The Joy of Submission
Fifty Shades of Grey is fiction, but the kinky sex in its pages is very real. One ambitious, assertive woman describes how she became a submissive and why it's not as fringe as you might think.
By as told to Erin Zammett Ruddy
Photo Credit: Brea Saunders
When I first met Doug on match.com in 2005, we were 26 and living in Washington, D.C., both recently out of serious relationships, both working long hours at jobs we loved. He had a big position with a top financial firm; I headed up public relations for a health-care nonprofit. On our first date, although we only kissed, he told me I wouldn't be the same when he was done with me. I knew he was right I just didn't know what it meant. Neither of us did.
Doug was tall with dark hair and eyes, but it wasn't his looks that unglued me. A recent business school graduate, he was smart, confident, and witty. We'd talk for hours about politics and sports, and though he commented on how amazing our chemistry was, how amazing I was, he held back emotionally. Control. He had it, always.
We dated for a few months and had intense if, in retrospect, vanilla sex. There was a magnetic pull between us, only the attraction swallowed me. I became uncharacteristically needy, and it pushed him away.
Months went by after we'd broken up, but I couldn't get Doug out of my head. I began having fantasies about him like I'd never had about anyone. I wanted him to overpower me. I'd heard about BDSM bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism but didn't know much about it. Curious about my new feelings, I did some research online. One site showed women being bound and whipped. Another showed a girl on the floor with a man standing over her asking who she belonged to. The answer: Him, of course. It all turned me on, but I felt confused. Wasn't it weird that I, a proud feminist, could enjoy something so degrading? I would never stay with a man who hurt me. So how could I enjoy this? Still, I kept exploring.
Within a few clicks on another popular site, I found Doug's profile. I was initially shocked, and yet it made perfect sense. That was our connection. I messaged him: "I didn't know you had this side of you. Wink, wink."
At first, we casually texted, catching up on each other's lives. He'd finished an Ironman triathlon, and I'd started working on a business plan to venture out on my own. Our shared interest in BDSM came up slowly, in e-mails and on the phone. He'd joke about making me scream, and I'd say, confidently, "Bring it." Or he'd forward articles or videos of BDSM research he'd done. I learned that BDSM is about more than rough sex. In a D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationship, you have to trust each other emotionally, mentally, spiritually. While a Dominant, or "Dom," may have the "power," he can only go as far as his submissive, or "sub," will let him. It's not abuse; it's consensual. Doug would text, "How do you feel about a belt? Could you trust me to do anything to you?"
Almost a year after our first date, Doug came to my house to try BDSM. We settled on opposite sofas, and I was a fidgety, nervous mess. What if I didn't like the pain as much as the idea of it? Then Doug stood up, towering over me, and grabbed a fistful of my hair. He ordered me to perform oral sex, but that first time wasn't really about sex, it was about seeing if I'd be obedient. He used a belt, leaving welts on my back, thighs, and bottom. I could hear him pacing behind me, but I never knew when the lick of leather was coming. It hurt like hell, but I was utterly turned on. I had no control. And I loved it.
Afterward, I cried, overwhelmed by how raw it all was. We met up a couple more times for similar sessions, but then I pulled away. I was freaked out. Not by the pain, but by how intense my feelings were for him.
Nearly two years passed before I saw him again. We had both gotten married, gotten on with our lives. My husband and I renovated our house. I traveled to India and Australia with friends. And my business boomed. Meanwhile, I tried to suppress this thing between Doug and me. When Doug texted that he was moving to Boston for a big promotion, I agreed to meet him for a drink. I told my husband, with whom I share a very honest relationship, that I was going to see an ex for closure. But as soon as Doug and I laid eyes on each other, that dark connection was still there. He walked me to my car, and we kissed. Then he told me to take off my pants. I obeyed. We were right back in it. He left for Boston with his wife the next morning. And just like that, our long-distance, extramarital D/s relationship began.