When I started reading about BDSM, I kept running across the advice that both partners need to be able to trust each other and, in particular, the sub needs to be able to trust the dom. No problem, I thought. Whatever we might get up to, at least I’ve got the trust angle totally covered. Hadn’t I just become aware of how trustworthy he was and how deeply I trusted him? Sorted.
We continued to have sex and then started experimenting a bit with BDSM, and the backsliding I’d feared never materialized. Over the years I had gotten so used to being the source of bedroom difficulties that I was a little surprised to finally discover that Wolf had some issues of his own, but they’d never come up before because we’d never been in a position to test his limits. So, yes, we ran into a few glitches, but trust was never a problem, at least.
Fast forward to my vacation with Gawan, whom I felt I knew better than any of my friends and most of my family members. It was novel, an adventure. I was confident that he wouldn’t pressure me to do anything I didn’t want to, although I was less confident that I wouldn’t pressure myself.
Then we finally — finally! — met up and travelled to our little slice of sunshine, thousands of miles from whomsoever might think badly of it… and all my hard-won sexual open-mindedness seemed to vanish in a puff of diesel exhaust.
I was nervous, on my guard. The things we did together (well, other than the spanking and flogging) were things that I’d first done with boyfriends way back in high school, a fact that left me feeling simultaneously vaguely comforted and slightly unsettled. OK, so I’m no libertine, but the extent to which my prudishness was resurrected took me by surprise.
There were so many variables on that trip, some directly relevant and some merely coincidental, that it took quite a while for me to finally parse my feelings about it all. It didn’t seem to be about lack of chemistry, or fretfulness about non-monogamy. But whatever it was, I felt torn, and my head and my heart were clearly in disagreement about something. Eventually, it occurred to me that the vague anxiety I’d felt around Gawan seemed really familiar: it was, in fact, a lot like how I’d felt with Wolf before the epiphany.
Hear that? Yeah, that’s the sound of the other shoe dropping. Ugh.
Wasn’t I done with that particular variety of angst? What the hell was that epiphany about anyway, if not this? I was sure I hadn’t been mistaken about the source of my sexual shame, but what else was there?
I retraced my steps and recalled that pre-epiphany realization about trust. Perhaps it was more important than I’d thought at the time. So here’s a theory: What if the epiphany hasn’t actually dislodged my maladaptive script about sex and it’s still actually in place? What if I fundamentally feel just as vulnerable about sex as I always have? What if it was my profound trust in Wolf that allowed me to create an exception just for him? If Wolf was the only person I was sexual with, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish between an exception for him and “100% fixed”.
From my own experiences, I know I feel comfortable establishing a relationship and having the sex happen later. Living vicariously through the writing of other sex bloggers (non-fiction works so much better for me than does fiction for this purpose) has given me the opportunity to get a sense of how I’d react to activities outside of my range of experience. But even when the accounts are full of glowing post-coital bliss, I’m certain that I’m turned off by one-night stands, sex with a complete stranger, BDSM play with someone I hardly know, swinging, or leading with sex while hoping for a relationship. I’m ambivalent about the idea of friends with benefits. All of this is consistent with my theory about my sense of vulnerability and the role of trust, so I feel like I’m on the right track.
If I’m right, it would mean I couldn’t fuck someone without having first established a deep trust, and that I’d have to go through this trust exercise with any boyfriend.
Such as Gawan. We’ve spent less than two weeks together in person, so my trust in him is based mostly on about a year’s worth of words, typed or spoken, which is a good foundation but it’s also primarily an intellectual experience. Trust doesn’t seem that efficacious when it’s just in my head — I need to feel it in my gut.
So now the question is why do I need so much trust? Why do I feel so profoundly vulnerable? In other words, what am I afraid of?