Suffering the Wrong Kind of Pain
Dear Patrick: I love to get spanked, but my partner is a computer programmer who recently came down with a repetitive stress injury. His doctor says he has to stop using his hands, 100%, for at least a few weeks. In fact, he is on disability leave until he shows some improvement. I work from home so I would love to use our extra time together to fool around. But I don't get turned on unless I get my ass paddled. How is a top with carpal tunnel supposed to get me off? I am willing to try new things; I really want him and adore him. I can even put up with a certain level of denial for a while if he will tell me this is how he chooses to dominate me. But if he is just going to mope around the house and feel shitty about himself, we won't have any sex at all, not even bad sex! He can't even button his shirts, much less swing a flogger.
How can I: (a) get his confidence back, and (b) save our sex life? I'm a heavy masochist but I also like vanilla sex. (I just enjoy it a lot more if I've had a long, hard spanking first.) I would like to have a long-term, committed relationship with him. He is such a fab person. Who else is ever going to understand my retro kitchen or tell me I look cute when I pose like pouty Betty Page in one of those corny big-panties-and-a-plastic-hair-brush photos? I so much enjoy buying him retro shirts and making the other chicks envy my cute hipster boyfriend. Nobody else will watch “The Americans” with me and get all horny for 1950s perversity. I love being interrogated to see if I am a secret Soviet spy or if I am true to Western democracy and industrialized capitalism!
We have a lot in common. But I don't know if I can do without kinky sex for as long as it might take for him to get better. What should we do? I wanted us to be together forever, the negligee model and comic book artist and the computer geek with a pocket protector
Your relationship is facing a really big challenge. This is where you find out if it has any substance. If you are really committed to this man and want to stay with him, that means facing the fact that he is disabled and cannot spank you or top you in some other physical ways until his arms and hands get better. If he is unable to feed himself or button his own shirts, I can't come up with any clever suggestions that will give you want without making his tendonitis worse. I am sure that this is frustrating for him, too. It really hurts a top's self-esteem to face a physical challenge. If you love him and you want him to get better, you have have to find a way to eroticize some self-denial and frustration until he has pain-free hands and arms again. Perhaps you can think of this as exploring the world of submission and service as opposed to masochism.
This man has devoted a lot of his energy to fulfilling your fantasies. (I'm sure they were his fantasies too, or the sex would not have been so hot.) He is in big trouble. But right now, he needs somebody to take care of him. He needs your help. Can you do that, or not? If you would honestly rather move on and party with somebody else, it would be better for you to tell him now, so he can try to get help from people who won't resent him.
In the real world, adults sometimes don't get their needs met, even very important needs. They struggle with frustration while they do the right thing. It isn't easy having a partner who is disabled. But think about what it might mean to him to know that you stuck it out, for better or worse. Couples who are able to do things like that become much closer and more committed. They feel safe with one another on a much deeper level. Trust and love grow exponentially. If he is a good person, he will be willing to stick around for you if you should ever experience injury or illness. Time marches on, and none of us get any younger, so think twice before you give up a chance to have somebody like him on your side and at your side.
If you want to stay with him, the two of you need to figure out how to get through this together. It would help if the doctor could offer you a rough estimate of how long it may take for him to heal. Even if this deadline is only an estimate, it can help to tell yourself, “I just need to get through another four weeks of this.” The longer his recuperation, the more planning is necessary. More radical solutions may need to be considered.
You didn't say if you have a monogamous relationship or one that is open. If it is open, the two of you have got more choices. Would he be willing to consider alternative arrangements until he can take you over his knee once more? What if he picked out someone as a proxy to punish and dominate you while he is getting better? This would leave him in ultimate control. He could even specify what sort of training he wants you to receive. A third party could join the two of you and top you under his direction. They would be acting as his surrogate or proxy, as an extra pair of hands. Finding the right person may not happen right away, but interviewing potential assistants can be hot. Your local kinky community might have several promising novice tops who would kill to have an experienced master train and mentor them.
Of course there is a danger that you will get emotionally involved with another top. But that danger is always present, even for monogamous couples. Making sure you don't explode from sexual frustration is one of the things that could save your partnership. Who knows what the future may hold? Some couples who discover a compatible outside interest wind up adding that person to their lives, so they become a triad. I've come to know of several stable three-person relationships over the years.
You have also pointed out some alternatives to traditional BDSM play. Instead of whipping you, he can eroticize your deprivation by labeling it as his decision. This is something he is doing to tease and test you. Helping him can be erotic if he says this is part of your job as his bottom. I doubt he will be able to jerk off while he has tendonitis, so part of your training would consist of being responsible for getting him off. He could decide whether you are allowed to come as well, and specify how he wants that to happen. The two of you will need good communication as you experiment with this. You might find that being made to wait to come is very hot, or you may find that it doesn't really work. But you won't know until you experiment.
Have you ever suffered from chronic pain? If not, it can be difficult to understand how much it affects the person who has it. Most people with chronic pain feel depressed and anxious. They miss their more active life and feel guilty for not being able to do everything they used to do. If you have disability benefits, they are almost never as much money as you make when you are able to work, so there can be financial pressures as well. It is hard to explain the situation to others; people often don't want to educate themselves about a friend's health problems. We live in a puritanical society that values work above all else. The person who can't work a 60-hour week is a slacker and a parasite. Even if your pain comes from a documented physical problem, there are always assholes who tell you that you just need to have a more positive attitude or do yoga or take vitamins or get acupuncture. It is very hard for people to believe that sometimes our bodies just won't cooperate. There are lots of people at work who really need to stop and take time to heal, but as a society, we just don't facilitate that. Instead, we use people up, and minor health problems become permanent and more debilitating.
In addition to fighting off negative feeling-states, your top will also feel more tired. Being in pain saps your energy. There are times when it is very hard to be polite to others or patient with them because the pain is so draining. This doesn't help a person to stay in touch with his or her libido. Besides, most people will tell you that a top who is disabled is not much of a top. Your lover's masculinity and sexual identity may be threatened by being out of commission even though it is probably temporary. Taking pain medication can help but it can also make a person foggy and interfere with long-term planning or consistency. Not to mention erections!
One of the things he needs to do right now is to figure out how he got hurt. If there are problems with computer equipment or how his work space is arranged, that needs to get fixed. He probably needs dictation software for his computer. He may need to figure out how he is going to live with a sharply reduced income. You could help him to figure out how to apply for disability and keep his medical benefits. Once you have gotten a repetitive stress injury, your body is vulnerable to being hurt again. So he may also need a whole new career. If he owns a business, he may need to hire people to do work that he once was able to produce. All of these things may take precedence over sexuality for a while.
It takes a lot of effort to keep sexuality in your life when you are in pain. But it's so important to do. It reminds you that life is worth living. Pleasure is a welcome alternative to physical discomfort. Sensuality represents the body at its best, when you can enjoy having a physical self. Sex is a better anti-depressant than any medication. It also strengthens connections to others and reminds us that we don't have to be alone. I'm hoping the two of you have a strong community and friends that will rally and help you to get through this difficult time.
It sounds like you have a lot of interests in common, and were having a lot of fun. The more he is able to rest, the sooner he will get relief from the pain. There's something very romantic about a couple who have triumphed over a really big challenge. It can really help to have people to talk to who are also in your situation, so reach out to local support groups or go on-line to find folks you can chat with. Simply knowing you are not alone is sometimes very important—for him and also for you. Given how hard it can be to find a committed, experienced, compatible top, you may be better off helping him to heal than you would be searching for a replacement. There's no guarantee that you'd hook up with somebody who was his equal.
But only you can say whether this relationship is worth the effort, thus assisting you in evolving spiritually to become a better person, or whether it would be better for you to selfishly move on and remain stuck at a karmic level that will only allow you to be reborn as an insect, amphibian, or reptile. I have no investment in your decision, and make no judgments.