KY SBDC - University of KY

Are you the Conan the Barbarian type?

by Sam Marx

M. wrote:

Any man who stumbles too deep into a Conan the Barbarian fantasy of taking his woman in hand based on ‘implicit consent’ runs a distinct risk of going to jail.

Yes, that's true; but for those of us who are looking for a Conan to love, it's also very sad. (And sad for the Conans of the world, of course.) There's no denying that we're currently in a culture that's at war with the very idea of male domination of women, and that makes things more difficult for dominant men and the women who love them. But even though the current climate of feminist political correctness tends to rob us of some romance, there's no reason it should be allowed to make romance utterly impossible.

A man should not engage in behavior that's likely to put him in jail, because putting himself in such a vulnerable and disempowered position is the very opposite of dominance. But for many of us, the requirement for explicit verbal consent is like a wet sponge that ruins the whole experience of being dominated; it makes it feel less serious and less real, makes it seem like something we could put a stop to any time we wanted. And for many women, what they want is precisely to feel that they have no control over it, that the man is in complete control at all times.

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So, even despite the consent requirement, there needs to be creative ways for the man to take charge of the process, right from the beginning, without waiting for any signals from the woman. But that should be done nonverbally; a bit of dominant behavior conveys a dominant attitude better than any words can. (And her conscious mind might be inclined to disagree with a verbal explanation of dominance; but a bit of dominant behavior can bypass all the intellectualization and summon up her physical and emotional submissive tendencies. For many or most women, it's much easer and more pleasant to submit to a man's dominant behavior than it is to discuss the issue; the latter can be embarrassing and lead to resistance.)

He can probe the woman's submissive tendencies with harmless dominance moves that put him in control, but which could not reasonably be interpreted as any sort of assault. He can hold her tight and pin her arms behind her back, while he whispers teasingly, “I just might not let you go, what do you think about that...?” Or if there's some minor dispute to settle (like, what movie to see), he can playfully tell her that they'll arm wrestle, and whoever wins gets to make the decisions. Or he could even deliver a light, playful whack (one only) on her rump, while she's standing up fully clothed. (Especially if it's in response to some teasing on her part, and he can tell her she was ‘naughty.’) When they're walking together, he can take her firmly by the wrist and lead her. Even slow dancing can be a way to emphasize that he's the one who leads, and she's the one who follows. I once had a boyfriend who would get up close to me, look down at me with a very piercing look in his eyes – but also loving and a bit playful – and just let out a low growl. It was a little warning to me that there was a wild beast in him; and I thought it was one of the sexiest things.

But not all women (even not all submissive women) will respond positively to the same dominance tactics, so it's important to be persistent by trying different things. Especially because some women who have extreme submissive tendencies exhibit that through resistance and denial. (Perverse, I know; but she wants to know that he's strong enough and dominant enough to push through her resistance and overwhelm her.) But if she doesn't seem to respond positively to any of it, or if she complains (in a non-teasing manner) that he's “too bossy,” then she's probably not the right woman.

If she does seem like she enjoys being dominated, then that can eventually be discussed explicitly. But here again, I think it's much better if the man takes the initiative. Don't spring it too quickly; let her experience his dominant behavior first. But if she does start to make teasing remarks like “yes, master” or joke about how bossy he is sometimes, then it's probably a good time to talk about it. But I think there are two very bad ways a man could choose to talk about it. One is to be very clinical and explicit, and the other is to seem too needy.

The former mistake would be something like, “You may not be aware of it, but some men, such as myself, prefer to be the dominant partner in a marriage or romantic relationship, and some women prefer...blah, blah, yada, yada.” Please. Don't put the poor woman to sleep with your detailed oration. The second error would be something like: “Gosh, I really like you a lot and would like our relationship to grow more intimate; but as it happens I sometimes enjoy being dominant, and I was hoping maybe that you might enjoy being submissive, at least sometimes, or perhaps at least you might be willing to consider trying it out...?” Sorry, but that's not dominance, that's whimpering and groveling.

Much better to first establish that she reacts positively to his dominance; even if that first requires overcoming some resistance on her part. (No, I don't mean forcing a spanking on her when she's yelling at him to stop. Nor do I mean being bossy all the time. I mean trying out a variety of dominant romantic behaviors and seeing what elicits a receptive response.) Then when her submissive inclinations have been established (or even if it's not, but he still thinks she might have potential), it's time to put that into words. Preferably this should be done in privacy, and at a physically intimate moment. But it's better not to phrase it as a question (which can seem kind of wimpy). Instead, he can state it as a fact that he has observed about her, or an inclination that he has somehow guessed she has. Such as, “You know, I do get bossy and pushy with you sometimes. But I also know that some women really like having a man in charge, and I'm guessing that you're one of those women.” Or, “Yeah, I guess I just have this macho ‘alpha male’ streak in me. But it seems to me like you're the kind of woman who can appreciate a man who knows how to take charge.” Maybe even add: “I find it very feminine the way you respond to me; and a woman who is truly feminine is fascinating to me.”

It's best for him to look her straight in the eyes when he delivers this sort of pronouncement on her submissive tendencies; preferably with a penetrating gaze of adoration. (But I would avoid using the word “submissive” because it's just too loaded with diverse connotations and excess baggage, and she might not want to see herself that way.) If she just blushes or gets coy and doesn't want to talk about it, then just leave it for the time being; and maybe raise it again later. But that kind of behavior would seem to indicate compatibility with a dominant man. If she argues with you about it, or outright denies it, or wants to go into lengthy debate about exactly what you mean, then that's not as promising. (But, again, sometimes very submissive women will put up precisely that sort of resistance at first.)

Or maybe she'll want to talk about it right then and there, so he should be prepared for that, too. Another approach would be for him to tell her that he's interested in what sort of romances she finds exciting; or even encourage her to read him some of her favorite erotic passages from romance novels. (If she reads them.) Or he could encourage her to express her romantic fantasies through poetry or writing short descriptions of imaginary encounters that she (or ‘some women’) might enjoy. It can be easier for a woman to express her interests indirectly that way, than by sitting down and saying “here is what really turns me on...”

But I would advise against the man laying all his cards out on the table right away; nor should he demand that she do that; and certainly don't pull out one of those silly bdsm “checklists” and/or make her list all the things she would enjoy and all the things she would object to. Some ‘dominant’ men seem to underestimate the feminine tendency towards modesty, perhaps because they don't really grasp how fragile and vulnerable a woman can feel with regard to the whole dominance/submission theme. (Which is one reason the whole “explicit verbal consent” thing is just a pain and bother.) Women enjoy having some mystery and secrecy to romance, they enjoy having things understood but not named aloud. I also think most women like the feeling that they're not completely exposed, but rather hidden behind a veil of sorts – even if they're stark naked. The mistake that men seem to make is in wanting to just pull the veil off right away; they don't seem to realize that will diminish the erotic aspect for both of them.

It's still the man's job to continue exploring the unknown terrain of her emotional responses, by seeing how she responds to his dominant moves. If he tries to shortcut that by demanding that she describe her submissive tendencies fully, or hand him a detailed report of her “kinks” and inclinations, then that can seem very cold and even insulting. It indicates he's either too lazy to do the work, or not interested enough in her to think that she's worth the effort. (And a woman will not want to give herself to a man who does not seem to adore her and value her sufficiently.) Instead, it should be a journey of discovery for both of them, but one in which he is clearly the captain. And when, at some point, that journey is accompanied by explicit verbal discussions of consent, it will hopefully not detract too much from the thrill of the voyage which was already underway.

So – yes, I do want a Conan. But I want a Conan with heart and brains – a strong man who has a deep emotional capacity, as well as the insight and intuitive capacity that it takes to figure out what makes his woman tick. That's what “implicit consent” implies. Because only then will he really be capable of exerting his dominance effectively, leading her and even pushing to new depths of romantic experience. And if he is actually capable of doing that, then the pesky need for explicit verbal consent becomes less a weighty issue of central concern, and more like a small, decorative footnote.