In this issue we talk to “Peach,” a young woman in a serious romantic relationship with her male partner “Sir” (not their real names). For the last six months or so, they have been active participants in the BDSM community, in particular through a male-female dominant-submissive (D/S) relationship. For the purposes of this conversation, we are using her “sub” name and his “dom” name.
DISCLAIMER: The following interview contains discussion and links that are of mature content.
Hi Peach, thanks for making the time to do this interview!
What attracted you to BDSM?
I’ve always been a really headstrong person, so I think being in BDSM kind of helps me find another part of myself that’s a little bit more submissive or a little bit more willing to listen.
Was the choice of being involved in BDSM a conscious one between you and your partner?
Throughout our relationship, I think it’s constantly a topic that we’re conversing about. It started with your typical rough sex, I guess, and then it just went on from there. It’s like, “Oh yeah, we’d like to experiment with this and that and power play and stuff,” and it’s only until we start researching about [BDSM] and reading about it, that we got full on [involved].
I also think why [BDSM has worked out well] between the two of us is because there’s a part of our personality that we want to better. For example, Sir wants to be a bit more assertive or not as passive, and I want to be not as stubborn and clear my mind a little bit. So [BDSM] is like a medium for us to actually do it. In a way, it’s a kind of therapy — that’s what attracted me to it. It’s a chance for us to actually exercise these things that are lacking in our personalities, you know.
Did you notice those ‘deficiencies’ in yourself or in each other?
Both, but it’s more on self-reflection.
I told [Sir] initially, “You can be really passive [in that] you don’t have an opinion and just go with the flow,” and he responded with, “I’ve always wanted to be assertive [since] as a middle child, [usually] I don’t really have a say — so this is [a really great opportunity] for me to become a little bit more head-on, especially [if it benefits] my career.”
And for me, as the youngest child [in my family], I can be a little bit of a brat!
So it’s definitely a flaw we see in ourselves and in each other. [In that way,] it actually helps with the relationship as well.
Can you describe a little bit of what you are like as a submissive?
I asked this to Sir — since I’m curious to know as well — because when I’m actually [being] a submissive, I’m not constantly thinking about how I’m acting; I’m just doing it.
He said that I’m very quiet and I don’t really talk a lot and I’m constantly, I guess, hand-and-foot waiting over him. Just super quiet, super subdued — not me, basically!
What’s Sir like when he’s dominant?
He’s very strict and very assertive. He just takes control and takes charge. Because he’s actually very talkative and silly and kinda an idiot sometimes [in real life], when he’s a dominant, he’s a lot more aware of what he’s doing. It feels like he’s almost calculating in the way that he is doing things.
Let’s talk more about the specific details of BDSM life.
Is there anything as concrete as a physical contract when you’re just starting out?
Yes. A lot of submissives and dominants have contracts because not every submissive and dominant are in a romantic relationship; so a dominant can have a few submissives, not only one. So [the community] does differentiate [between] submissives and dominants who are in a romantic relationship and those who aren’t, and contracts are a lot more important for those who aren’t necessarily in a romantic relationship.
We actually do have a contract, just to outline things that are a hard no-no for us and things that we’re willing to try.
How did you and your partner determine the boundaries of your relationship?
[As part of our contract,] there’s this checklist of different fetishes [which lists] what we’re willing to try and what we’re not willing to try. Soft limits would be things that we’re unsure of but might try — depending on the other person — and hard limits are an absolutely no.
Has there ever been a situation in which a hard limit no longer became a limit?
Not as of now. Soft limits, yes; but not hard limits.
Was it a matter of trust that allowed the soft limit to be removed?
Yes, and I think we also evolve as individuals, especially on the subject of our sexuality — on how much we’re willing to push ourselves or want to experiment in things.
I think we’re both pretty experimental people. If you’re not open about it and you’re not comfortable in bed together, then there’s no point in trying [out] new things. You’ll just be uncomfortable.
How do you start a scene?
Note: ‘Scene’ is the community term for when a BDSM situation is in action.
We usually have this “half-half” thing when we start [our scene], where we’ll be half in our role and half in our [real] selves, and over time, we’ll get deeper into [the scene].
It also depends [on what we’re doing]. If we’re just doing [purely] physical stuff — that could mean anything from impact play to force play — that would only take 1-2 hours. [The physical role-play] can’t take forever! It’s also very draining, but I don’t think it’s as draining as the psychological [role-play].
Sir’s next to me, and he just said, “It’s a quicker recovery [after] impact play” when compared to the psychological role-play.
For the longer scenes, which is more about the psychological role-play, do you and Sir have a narrative to frame the situation, or is it more of a dom-sub spin on your everyday lives?
It’s mostly a spin on our everyday lives. We don’t have a certain narrative. He would outline to me what we would do tomorrow [for example]. That’s why we do it on weekends, mostly, from Friday to Monday. Because if it’s during the week… Like, we gotta do our shit, you know! I can’t exactly be at school and asking him what I can or cannot eat (laughs)!
How long do these scenes usually last for you and Sir?
It depends on the couple. We’re in a semi-24/7 relationship where half the week we’re vanilla and half the week we’re in the scene. For us, it’s usually 2-3 days, because it [can get] very draining. And then you have after-care sessions, which is what we really need to be [back to] our real selves, since it can get really difficult to go back, instead of staying as “Sir” and “Peach.”
Can you describe a little bit about what the after-care sessions are like?
A lot of cuddling (laughs) and a lot of making sure that it’s all just play!
One of the things Sir does would be that he has to look into my eyes and say, “Okay, you’re not my sub anymore.” And there’s this ritual where we have to look into each other’s eyes and say, “Okay, we’re stopping this.” We can’t just be like, “Okay, we’re done.” Because it’s hard to get out of [the scene], especially if you’ve done it for more than 1-2 days.
What’s the longest you’ve done a scene for?
5 days. That was very difficult, and that required at least a couple of days’ worth of after-care.
Did you and Sir intentionally go for that long?
Sometimes when [the scene] is going really well, it just goes on. But now, I think, we have a strict 3-days-max policy, because when we reach the 3-day threshold, it’s very, very difficult to get out of the scene. You’d rather get out when you still know yourself a little bit.
When you’re constantly giving up your decision-making [abilities], or your agency to someone, it gets very difficult to get it back all of a sudden, and you don’t know what to do.
Do you go through a different after-care ritual if it’s just a purely physical scene?
It all depends on how we feel at the time and who’s more affected [by the scene], whether it’s me or him. Usually it’s me, as the sub.[In BDSM,] we have this thing called “sub drop” or “dom drop,” which is what happens when things start getting a little too much for the sub or the dom. One of us can become really quiet or really sad, or contemplative, and then the other would have to be really careful, to just get us [back] to our baseline or standard selves.
How long have you gone without a scene?
When I’m overseas [is when] it’s probably the longest. But even then, we are sometimes in a scene when I’m abroad. But [the rules are] much more relaxed. So it can be a couple of weeks, but definitely not a month or so.
Do you miss it?
Yeah, I do. Because sometimes it just comes out. Sometimes that part of us just comes out naturally, and we’d ask the other person if they want to entertain it. If they do, we go with it; if they don’t, then we’ll just slowly get out of it.
Let’s talk a little bit about the BDSM community.
What is it like being in the community, which has both misconceptions as well as taboos associated with it?
It’s interesting. You know for sure that [some] people are not going to understand [the appeal of BDSM], so I try not to talk about it that much or reveal too much about what I’m or we’re involved in. If I do have to talk about things that are specifically BDSM-related, it’s to people who are actually in the community as well.
Do you think BDSM attracts people who are more willing to experiment sexually?
I think it attracts all kinds of people, but there is a spectrum and there are degrees to it [in terms of BDSM participation]. How do you really define rough sex [anyway]? You can turn to a page in any issue of Cosmopolitan or Vogue or whatever and spice up your sex life by using more restraints or bondage or impact play — and by then you [have already] crossed a threshold into what I guess is the official BDSM universe.
For us, it’s not just something to spice up the bedroom. It’s a part of us. It’s a lifestyle.
There’s a lot of conversations around this sense of tension between the community’s commitment to respect and what is, at its core, activities that run counter to that commitment — at least on a surface level.
How do you reconcile that?
It depends on the individuals involved. But if you don’t have respect for the submissive, then you’re just a psychopath!
Obviously, BDSM covers a lot of things — so we [do] have a clear line between who are just doms and subs and who are just slaves and masters. Usually a slave-and-master relationship has more leeway [in terms of] ignoring safe words. Personally, I don’t understand that; how do you respect yourself or your submissive — whether they’re just a sub or just a slave —when you’ve treated them like absolute shit? For me, I won’t get involved in that kind of [slave-master] relationship, or anything to that extreme.
The way that Sir and I do it is that we only push ourselves to the point where we can still pull back and go back from [the scene]. We’re not just doing it for the sake of the extreme.
I totally get your point, because [BDSM] can be borderline abusive. If you’re ignoring your submissive’s safe word, and you’re acting like you own them in some way, then I think it’s just… I don’t think you should be in this kind of lifestyle. I think if you’re prone to being abusive, then you shouldn’t be in BDSM.
I’ve done some reading on the topic, and there are a lot of dominants like that. If you have anger issues, this lifestyle is not recommended for you, because you’ll end up taking out your anger on your submissive and then they don’t know if it’s appropriate — whether they’re in a scene or the dom’s just taking out his anger on them. You no longer know [what’s a scene and what’s not]. The lines become really blurred.
I think some people consider BDSM participants to be at some level deceiving themselves. In fact, if you don’t know yourself completely, you shouldn’t be part of this; if you don’t have self-control, you shouldn’t participate.
Yeah, absolutely, because part of being a dominant is knowing the line between control and pushing someone to their breaking point!
There’s this thing called “subspace,” where if a dominant has pushed a submissive so much that they themselves are ignoring their limits — this happens a lot in impact play — they don’t even feel pain anymore and they’re in this trance state, almost like being on drugs, where they don’t know where they are and don’t know what they’re doing, and that’s something that’s really dangerous. A dominant has to acknowledge and recognize those signs, and stop immediately. I know plenty of submissives who have reached that state! It’s almost like an opening of the third eye kinda thing.
Are they not worried about it?
They should be! Especially if they’re in a really extreme physical scene — where you’re bound and gagged and all of that — and if they’re constantly telling the dom to go again and not saying any safe words, especially if they’re being beaten to a pulp… Then it can get really dangerous.
You still have to be self-aware, even when you’re a submissive.
I think it’s also really important — for me personally as a feminist — that I have to constantly consider what I’m involved in [in BDSM.] Because it can almost feel like, “Oh my god, what am I doing [at times],” because I’m letting a man tell me what to do and I’m listening to whatever he says! We [do] have a set of rules, in that I’m supposed to serve him and respect him and all this — but at the same time, if any lay person heard what I’m saying, they’ll think, “Oh my god, do you not have any say or self-respect for yourself? Are you not the modern woman you claim yourself to be?”
But I think, in a way, the submissive has a lot of say, because the safe word is on me, ultimately. I’m definitely a lot more interested in the psychological aspect [of BDSM.] Don’t get me wrong, the physical aspect does help with the psychological aspect, but I like playing a role — acting; for once, just giving up.
What are some resources that are helpful for those interested in BDSM?
Tumblr’s been great because there are a lot of blogs [about BDSM culture], especially for women who identify themselves as a feminist and a submissive. [Somebody] did some research on this topic, apparently, and a lot of submissive women are tertiary-educated, self-identify as a feminist, et cetera.
There’s also this really good Tumblr called Dominant Life, and it has a lot of rules and articles — especially if you’re a new dominant or a new submissive, or if you’re new to the BDSM community in general — so it’s been a really good resource. The author basically collects resources and talks about SSC (safe, sane, and consensual) or RACK (risk- aware consensual kink) — all these different terms — and explains them to you.
There are also Tumblrs that describe those who participate in BDSM — in particular force play — who are also sexual assault survivors. [Force play] is really useful for them, as it’s a way for them to go back to their experience and reclaiming that moment; doing what they would have wanted to do. You had no control at the time, but now you know that you’re in a safe space and a controlled environment. It’s kind of therapeutic for them, I think.
Let’s talk about some misconceptions regarding BDSM culture.
You probably get this a lot, but I feel like I need to ask: what are your thoughts on the Fifty Shades series?
Us in the community absolutely fucking hate Fifty Shades of Grey! It’s opening up conversations about BDSM in the mainstream, but in a totally wrong way! The public sees it like you must have a problem and that’s why you’re into BDSM, like, “Oh my god, you’re so sexually deviant!” And that’s not the case at all [in reality]. People can be completely comfortable with themselves — and they should be — when they’re doing these things.
You wouldn’t think you’re into it, because automatically when people are confronted with BDSM they only think of leather and whipping and kinky boots and PVC. I’m not saying [these elements] don’t happen because obviously, they do, but that’s not just what it’s all about. I think the more that I’m in the community the more I realize that it’s more psychological than sexual.
That’s not to say that I’m pro everything in the BDSM community. I fucking hate the subset of DDLG (Daddy-Dominating-Little-Girl); so you call them daddy and stuff and you pretend you’re 7… It’s just really messed up. [I also hate] racial play. That usually happens between white men and black women. The women pretend to be slaves and the men pretend to be their masters. It’s also pretty messed up.
There’s a wide spectrum in the BDSM culture, and some things we [as a couple] will never accept — and in a way, that’s probably part of our hard limits as well.
If the mainstream perception of BDSM is more three-dimensional and less about ‘sexual deviancy’ or kink, do you think people would be more okay talking about it — or is secrecy part of the appeal of BDSM?
I think secrecy is definitely also part of the appeal. Being part of something [that is] like a secret society of sorts… It’s definitely nice to know that you have a secret, and that when you’re going out, you know that you’re a submissive and he’s a dominant — but nobody else knows. That’s definitely exciting.
Thank you so much for sharing the story of your relationship with us and our readers!