Ten Tips for the Novice, Single, Heterosexual, Submissive Woman (Version 1.0)by
author of SM 101: A Realistic Introduction
This is a copy of Jay Wiseman's "Ten Tips for the Novice, Single, Heterosexual, Submissive Woman." You can find this and several other informative articles by Mr. Wiseman at his site: Submissive Women Kvetch. He is also the author of SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (Greenery Press: San Francisco,), an excellent book for those interested in BDSM.
Let me guess. You're a woman, you're heterosexual, and you keep having strange, disturbing, recurring, and intense fantasies of a powerful, masterful man having his way with you. Perhaps he tears off your clothes and takes you. Perhaps he throws you over his knee and gives you a long, hard spanking. Perhaps he ties you naked and spread-eagled to a bed and proceeds to alternately tease and torture you for hours. Perhaps he locks his collar around your neck and orders you to kneel at his feet -- and you do, both fearing and loving every second of it.
Have these fantasies become so intense and recurring that they make up almost every sexual fantasy you have? Have they become the centerpiece of your thinking when you masturbate? Have you looked through personal ads searching for the ones from men that mention bondage, spanking, and related practices, longing but not daring to answer them? Have you thought of asking a man to help you explore your fantasies? Do you worry that if you mention these desires to a man that you might end up being beaten or even raped? Do you wonder how on Earth you are ever going to reconcile your deeply submissive desires with your distinctly feminist beliefs? Do you have the increasingly strong feeling that if you don't act upon these feelings soon then you will go insane with frustration?
If many of these thoughts and feelings seem familiar, then it's likely that you have a erotically submissive side and that you're either ready or nearly ready to explore this aspect of yourself. If this is the case then, as the saying goes, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news -- and I've got some advice.
Before I go further, please let me introduce myself. My name is Jay Wiseman. I'm a heterosexual, Caucasian male, born in 1949, who currently (1998) lives in San Francisco and is in a stable, long-term relationship with a wonderful woman named Janet. I have been exploring the practices associated with erotic domination and submission since 1971, am primarily -- but not exclusively -- dominant in my own desires, and since 1975 have been a member of what is often called the Bay Area SM Community.
During that time, I have probably attended over 1000 SM-related lectures, demonstrations, discussion groups, parties, and related events. I have also given many presentations at SM groups, both locally and across the country -- ranging from Boston to New York to Seattle to Los Angeles. For more than twenty years, I have advised, taught, mentored, trained, and otherwise assisted many novice submissive women, and many other types of people, during their explorations into the realities of what is often called sadomasochism -- SM (or, sometimes, BDSM) for short. I am perhaps best known in this respect as the author of the book SM 101: A Realistic Introduction published by Greenery Press.
OK. That's enough about me. Now, as I was saying about your situation, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news -- and I've got some advice. The following is not intended as a comprehensive guide, but it should help you get off to a good start.
First, the good news: It is quite possible for you to explore your fantasies in a healthy and constructive manner, without in any way diminishing who you are as a human being and without compromising your feminist beliefs in the slightest. It is also quite possible for you to find a man who is a good, decent, highly ethical, and definitely non-abusive person to help you explore this aspect of yourself. There is even a fairly good possibility that you will end up in an ongoing relationship with such a man, and feel delighted that you did. I know of many submissive women who found their "Master Right."
Now for the bad news: A few seriously "bad apples" lurk in the SM "barrel." There is no approved screening and training program that would-be masters must successfully complete. There are no continuing education or licensing requirements. There is no malpractice insurance. Any idiot can proclaim himself a "master." A jerk in his late forties who tried to tie up a girlfriend once when he was sixteen may claim "I have over thirty years of real-life experience."
Thus, it can be difficult, or even impossible, for a novice submissive woman (such as you) to quickly tell the difference between a wonderful prince and a horrid frog. Therefore, it is also possible for you to encounter a "master" who is unethical, manipulative, exploitative, abusive, and an utterly horrible person for you to open up to in the way that a submissive can open up to a dominant. Getting involved with such a man can leave you heavily damaged -- both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, I also know of some submissive women who got involved with "Master Wrong" or even "Master Nightmare." Most recovered. Some didn't.
Now for the advice: What you will be doing, in a very real sense, is exploring a wilderness. Therefore it makes a great deal of sense to approach your explorations into SM in much the same way that you would approach your explorations into any other type of wilderness. This wilderness, like all others, contains large amounts of both beauty and danger. Do yourself a big favor and never forget those two extremely important facts.
OK, Ms. Explorer, how might you approach that wilderness?
Tip One: Study and otherwise prepare before you approach it.
In one way, you are lucky to approach the SM wilderness at this time, because it has been already been extensively explored, and many people are willing to share their own findings. While universal agreement does not exist regarding what is and what is not appropriate SM, in reality there is actually fairly close consensus among most experienced practitioners about most points. Most explorers have come to highly similar conclusions and recommendations, and many are quite willing to share this information with interested others. In particular, there are several very good books on the subject, a large number of excellent SM educational organizations (most large cities have at least one), and a wealth of quality information on the internet. You will find references to some of the better resources at the end of this article.
Also, again, as with approaching any other wilderness, it would also be prudent to do a bit of preparing for emergencies before heading out. Many SM people have done things like taken a first aid/CPR class, had an HIV test done, and gotten shots to protect themselves against exposure to Hepatitis A and B. Additionally, do you know what a "safeword" is and how a "silent alarm" works? Find out before you play with someone in private.
Tip Two: Get some perspective.
There is no such thing as the National Bureau of Sadomasochistic Standards and Practices that issues rulings about what is and what is not "real" SM. Therefore, people must work out between themselves what does and what does not work for them. On the other hand, there is actually fairly close consensus among experienced practitioners regarding the broad outlines of what is and what is not appropriate. That being the case, it would be smart to seek out a variety of such opinions.
More to the point, it would be very dumb of you to depend upon only one source of information, no matter how "convincing" or "authoritative" that (usually male) source of information tries to appear. Try to read at least three different books, written by three different authors, on the subject. Look over a number of different web sites. Attend as many different SM-related presentations, by as many different presenters, as you can.
Tip Three: Time is your best and most important friend.
Rushing into any sort of wilderness is a Bad Idea. Take your time. Look over the landscape. Talk with the natives. Talk with lots of different natives. Observe their colorful native costumes. (Many of these natives look far more scary than they really are. Don't let the sight of those whips and chains frighten you too much.) Venture into their shops and look over the goods for sale. (Don't feel too bad if you can't immediately figure out how some of those goods are used.) In particular, don't get heavily and exclusively involved with any one particular "native" too quickly.
Key Point: The seriously dangerous, abusive, predators usually shun the mainstream SM community because they know they would quickly be discovered and ostracized. Therefore, they lurk on the fringes of the community, trying to "pick off" the novice submissive female, whose low level of knowledge and uninformed perspective can make her dangerously vulnerable. By the way, guess what you are?
Tip Four: You may get more attention than you can easily handle.
You are a female who is entering a territory in which it is common for there to be more men than women, and many of these men are looking for a woman to do SM with. (In common SM parlance, to do SM with someone is to "play" with them. This is not meant in any sort of diminishing or trivializing way, but rather in a manner similar to how one might "play" tennis or bridge with a partner.)
Anyway, there tend to be more men than women in the "relatively heterosexual" sections of the SM community (there are men-only and women-only sections as well) and many of these men are looking for women to be either occasional or ongoing "play" partners. (A fair number of women and couples are looking for female play partners too.) Therefore, you may get scores of polite offers -- and, unfortunately, a few not-so-polite offers -- for coffee dates or other get-togethers. There is nothing necessarily bad or wrong with such offers but, again, go slowly and don't get heavily involved with any one particular man (or woman, or couple) too quickly. In particular, be relatively quick to accept personal information from others, but be relatively slow about giving out personal information about yourself to others such as your telephone number, where you work, your email address, and so forth.
Given that the competition for new females can occasionally be intense (by the way, don't let me scare you too much on this point), keep in mind that the person who shows the most aggressiveness in meeting you may not be the best person for you to become involved with. Indeed, and sadly, the converse is often more likely to be true. The nicer guys often hold back out of courtesy and respect while the creeps thrust themselves into your face.
Keep your options open. Try to meet and have conversations with many different men. It is important that you not allow any one particular man (or woman, or couple) to monopolize your time and attention. Remember that the slightly more reserved people are often the better people to become involved with.
(By the way, once you've gotten some knowledge and perspective, meeting prospective partners via personal ads can be useful, as there will be no direct competition when you talk on the phone or meet at a public restaurant.)
Also, the more "known" a man is, the safer he is likely to be. As a rule, a man who has been known in his local SM community for over a year is probably relatively safe (although exceptions exist). A lesser known man is more questionable. Again, take your time.
Another Key Point: You are under absolutely no obligation to act in a submissive manner towards a man until after the two of you have negotiated that -- and done so as equals. If some jerk tries to insist that you call him "Sir" or "Master," or tries to give you orders, or touches you in an overly familiar way, or says that you're not being properly submissive when you haven't previously agreed to be submissive specifically to him, your "creep alarm" should start ringing loudly -- and you should head elsewhere, fast.
(By the way, a friend of mine who is a very experienced submissive woman has come to believe that there is a strong inverse relationship between how good a dominant a man is and how quickly he brings up to subject of fellatio.)
On the other hand, a low-key, friendly, courteous approach by a dominant is a very positive sign. Good-quality dominants tend to take a measured, attentive, respectful approach.
Tip Five: Take "elite" (and other) claims with a large grain of salt.
Some men, in an attempt to impress you, may claim to be members of an "elite" private SM organization that only admits the "select few" -- and you, tasty little morsel that you are, just happen to qualify. Well, the truth is that there are many relatively private SM clubs, but almost all are small, local groups, and most don't make any special claims of being "elite" or "true" SM organizations. In particular, I would urge you to be extremely skeptical of anyone claiming to be a "true master" or to practice the "one true form" of SM.
Remember that a bit of bragging on a man's part is often a normal part of dating behavior, so let him talk -- and listen carefully to both what he says and how he says it. How long has he been in the community? How many meetings, parties, and other events has he attended? What relevant books has he read? Has he ever given a presentation at an SM club? If so, did he get invited back? Has he ever served a term as an officer in an SM club? If so, how did most of the club members feel about him by the time his term was over?
What are his opinions about others in the community, and his view of their opinions towards him? Dominant men often have strong personalities and strong opinions, and thus often evoke strong reactions. Therefore, it would be relatively normal if he had a bad view of a few people in the community, but does he have a bad view of virtually everybody? (By the way, notice how quickly, frequently, and intensely he voices negative opinions about others. That itself can be insightful.)
It would also be relatively normal if he (correctly) believed that he had a few enemies in the community, but does he believe he is being widely shunned, or even conspired against?
How many friends does he have? Does he at least get along with most other dominant men? How do the dominant women in the club feel about him? Does he get along with most submissive men? In particular, does he have any close, deep, ongoing friendships?
When out on a date with such a man, notice how he treats the people in service jobs. Remember what's sometimes called the waitress test: Notice how your date treats the waitress -- because that's how he's going to be treating you in six months. As one submissive woman remarked about how her (now ex) "Master" treated such people, "I figured it out. He's not a dominant. He's a rude asshole."
How does he now feel about the women he used to be involved with? If he has a low opinion of one or two of them, that's relatively normal, but if he claims that all of them were lying, unstable, bitches, it's time to get worried.
Check out his sense of humor, as this is often deeply reflective of the person. Be wary of the dominant who cannot laugh at himself.
(By the way, another submissive woman of long and somewhat world-weary experience has concluded that there is also a strong inverse relationship between how many titles a man awards himself and how good a dominant he is. Remember that fact when you meet someone who wants you to address him as Master Top Daddy Lord Sir.)
Tip Six: Know that "malicious warnings" occur.
The SM community is made up of human beings, and human beings can be both ethical and unethical. While most people in the SM community are pretty ethical most of the time, there are lapses. This community, unfortunately but predictably, has its full human share of personality conflicts, political feuds, bitter feelings following failed relationships, and so forth.
While the community does try to warn newcomers about genuinely dangerous people, understand that this warning process is usually not well organized, usually lacking in "due process," and often not very objective in how such warnings are made. It is therefore, unfortunately, subject to abuse by unethical people. (Remember that there are at least two sides to a story, and the guy may not even know an unflattering "story" is being told about.) Therefore, I advise you to take an unsolicited warning with a grain of salt.
Let's say that you are at a club meeting and having a conversation with a dominant man who seems decent enough, but after your conversation with him someone else, whom you barely know, warns you that the man you were talking to is an evil, unstable, battering, substance abuser who kicks his dog and votes Republican. What should you do?
First, discreetly ask around (or simply listen as people talk). How many other people agree with your self-appointed "helpful friend's" assessment? Is there any history of a personality conflict, and/or of a political feud, and/or of a failed relationship between the two of them? Do the members of one particular clique seem to thing that the guy in question is a creep but the rest of the club members feel OK about him?
Second, try this test: Ask several women who seem fairly stable and objective to name some men that might be good for you to play with, and see who does and does not make their lists. How do those lists compare? What reasons are given for the selections and exclusions?
Third, again, give it time. Personality always emerges over time. Give him enough time and, sooner or later -- and it's usually sooner rather than later -- you'll be able to judge quite clearly for yourself whether the guy is a prince or a frog. (You'll know something important about that helpful friend, too.)
Tip Seven: Beware, especially, of the person who tries to isolate you.
Perhaps the single biggest "red flag" that a prospective male partner might be abusive or otherwise toxic is an attempt by him to limit your access to information and discussion about what are and what are not considered appropriate SM practices, ethics, and relationships.
This can sometimes be a bit difficult to determine because, as I mentioned, the competition for new females can sometimes be intense; therefore it's understandable that a man might want to arrange for you to spend a significant amount of time just with him to see if he can form a relationship with you. (And let us remember there is a decent chance that such a relationship might very well be a wonderful thing for both of you.)
Try this test: Dating realities being what they are, it's understandable that a guy might not want you to spend much time with other guys (indeed,it's a harsh fact, but many men won't bring a woman to an SM club meeting until their own relationship with her is firmly established), but how does he feel about your spending time with other sources of information?
If he strongly opposes your discussing or learning about SM from a source other than him, beware! If he doesn't want you reading non-fiction books about SM, or looking over web sites about SM, or attending presentations given by SM clubs, or hanging out with other submissive women, or in any other way "corrupting" yourself with such ideas of "false SM" when he is willing to bestow upon you the honor and privilege of learning "true SM" (from him), get out of there!
On the other hand, if he gives you books to read, points out web sites and other internet resources, takes you to various SM-related presentations, and -- in particular -- puts you in contact with other submissive women, stick around for a while.
Tip Eight: Seek, especially, the advice and companionship of othersubmissive women.
I increasingly believe that the first resource a novice submissive woman should be referred to when she comes into the SM community is a support group for submissive women -- preferably a group whose members meet face-to-face at least once a month. Several SM clubs have such a group, and more are starting them.
There is usually a tremendous amount of collective wisdom and perspectivein such a group, and a novice submissive can learn a great deal very quickly. Probably the only big limit would be a "no setting up play dates" rule at the meetings. If a woman makes an offer to you, during such a group meeting, such as, "you know, a few play dates with my wonderful Master (and maybe me as well) would teach you ever so much" I suggest that you quietly decline. On the other hand, as you meet many other submissive (or switchable) women, you may find that you have a particularly close rapport with some of them, and these women can become some of your best friends.
Hopefully there will be many such women in the group, and they will come from a variety of backgrounds, and not all be members of the same group, clique, or club (other than that one). Among other things, this is agreat place to check out a dominant's reputation. If most of the women in the group think he's a good guy, that's one sign. If most of them think he's a jerk, that's another sign. (In both cases, try to get specifics as to why they feel that way. What, exactly, are the things he did or didn't do that were so wonderful or so terrible? Opinions unaccompanied by facts aren't worth much.)
Tip Nine: Explore.
Your first year of involvement in the SM world is often a time of tremendous personal growth and change. You will likely have many new experiences, meet many new people, and see many new sights. (Being into SM allows you opportunities to wear some truly wonderful outfits, too.) In addition to exploring your submissive aspects, you might also find that you have some dominant aspects to yourself.
(A many "submissive" women are not exclusively submissive. Many are more correctly called "switches," and they at least occasionally enjoy taking the opposite role. This is also true of many "dominant" men.)
Also, you will probably have a chance to take a closer look at issues such as bisexuality and non-monogamy. I've found that at least half of the women in the "relatively heterosexual" section of the SM community are at least somewhat bisexual, and a large percentage of the couples are other than entirely monogamous.
You will also likely have a chance to explore many different SM-related practices. For example, you may have had fantasies of being tied up, and you'll likely get a chance to explore that. You may also get opportunities to explore activities such as spanking, whipping, using clamps, dripping hot wax, and so forth.
One bit of advice: It's common to find that you will come to enjoy a broader range of activities over time, and that some (but not all) of the activities which at first held little interest for you, or perhaps eventurned you off will become enjoyable. There's a saying: "Never say never."
On the other hand, there is a proper time and place to explore. Trust your intuition. If doing something feels really right, then doing it probably is right. On the other hand, if doing something distinctly feels wrong, then doing it probably is wrong. In particular, don't rush into anything blindly. Never let some "expert" talk you into doing something if doing it doesn't feel right. There is no rush about doing any of this. The truth almost always emerges over time, so give yourself that time.
It can be insightful to play with several different partners as you explore SM, but you have to go about it carefully. This is true even if your ultimate goal is to find, and be monogamous with, "Master Right." As always, take your time, get to know the other person fairly well, and negotiate carefully before you play. It can be useful to keep the "NTA test" in mind: How do you feel about theidea of being "naked, tied up, and alone" with this person? By the way, one great feature of play parties is that they allow you to the chance toplay with a new partner in relative safety.
Notice how things are developing over time in any relationship you may establish with a dominant man. While every relationship has its ups and downs, its successes and failures, and its rough spots and smooth spots, the overall trend should be a good one. If you basically feel happy and,over time, generally feel happier with your partner and your relationship, that's a good sign.
On the other hand, if you basically feel unhappy and, over time,generally feel unhappier about your partner and your relationship, that's a bad sign -- a very bad sign. If you're unhappy and getting unhappier, get some help or get out. (One novice submissive woman, who was miserable in her relationship, asked me "every time he learns that I like something, he takes it away from me -- even the pleasure of my giving him an orgasm. Is it supposed to be like that? I didn't know I knew so many different ways of saying "no." She didn't stay in that relationship much longer.)
Tip Ten: When the proper time comes, help educate and orient new submissive women, and others.
Interest in SM is growing rapidly, and the demand for realistic information is growing accordingly. Don't be too surprised if other people, when they learn of your interest, start asking you for information and advice. This may start happening long before you feel ready to start giving it. Don't worry too much. The generally agreed upon principles are fairly well known, and it's not difficult to refer people to good sources of information. (You may quickly become a pretty good source of such information yourself.)
Remember that in a very real sense, there is a fierce competition, almost a war, going on between the "good guy" educators and the "bad guy" predators for the "hearts and minds" of the novices, particularly the novice submissive women, and that the stakes are very high -- sometimes as high as life or death.
The "good guys" always need more team members. Please join when you're ready.
Many excellent resources existand I can't possibly include them all. I'm going to deal with this problem by listing a few that are sometimes called "gateway resources" because they are resources that lead to many other resources. I recommend you look over as many of them as possible, and see which ones feel like a good match specifically for you.
- "SM 101: A Realistic Introduction" by Jay Wiseman (me) published by Greenery Press. I wrote this book with the specific intention of its being the first book that a novice might read. It is a fairly comprehensive introduction to SM, and includes an extensive resource listing of other recommended books, clubs, and additional resources.
- Greenery Press. Greenery Press publishes "SM 101" and more than a dozen other books dealing with relationships and sexuality matters -- especially as they pertain to SM. In particular, after you've thoroughly read over "SM 101," I recommend you carefully study "The Bottoming Book." For more information, including many useful articlesand links to other resources, check out http://www.greenerypress.com/ on the web. To get a catalog, send a legal-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope to Greenery Press, 3739 Balboa # 195, San Francisco, CA 94121.
- The Society of Janus. Located in San Francisco, this is one of the oldest SM education and support groups. Their activities include educational programs, discussion groups, and parties. They can be reached at http://www.soj.org (another website with many excellent articles and links) or by calling 415 985-7117.
- San Francisco Sex Information. These people offer an excellent telephone information, advice, and referral service (but not phone sex). They can be reached at http://www.sfsi.org or at 415 989-7374.
- The internet newsgroup soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm. This is alively, ongoing forum for the discussion of many different aspects of SM (or BDSM, as it's more frequently called there). It also contains announcements of many national and local events.
- Your local stores. Your local erotic boutique or leather store can be a first-rate source of information and support. There are often books and items of equipment for sale there, and sometimes there are "in-store" presentations as well. There is often also a bulletin board that lists upcoming local events.
- Your local SM club. This is a prime resource. There is no substitute for getting first-hand, face-to-face information and advice, and some clubs have absolutely world-class experts among their members. By the way, some areas also have more commercial enterprises that put on SM-related classes. Your local group will know which such enterprises are good ones. They can also steer you to informal discussion groups that meet occasionally in local restaurants; these are often called "munches."
- Your local submissive women's support group. Such a group may exist either formally or informally. (One of my goals in writing this is to urge the formation of more such groups.) There is probably no safer, more useful, source of information, perspective, and support than the counsel of your "sisters" as you explore this wilderness.
My best wishes to you in your explorations.
[end of Ten Tips essay]
Related Article on Dating and Cruising Safety
- Some Notes on Safety for Meeting On-line and Off by Ambrosio
- Ten Tips for the Novice, Single, Heterosexual, Submissive Woman by Jay Wiseman
- Thoughts on Safety by Mistress Constance
- Safecall Guide and Outline by Sir Bamm!
- Ask the Therapist: What Do I Do about a Dangerous Top? by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
- Playing and Staying Safe by Gloria Brame
- Safety 101 by Screamer
- Sexual Offender Registries are a helpful -- but imperfect -- means of separating the dangerous predators from the safe kinky folk. (Caution: Exclusion in the database is not proof that someone is harmless just as inclusion is not absolute proof that they're dangerous. Also, there are different types of sexual offenders. Someone who had sex with his 17 year old girl friend when he was 19 is not as dangerous as the man who abducted and raped numerous elementary school children when he was 35. But if you confront a sexual offender about his inclusion on the database and ask for his account, don't accept his explanation of the crime without verifying the facts. Criminals tend to lie.)
- The Texas Attorney General's Information on Stalking at http://www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/stalking.shtml