we've "earned" an iPhone, we're "entitled" to premium cable service. They don't tell us that the price for these things is environmental devastation, war, exploitation of third world countries and, closer to home, stress, overwork, estrangement from our families and credit card debt.
The corporate culture, with its profit-at-all-costs imperative, promotes this attitude of have-in-all entitlement, of course, to sell product -- and in the true spirit of corporate America, they do it without regard to the societal chaos it causes.
As a result, we don't seem willing to accept that we can't have it all. We expect that we can have the super-charged career, raise a family and still have time for personal development and recreation. We expect that we can be parents without having to take on the responsibilities and sacrifices required to do so responsibly ("why should I have to stop going to the movies just because I have a screaming four year old"). We want the career opportunity, but resent being asked to work overtime or give above and beyond to impress those above us on the ladder ("Can you believe my boss actually asked me to work late on this project? Geesh."). And on and on it goes.
So as I struggle with my desire to have both sovereignty and submission -- or perhaps better put, my stubborn and steadfast refusal to give up any of my personal sovereignty to get something that I say I want so much -- I wonder if my insistence on having both is an example of me being a member of our entitlement culture. I wonder if I'm being the willful, immature six-year-old who doesn't understand that she can't have everything she sees at the toy store and ice cream on the way home, too.
On the other hand, if the language of myth is to be believed, sovereignty isn't so much a desire as it is a requirement for human fulfillment. And if other myths, equally old and powerful, are to be believed, a woman's desire to submit is a requirement for female fulfillment (see "Feminism: The Power of Giving Way"). Is it possible that to be a fulfilled woman requires two apparently contradictory and incompatible things -- sovereignty and submission. And that our attempts to reconcile two apparently irreconcilable conditions is what's driving women in our culture slowly into depression, dysfunction and despair?
I know it's doing that to me in spades. In my struggle to have everything I feel I need, I am caught between the proverbial irresistible force and immovable object, between two imperatives equally strong, neither of which I feel I can be a complete person without. Is it really possible to genuinely submit to another while still maintaining my right to make decisions about my own life? Do I really have to choose between being feminine and being a complete human being, and is it even possible for a woman to be one without the other?
As is often the case, however, the answer may lie in the question. Perhaps my sovereignty lies in making the choice to submit, rather than having that choice forced upon me. And perhaps losing part of my sovereignty is a necessary consequence of the choice I've made to submit in the first place. A difficult and terrible choice, but a choice nonetheless. And a choice that's been hard-won over the past few decades by those who have fought courageously for women's rights.
After all, unlike during other eras, no one is forcing me into DD. For that matter, no one is forcing me into a relationship. If I really want pure sovereignty over my life, I could choose to live alone and be accountable to no one -- a choice that women in the past didn't have when they were forced to marry, forced to stay at home, and forced to submit to their husbands and fathers.
The reaction to this forced femininity/submission in the '70s was equally un-empowered. Despite popular perceptions to the contrary, '70s and '80s feminism was no better at giving women choices. It denied women sovereignty as much as the old ways did.
Modern feminism forced women by virtue of popular pressure to act like men, to work in jobs as to do, to look like men and wear their clothes, to reject traditional roles of mother, wife and lover of men, to eshew the trappings of submission and domesticity.
This forced "liberation" is no more sovereign than the original enslavement of women. We're still enslaved, we've just switched masters. I have no more sovereignity following the angry, dogmatic prescripts of contemporary "feminism" than I would have back in the '60s vaccuming in my heels and pearls in a TV sitcom. To put it another way, being a house slave or being a field slave makes little difference -- you're still a slave.
It's true, I think, that what women really want is sovereignty, and we still don't have it, we're still by and large miserable and confused about what it means to be a woman, and still struggling to make our relationships with men -- DD or not -- be what we feel intuitively they should and could be.
Is it possible that all of our struggle is because we don't realize that our power is in having gained the right to choose to surrender and the right to choose to pay the price that such surrender requires?
It's a reality that any relationship -- DD or no -- requires a certain amount of surrender and loss of sovereignty. We can't be in a relationship with someone and not give up the right to make every decision and do everything our way. That DD is a bit farther along on the spectrum than most modern relationships means that the issue of sovereignty -- the amount of surrender required -- is more extreme, and thus issue becomes more prevalent, the cost more apparent. The choice more clear.
As usual, I don't have the answers. And don't claim to. But it's something to consider -- that the right to choose to give away one's sovereignty may in and of itself be a sovereign act.
NOTE: I recently received an email asking for help with regard to the subject of rules. I've tried to answer, but the email bounced back. Please email me back with a valid email address and I'll do my best to help! -Viv
There is an ancient Arthurian myth which seeks to answer the question in the title of this post -- what does a woman want. (To read the full text of the story, click here.)
I hope those of you who have been following the torrid, melodramatic story of my partner's and my experiences with DD (Domestic Discipline) will forgive if I diverge from the main storyline of how we're doing overall and follow a tangent in this article. I realize I'm leaving off the main narrative at a particularly messy point, but quite frankly I have no idea how we're doing overall and thus I don't have anything new or useful to add on the larger issue just now anyway. Rest assured the moment I acquire any wisdom on the larger issues from the last post, I will share it post hence! Meanwhile...
This article addresses instead a topic that's tangentially related to my partner's and my issues: the question of whether or not DD is effective and appropriate in a professional, as opposed to a personal, relationship.
To give some background on my own experiences, my partner and I met as professional colleagues in the political arena -- we both are both high-level political consultants and have worked together in various capacities for almost 10 years in what is arguably one of the most stressful, challenging and ego-bruising environments imaginable. We became romantically involved about halfway through that 10 years.
Extending the DD element of our relationship into our professional lives seemed a natural fit -- something that would make work spicier and more fun for both of us. After all, he's got more political experience than I do and has been a mentor and teacher to me over the years in our mutual work. And he's a natural alpha male at work -- always the leader regardless of the situation. (And of course, discipline at work fueled a lot of old fantasies about stern headmasters and desks...)
But looking back on the troubles we've had over the past year and especially the past few months, I wonder if mixing work and DD wasn't one of the biggest mistakes we've made. Taking the submissive role at home in a sexually-charged male-female dynamic is very different from taking the submissive role in a professional environment -- particularly one as dominated by male energy (meaning aggressive, masculine) and power-driven as politics.
I'm willing to go out on a not very shaky limb here and say that I am good at what I do. (So is he, by the way.) There are skills that we have that virtually no one else on the Democratic side has, and we're well compensated as a result. But to be good at what we do requires a certain dynamic that seems inherently opposed to the dynamic required for DD to work.
The problem with incorporating DD into our professional relationship is that being good at my part of what we do requires a certain amount of, shall we say, Hillary Clinton energy. That is to say, the emphasizing of my more masculine self. To do the work I need to do the way it needs done often requires me to be ruthless, bossy, stubborn and sometimes downright nasty. (I am a big Hillary supporter, by the way, lest anyone take offense. But that doesn't mean she doesn't have those qualities in spades. Believe me, she does. Particularly when on one is looking...)
The reality is that politics at any level is high stakes. You only get one shot at winning and there are very few do-overs. Not to mention that if we want to keep getting work, we have to win. All of which means that if we're at work and I think I'm right and he's wrong, I have a professional obligation to stick to my guns and not back down just because I might get "punished" for it. Careers are at stake -- both ours and the candidate's -- and our clients pay us to be right, regardless of what it does to our personal relationship.
This past campaign was particularly contentious (we lost when we should have won, by the way, which is no coincidence, I think -- our candidate and the country paid the price for our mistake). My partner and I have always had disagreements over strategy, but this is the first time we had them in a context where we also had a DD relationship.
Suddenly, my digging in and not submitting when he insisted he was right became a betrayal of our DD pact. I wasn't being professionally aggressive; I was being disobedient. I wasn't being a hard-core strategist in the trenches fighting for our candidate and doing whatever it takes to win; I was being disrespectful to my mate. He got angry; I got confused and resentful and felt like I was being asked to play with my hands tied behind my back. I felt I wasn't able to do my job without compromising my relationship and couldn't have a good relationship without compromising my job performance.
The "obvious" answer here would be to say, yes, good point. Keep DD out of the workplace. Women should be allowed to interact with men as equals in their professions, however submissive they choose to be at home. But I'm not convinced that's the true answer.
I must say here that (and please don't send me hate mail for the following. I'm just going to delete it anyway...) this is one of the many reasons that I'm not entirely convinced that women belong in the professional world at all, particularly in such masculine-energy professions as politics.
I've written a bit in the past about the need to reclaim our natural archetypal roles in our culture and about how out-of-balance our culture is because we've bought into the "feminist" idea that to have power, women need to act like men (and to be "good guys," men need to act like women). (see "Feminism: The Power of Giving Way")
I (and others -- I'm not making this stuff up out of whole cloth, you know...) have also written about how the male archetypal role includes, first and foremost, taking care of his family by going out everyday and slaying the dragon and bringing it home. In our world, winning a political campaign is about as close to slaying a dragon as a man can get. Other examples are, of course, making a big business deal, launching a new company, winning a sporting event, etc.
As good as it sounds to say that women should be allowed to pursue any professional they choose, I'm not convinced that we women are doing ourselves and the men in our lives a favor by demanding the right to go along on the dragon hunt. It doesn't leave much territory for men to claim for themselves and that doesn't seem any more fair than a man inviting himself into the Blood Hut.
More importantly, going along on the dragon hunt requires sublimating our more natural feminine tendencies. There's not a lot of room for emotions and feelings on a dragon hunt. It's about logic, it's about brutality, it's about conquest. It's where men's archetypal energies are given full rein -- and have every right to be given full rein without them having to stop and soothe our worried brows.
Alternatively, if we go along on the dragon hunt, we could choose to suppress our feminine natures and become as hard and ruthless and brutal as the men are. This is the 70s model of feminism -- suit up and play hard, just like a man would. And a lot of us have done just that. Certainly, that's what I do when I put on the Man Suit to become hard and ruthless in my political work. And the world rewards me for it, just as it rewarded (to some extent) Hillary for doing it. But I believe it's ultimately too high a price for a woman to pay.
I'm not saying I have definitive answers here and I realize I'm treading on dangerous ground when it comes to advocating that women maybe shouldn't have equal access to every profession.
I'm tempted to say that the answer is that we should respect men enough to let them go on the dragon hunt alone, and respect ourselves as women enough to recognize that our power lies elsewhere, far from the dragon cave.
But... what does that mean for a woman who does want to pursue say, politics? How does a woman keep her femininity intact and still excel at her chosen profession? Is it possible? Should it be possible? Or is my even asking the question just more of our culture's collective refusal to grow up and acknowledge that we can't have everything we want just because we want it?
I'm trying to officially "retire" from politics, but even after only a few months, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it dreadfully -- the rush, the pressure, the thrill of the hunt. I just don't know how to reconcile my desire to hunt the dragon with my deeper need to reclaim my feminine energy and respect a man's right to go on the hunt solo - or even if those things are reconcilable. Is the desire to play hard-ball politics just a product of cultural conditioning (a la Hillary and others) that says that's the role I should aspire to and I'm not being empowered if I don't? Or is it my inner masculine genuinely demanding to be acknowledged?
I don't know.
In my last post, I wrote about a new and fierce resistance that has suddenly cropped up in my willingness to honor our DD covenant. In the intervening time since I last published, this resistance has grown progressively stronger. Despite having experienced first-hand the benefits of DD, many of which I've tried to chronicle here, I am quite simply suddenly terrified of being disciplined, spanked or otherwise.
Since mutual consent must be at the heart of the DD experience, that part of our relationship has been suspended for the past two months (longer actually). This suspension is by unspoken agreement -- my partner, to his credit, senses he's stepping onto volatile and uncertain ground in trying to discipline a terrified and resistant woman. And at the moment, he definitely does not have my consent, much as I wish otherwise.
Tensions in any relationship tend, as we all know, to build up if not dealt with. And now, deprived of the only way we've ever found to work through tensions, we've been fighting more and more -- and the fights are getting uglier and uglier. In fact, we're almost back to where we were when we started this whole DD thing a year or so back -- distant, angry, unable to communicate with each other and utterly unable to trust enough to make the first move on either side.
And so it was that one day last week, we lay in bed trying not to have another blow-up over yet another thing. After about ten minutes of arguing, I had asked him if we could please stop for the night, as I was tired and emotionally drained and to upset to hear what he was saying anyway. I wanted to read my book and calm down for the night, not spend it railing at the man I supposedly love. Rightly or wrongly, my partner chose to ignore this request, and summarily grabbed the book out of my hands and struck me repeatedly across the shoulders with it. (I will skip the awful scene that ensued.)
The following morning, I woke up still upset from what I perceived as a gross violation of our covenant (which included, specifically, that random, non-ritualized violence and particularly above-the-waist violence of any kind was strictly off limits). My bad mood and his resulted in another argument, this one ending up with him dumping a glass of water over my head while I was still in bed and then subjecting me to a tirade of verbal abuse while turning on the cold water when I tried to take a shower.
(NOTE: He, of course, has his own version of these events in which I am more the villain of the piece, but since this is my blog, well, heck, I get to tell the story my way.
My first instinct, quite honestly, was to get the heck out of there, away from him, to sort things out and figure out how to end the relationship once and for all. There is DD and
His actions over the past week are to me, violations of a sacred trust that couples must enter into when starting a DD relationship. His behavior was, by virtually every contemporary cultural and psychological standard, abusive, inappropriate and unacceptable. And while my partner has apologized, sort of, for the "book incident," he has yet to do so for anything else. If anything, our arguments are continuing to escalate, and each of us continues to dig in our heels about the rightness (righteousness?) of our respective actions.
And here is where the story would end, were this a regular feminist blog. Supportive and indignant readers would write in with hotline numbers and words of encouragement about how to reclaim my sense of power by getting out of an abusive relationship, and I would head for the nearest bookstore or library to load up on books about "Healing from Domestic Abuse." My partner would be relegated forever to the ranks of "abusive men in my past" and there would be -- could be -- no quarter given by myself, my friends or the feminist community for his actions.
But the reality is, as reality often is, a bit more complicated -- especially when you're in a DD relationship and especially when you work as actively with primal archetypal energies as my partner and I do.
A few posts ago, I wrote about the theory that female energy is inherently submissive ("Feminism: The Power of Giving Way"). In this article, I argue passionately that we as women need to be courageous enough to honor our own internal archetypes of submission and "taking in" in a culture that does not allow women to be who they truly are.
But if I'm going to argue that fundamental to the core of feminism is submission than I have to acknowledge that fundamental to the core of masculinity is domination. In modern society, this domination is most often expressed in cut-throat business deals and killer racquetball games at the club. But underneath all of that civilized veneer is the reality that, at its most primal heart, domination is still about one thing -- violence and brute force.
Men are by their very nature beings who express themselves physically (especially when it comes to strong emotions). That's why they play rough, physical sports. That's why they punch each other on the arm when they're happy. That's why, failing all else, they yell obscenities at the TV when their team is losing. These aren't stereotypes -- they're expressions of archetype.
Just as it would take more than a few social movements to "cure" women of the desire to be taken care of and conquered, it would take more than a few "Iron John" workshops to eliminate in men the instinct to clobber over the head anything that feels like a threat to them. We may not like this, but as with many things in our lives, not liking it doesn't make it any less true.
Women, for the most part, don't resort to violence when they're angry. Lacking the physical strength of men, women have learned over time to settle disagreements with the "talking cure." But men, however, dressed up and civilized we may pretend, are still men. Their first instinct when angry, if the men in my life who speak frankly about this are to be believed, is to hit something -- or someone. Again, we may not want to admit this, but that doesn't make it less true.
Now add to the mix a culture that, in its completely necessary and understandable need to stop an epidemic of violence against women, has labeled any and all acts of violence by men not committed while playing a sport as unacceptable. Throw in a generation of Phil Donahue, Alan Alda and Bill Cosby, and you get disaster waiting to happen.
When a generation of women finds their fundamental archetypal energy suppressed, we pull inward to deal with our pain, taking it out on ourselves as is part of the feminine psyche -- with depression, eating disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, burn out, etc.
When a generation of men finds their fundamental archetypal energy suppressed, they will deal with it as their nature demands -- by striking out, by hitting things, by hitting people. And so paradoxically, despite perhaps the most concentrated and vigorous attempts by women's groups, psychologists, etc. to reduce domestic violence, here it is on the rise again. Surprise, surprise.
But the Victorians could have told us -- what we suppress is driven underground -- and resurfaces in ever more destructive ways.
DD is, of course, meant to be a harmless, safe (and even sexy and fun) discharge of this destructive energy. What better way to avoid incidents like the ones I've described above than to give a man permission to spank a woman to tears when he is angry with her? To tell him that, yes, you ARE at heart a physical, violent being and I -- as a loving woman who wants a strong, honest, whole man -- am giving you the greatest gift in my power to give --permission to express and honor those allegedly "shameful" tendencies in a safe, mutually consensual way (added bonus that these "shameful" tendencies are a huge turn-on...).
To add to the personal narrative here, it must be said that my relationship with my partner has been under a great deal of strain recently. We've just started living together for the first time. He is, for the first time, 1000 miles away from his children and misses them desperately. He is in a key leadership role on a hotly-contested congressional campaign that's getting national attention -- and at the very moment he most needs my help, I tell him that I'm sorry but I can't take the stress of politics anymore and I'm retiring to become a working artist and would he please be supportive of that even though I'm committing arguably the worst sin I can commit in a man's world -- abandoning him on the battlefield when he needs me the most, but hey, don't be mad, honey, okay? More than enough pressure to drive anyone to extreme acts, to be fair.
There are, of course, men who are not driven to violence as my partner clearly is in times of extreme stress -- men who have their violent tendencies much more firmly in hand. But at least for myself (and I stress FOR MYSELF), I can't help but wonder if the price I pay for having the kind of man I want in my life -- someone who is deeply in touch with his primitive instincts and his raw sexuality, someone with an innate "alpha" ability to command others, someone who triggers all my archetypal female desires and instincts -- is that that same man hovers more closely on the knife's edge of real violence than a more "civilized" man would.
Perhaps, at least for us, DD works so well precisely because we walk along that knife's edge -- and collapses in on its own repressed energy when we suppress it, as we've been doing for the past few months due to my resistance.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that had I not been resistant over the past two months, the incidents of random violence would not have occurred. Does this make what he did my fault? Absolutely not. Does that make what he did acceptable? Absolutely not. Am I owed a sincere apology for his having violated my person as he did? I believe so. And do I owe him an apology for having deserted him on the battlefield, when he counted on my support, thus triggering his most primitive responses? I believe that, too. But these, to me, are the easy questions to answer.
The harder questions are the ones we mostly don't ask. If I claim the right to be a woman in times of distress (read emotional, illogical, even hysterical at times, though I hate to use the word), than what right do I have to deny him the right to be a man at those same times under those same pressures? Have we drawn the lines of unacceptable behavior in a relationship so strictly and unforgivingly that we haven't left room for men to be men without accusing them of abusive (hence unforgivable) behavior? Is it perhaps time to revise our "one strike and you're out" approach to domestic violence, acknowledging that however well-intentioned, it actually makes things worse by increasing the pressure in all the wrong places?
I don't know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that modern feminist thought would make this a clear case, and for me at least, this is one case that isn't at all clear.
PS -- Thanks to those of you who've emailed in the last little while. I'm behind on responding, but will try to reply as soon as possible. Also, there's an article in the current issue of "Bitch" magazine written by Jessica Wakeman about domestic discipline. I haven't read it yet, so I don't know how accurate it is or what Jessica's ultimate take on DD is, but my partner and I were interviewed for it awhile ago and she seemed genuinely interested in learning about our weird ways... (For those who are interested in that sort of thing, my pseudonym in the article is apparently "Greta.")
The scene: I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner, banging pots and pans around. My ever-observant partner asks what's the matter. I don't actually know, mind you, but I decide that whatever it is, it's his fault. So I let him have it -- a long list of whiny, bitchy grievances that I have a bad feeling I'm half-making up as I go along.
My tirade has the, apparently, desired effect. My partner starts to get angry, then, to his credit, does what I've asked him to do. He stops and instead says, "Go get the paddle."
Many women in DD (domestic discipline) relationships will recognize this moment as the single most challenging one in creating a DD lifestyle. I'm angry, I'm sure I'm right. I am Woman, hear me roar and there's no way in hell I'm getting the paddle. I turn my back on him and walk out.
My partner, being either very foolish or very brave depending on one's point of view, follows me. "It's not an optional thing," he reminds me. I say nothing. "That ring's supposed to mean something," he adds, pointing to the silver band that I wear as a symbol of my consent to a DD lifestyle. (see "Ritual and a Little Help with Long-Distance DD").
It only takes a split second -- I'm barely aware of my thought process or my actions. But before I realize what I'm doing, the ring that I've fought so hard for the right to wear, the ring that symbolizes the hard work, trust, tears and heartaches that have gone into creating this fragile thing called a DD relationship, is off my hand and tossed onto the counter.
There is a beat of stunned silence on both of our parts. Neither of us can quite believe I've done what I just did. Taking the ring off is something I've promised -- sworn -- never, ever to do in the heat of an argument. Only upon thoughtful reflection and discussion is that supposed to be on option. I have violated the most sacred trust of our relationship.
Even in my anger, I'm sick to my stomach. As my partner leaves the room, I'm convinced that he's leaving for good. I want to go back inside and tell him I didn't mean it, but the truth is, in that moment, I did, and I can't, in all honesty, take it back. I don't feel ready, willing or able to submit to a spanking now, even if the cost of not submitting is the end of the relationship.
But he doesn't leave. And hours later, when I'm exhausted and on the way to bed, we finally talk. Sort of. It takes hours -- tears, yelling, awful things we probably both wish we hadn't said -- before we actually "talk." We are acting out the very scenario that DD is supposed to prevent -- hurting one another in anger.
Finally, I confess to the truth. I've taken the ring off because I feel I don't have the right to wear it. Because in the heat of the moment, I virtually ALWAYS say no. Despite the fact that I'm the one who lobbied for this arrangement, when push comes to shove, in the most critical moment, I seem to always fail. My well-meaning, if misguided, "feminist" imperative gains the upper hand and determines that submission is not an option, no way, no how.
I cry and admit that while I wish I hadn't taken the ring off, I can't wear it. If I can't hold up my end of the bargain (pun intended) and submit to his authority when it matters most, when I'm angry and we're about to have a terrible fight, then I have no business wearing a ring that promises otherwise. To do so makes me a fraud, a liar, a hypocrite -- not to be trusted with the sacred responsibility of a DD relationship.
He listens patiently. Hugs me and tells me he loves me.
And then he puts the ring back on my finger and tells me to go get the paddle.
Surprised and confused, I ask him if maybe he hasn't understood what I've said -- that I can't be trusted to submit, that there's no point in continuing with DD.
He smiles, takes me back in his arms, and points something out that I had never considered before.
That losing one's nerve when facing a punishment isn't an indication of a lack of trustworthiness. It's a normal human reaction to the reality of paying for one's misdeeds. Children, he points out, struggle desperately against even the mildest punishments (he has a daughter from a prior marriage who howls and fights when given corner time as though she were being skewered!). He reminds me that resisting a spanking is part of the process of coming to terms with our angry, terrified inner child who desperately needs boundaries, but hates the idea of submitting to them. And that this resistance has nothing to do with whether or not I'm "worthy" to wear the ring.
He expects me to resist, he tells me. The spankings he gives me hurt -- a lot. They are meant to hurt, to be a deterrent -- and I am meant to be afraid of them. That's the point of discipline -- to create a negative consequence that makes us think twice about acting out.
The ring, he points out, is a symbol of my larger commitment to our chosen lifestyle. It is not a promise to be 100% submissive all of the time, no matter what. No one could do that, he tells me, and certainly not someone who is angry and afraid of a spanking.
I had never thought of this issue in quite this way before. That submission isn't a constant thing, but a moment-to-moment, fluctuating dynamic that is more or less possible depending on state of mind. The key is to make it right eventually -- if not in the moment, then later.
As a side note, he also pointed out that since we're living together for the first time, "it's different now. It's more real." And that the reality of more in-the-moment consequences is bound to up the stakes and the pressure on the relationship, making resistance on my part even more inevitable.
The second lesson from this experience didn't occur to me until a few days later. In the days following this incident, I reflected on how much responsibility women in DD relationships often take on in terms of making those relationships work.
More often than not, it's the woman who initiates a DD relationship. I suspect this is as it should be, given the need to have a woman's full consent before whacking her with a paddle. But being the initiator of a DD relationship can mean that a woman feels a disproportionate amount of pressure to be perfect in her submission in order to prove to her partner (and herself) that the lifestyle is a positive experience for both parties. After all, it's hard enough sometimes to convince a man to administer discipline without us kicking and screaming and making him feel like an abusive bastard for trying to do so.
So when things go wrong -- as they inevitably will -- we blame ourselves for being less than perfect. When we resist discipline -- as we inevitably will -- we can wind up feeling like failures at best and untrustworthy hypocrites at worst. This was our idea, we reason, and so we feel we have no right to do anything other than fully consent 100% of the time.
But my partner's very wise words made me realize this is an unfair burden that I was putting on myself and on the relationship. Just because DD was my idea doesn't mean I'm always going to be "good" at it all of the time. In fact, most of the time, I probably won't be "good" at it at all, because if true disciplinary spankings are given properly, they are painful and unpleasant experiences that our instinct makes us want to avoid in the moment, even when our higher functions tell us the benefits are worth the pain. And if we're sure we don't deserve a spanking, our inherent sense of justice makes us even more likely to resist.
This lack of perfect submission isn't an indication that I'm not fit to take part in a DD relationship, but rather it's a healthy, natural, appropriate expression of my free will and separateness as a person. To submit 100% all of the time with no resistance and without questioning the fairness of the punishment would make me a doormat, a person with no capacity for self-preservation or independent thought.
I am fortunate to have a partner who is able to see that my resistance is normal and appropriate, who doesn't hold it against me when I am not able to submit to punishment in the moment.
I'm also fortunate to have a partner who doesn't let my in-the-moment resistance get me off the hook for the spanking I have coming. I am grateful that he is able to honor our agreement even when I can't. To me, this is how a DD relationship (or any relationship) should work. That when one partner stumbles and can't hold up his or her share of the burden, the other steps in and takes it from them.
Spanking given (with extra swats for having said no and for taking the ring off), peace restored, ring back on my finger.
PS -- As most of you have noticed, I tend to post new articles much less frequently than many blogs do. This is partly because of my schedule (I work in Democratic politics, so this year is particularly hectic), and partially because I don't post unless I feel I have something worth posting about. To that end, if any of you would like me to email you when a new article is posted, please let me know and I'll be happy to do so.