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Feel Better About BDSM


    There is often a great deal of confusion surrounding BDSM. People have desires and fantasies they want to act out, but feel guilty or uncomfortable with the idea. It can turn into a difficult situation to approach with your partner. With BDSM, the distinctions between excitement and discomfort often become blurred. Without guidance, confusion and miscommunication can lead to frustration. Luckily, Good Men Project is here to advice! Sex advice gurus Eli and Josie received a reader question along the same lines. They answered with help from Noah Brand on how this man should address his conflicted feelings towards fulfilling his girlfriend's S&M fantasies.

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    Dear Sexes: My girlfriend just recently told me that she’s into S&M and she knows that I had a master/slave relationship in the past. What she doesn’t know is that it’s not sexual to me. It pulls up a very ugly and repressed emotion/mentality. I want to do whatever I can to fulfill her fantasies, but I’m pretty uncomfortable with mentally accessing that part of me far enough for ME to enjoy it. Is this a common feeling? How safe is it for me to try this out? And when can I call it quits, having done my duty?

    She Said: First and foremost, the way you just phrased that to us is probably the perfect way to explain your feelings to your girlfriend. There’s a chance that she may just want to explore the S&M side of herself, and isn’t even sure if it’s going to be something she needs, in which case you’d be off the hook.

    There’s also the chance that she thinks that somewhere deep inside, because of your former relationship, that you need some element of BDSM to be fulfilled. To me, this is a case of you two just needing to have an open-hearted conversation.

    However, we wanted to reach out to our friend, Noah Brand from The Good Men Project and No Seriously What About The Menz, who knows more about less-mainstream sexuality than we do, in order to get you a more knowledgeable response. Hopefully between the three of us, we can help!

    He Said: I know this question is about S&M, but forget about that aspect for a moment. Your girlfriend wants to try something romantically/sexually that you’ve tried in the past, aren’t particularly into now, and sort of object to personally. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you do, and you should not force yourself to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Additionally, your girlfriend would (most likely) not want you do anything that compromised your values, or even personal tastes.

    On the other hand, you’re in a relationship, so compromise (often) and communication (always) are required. Sit down with your girlfriend and discuss your fears, goals, and ideas about this scenario. Make sure you get your thoughts out, and do your best to listen carefully. The two of you may have more common ground than you think. And the more open you are with each other, the better chance you give each other to succeed.

    Now, a few words from our guest expert. Noah - take it away.

    Noah Said: It’s hard to give specific advice without knowing specific details, but if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that you’re worried about being an abusive top. (You are the top in these scenarios?) Rather than just being a fun kinky thrill for you, you’re worried that this kind of power play taps into a darker and more dangerous part of your psyche. If that’s not actually your problem, please write in again and explain more and we’ll tackle the question again.

    To answer your question - that’s not all that uncommon. Most conscious and responsible tops feel some level of tension between the enjoyment of power and the fear of abusing it. Sounds like in your case that tension’s a bit higher than most, but that’s not necessarily an insurmountable problem. The solution is the solution to literally almost all kink problems: communication, limits, and boundaries.

    First and foremost, talk openly with your girlfriend about her specific fantasies and your own feelings. Do the things she wants even overlap with the things you fear doing? Did you just start to answer that question without asking her first? You say she doesn’t know about your repressed emotions? I say she probably should. Talk about these things very specifically and very honestly, with minimal “Oh, you know what I mean” or “I guess just anything” or phrases like that. The kink worksheet created by the great Cliff Pervocracy is a good starting point.

    From there, you need to set clear limits and boundaries, and you must be clear that you are BOTH allowed to set those. You have every much a right to say “I’m not comfortable doing that to you” as she does to say “I’m not comfortable having that done to me.” It will help if you can do some trust exercises: the trust needs to go both ways. You need to know that she can use a safeword if she has to, that she can look out for her own safety and well-being, and she needs to know that you will respect her safeword - that you won’t go too far.

    What I’m saying is that you may be wrong about not being able to explore this side of yourself safely, and you may also be wrong about not being able to enjoy power dynamics on a sexual level. With communication and boundaries, you can potentially construct a space for yourself and your girlfriend where you can both have a good time, and even if it doesn’t work, you’ll both be able to understand why, and learn from the experience without getting hurt.

    Unless, of course, the nature of your problem is that you’re thinking “Communication? Boundaries? Safewords? I don’t want to do those things!” In which case you were right the first time, you’re a shitty top and should not play with anyone.

    Cross posted with permission from She Said He Said. Reprinted from The Good Men Project.


    Josie is a writer living in Los Angeles. Though she has a tight circle of female friends, she's always been a guy's gal. This advice column came about because her best girls kept begging her to ask her guy friends for sex and dating advice on their behalf. She realized that the advice they offered was honest and direct--and completely different than the advice women offered each other.

    Eli is an indie-rock musician living in New York City. He loves his football and hockey as much as the next red-blooded male. But when it comes to relationships and love, he's really a true romantic. His friends (female and male) are always asking him for his dating/relationship advice due to his genuine caring, perceptiveness, and honesty. He always calls it like he sees it, and usually sees it very well. 'Like' them on Facebook.
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