Accepting Service

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.

14 thoughts on “Accepting Service

  1. “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.”

    I applaud you for this and I will say for myself personally I admire and find Dominant women who are willing to admit they feel vulnerable more intriguing than those who pretend they are all Dommly Mcbadass. I only wished more Dominant women would speak about their insecurities and feelings as much as there are articles and blogs on the feelings of submissive men and women.

    Respectfully,
    mysticlez

    • Aw, thanks 🙂

      I only wished more Dominant women would speak about their insecurities and feelings as much as there are articles and blogs on the feelings of submissive men and women.

      Me too. The thing that helped me the most when I first got into kink was finding a forum with actual dominant women on it, who talked like regular people who had feelings and insecurities and weren’t perfect at everything.

      I wonder if submissive people are more comfortable feeling vulnerable, or if you’re just braver 🙂

  2. Thanks for this.

    I always appreciate it when I can get a glimpse into the internal world that Dominant Women deal with. We hear about the whole “good girls don’t want sex” thing and how confining the social concepts of beauty can be, but I think this might be the first time I’ve heard someone take on this aspect of how we restrict the options available for women to accept service.

    I have seen this struggle, and not really understood what was happening. Early in our relationship, Mistress and I went to a tourist-y place and there was a lot of walking around involved. About halfway through the day, Her shoe started pinching and She had to sit down to rest. She mentioned walking back to the car to get Her other pair of shoes, but lamented that it was so far and She didn’t know if She would be in condition to do anything once we got there.

    It took a LOT of convincing to get Her to sit and wait for me to get Her shoes for Her. I think my clinching argument was something like, “There is NOTHING I would rather do right now than to love and serve You by getting Your shoes and relieving Your pain. If we go together, I will be so worried about You suffering that I couldn’t even enjoy holding Your hand. You can’t go on without Your other shoes, and I can’t go on with You suffering. If You let me go by myself, it will take five minutes and we will be back to enjoying our day.”

    After reading this, I understand why She struggled that day a bit better.

    • Ooh, I would have a really hard time with a situation like that. I would feel dumb for wearing shoes that pinched, and worry that I was wrecking the date by making my partner walk to the car and back alone.

      I think this might be the first time I’ve heard someone take on this aspect of how we restrict the options available for women to accept service.

      That’s really interesting, I just assumed other people had talked about this before.

      After reading this, I understand why She struggled that day a bit better.

      Yay! Glad I could help.

  3. Answering this from both sides as a male switch:

    As Jalan’s submissive, one of the hardest things for me to get used to was not helping with everything. Finally, she explained her reluctance in a way I could hear. First, she’s physically in much better shape/health than I am, so she’d prefer I save my strength for things she specifically wants my involvement in (like sex! but also like not falling asleep when we put on a movie at 8pm). But more importantly, I’m currently the sole breadwinner, so taking on the lion’s share around the house is one of her ways of feeling that she’s contributing in a way that registers in her gut, and I need to let her have that.

    As a sometimes-dominant, I’ve also had trouble accepting service. I’m a very gentle and giving man (as you talk about women’s enculturation), and it was hard for me to honor my partner’s need to be giving. I didn’t yet have a grasp on “asymmetric but reciprocal.” Moving away from service, I also had a partner with whom it didn’t work out because she got off on fear, and I was too gentle a top for her.

    In sum, I understand this is more likely to be a problem for a dominant woman, but not exclusively!

    • As Jalan’s submissive, one of the hardest things for me to get used to was not helping with everything.

      A really good friend of mine is very into service, and I bet he’d have the exact same problem in your shoes.

      taking on the lion’s share around the house is one of her ways of feeling that she’s contributing in a way that registers in her gut, and I need to let her have that.

      I think that’s a big part of the trouble I have accepting service. It took a long time for me to even start to understand that accepting service is contributing – it’s holding up my end of the dynamic.

  4. It’s also easy to feel like you’re just using someone if you don’t fundamentally get what service submissives enjoy about serving.

    THIS THIS OMG THIS.

    I’ve always known that I wanted a sub who would do things for me outside the bedroom, too. I’ve even entertained the idea of having a houseboy who just does chores for me and we don’t have sex.

    But I’m currently seeing a really awesome service submissive who identifies as asexual, and it is throwing me for a loop like whoa. I never consciously realized it before, but on some level I’d been assuming that all service subs are motivated by arousal, even if there’s no sex involved in their D/s dynamic. But this woman has come over and cleaned my apartment several times now (always after actively suggesting it several times; the only time I managed to ask her for help with something is when I threw my neck out and basically couldn’t move) and I know for a fact that she does not want me to give her orgasms and she won’t be giving herself any once she’s back home again. And because of this, I’m absolutely plagued by the idea that I’m “using” her and therefore a bad person.

    Basically, I can understand someone doing stuff for me because it fuels their sexual fantasies. I cannot understand someone doing stuff for me solely because it makes me happy.

    • If I could give a bit of insight from the other side, perhaps it could help…

      I don’t generally identify as a “service submissive” so much as I do “complete submissive.” There is a sexual component to my lifestyle (or lovestyle, as I sometimes refer to it), but that is only a part of it. As satisfying to my sexual nature as it is for me to give sexual pleasure, it is just as satisfying to my non-sexual nature to give non-sexual pleasure.

      To use cowgirl’s example: If I were aware that the woman I served wanted a clean house, and it caused her distress for it not to be clean, but she is unable to clean it; then I would be unable to fully relax until I had removed the source of her distress (i.e., until the house was clean). Cleaning for her is not only pleasing her – which is always a goal of mine – but it allows me to enter a mental space where I can enjoy her company better. It is FOR her, but I receive benefit from it.

      To put it another way, everyone needs to feel as if they are doing something important. I fulfill that need (in part) by doing things, sexual and non-sexual, that make Mistress Delila’s life better. Simply doing it is often enough, but when She praises me for doing something….zing!

  5. It was the same with my wife at first. It’s funny because tea was also the first thing for us as well. You remind me a lot of my wife, and I really like that. This blog is awesome. Thank you for writing it.

    Also, if your boy is anything like me, and it sounds like he is, he would have walked 15 miles in a snowstorm to bring you that juice.

    • Aw, thanks 🙂 It’s always nice to hear that people enjoy my blog.

      It’s funny because tea was also the first thing for us as well.

      Now I have this mental image of tea as the secret tool to help a woman discover her dominanance, and experienced submissive men sneakily initiating newbies into the mystery of the tea 🙂

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