Ignoring the label, and dealing with what’s inside

Okay, here’s a little quiz. Don’t worry, it’s just two questions.

She is an attractive, middle-aged woman who has a controlling streak. She keeps her husband frequently locked in a chastity device, and often does not allow him to orgasm even when he’s out. This goes on for weeks or months at a time. He keeps her pampered by massages and footrubs, brings her coffee in the morning, and usually cooks dinner. In turn, she compels him to wear a strap-on when they have sex, so that she, herself, does not need to forgo sex the way that she likes it.

Is this woman:

A) A Dominatrix?
B) The head of a Female Led Relationship?
C) A kinky superfreak?
D) A vanilla soccer mom?


He is an attractive, middle-aged man who frequently wears a chastity device, and is denied orgasms for long periods of time by his wife. He gets up early in the morning to make coffee for her, and works hard to keep himself in shape so she can have appropriate arm candy for her frequent social functions. He massages her back and feet, and often wears a strap-on to have sex with her, so that she can be satisfied the way that she prefers. Naturally, he doesn’t complain about not being allowed to orgasm, and will often tell her that he is willing to go as long as she wants him to, that it’s entirely her decision.

Is this man:

A) A submissive?
B) A bottom?
C) A guy in a Female Led Relationship?
D) A vanilla guy with a kinky streak?

What did you answer? More importantly, how do you think those people would describe themselves?Dymo2

The people above describe themselves as D in each case. Surprised?

This was inspired by a discussion with Ranat — the details of which are best left to another day — and in the comments I wrote:

I’ve been told a few times that Mrs. Edge and I have a good femdom relationship, and I get categoriezed (for those people who tend to do that kind of thing) in the malesub lists. Yet, Mrs. Edge would never characterize herself as a Domme, and the only real kink that we have is chastity and OD play. I end up with quite a few non-kinky readers who are simply reading my blog for a little tittilation and a little bit about our relationship.

And frankly, I dont’ *feel* like a kinkster, so I don’t particularly classify myself as one. Not that I wouldn’t mind, it’s just that in the context of our current relationship I don’t feel particularly kinky.

Yeah, I know, right?

Ranat responded:

Based on your writing, I’ve honestly really never thought of you as submissive, but rather as into chastity and involved in kinky/BDSM/submissive man/dominant woman discussions. I’m still actually a little unclear about if you identify as submissive or not (if I went rummaging through your archives long enough I could probably find the answer). Your case also highlights the fact that not everyone who is into A is necessarily into B, C, D, K, and T. Sometimes people are just into A and it doesn’t imply a label or category unless they choose to identify as that.

I finished up with this reply:

I don’t self-identify as submissive. Over the years I’ve topped and bottomed and switched around, and at one point I probably did self-identify as submissive, but now I just tend to see myself as being generally kinky.

Mrs. Edge had a much wilder streak when we were dating, and interestingly does not see herself as kinky at all, let alone dommish. She has, though, made it clear that she prefers to be in control and has never expressed any desire to be restrained.

I mention this because MyKey commented on an article in which I wrote about some particularly kinky dreams that I typically have after several weeks of orgasm denial. He had read my above comment elsewhere, and after reading my post, he couldn’t resist ribbing me a bit:

OMG, that was very very hot!

But… I seem to recall a recent thread somewhere where you said you wouldnt call yoursef submissive. That sure as hell is one submissive dream my friend :)

See, I no longer know what to make of this. I know that in the right context, i.e., should Mrs. Edge be more overtly dominatrixy (that is, within the context of my perception of what that means), I probably would be more submissive (within the context of my perceptions, etc.). But from my thinking about this over the last couple of years, I’m really not sure that I could define any way of being dommishy or submissivy without resorting to the cultural stereotypes of leather fetish gear and Gorean protocols.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit — but only a bit.

Mrs. Edge actually does seem to think of herself as a very ordinary, conservative, religious, middle-class, vanilla woman. So, how does she reconcile her kink for orgasm denial? Simple: she doesn’t. She doesn’t label it. She doesn’t think it’s kinky, so therefore, she isn’t kinky. My CB3000, the strap-on harness, the several dildos… none of them really register. Granted, she does realize it’s not quite in the center of the bell curve, but not far enough out to cause her to give it much thought.

I used to think that my wife was in some kind of denial (the psychological kind), or was perhaps sexuality-challenged, but now in thinking about how much some of us roil in anguish over our kinks, I’m beginning to see the wisdom in this. Like many of the people reading this, I have spent untold hours wondering what makes me kinky, why I like “unnatural” things, why I can’t just be happy having vanilla sex all the time. I wonder — often ruefully — why I can’t get some of those images out of my head. They aren’t all necessarily things that I want to do, but sometimes even having the ideas makes me wonder what might be wrong with me.

Not so, Mrs. Edge, though. On days when I’m feeling insecure (and yes, it still happens), I might ask her what she thinks of me wearing the device. It’s almost like I’m trying to elicit some negative reaction.

“I really enjoy it when you keep me locked up. Doesn’t that worry you?” I’ll ask.

“No, why should it? I like it, too.”

“Well, doesn’t it bother you that you enjoy keeping me locked up?”

“No, why should it? I mean, if you like it, too, then why would I even worry about it?”

Is it because she believes herself to be so solidly vanilla that she never gives it a second thought? Or is it because she simply sees it as “controlling” something (which she tends to do) but ignores the sexual component, so it seems like just one more item on her list? Or is it because she’s not the one who’s actually wearing the device or being denied, so she doesn’t see her life as being any different. I don’t know; Mrs. Edge is one of those E types, and is simply not given to introspection. Any conversation I’ve had with her ends up with her frustratingly simple pronouncement that she simply “enjoys having the control” over me.

Can it all really be just that simple?

About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
This entry was posted in chastity, Chastity & Orgasm Denial, Female Led Relationships, Fetish & Kink, male chastity, Marriage & Relationships, orgasm denial, Real Life, Sexuality & Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Ignoring the label, and dealing with what’s inside

  1. Ferns says:

    I love her attitude… “I enjoy it, it just *is*”. No hand wringing or labels… wonderful!

    I think the reason many people have the need to self-identify and do all that introspection is because they are seeking their counterpart, and to do that, you have to be able to explain to someone where your headspace is, as well as talking about things that you enjoy.

    You and Mrs Edge found each other in a vanilla context and have grown together into the relationship you have now, so it makes sense that ‘vanilla’ is the predominant feeling about it.



  2. Ranai says:

    I like Ambrosio’s approach.

    He applies it primarily to people new to kink/bdsm/whathaveyou. I think it’s useful in general.

    I propose to forgo the usual “What are you?” question and ask each other “What is it about BDSM which interests you?” or “What do you like to do?” instead. (…) the answers will be more interesting – and more informative.

    To which Mrs Edge’s and your interesting and informative answers could be… see descriptions at the beginning of your post.


  3. Most definitions of diverse sexuality are based on the definition writers’ idea of normality or what is usual. Apple’s Dictionary.app defines “kink” as “a person with unusual sexual preferences.” and “kinky” as “involving or given to unusual sexual behaviour.”

    I ask myself, unusual for whom? I conclude therefore that kink has been defined by those outside of it according to what they consider “usual”, which seems quite inappropriate to me. If you ask homosexual polyamorists, they might well define heterosexual monogamy using the same definition.

    Since your wife’s preferences are entirely normal and usual for her, I consider her identification with normality to be quite appropriate.

    As far as I know, most of the terms available for many diverse sexualities are those defined by those enjoying the bulk of representation. “Kink” is a good example of one of those. And as far as I know, there are only very few terms to describe many diverse sexualities which are defined by the people representing those diverse sexualities. “Polyamory” is a good example of one of those. So I’m not surprised that there are people representing sexual diversity who reject identification with unflattering and vague terms with prejudiced definitions.

    Words are a really huge part of respect and inclusion. I think it’s problematic that there are only very few terms we can use which are definitive, precise, and respectful, so I’d say that eschewing them is as good a solution as any, for now.


  4. gillette says:

    In my opinion, yes, it can be.

    When we’re involved in something and are OK with it, it’s normal to us.

    It often takes some thinking on my part to remember that the rest of the world may see me or you as “not normal” or requiring some sort of label. We’re just one flavor on a huge menu to me.


  5. ptathuk says:


    I agree with Lady Lubyanka particularly, here. I would go further by pointing out that labels are used by counsellors and psychiatrists to allow them to look up in a book things outside of their own experience, so they can offer some help. This would only apply to people seeking such help. If you’re not seeking help, why label?

    If you really want to describe to others what you enjoy, labels can be used as shorthand. However, the trap is that these labels can assume so many meanings over time, (to quote Lady Lubyanka: I think it’s problematic that there are only very few terms we can use which are definitive, precise, and respectful…), that they become meaningless. Far better to use plain English, and stay clear of the shorthand, labels and jargon.

    When all is said and done, the centrepiece of all this is a loving, respectful, fun relationship. Long may it continue.



  6. MyKey says:

    Mrs MyKey is somewhat similar

    She enjoys what she enjoys, its just fun. She isnt much for introspection and when asked what she thinks about kinky stuff she usually answers ‘its fun’

    Its taken a couple of years for her to realise and admit that she is dominant. She likes having her way when she wants it, she likes being able to ask to be pampered and have it done quickly. She enjoys being mean to me sexually. She knows these things. She even finally admitted she likes being in control and wouldnt want to go back to the way we were… But she still wont identify as a domme.

    She likes being called boss, that says it all…

    Personally I think by the non gorean black pvc definition, yes yours is much pretty a Female led relationship with some kinky elements.

    But words are dangerous things, they mean something different from one person to the next, one mood to the next.



    • Tom Allen says:

      Personally I think by the non gorean black pvc definition, yes yours is much pretty a Female led relationship with some kinky elements.

      MK, while we do have some elements of femdommery and kink, by no stretch of the imagination is this an FLR. I have no desire for Mrs. Edge to run other aspects of my life, nor does she (I think) have any desire to run them for me. We have a pretty good balance of who does what and when, and manage to discuss most of what we need (and want) to do without too many arguments. Nobody is in charge, and I think she defers to my judgment as much as I to hers.

      Frankly, neither one of us classify ourselves as FLR, nor would we want to.


  7. Elle says:

    Sounds like Mrs Edge is about as introspective as I am 😉

    I have to admit I still struggle with calling myself kinky or dominant. I think it’s because before meeting Boy Toy and actually getting into D/s and kink, whenever I’d hear those terms, I only had a vague idea of what they might mean, and that was something outside the norm. From the vanilla side, those people wearing black leather and wielding whips are a little hard to grasp… I was never curious enough to look it up, or it never occurred to me to question it.

    Now here I am, a few years later, locking my boy in a chastity device, fucking him with a strap on and doing all sorts of “not normal” things to him… They FEEL perfectly normal to me, I was eased into it, I’m doing them with someone I love and trust, and it’s a whole lot of fun. So I’m having a hard time connecting this fun, normal feeling stuff to the idea of kink I used to have, which was this weird shit those freaks in leather and latex do.


  8. ranat says:

    Labels can be so useful and so detrimental at the same time. Philosophically I’m not really sure where I stand. I use them for practicality’s sake some of the time, and go the more round-about way of describing what the label’s supposed to represent other times. A couple of times about a month ago I challenged myself to explain my sexuality to some people without using the BDSM labels or jargon. It was a really good exercise, but it did take much longer.

    At the upcoming KinkForAll2, Human Heliotrope is slated to talk about “Purity is Pointless: On Refusing Self-Identification.” I wish I could be there just for that, I think it’s going to be a fascinating discussion. The idea of rejecting self-identification feels very compelling to me, and yet I also resonate with ‘dominant.’

    If I had had a full understanding of how The Scene defines dominant, I might not have self-identified that way. Even though I knew about the images of leather, latex, and high-heels, my concept of ‘dominant’ and ‘submissive’ was shaped first by other elements. When I describe myself as dominant it means something completely different than when someone else uses the same word.

    Which brings up the point that self-identifying labels are subjective, not universal. Your relationship with Mrs. Edge might be the very model of FLR to someone else, but unless you self-identify as that, you’re simply not FLR.


  9. Mykey says:

    Haha, hence the danger of labels.

    My definition of flr clearly isn’t yours. I don’t identify the whole run my life thing with FLR, the most it means to me is a certain care over my wife that’s extends to doing stuff for her she appreciates, in a timescale that makes her feel cared for. Very different to being her knight for example.

    So no, I guess my use of the term for your relationship was a mistake, based of the presumption that you would know exactly what I meant by it.

    I confess that many of the years of problems my wife and I had, so much came down to an inability to communicAte clearly, limited by very different use and understanding of the same language!


  10. Tom Allen says:

    @Ranat & MyKey – The point is that for us, the term FLR has very different connotations, and frankly, ones with which we specifically do *not* identify (for example, see my next post “Cock Locking“). Yet, interestingly, I see that The Edge of Vanilla is often classified as an FLR or Submissive Male blog in other forums or blogrolls.

    On one hand, I do understand the frustration with being labeled. OTOH, I also understand the need for many of us to use labels as a kind of shorthand, simply because it makes it easier to get a handle on a situation. And yes, while it might be the *wrong* handle, labels can sometimes provide at least an appropriate starting point, as long as the users are aware enough to modify their perceptions as needed.


  11. Pingback: What We’re Expected to Be « beyond the hills

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  13. explorer3000 says:

    Great article!
    Newbies like me need guidance. Over time, people evolve their “kink” and find what works for them. Its infinite as life itself is.


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