Negotiating power roles during sex play

Dear Sex Educator,
My stats are as follows. I’ve been in a relationship for four years and counting, I’m heterosexual, and we’re both very sexual and very attuned to one another’s needs. We have few, if any, inhibitions. Sounds perfect, right? In most ways it is.

However, I find that as a woman I’m faced with a conflict between my desires, my social conditioning, and his desires. We engage often in light bondage and dominance in addition to enjoying very traditional hetero sex – both are always fun. Our stumbling blocks are as follows: He loves to be dominated, and penetrated by our strap-on – and once I’m doing it, I love it too, and invariably have an orgasm. But I NEVER want to initiate, which makes it kinda tough to be a dominatrix.

I think, though, that I only THINK that I don’t want to initiate when really I do. With other partners I have often been the leader sexually, but usually I’m leading my partner to a place that they didn’t know they wanted to go to. With my current partner, he knows where he wants to go and I know what he wants. Somewhere in me, there’s a stubborn edge that refuses to give him exactly what he wants and often what he needs. I worry that I just can’t satisfy him.

This problem on my side eventually leads to a sexual stale-mate: He won’t give it up until he gets what he wants, and I won’t give it up until I get what I want. Then comes the question of “What exactly is it that I want?” I find traditional Marvin Gaye “grooving” sex great, but don’t usually get to climax before he does. However, in my mind that kind of sex (with orgasm) is what I want. In reality, what really does it for me (judging by the way my body responds) is giving myself over to the person I trust and love – but that is exactly what he wants too. So is it possible that one of us is clearly the “top” in this relationship, or are we going to have to find some democratic way of sharing the role? Do people do this? I’m paralyzed by the possibilities but refuse to let sex and intimacy be the loser.

Hmmm … lots of good stuff in your question. Good for you for not wanting to give up your intimacy and sexuality! I want to separate your question into a couple of different pieces to try to answer it fully.

First, the piece about bondage and dominance play. I want to suggest that it’s possible for bottoms to control things as much as tops; in fact there are many “dominant” bottoms in the world. In your situation, you may want to set up the dynamic where, as the bottom, his job is to draw you into the sexual scenario with him. He may need to try all kinds of seductive tricks before you are ready and willing – all as a part of his role as your bottom. That way you are still in control, ultimately. That makes you the perfect dominatrix!

You will want to negotiate the boundaries (as you should before any power-play encounter) so that he knows what is acceptable, and what isn’t, and what will happen if he breaks the rules. Your scenario can be as simple as his lighting a candle in the room to indicate that he’s interested in sex tonight, to cooking dinner, giving you a massage, and slowly seducing you. He can take this as the ultimate bottom challenge, and you can relax and let him take responsibility for beginning the scene, and setting you up to take it over.

Next, I want to encourage you to re-frame your concern about not satisfying your partner. Truthfully, it is not your job to satisfy him, it is your job to consensually join him in mutually agreed-upon play that has the outcome of satisfying both of you. Since you know he likes to be submissive, you can play with that knowledge. It is up to both of you to make sure that you know what the other wants and likes, and then ask along the way to be sure that pleasure is being had by both of you.

Because he likes to be dominated, you can play with that, and withhold giving him what he wants until you are ready. If the game gets too intense, he should have a way to let you know that so you can re-negotiate the terms. You do have to be willing to compromise so that you don’t get completely stuck.

The third part of your question addressed what you really want, which is a satisfying sexual encounter culminating in orgasm for both of you. Your dilemma, it appears, is that during “traditional” sex you don’t have an orgasm before he does. I am assuming, by the way you wrote that, that you mean that sex ends with his orgasm, rather than continuing on to where you both are completely satisfied. It sounds like you are worried that your desire to lie back and enjoy him pleasuring you is somehow in conflict with your view of yourself as the top. However, part of his job as bottom can include making sure you enjoy as many orgasms as you want before the two of you start an activity that would result in his orgasm. His role as bottom is to allow you to be able to relax and feel safe enough that you can let go with him.

Now, you can decide that you’re going to suspend the power play, and just take turns making sure each of you completely enjoys your sex together. It’s a choice you get to make, and there is no right way to be. The two of you can agree that you are the Top all the time, or that sometimes you play with that, and other times you just trade control within your sex play. Regardless of the power dynamics you choose to play with, you do deserve to have as many orgasms as you want, when you want them, even if that means you have to take control of that yourself.

So negotiate the boundaries of your roles, and decide how much they will be a part of your play. Then both of you should take responsibility for your own pleasure, not putting expectations on the other to perform for you. This will help you relax and be playful. Then see how things go, and keep talking. Relationships continue to be alive as long as you are working on things and talking about them.

The Sex Educator