Not so long ago Amy of Lipstick & Ligature wrote a post called “Some random musings on being a woman, being dominant, and being human” where she made a really interesting point:
1. We’re great about talking about how rough submissive men have it and while that’s true I wish there was more said about the fears of dominant women. I’m afraid I won’t be good enough, or harsh enough or tender enough. I’m worried I’ll be too greedy or not forward enough. I don’t want to hurt you but I do.
I have to admit I do find it a lot easier to talk about how rough submissive men have it than about the things I personally struggle with. Feeling vulnerable is not exactly my favourite thing ever, and vulnerability doesn’t always mesh well with my usual writing process of getting angry about something and ranting until I feel better. But dominant women’s struggles are important, and I feel like a hypocrite for saying dominant women should be allowed to be vulnerable while acting like it’s not okay to be vulnerable on my blog, so I’m going to try to even things up a bit.
One thing I really struggled with before the ridiculously adorable boyfriend gave me a whole lot of practice was accepting service. On the surface that sounds really silly. I mean, how hard can it possibly be to let someone do nice things for you?
Pretty hard, as it turns out. Particularly for women, given all the cultural programming we get around being nice, sweet, and helpful, not lazy, bossy, and demanding. There’s also the way our culture vilifies women who don’t “do their part” as high-maintenance, or users, or generally not good enough. Have you ever noticed that basically every example of a woman who lets other people do more work than she does is either evil or royalty? Evil can be a fun fantasy, but I’d like to get through my day without feeling like a huge jerk and I highly doubt I’m going to be crowned queen of anything any time soon. It’s actually profoundly uncomfortable to just sit still and let someone bring you a cup of tea if you’re busy worrying about whether he only refused help to be polite and secretly thinks you’re a huge bitch for not insisting on pitching in and oh god you’re a terrible girlfriend and he’s going to leave you for someone who’s not too lazy to make her own damn tea.
It’s also easy to feel like you’re just using someone if you don’t fundamentally get what service submissives enjoy about serving. On an intellectual level I understand that it feels good to do something nice for someone you’re close to, but I just don’t understand the kind of relentless, freakish niceness the boyfriend shows me. Seriously, it’s just weird 🙂
In some ways identifying as dominant may make the insecurity even worse, since “real” doms are supposed to be perfectly sure of themselves at all times and good at everything. If you can’t even accept service and feel comfortable, how can you even call yourself a dom? God forbid we have feelings and insecurities like real people.
So, given all the good reasons women have to be uncomfortable accepting service, and the total lack of non-villainous examples to follow, how the hell do you get comfortable letting someone serve you?
I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, but what helped me get a whole lot better was practice, starting small, and positive reinforcement. Anything is going to feel a little weird the first time you do it, but once you do it a few times the weirdness starts wearing off. In my case the boyfriend has made me so many cups of tea that it actually feels pretty normal to let him do it.
Starting small is also really important. No-one’s going to feel perfectly comfortable letting her boy spend hours helping her move when she’s not even used to him making her a simple weeknight dinner. Something like a cup of tea or being asked if you’d like anything from the kitchen while he’s up is a lot easier to get used to.
Finally, positive reinforcement is probably the single most helpful thing you can do to for someone who wants to learn to accept service. You don’t necessarily have to say the words “I really love serving you”, but you need to show that serving makes you happy.If I’m certain that someone enjoys making themselves useful, it’s a lot easier for me to accept that it’s just the way they show affection, not me using them.
Showing a little disappointment if she turns down service can give her an excuse to accept, but use this one sparingly unless for some reason you want her to associate offers of service with feeling like a jerk no matter what she does. I mention this one only because it worked on me. As it happens, I can totally be steered if you make even a token effort to be clever about it. Using the ridiculously adorable boyfriend as an example again, early in our relationship he successfully guilted me into letting him do nice things for me. I had a nasty cold, and normally I hate letting people see me when I’m sick but the boyfriend sounded so sad that he couldn’t do anything for me that I gave in and let him bring me some chicken soup and apple juice. It helped that I felt like death and really, really wanted that apple juice, but still. This was when I lived a 15 minute drive away from him and he rode his bike everywhere, so it took some work to convince me to let him help. When he got to my place and made me some soup he was just so happy to help me feel a little better that I couldn’t feel like a jerk for letting him bike across town.
After nearly three years of practice, I feel pretty good about accepting at least some service. But it took a lot of practice, so don’t feel bad or like you’re not cut out to be a dom if you’re not instantly perfect at letting people serve you. It’s perfectly normal to feel weird and like you might be a bit of a jerk at first.
Moderation note: after what happened last time, I want to be entirely clear that this is a post about how women struggle with accepting service. Derailing comments about how men struggle too and men are obviously more important and why aren’t we talking about men?! will be deleted.