Listening & Leading (or sometimes, topping from the bottom is okay)

We were together on the bed not so long ago, doing what we do very well. Canoodling, I called it once, and Chris laughed at the word but agreed. Sometimes it is foreplay, and sometimes not. It is touching, often naked touching. Sometimes there is spanking.

It'd been about a week, because of one thing and another, and I'd sorely missed his time and attention. In addition to my own woes, I was under a work deadline (finished 2:30 this morning, yay!, waiting for feedback now). And I have a bit of a cold coupled with a nasty cough. Chris has just started another semester of graduate school and the subjects addressed in these courses promise to be of a pertinent and absorbing nature for him. He has a new toy and is busy getting iTunes behaving properly instead of me.

And, he'd been to the gym that evening.

You know, in and of itself, that's not a problem. Except his particular fitness facility is filled with college co-eds, most of whom have been worshiping at their own altars since puberty and are exceedingly conscious of how they look. Everywhere. I've seen them.

So he comes home and tweets this sentence while grilling dinner: "Saw a great pair
of shorts at the gym today. Well, wasn't so much the shorts as what was
in the shorts. Or rather partially in the shorts."

For some reason, it hit me the wrong way, you know? Now, I'm not a jealous person, normally, although I've had my moments, and my jealousy tends to focus on things rather than people (i.e. that video game, that volunteer opportunity that takes 40 hrs of your week outside of work, that iTouch you're playing with when I'm in the room trying to have a conversation with you, etc). And, as Chris pointed out later, I'm generally just as likely to point out that cute bum before he even notices it. Generally.

So we're canooding, and he's got me all tucked up against him.

Intending to confide, I told him that I'd been jealous about the girl whose bottom was half-displayed by her shorts, presumably intentionally.

He was honestly surprised, and why shouldn't he be? I'd normally not care a whit. But "I haven't felt very sexy lately," I reminded him, proceeding to cough up a lung into my pillow.

Chris gathered me up in his arms and muttered against my ear. "I should hairbrush you for that."

And here's why this blog entry is on Punishment Book… because if he had hairbrushed me, it wouldn't have been a nice little loving spanking with a hairbrush. No, it would have hurt. It would have felt like punishment, and he would have intended it to be painful. I don't think the momentary reaction of jealousy would have been included in why he wanted to hairbrush me then and there, but the feeling that caused the jealousy – the feeling and sense that I was undesirable – would have been what he was punishing.

He doesn't like it when I express self-doubt. I believe there is a standing rule around here that if I ever say "I'm a terrible mother" again, I'm headed straight over his lap with the ebony hairbrush, no ifs ands or buts. I know this and how he feels about my expressions of internal angst and self-loathing.

And yet, I need to be able to confide in him and tell him my fears and my hopes and my needs. If I can't confide in him and trust him to make it better, then who else is there to turn to? (Nobody, not like that, and my heart would break or ice over, and I would withdraw emotionally and probably sexually.) And if I can't confide in him and trust him with my whole heart and not just the stronger pieces of it, then are we really as strong as we believe us to be?

But, if he can't punish me for fear of breaking that trust, am I manipulating things to get my own way? And is, as he pointed out in very pertinent ways much later, my backside really his to do with as he pleases if he can't hairbrush me without risking a silly breakdown? Should I be repressing all of those feelings so that he can hurt me at will and way? Should he hurt me at will and way even if he risks those silly breakdowns, just to prove the point that he can and that he's unhappy with me?

In the end, this is yet another reason why our relationship is not a simple Top/bottom arrangement, and why Chris must be (and is) a listening leader. It's a symbiosis … and that's probably best. He didn't spank me, but listened to the tremors in my voice when I pointed out that hairbrushing me would discourage me from, in the future, telling him when I was upset. I did suggest he arrange for a hairbrushing on a different night. I even suggested (for more selfish reasons!) that he combine it with bondage. And the moment passed without tears or recriminations or the hard spanking he wanted to give me.

This morning, I'm still confused as to why I was jealous.


Thank you, Chris, for not forcing the hairbrush. And thank you, for listening when I said to please not. I don't think it would have worked out quite the way you intended – then and there in that moment, I think it would have escalated it instead of purged it as you intended – but I know you could have. And you know I wouldn't have stopped you, if you'd insisted. So thank you.

8 thoughts on “Listening & Leading (or sometimes, topping from the bottom is okay)

  1. Mija

    I’ve been thinking about this all morning — wonderful post btw.
    First, I’m glad that you and Chris communicated and you didn’t let him go through with a spanking / punishment that didn’t feel right to you. So we’ll take that as given in what I’m going to go on to say.
    The question that your entry raises for me is whether or not WIIWD (or what it is you and Chris do) could actually be used to change thought patterns. That is, if he would want (and you would be willing too of course) to be punished not just for *saying* negative things about yourself, but for giving them mind space and letting them bother you. (Obviously this isn’t necessarily a “fair” use of punishment from a lot of POV, but then everything we do isn’t fair except within our own relationships.)
    It would be a rather interesting take on CBT (that’s “cognitive behavior therapy” rather than… well, the *other* CBT), require a lot of honesty and conversation about what’s going on in your head and crazy brave. I’m certainly not saying you should do this at all.
    Just saying what your post made me think about and would like to discuss more if anyone else is interested.

  2. Zille Defeu

    Serenity — I’m going to have to think about and re-read this and think about it some more, before I can give you a comment more profound than, “Great post and thank you for bravely sharing those confused feelings and thoughts with us!” But I just wanted to get the initial compliments in before wandering off to think about the post for a while!
    Mija — Maybe we should have a PB roundtable about CP used for CBT (an acronym which always gives me the giggles because of the *other* one). It’s something that I am very interested in, but it’s so very much playing with fire that taking it beyond the “that’s an interesting concept” stage isn’t easy!

  3. Sara

    Serenity, I LOVED this post! I have referred a couple of people here today. Your description:
    “I need to be able to confide in him and tell him my fears and my hopes and my needs. If I can’t confide in him and trust him to make it better, then who else is there to turn to? (Nobody, not like that, and my heart would break or ice over, and I would withdraw emotionally and probably sexually.)”
    …was just so right on the $! So, he has his ideas, rules, but underneath that is the reality that his concern for your well being trumps all. We are not black and white, so the rules cannot be. Emotions come into play, and how can our protectors know how we feel unless we tell them? IMO this is not ‘topping from the bottom’ but opening ourselves to our Tops. I will assume Chris thought so too, or the hairbrush would have appeared. Maybe the answer is to trust him to have decided?

  4. sparkle

    @Indy: thanks!
    @Mija: one of the downfalls of cognitive behavior therapy (in this case, as you describe it here) is that I would have to go out of my way to confess when I have negative thoughts … i.e give them voice instead of keeping them in my head … and I wonder if that does not give them more power than they really have over me right now. Also, it becomes very easy for me (anyone) to manipulate it according to her mood; that is, to deny thinking things because I’m not in the mood, or I’m tired, or I’d rather have a good-girl spanking. So I’m not sure it would work. It’s setting up the temptation to dishonesty, at least to me, who (mostly) can control what comes out of my mouth. For some people – especially those who say everything they think – it might work more efficiently. I’m not sure.
    I’m not theoretically opposed. There is a certain amount of honesty that’s required in any relationship where discipline is involved, after all. But I do think this would require a lot of *work* – that is, thorough questioning and interrogation regularly by the top partner and the crazy braveness you mentioned above. And, at least for me, I think I’d get tired of having to be crazy brave and simply start saying “I’m fine” in whatever form that took, after awhile.
    I find the CogBT, in theory, to be hot and sexually arousing – even the sadistic sort of questioning and being tripped up. I can *very* *easily* pervert it in my head to one of the hottest scenes I can imagine. BUT. In those scenes the bottom/victim is willing and whatever heartache she feels isn’t turning her life upside down….
    @Sara: I think I did trust him to decide. If he’d gotten the hairbrush out, I would have gotten spanked, despite my personal preference… and whatever came out of that spanking would have been handled some other way. Still, I’m glad it happened the way it did.
    Thanks all. 🙂

  5. Emma

    Thank you for sharing this. I think, for me, this is a perfect example of why there are very few absolutes in TTWD and it can be a tricky thing to navigate the minefield that is our emotions, our logic, and our needs on any given day.
    A few months ago I was in a similar situation, torn between asking my partner *not* to do something which I knew I probably wasn’t emotionally equipped to handle and the desire that I always feel to acquiesce to his preferences. Having a pretty good idea of what was going on in my mind at the time, I did ask. Not having a very good idea of what was going on in my mind, he declined. It turns out I was right, and despite what I’ve come to accept as my best efforts, I fell completely apart. Unfortunately, rather than becoming an opportunity for growth, the situation rapidly devolved from there. Even now, much later, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t left some emotional scars.
    You and Chris seem to have a strong foundation, so I’m sure if things had gone the other way you would have come through just fine. But I think it’s a testament to that foundation that he can understand the difference between your “topping from the bottom” and communicating important information about your emotional needs. A harder line being drawn can be incredibly sexy as a fantasy and in certain situations, but most relationships require flexibility and the willingness to put your partner first without regard to who’s the top and who’s the bottom.
    P.S. On the topic of the many meanings of CBT… my work has a department whose acronym is CBT. I have a very very hard time saying it with a straight face. If only they knew…

  6. Iris

    For me, this also gets at the heart of the differences between discipline and topping/bottoming. While everyone defines these differently, for me there’s a shift in focus. Discipline focuses on you: what keeps you safe, healthy, and centered. Topping/bottoming focuses more on him (or perhaps the two of you): it’s about meeting both your needs for submission (giving and receiving). Chris was an effective disciplinarian here, imo, because he was able to express his dislike of your self-doubt but ultimately took care of you in the way you needed most. It would/will be different if/when you say you’re a bad mother again (tsk! as if!), but the feelings and situation aren’t the same. Bravo to both of you, and big HUGS to you especially.

  7. Mija

    I definitely think there’s room for a discussion of CBT and this thing we do. Like you though, while it’s something I’ve considered (some might even argue I do some of it with Paul) it’s also something I’m a little afraid of.
    While Paul and I have talked in the past about how what we do, that is, his punishment of me, is an expression of my own desire both to be subject to punishment and specifically for help in various areas, like sparkle I also know I’ve had a tendency in the past to justify being dishonest about how things are going for me by not wanting to be a burden. This would make it very difficult indeed for both P and me to do anything near CBT.
    Or something like that. Talking about it is definitely interesting though. As is imagining it happening to someone else.


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