Does DD Work at Work?

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.

Here's why.

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.