I can’t believe I am writing to you, but my fiance has insisted. He says he has certain needs and he feels it would be best if I knew about them before we got married. It actually sounds to me as if I have to gratify his fantasies, or he will break it off with me. I don’t want that, I love him. But I can’t understand the things that I see on this website. I can understand the appeal of a woman dressed in a sexy way—all men like their lingerie and I have the usual club attire with a latex dress and high heels. But it never occurred to me that somebody I love would want to be tied up or hurt, the thought makes me cringe. What can I do to save my engagement?
Hooboy. My heart goes out to you. It is disorienting and sometimes even frightening or disgusting to look at explicit images of a form of sexuality that doesn’t turn you on. You have your own idea of what is sexy, and certain expectations of your husband-to-be. You probably had devoted a lot of thought to what your life would be like with him. And now it’s been upset by his confession.
But I do think it is much, much better for him to tell you about this now. In my own life I have often encountered people who got divorces because their spouses could not satisfy them sexually. This is especially messy if there are children involved. When people are incompatible, it is better for them to agree to be friends and go their separate ways.
Listen to me, now. Don’t just go away and cry. A sexual fetish for being tied up, spanked, or whatever else your husband needs is usually not a casual thing that he can do without to make you happy. If he marries you and has no outlet for these interests, he will either become a bitter and distant man, or he will start seeing women he can pay to dominate him. Is that what you want for yourself? Do you want to be with someone, make love, and then always wonder if it was enough to really satisfy him? Most BDSM people like vanilla sex as well, but we are not emotionally stable if we can’t express this side of ourselves.
I can say that I have sometimes managed to introduce women to BDSM who had never thought of it as a possibility before. Their imaginations get stimulated, they are curious, and they are willing to try it. But there is a big difference between a newcomer who takes to it like a fish released in water, or the person who thinks maybe they could pretend to do it if they only had to do a little and they didn’t have to go through that ordeal very often.
If you fall into the latter category, your husband will be able to tell that you aren’t really enjoying what you are doing. (If he can’t tell, he’s an ass, and you should divorce him anyway.) The little bit of play that he gets won’t be enough. But to you it will feel as if you have done a lot for him, because you have exceeded your own preferences to try to oblige him. That won’t work either.
From your letter, it doesn’t sound as if you want to see what BDSM feels like before you make up your mind. You don’t express any fantasies about it or curiosity about what you are seeing. It’s just turning you off. But I may be misjudging you. If you are curious, maybe you should ask your fiance to do a little bit of a scene with you so you can have a real experience instead of judgments.
Once again, the success or failure of that experience is based on your own sexuality. If getting tied up makes you wet, if having him spank you makes you want to come, then you are in the right place. But if you are uncomfortable and feel out of place, don’t inflict that on yourself. Stop the experiment before you feel even worse.
I wish I could hand you a magic formula to either take away his fetish or create the same needs in you. But such things seem to be hard-wired or learned/socialized at such an early age that they cannot be changed. Just don’t blame yourself—or him. This is nobody’s fault. This may be the most important decision you’ll ever make—for yourself and for your children. Be selfish. Consider your own needs, and put them first. You deserve a relationship that is satisfying for you, whether kinky or not.
Patrick Califia is a therapist in private practice in Northern California. His practice includes internet consultations as well as face-to-face psychotherapy. He is a prolific author who has published widely about BDSM and sexual politics. Patrick’s books include Macho Sluts, Sensuous Magic, and Public Sex: The Politics of Radical Sex.
This column is not intended to offer medical or legal advice. It is for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you need medical or legal advice, see a doctor or lawyer!
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