A perfect caption. The man in the portrait holds a gloved hand to his face, a dusting of dark blond fur surrounds a mouth agape in uninhibited lust, the eyes almost hidden from the brim of an oversized muir cap pulled down his forehead, a chicly thin leather collar secured around his neck. For an ostensibly vanilla dating site, it's hard not to notice his choice to advertise himself to the world through both the filth of a femme leather switch, and the sweet innocence of smiling broadly next to Magic Kingdom mascots in Orlando. I have no choice but to roll some cosmic dice and slide into his messages.
I'm one of those enormously lucky people to have not only found a partner as kinky as I am, but to have found one through a vanilla dating site, to have hit it off from the first meeting, only later disclosing the extent of our respective penchants for all things rubber and rope. Given how commonly one reads a profile coda paraphrasing "looking for my Prince Charming", searching for partnership across Recon and its more "innocent" counterparts remains an elusive goal for many kinksters. My own variation on the phrase used to be: "Meets good, mates betters, anything more is a very welcome bonus."
I've had my share of vanilla dates and partners and bringing up mainstream flavours of kink to one will usually raise no more than an eyebrow, a question, and maybe even some semi-enthusiastic indulgence. Disclosing more niche kinks, however, is a minefield. Do you save a fetish for urinal play for the third date? When do you bring up your Locktober ambitions? How do you explain pup play to a cat person?
Whilst on a second date and waiting for our order to arrive in a restaurant, I dropped the ball and shared some pictures. Then, on request, a video of what I'd been up to in my last session; visiting a dominant friend, unidentifiable under layers of silver duct tape, save for my mouth, in which a rubber phallus was harshly inserted, as an off-camera machine directed it, piston-like, into and out of my willing throat. I waited to see if he'd be sickened, confused, indifferent, or thrilled. But all he gave was a smile, and a growl of affirmation to indicate muted excitement.
Sexual chemistry matters, even though it is neither enough to sustain a relationship alone, nor something that will remain as fresh in the thousandth fuck as it did in the first. So, what happens when you find yourself invariably attracted to a person with little to no interest in your kink, and where communication and comfortable disclosure alone aren't enough? At least some of the men I've dominated and submitted to over the years are now little more than empty squares on my friends lists, having deactivated their profiles in response to finding love outside of the kink community.
In the same way stories of "sowing wild oats" sustain themselves in romantic literature, I wonder if there are people here who prize their sexual twenties. Resolving to sub their way through a series of encounters, in the belief that they'll eventually defer to more normative sexual conventions, in settlement with mortgage and marriage. Giving your kinks up is perhaps only really possible, or at least painless, for those whom kink is a short-term experiment, rather than an explicit lifestyle. It's a lot harder to throw away a wardrobe's worth of rubber gear, or the contents of a carefully arranged playroom, and it's harder still to untangle the social connections built up through years of friendship. The greater your investment, the greater the need for any potential partner to be as equally invested.
That investment may be enthusiastic participation, or it may be wholehearted acceptance and some model of consensual non-monogamy. For my part, my limited openness with my partner is an acceptance of the idea that perfect compatibility is, at best, a juvenile fantasy, and at worst, a detriment to building healthy, fulfilling relationships. Opposites may attract, but it's almost impossible to find someone who matches not only your kinky tastes, but your corresponding role in dominance and submission. Alongside this, sharing a series of perfectly aligned goals, interests, ideals and beliefs, not to mention the ability to withstand the dynamic professional, financial, or social pressures any relationship will be subjected to. There has to be a suitable compromise between our right to pleasure and community, balanced against what we owe the person we come home to, and how much we can handle the opposing poles of boredom and envy.
Good sex, even great sex, does not guarantee a good relationship. It's easy to be blinded by the brilliance of sexual compatibility, at the risk of neglecting those elements that solidify and secure a longer term. Much like other social media platforms, seeing profiles here display such delicious vignettes of marital and sexual bliss can feel both aspirational and unattainable - it's so often luck that brings two compatible souls together, and even then, that doesn't take away from the work necessary to sustain a connection over time. Like learning a new language, or perfecting an intricate craft, even the most beautiful and filthy-seeming of relationships requires hours of fairly mundane practice.
My limited viewpoint means I can't speak to the experience of people in polyamorous relationships, or those with enforced power dynamics - my partner and I are both switches, and any power play we exercise ends the moment the cuffs are unlocked. Nor can I fully understand the experience of bi, or ace kinksters in the pursuit of love and connection. But that kind of lesser-known compromise - where you not only negotiate the terms of your partnership with the person, but accept the limits of your own dreams and fantasies, find comfort with the ordinariness of so many connections, all without letting your own happiness and growth become afterthoughts - isn't a challenge I face alone.
I remember when I told my partner I loved him for the first time. Basking in the afterglow of rubberised sex, we'd showered up and I'd settled myself in cotton underwear on his bed. He sat on the floor, eyes fixed on a small mirror balanced on a tiny table ahead, the soft light in the bedroom highlighting the beads of sweat decorating his forehead, as he set to the task of removing his contact lenses. Facing away from me, in the most unexceptional of moments, I said it.
Fast forward a few years, and I type these words out by lamplight, as he toils away on a project demanding he work into the early hours. I'll brew us some Earl Grey, bake some vegan chocolate chip cookies, and occasionally mimic a legendary lipsync in his vicinity to lift his spirits. He'll smile at me, and with blessedly tired eyes bring me in for a thankful hug.
And tomorrow, I'll make him my bitch.
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