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Archive for August 3rd, 2009

Dear Delilah,

I had an ex girlfriend in a quad relationship that we parted ways with because while she identified as submissive, you could not get her to reveal any of her desires. She didn’t know what they were. Tied down, being rubbed with fur and pricked with a Wartenberg wheel, flushed with pleasure, and you’d still get no answer to the question, and very little response other than involuntary physical indicators.

I didn’t understand the behavior, and there’s so many bad places you can take a sub’s head when you don’t know what’s going on. And that behavior carried over into other parts of the relationship, too. We wound up splitting up over her self-avoidance and our unwillingness to screw up.

How do you get around this kind of lack of self-knowledge for sex/play purposes? What do you do to get important information from someone who avoids themselves?

I don’t want to be glib, but in this situation I have to say: you did the right thing in breaking up with her.

It seems like what you’re talking about is different from the simple (and very common) problem of a new submissive not knowing what they like yet.
Rather, it seems like this was someone who was completely out of touch with her own body’s responses, and was unable to communicate the most basic of feelings. The old adage that you can’t love someone else until you love yourself – well, I think it has exceptions. But it’s very difficult to know someone else until you know yourself.

Now naturally, none of us knows ourselves completely – maybe not ever. But the basic information of What I Like or What I’m Into or just What Feels Good is essential for any sexual relationship to be at all successful. If someone doesn’t have access to that information about herself, then it’s really tough to engage in any type of sexuality with her.

What do you do to get information from a person who avoids themselves? Well, you did manage to gather some data from her physiological responses – flushing and other involuntary indicators – but those aren’t any good if the person experiencing them is completely unplugged from the experience – and may even decide later that what you did was not okay.

It’s possible that this person has some neurological issues around sensory integration, and I certainly don’t want to deny such people the opportunity for sexual pleasure with a partner. But if this is the case, she needed to get help around it. Even if it’s not the case, and she experienced continual avoidance around all these aspects of her life as you say she did – psychological and/or physiological help should have been sought.

If you had decided to stay with her and help her on the road to self-discovery, I would have recommended something like this in addition to whatever therapy was appropriate: don’t do BDSM-type play until she gets in better touch with herself. Even gentle, loving sexuality of the vanilla variety seems like it could be risky with someone like this, but entering into roleplay, where self-expression is ritualized and restricted, would be much more of a minefield.

The thing to do is work up to it. Talk a lot. Ask how it feels when you’re touching a particular place. If you see her getting all up in her head, tell her to breathe into the place you’re touching, to bring her attention and awareness to it. Tell her she doesn’t have to use words if it’s too difficult. If you can elicit genuine sexual response that reaches her face (smiles, moans, joyful eye contact, etc.), then that’s progress.

On the other hand, if someone does have sensory integration issues, it’s possible that nothing will get through but rough touch. I know people who experience anything lighter than what most would consider painful as tickling, and BDSM has allowed them to experience their sexuality more fully. So going for harder contact might be the answer, especially if the person already identifies as submissive.

But in this case it sounds like she was more out of touch with what she was experiencing – not just in bed but in general – than like she was having trouble integrating feeling. In which case I again recommend therapy, and patience.

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