Doms and Subs and Emotional Vulnerability

So Xiao Yingtai replied to my post on Submissive power at great length, and for this I am grateful (especially as it was costly in terms of physical health for her to do so). She pointed further to the latest post by Ferns @ Domme Chronicles (Ferns and I are regularly in correspondence with Yingtai in twitter, and the referral was by way of Ferns and Yingtai’s twitter conversation about the topics).

And I realised that any response would be longer than a comment. This is that response.

The first observation is that I see myself on both sides of Fern’s post: both the needy “afraid” person and the “selfish”, demanding person. Yingtai commented on Fern’s post, “I swear I see myself on both sides” and this intrigues me because I’m approaching the question as a Dominant, Yingtai as a Submissive and yet we both see in ourselves the parts of the equation.

I’m going to pull together several quotations from a few bloggers who have written more-or-less on this topic in the past week or so, then I’ll add a passage about my reactions and responses to it all.

~ * ~

Ferns wrote:

The issue I had with him was the same issue that I had with vanilla men before him, and that was that he was scared of me. I don’t mean ‘quaking in his boots’ kind of afraid. I mean that he was a natural pleaser (which is exactly what I wanted), but some men are not just pleasers, they are *scared* of not pleasing.

In her comment @ Domme Chronicles, Yingtai wrote:

I have been thinking lately that one of the most important things I trust a dom to do is to take what he wants, because I notice that one of my biggest insecurities is that he’s just doing something to make me happy. And of course that’s counter-productive.

As I wrote in conclusion on the two “Icons” posts, the same traits that inform my Domliness also inform my Submission as well.

Yingtai (in reply to my post):

A lot of it depends on whether the dom inspires trust, but I think there’s also a big component of confidence in yourself, believing that you can take what the dom throws at you without throwing up your shields, not being afraid that you’ll hate yourself for turning into a puddle. That’s the kind of strength and control I want as a sub. If it’s a non-issue for you, then you’ve already got it, and I think you’re lucky.


What I want is a man who is firm in the shape of himself, who has a strong sense of who he is and what he believes, who is opinionated and wilful, who is confident, knows his worth, and who *keeps* that even while he lays it all down at my feet and offers it up for me to do with as I please. He may hate and loathe displeasing me (as he should!), but it doesn’t make him *afraid*. I need him to be emotionally fearless.

Me (in my post about humiliation):

Connected with this is the overlap with the first type: when something at which I feel accomplished, successful, or in which I take pride, is disparaged, or judged as worthless or a source of scorn and ridicule. It’s about being made to feel stupid, clumsy, or untalented (which is why it’s under this category) but it’s also about someone projecting their judgement, in ways where perhaps I have less confidence in myself.

The humiliation post also answers the passage from Yingtai’s comment, with the reference to Pandora Blake’s, and my, awe at Nimue Allen’s humiliation kink.


My role was not to express my own opinions but to hold up a mirror, to play the part of the worst sort of conservative, whorephobic, misogynistic, slut-shaming, body-shaming prude so that Nimue could rise above it. I was fascinated by the power these words held to make me feel so uncomfortable – and even more fascinated to discover how aroused they made her.


Without breaking my own self-image, to have such views projected against me or demanded of me, such humiliation makes me feel unsexy and de-aroused.

~ * ~

Yingtai broke her comment on my previous post into two parts. The first (from which I quoted above) is about the play, and the other is about the relationship, of D/s and emotions.

I’m going to point first to a piece by Kayla Lords called “The Problem with Being Emotionally Open“. I can’t really pick a handy snippet or soundbite from it to illustrate my point, because it’s structured in a very narrative way. But here’s the part that sounded terribly familiar:

Even our lifestyle friends see the happy, smiling version of my submissive self. I may get quiet or get lost in my head, but when I snap out of it, I’m smiling and joking. I’m sweet and proper. I’m whatever I’m expected to be that makes my Daddy look good.

But there is an emotional side to my submissive nature. I am moody – not necessarily good or bad, just up and down.

Remembering that the same forces drive my Dominance, as also emerge when I submit! Lords talks about her “innate people-reading skills” and lord knows that, if I have any people-reading skills at all (which i very much doubt, but I’m probably better at it than I believe I am) then they certainly aren’t innate, but rather the result of very hard work to overcome traits that may or may not be Asperger syndrome.

Lords discusses how being emotionally open can also be perilous, and calls to mind again the “storms of life” image of emotions that I used in my previous piece. It speaks directly to the relationship challenges as well as the play challenges of being an emotional kinkster.

Back to Yingtai’s remarks. In the first part, she uses an analogy of carrying something that’s slightly too heavy: “Because you’re not really in control, you can’t hand it over in a controlled way.” I turned this over and over in my mind and I realised that when it comes to my emotions, no matter what the situation, no one is ever in control. If I sub to someone that person has a lot of control over physical conditions, and can also provide emotional stimuli with verbal, vocal or body-language, but he or she is never 100% in control of the effects those stimuli have (although obviously it is possible to make reasonable guesses, especially when one has a great deal of experience with a partner). Returning to the sailing metaphor I used before, the seas can be calm sailing or turbulent storms, but at no point is anyone in control of the currents and the wind. And only I am responsible for how I handle them.

Yingtai casts her remarks in her 1st part in terms of goals for how she will be; it seems daft to debate that aim and the only compassionate thing is cheer her on, “go, you!” But when she writes, “If it’s a non-issue for you, then you’ve already got it, and I think you’re lucky.” It’s only a non-issue for me because I can’t see any way for me to achieve it. And the above, and the previous post, is really all about how I come to that conclusion.

Ferns made a follow-up post yesterday, titled, “On being emotionally fearless“. As a top, I find this passage very familiar in some ways. But I wouldn’t call myself “rational” as a top; “clear-headed” is more like it, just as I described in my previous post.

He would shyly reveal himself, offer small things, or bigger things, reassure me that he wanted it, was ready, was waiting for me. Each time he did that, he was saying “Here’s another piece of me” and I could either pick it up and step into that space towards him, or I could hold back because I still had a million walls up. He was the fearless one: I was reluctant and fearful. He was the emotional one, I was (as always) rational and reserved.

If I didn’t step up, he didn’t withdraw, he didn’t sulk, he didn’t close down: he licked his wounds and went ‘okay then’, and he took the hit with grace and sweetness. Then he would shyly try again when he felt ready. And all of this happens in a relationship where he knows I enjoy him and want him. I’m not playing at pretending I don’t. But he also knows that there are walls he has to break through and he is willing to keep going there.

More interesting is how I think I would handle this as a Sub. Up to a point, I think this is ideal, and what I tend to do – except that rejection hurts, and not in a fun way. Ferns assumes that, “all of this happens in a relationship where he knows I enjoy him and want him. I’m not playing at pretending I don’t.” I’m not sure I could sustain it even in that relationship. I am quite needy.

Which leads to the second part of Yingtai’s comment:

I didn’t describe just how dependent and hurt and defensive and angry I got in my previous relationship, but if I had then maybe you would agree that I had to move away from 100% non-consensual dependence ALL THE TIME.

This line troubled me because it feels like Yingtai is saying that it is an “all or nothing” scenario. If you are not 100% self-reliant then you will inevitably end up being 100% emotionally dependent. Life being what it is, and having treated me as it has, I have a deep-rooted lack of trust that I can rely on others. So my neediness is not wholly through emotional lack of self-reliance, but rather, a desire not to need to be.

But the next line, “What I want is the ability to say, ‘He’s ignoring me right now, but that’s okay.'” really rings true for me. It’s one reason why email is so much better than texting for me: I am more okay with waiting for a reply and not feeling ignored that way. But this is a general feature of my emotional development: the ability to recognise, “oh, you have other priorities, that’s okay.”

Joshua Tenpenny recently gave a talk where he said his master had worked to make him less emotionally vulnerable to him, and he had welcomed that because while it felt “very amazing” to be so vulnerable all the time at the beginning, it had also been ‘chafing’.

I thought about the above and wondered what could make me less emotionally vulnerable, and I thought there were two answers: either not caring (in which case, why bother with the relationship?) or greater confidence in position, which is to say, greater confidence that I am viewed consistently positively by my partner. In effect, in order to be less dependent I have a greater dependence.

I want to leave the final word to Kayla Lords, though. She captures here the reality for me, Dom or Sub (though I have no partner to be the calming influence as yet):

What I feel in the moment is not necessarily the reality of the situation, and I would be better off allowing my Daddy to lead me until the emotions swing to the positive side.

It’s not all fun and games. It’s not all kinky fuckery. And I am one emotional babygirl. Yet, through it all, he still loves me. Even though I don’t always make it easy.

About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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2 Responses to Doms and Subs and Emotional Vulnerability

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Love to D/s Strength | Valery North - Writer

  2. Pingback: Sub power, Domly Vulnerability | Valery North – Writer

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