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Through Orlando’s Tumblr page, which is already hot enough to keep me distracted, I’ve stumbled across the Leathermen Tumblr page, which might be enough to destroy my productivity forever. Particularly distracting thus far are this image of a top wringing a washcloth (presumably full of his own sweat) over the bound and bruised body of his boy, who looks out at the camera with the most glorious expression of mingled humiliation and challenge; this prototypical image of a couple in an alley in full leathers, where the top’s expression is rough with power and pleasure and doesn’t seem to be for the camera; and this shot of a man in uniform, casually enjoying a cigarette while he rests his booted feet on a boy who’s worshipping his leathers.

What can I say, I’m an old fashioned kind of gal.

Still other images I love for their simplicity and beauty in what they evoke, like this one of a leather pantleg, hand, and boot on some stairs, or this sweet one of a Daddy cutting his boy’s hair.

If I haven’t mentioned it in this space before, I’m something of a leather slut. I’m not too excited by the kind of leather female dommes are expected to wear, though I’m happy to wear it because hey, leather. But the gay leather iconography gets me so hot it sometimes feels like I’m one of those fetishists I see from time to time whom I feel sorry for because they can never truly fulfill their fantasies: giantess fetishists, for example, or people into vore.

But from time to time I butch up and treat my girl nice, and from time to time I boy up and get kicked around by my Daddy a bit. And those are times when I feel my gender dissolve into something new and mythical and beautiful. It’s painful, too, though: I know the unreality of it, and I also embrace the femme side of me, and wouldn’t want to change. There’s something terribly poignant about this type of play, and something godlike to me about these images of men doing terrible, wonderful things to each other without shame or doubt.

One time, I got to go to Provincetown with my Daddy, and watch him get picked up, picked over and appraised by a number of men. We went cruising and drinking with these guys, hung out in front of Spiritus after closing, got shown the infamous “dick dock.” I felt like Goldilocks surrounded by all these warm and loving bears, and at the same time I felt like a squealing fangirl, a fag hag, the least interesting person in the room. Still, there was something freeing about it: I didn’t have to perform, only to admire. Only to wish I were one of them.

It was a night when I got to face down my high school demons at last, in a way I never expected. I was in love with a gay boy in high school, and I always thought it was because I wasn’t ready to have a real sexual relationship. My crushes on gay men continued through college – particularly when I didn’t know someone was gay. Later in college I dated a bi man, and would continue to stumble into queer space for a long time to come.

It’s only recently that I’ve come to recognize that fag haggery isn’t part of my sexuality: it’s more that I’m part gay boy. My attraction to gay men and leathermen isn’t entirely unrealizable: my own Daddy proves that, as do my interactions with other amazing bi men who see fit to draw me into their worlds. I’ll never be a real boy; I’m a bit like Pinocchio in all this. But I’m proud to be a part of what seems to be an ever-expanding definition of queer leather.

And still totally distracted by that Tumblr account.

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So, after my advice the other day, I found this New York Times article, about how Google has begun a ban on advertising for cougar dating sites.

Cougars, for those of you who have been asleep, are older women who want to date younger men. Sites like Cougar Life promise to set up older, sexy, successful women with young hot studs. Google has decided that the whole concept isn’t “family-friendly,” and therefore is no longer allowing advertising from such sites on its content network – including sites like Ask.com, YoutTube and MySpace.

The kicker? Sugar daddy sites are still fine.

Mind you, I’m not all that thrilled with either concept – at least not as they are peddled by such dating sites. I’m not against May-December romances in either direction, but the commodification and objectification aspects bug me.

Nonetheless, this is flat-out discrimination. Cougar Life boasts that it “pairs women in their prime with younger men and ends the double standard!” The very language stating that such sites aren’t “family-friendly” brings bile to my mouth: it suggests pretty strongly that older men who cheat and have affairs with younger women are fine, but we mustn’t promote the idea that older women – who might even be MILFs! – might do the same thing. What about the CHILDREN??

Google has been on thin ice for a while when it comes to its motto of not being evil, but this sort of tears it for me. When Google starts trotting out the “family values” crap and applying different standards of “adult content” to women than they do to men, I start to become very afraid about how freaking huge Google is, and how much it owns.

Incidentally, though we know Facebook is evil, too, it should be noted that they’re still allowing the cougars to mate over there.

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I was moved by the letter I got this week, and though it’s not topical in terms of kink, it’s a complex question about alternative relationships that might as well be discussed here as anywhere.

I welcome your questions, not only about kink, but about polyamory, bisexuality, and any other relational issues you think I can speak to. I can’t promise to know a ton about specifically gay, lesbian or trans issues, as it’s not the life I lead. But then again, Dan Savage answers straight people’s questions all the time, and most of the time I don’t really think that the issues of gay and lesbian folk in relationship are much different from anyone else’s. (Actually, I bet I have more in common with gays and lesbians in poly relationships than I have with straight or bisexual people in monogamous ones.)

To make a long story short: if you feel, whoever you are, like honoring me with your difficult questions, I’ll do my best to answer them well. And if it comes down to it, I’ll call in a guest expert, just like Dan would do. (Because ya know. Dan’s my hero.)

Dear Deliah:

I enjoy reading your column, and when I stumbled into an alternative relationship dilemma of my own, you were were the person I most wanted to consult.

I have been romantically involved with both members of a legally married couple for nearly four years. Although the husband and wife were together before I entered the arrangement, we let our own situations progress organically (I was never brought in as the hot bi babe, for instance) and consider all four relationships to be “on the same level.” There have been ups and downs, and I have been very concerned about matters like the possibilities of moving in and of having children with my partners.

I recently learned that my female partner miscarried after being pregnant for nearly two months. Although I have been doing my best to be supportive, I still feel hurt and rejected: I didn’t even know they were actively trying to get pregnant, nor that she had conceived. I know it’s good practice to wait a reasonable amount of time before informing others about a pregnancy, but I am supposed to be a part of their family.

I guess it goes without saying that I will need to address my feelings at an appropriate time. Do you have any suggestions for how to approach this topic with my partners? When should I go about bringing it up?

First of all, I’m sorry this happened to you, and very sorry that this happened to your partners. Miscarriages can be devastating, and above all it is important that you not make this too much about you: I have no doubt that they’re already going through a lot of pain.

With that said, it sounds like the three of you do have a deeply intertwined relationship – the fact that you reference “four relationships” shows that you know how many dynamics are at play here – and if it really is as you say it is, it’s probable that you had a right to know, and a right to be upset about it.

There are a few possibilities at play here in terms of what has already occurred. One is that she became pregnant by accident; it happens. Once that happened, she might have felt it best to keep it under wraps until the traditional first-trimester mark; as she miscarried, this was probably a good plan in terms of causing the least amount of pain for others.

The other possibility is more sad, but needs to be taken seriously. You say they were together before you, but that you are all considered equals in the relationship. It is entirely possible that this isn’t really as true as you think it is. Even in triads where the third person is brought into the home, involved in a commitment ceremony, etc. – it takes some time and effort for that person to reach the same level of intimacy and equal-partner status as the married couple already had together. If you aren’t living with them, and the relationship is, as you say, up and down, it’s not likely that you really are an equal partner, not in the way they are to each other. They’ve been together for longer, have chosen to live together, chosen to get married, and finally, chose to get pregnant – without consulting you.

What this may be is a sign that you are not in the relationship(s) you think you are in.

I want to tell you to address your concerns with them directly, but I also want to be extremely sensitive to what they’ve just been through. They have a right to that, regardless of how they handled the information.

Just as they probably would have allowed three months before revealing the information to others, I recommend giving them three months before you bring it up. If one of them brings it up before then, great. But I think it’s going to be really rough to address this question while they’re still in the midst of early grieving.

When you do bring it up, gently is the best way. Have dinner with them both one night. Remind them how much you love them, and how you’ve long wanted to make a family with them. And finally, just ask, in a spirit of curiosity and concern. “Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”

I warn you that the answer you get is going to be pivotal for how your relationship looks going forward. But as you’ve already surmised, it’s something you have to do.

Sorry to give such a downer answer. Let me know how it goes.

I’m out of questions again. Email me your questions, or comment!

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Back from all of my travels and travails, and now it’s time again for Monday Advice! (Shut up, it’s still Monday.)

Dear Delilah,

After a longish period of hesitation (ok, hiding under the covers) I’ve gotten back into dating and have met a very sweet guy who is also a top. We’ve been playing together and hanging out and things seem to be progressing very nicely.

There’s this thing, though. I’ve found that when I get submissive with him, that headspace sort of bleeds into our just hanging out time. I find that I just sort of..wait around for him to make decisions about what it is we’re going to do, for example, or just responding and not initiating. It’s frustrating and irritating (for both of us, I’m sure).

I don’t want to be doing this! I’d like to build a relationship with this guy, and I can’t very well do that if I’m not being forthright with him. Can you offer advice on how to ‘change gears’ more effectively?

Thanks for your help,
N.

I know I’m going to bore you to death with this answer, N, but as always: communicate, communicate, communicate. Do you know, for example, that this is irritating for him? Maybe he’s enjoying having you subby a lot of the time when he’s around. However, it’s obviously frustrating and irritating you, so it’s important that you get this problem out in the open with him and find a way to resolve it.

If you’re not interested in developing a 24/7 D/s relationship, then it’s especially important that this be resolved. Here are some suggestions.

Come up with some sort of ritualized beginning and ending to your play. Collars are great for this, although some people find that their symbolism is too intense. You may come up with a set of words to say that signals the completion of a scene, or you may put a piece of jewelry or clothing on your body that grounds you into your self. Come up with something that works for you to differentiate scene time from non-scene time.

You might also have him deliberately make you make a decision of some sort – where you will go for dinner, or what kind of music to put on – shortly after you play, to get you into non-subby mode.

On the other side of this, however, I would play with what it’s like to be subby in non-scene space, if this interests you. Just make sure that you’re doing it deliberately rather than as a default. Consciousness is key to full enjoyment, and you might enjoy quiet times with your guy in that soft space of compliance if you’re both aware and doing it on purpose. Just make sure, again, that you have your “key” or mechanism for getting out of that space when you want to.

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I am not actively involved with anybody at this particular juncture in time and I am very shy when in comes to being involved with new partners. My last partner turned out to have been a very skilled and loving Dom. This was not something that I really knew about him prior to being involved with him. However, with that experience in my past, I am pretty sure that I would be unhappy in relationship that was completely devoid of that dynamic. I find that telling people of that particular long term goal appears to suggest that I wish to escalate things sexually. I definitely wish to wait a good while before sex and an even longer while for kinky pleasure. How do I seek fellow kinksters out in the initial phases of meeting a person, before introducing sexuality? How shall I broach the subject? And, is being kinky a more fixed personality trait, as orientation is for some folks? For instance, if a person is uninterested in kink, will they always be uninterested?

-Challenged At Clever Acronym Creation

It sounds like you’re running into a similar issue to another questioner who wants to meet kinky people, but doesn’t want to talk about sex right away. The trouble here is that if you meet someone through an explicitly kinky venue, then the subject is already out there on the table, and one is almost expected to talk about it. But if you meet someone in another way, and you start to fall for them without talking about it, then when happens if you bring it up later and they freak out? Right?

Here’s my advice, CACAC. If you feel like you need kink in your life in order to feel fulfilled, I would start working on meeting people through explicitly kinky venues. I don’t mean you have to go to play parties or even a fetish night at a dance club. If you live in a major metro area, there should be a kink organization or two out there. Such organizations tend to hold munches: meetings of kinksters in non-kinky public places to meet each other and talk. Now sometimes, kink organizations are broken and creepy, and so, therefore, are the people involved in them. And even if you find a good one, you might not meet anyone at a munch that you want to pursue a relationship with. But if the vibe is good, you’re opening the door to meeting more people who have kinky interests. Attend classes and workshops. Spend some time at your local woman-owned sex shop. Or even look around on Fetlife for folks – it’s a fast-growing online community that works well for networking.

By going this route, you’re guaranteeing that your dating pool is going to consist mainly of people who already know about and want to do this stuff. The next step is finding one you like, and who’s willing to go at your pace.

Should you meet someone outside of this purview, I recommend the following: fly your freak flag a little. If you get to the point where you have him over to your place for dinner, make sure you have a flogger hanging on the wall, or whatever the equivalent is for what you’re into. Wear a pretty cuff bracelet with a D-ring on it. Keep a kink-positive button on your backpack. Be open to questions. Flirt with information. Let him know in subtle ways what you’re into, without having an explicit conversation until you’re ready.

And here’s another thing: if you’re into dominant men, it’s likely that you’re going to be attracted to dominant men. Whether that manifests itself as whips and chains and rubber or whether it just means he’s the kind of guy who’ll grab you by the hair and toss you against the wall for a good stand-up shag, you’re likely to get what you’re looking for simply by virtue of your tastes. If you get involved with someone who is inexperienced but open, you can always introduce him to the joys of kink when the time comes.

As far as your other question – is kink an orientation – I really can’t answer that with any authority, because Science Just Doesn’t Know. But I do know that people “get kinky” sometimes after years of not being drawn to it. And it seems pretty clear to me that once someone gets kinked, they don’t really get un-kinked. So you have that going for you.

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Today I answer two letters that deal with the question: what happens when one of the partners in a desired BDSM scenario is reluctant for one reason or another? It’s a tricky one, but not unsolvable.

I have to say, you are almost a dead ringer for my fiancee. She is also six feet tall, size 12-13 shoe, shoulder length naturally curly brown hair, and with a sensually curvy athletic gorgeously feminine but strong body. I have a question for you, if you don’t mind. She is a sweet, sweet girl and I’m a huge trampling fan. I’m a little over six feet tall and weigh about 155 lbs. I’m kind of wiry and thin. Being a tall strong girl like you are, you probably know where this is going. She’s not a dominant person and I would like her to be more aggressive to help her out in life. I want so much for her to trample me, but I know she thinks she’s too heavy, her feet are too big, blah, blah, blah. What is a good way to ask or warm her up to walking on me? I asked her once about a year ago. She very, very tentatively did so and then quickly stepped off. I’ve been afraid to ask her since. I’ve told her that I’m going to drag a dominant side of her out someday, someway (Marshall Crenshaw anyone?) and have slooowwwly warmed her up to resting her feet on me while laying on the floor. She’s still a bit shy about it. But I want her to take the plunge and walk on me. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks so much for listening!

MJ

Dear MJ,

Marshall Crenshaw notwithstanding, this is a territory where you must, if you’ll forgive the pun, tread lightly. I’m hearing that you have a particular desire from your fiancee – namely, that she trample you. This seems like something that the two of you could work up to, and I’ll talk more about that below. But be careful about the other thing I’m hearing, here: trying to force your fiancee to be a dominant.

In my experience, there’s very little more annoying than a submissive male trying to talk his female partner into dominating him when she doesn’t want to and it’s not in her nature. It’s not that people cannot be taught to dominate, and there are beautiful examples of experienced submissives training “from below,” as it were. But the would-be dominant must be willing – and wheedling, offering submissive gestures in the hopes that she’ll pick up the role, or suggesting that you’re going to “drag” her dominant side out, is probably not going to help you, and will probably just make her feel anything from annoyed to inadequate.

The good news is that you have a specific desire, and having your woman trample you does not sign her up for becoming your full-time Mistress. It doesn’t even have to mean that she’s being dominant – there is a difference between being a “top” (i.e. the “active” partner in a sexualized activity) and being “dominant” (i.e. the one holding the power in a power-exchange roleplay dynamic). You may find that she has a dominant streak eventually, but the first thing for you to do is guide her, safely and consensually, toward the activity you desire, without pushing for the whole enchilada.

As far as asking: you say this is something that really turns you on. If you’re not shy about that fact, she may be more able to get into it if she’s interested in your pleasure. You say that she’s shy about her size; she may be afraid of hurting you. Try setting up a safeword with her, and let her know that you will definitely say the word if she is truly hurting you. Try starting, as you said you have, with you lying on the floor while she puts her feet on you, and work your way up to her fully standing. She can start by just pressing you with her feet while sitting, then resting part of her weight on you with one foot from standing. Make sure she has something, like a wall, to hold onto for balance, and make sure she’s only stepping on safe places on your body: upper back, chest, butt, and thighs. Hopefully, she’ll find that she enjoys it for its own sake, and if you’re really lucky, she may eventually find that dominant streak in herself. If not – then at least you have a new piece in your sexual repertoire.

And don’t forget to keep telling her how incredibly sexy she is. I appreciate the compliments, MJ – but it sounds like your foxy fiancee needs them more.

My boyfriend is a self-proclaimed Dominant. Okay. I’m not what I’d call a naturally submissive person, but I’m really, really ready to give it a go with him. Really. Very much so. BUT – in my trying to explain that it was going to be quite a step for someone like me to engage in that side of the “play” I somehow managed to convince him I’d not truly like it. He doesn’t believe in “switches” he says, and any attempt by me to try to engage provokes comments like “But I know you don’t really like that” from him. DO I HAVE TO TIE MYSELF UP MYSELF! WTF?!?

I don’t understand the “no switches” rule; the idea that he doesn’t want to do anything I don’t truly WANT is… well… nothing short of sweet but I don’t know how to convince him I want to when I do want him to take the “this is hard for me, but in a good way” part seriously. And plain old “how to get it started” advice. A guy acquaintance suggested handcuffing myself to the bed, but… that seems hamfisted, pardon the pun.

Here’s what I’m hearing, and I’m sorry if it sounds harsh to your “self-proclaimed Dominant:” he’s insecure, and he’s misinformed.

First, the misinformed part: switches exist. In fact, if he’s been paying attention, he might notice that a large part of the overall BDSM culture grew originally out of the gay leather scene, in which, in olden days, every dominant was a submissive first. That was the way you came up in the ranks. So by the very nature of old school leather, every dominant is also a submissive. Even laying history aside, you can let your boyfriend know that I and many of my kinkiest friends are personally insulted by his assertion that we switches simply don’t exist. It’s like negating the existence of bisexuals. So: Dear Boyfriend: come join reality! It’s fun over here. We have cookies. And lots of sex.

Laying aside my own pet peeves, though, is the larger point that will probably be of more use to you: he’s scared. He probably wants to do things to you that he finds really hot, but he’s still afraid that that means there’s something wrong with him. BDSM dynamics require boatloads of trust, and it tends to be the dominant’s job to hold a lot of that trust. It is very, very easy to make a mistake and break trust in this type of dynamic, and so sometimes dominants are reluctant to play with people they’re not sure about. What if he hurts you and you hate it? What if you laugh at him? What if you find out something he’s into and freak?

Clearly, your words aren’t enough in this scenario to convince him that this is what you want. Tying yourself to the bed is a little hamfisted, indeed. But you might try something similar. Different triggers, when you’re being sexual with him, might open that headspace for him and indicate your availability. Some classics include kneeling at his feet, crossing your arms over your head when he’s on top of you, or undressing in front of him while he’s still clothed and watching. Try one of these if any of them turn you on, or something else simple. And keep talking: if you care deeply for him – and it sounds like you do – let him know that you’re not going to think less of him for wanting some nonstandard things. Have him introduce some of the things he’d like to do to you in dirty talk before actually doing them. Tell him to write you a letter or email with a fantasy scenario he has in mind, and pledge to yourself not to react badly to it, even if it’s not totally your cup of tea.

It may seem ironic, with him being the dominant and all, but you need to draw him out and make him feel safe.

Let me know how it goes, folks! I’m always reachable here at the blog, or at delilah@dommedelilah.com!

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It’s already Monday again, and time for your questions! The first is a short and sweet one, but a good topic.

How does one get into the pro-domme business?

To be honest, I have no idea. All I know is how I got into the pro domme business, if that’s not too flippant an answer. I can tell you a little about that, but it’s partially dependent on locale, market, density of population, etc. I can’t tell you, for instance, how a domina in a rural area got into it or how she keeps afloat, but I know several who do just that. What you’ll get from me is how someone with an excellent support structure started a small business in a major metro area.

I had planned on going pro for some time – I think it was ultimately two years between the time the idea was first suggested to me and when I saw my first client. During that time I did a lot of reading and a lot of hands-on training: learning the (literal) ropes, practicing my aim, taking classes on foot fetish and breathplay and humiliation and animal play and just about anything else I could find. Friends helped me out tremendously by giving me instruction and serving as practice dummies. (Aw, come on, quit whining – you’ve got another kidney!)

Probably the most important thing I did was to get a hold of local dommes. I looked them up and contacted a bunch of them – each one individually – about my interest. Some were not responsive; some were. Some I clicked with; some I didn’t. In the end I was blessed with the resources, minds and advice of two dominas I greatly respect, Lady J and Princess Kali. From inviting me to parties at which I could meet scene people and market my services, to finding me space to do sessions in, these two remarkable ladies helped me tremendously.

And the rest was just smoke and mirrors: get some sexy outfits, advertise on Craigslist until you have the means to build your own website (I also utilized Pandemos early on), screen screen screen your clients, and start seeing them.

There’s a lot more of course, about marketing and screening, and how to behave in a session, and making sure you know your state’s laws. But the most important step, I think, to doing anything is to research: read, and find people who do what you want to do and talk their ears off.

I’m a kinky single girl who is getting seriously tired of the vanilla boys on JDate, etc. I’ve tried a couple of the kinky online dating websites (collarme.com, alt.com, bondage.com), but I only get emails from:

1) Creepy old guys;
2) Dominate Men who Cannot Spell; and, most troublingly…
3) Guys I might conceivably like, but who insist on talking about my sex life faster than I’m ready to.

I’m a wildcat in the bedroom, but I’m shy about talking about it until I know the person a little! What’s the etiquette for a first date off a kinky website? Am I expected to talk about my sexual interests, or is it possible to just talk about everything else and shelve the sex talk for a few dates until I know I like the person out of the bedroom? Help, Delilah!

Well, this situation puts you in a little bit of a bind, if you’ll forgive the pun. Kinky dating sites are places where kinky people meet to date, and just as people who connect through their love of chess may start their interactions by chatting casually about strategy, people who connect through kink are likely to open with a kinky gambit.

That said, just because that’s the context doesn’t mean that you have to open up about your particular kink or sexuality more quickly than you are comfortable with. However, you need to cut the guys who are contacting you in that manner more slack: it’s the nature of a dance hall that people who approach you are going to ask you to dance before asking you about your favorite vacation spot.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from domming, it’s that you have to ignore a lot of chaff: feel free to delete the creepy guys and illiterates without a second glance. But if somebody seems nice and comes off a little more forward than you’d like, just ask them politely to back off. If you’re meeting up partially based on compatible kink interests on Fetlife or something like that, then you already know that he likes to do things that you like to have done to you, or vice-versa. What comes next is what comes next in any dating game: find out if you have chemistry. Tell him, “Listen, I really like to get to know someone a little bit first. Once we know whether we’d like to be kinky together, then we can talk about how we might do that.”

If you like the guy up front, be up front with him – firm, but not discouraging. If he doesn’t want to take the time to get to know you, then he’s not the type of guy you want to be knocking boots (or licking boots) with, anyway.

That’s it for this week! Remember: comment here or send your questions to delilah@dommedelilah.com !

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