Is it a sin to be ‘”Taken In Hand”?
I’ll admit to several things:
First: I now DO want to date. I want a serious relationship. I’m not afraid to admit this now, even though many people find it desperate to do so.
Second: The type of relationship that I want is going to probably be a bit atypical…
Third: I’m an incredibly strong, vibrant, and feminist woman who…er…may want to be “Taken In Hand”. Yeah, yeah, stop looking at me like that. :P
There’s something about a man being a man that is incredibly sexy and right to me. I don’t want someone “sensitive” who runs around in a dashiki, getting in touch with his feminine side (there’s more to that story, but I’m saving it for a short fiction piece, heh). I want someone who isn’t going to be cowed, overwhelmed, or frightened off easily. A man that takes the lead. A man that courts me and has actual power, rather than a manner of being that seems kind of lazy and complacent.
You may ask, how the hell is this free or desirable in any way, shape, or form? Good question. I think that this section of writing by Sarah Cavendish, the web-mistress of Taken In Hand, explains it all very well:
Please don’t treat me like a slave or expect me to treat you like a master. And if you start writing my name in lowercase or referring to me as your “sub”, I shall be altogether unimpressed. That is just not my cup of tea.
Call me strange, but whilst I do want to please you, I don’t have the slightest desire to call you “Master” or “Sir”. Correction: I might on occasion, of my own free will, call you “Sir” in the same spirit Elizabeth calls Mr Darcy “Sir” in Pride and Prejudice, but in that case I’d expect you to address me in turn every bit as respectfully. I will not call any man “Sir” or “Master” on command. But if you want to address me as “Madam” or “my lady” and make a little bow as you do so, feel free to do so. ;-)
If you expect me to wait on you hand and foot, clip your toenails, or give you a full body massage twice a day, sorry, but you picked the wrong woman. But if you want to wait on me and give me a full body massage twice a day, etc., etc., etc., that would be delightful! Perhaps you would like to bathe me too? Oh, and feed me grapes while you’re at it, there’s a good chap.
If you wait for me to bow and scrape and grovel and hover around ready to receive your next order, you’ll be waiting a long time. It’s not going to happen. I don’t want a master or a commanding officer or an employer, I want a relationship with a man, a lover, a friend, an equal. Yes, okay, I do want you to be the head of the household, but I don’t envisage this as you being the employer of a household of servants or even the owner of a single slave.
You may be the master of the house, but for a happy, harmonious home, wield your power quietly, respectfully, and with consideration… If you start barking orders at me, I am likely to rebel and tell you where to stick your orders. Whilst I must admit to having the odd fantasy about being taken in hand by a big muscular military man, I don’t really want a commanding officer – not if that idea is used to turn me into an unappreciated servant anyway.
Don’t even think about commanding me to do all the cooking and cleaning and to have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table at such-and-such times every day, because if you insist on this, I will be miserable and feel oppressed. It is not that I don’t want to cook and clean. I will do it, but I need either to have the freedom to do it my way (which might not be to your standards or on your timetable) or I need to be given vast amounts of appreciation for my efforts, or both. I may well serve out of love, but I do not love to serve in the sense of having the service kink. If you take the view that I must serve, that I owe you it, that you have a right to expect it of me, then I will not be happy to do it. Allow me to give these things freely rather than demanding them, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
If you start expecting me to do these things – or indeed to wash your clothes, iron your shirts, clean your shoes, or bake you fresh rolls every morning – and particularly if you get angry when I don’t do these things – I am likely to feel taken for granted and treated like a servant and then I won’t want to do anything for you. If, on the other hand, you do not expect such service, you are very likely to get it, particularly if you notice and appreciate it when I do these things. A little appreciation can make all the difference!
I do enjoy giving things and service to those I love, but I react against being told that I must do these things to demonstrate respect. Respect is not something that can be commanded, it has to be earned. The only thing one can give on command is the semblance of respect, the form of respectfulness. Don’t get me wrong, I think that respectfulness is important, but that goes both ways, and to me, it seems disrespectful to treat your lover like a servant unless she likes that.
What is it about this kind of relationship that is attractive? Taken In Hand relationships range from the variety of the former quote to stronger BDSM relationships involving complete subjugation. It’s definitely not the loss of power, because there really isn’t any loss. It is freely given. In any romantic relationship, there’s the driver, and there’s the passenger. It could be that the woman is the driver, and the man the passenger, but someone’s always on top.
From the man’s point of view (posted by Random):
My girlfriend J is incredibly strong, brave, resilient, successful, and yet…. she accepts a submissive role in our relationship. That makes me feel incredibly blessed.
I like a strong, feminine woman who knows what she wants but accepts me as her man and the head of the household. I don’t want a wimp or a weakling. Let’s be honest, I’m dominant, and for someone to put up with me they need to be strong in their own right.
I think with trust being the bedrock of my relationship with J, there is also mutual respect. There can’t be mutual respect unless there’s a person to respect. So I like a woman who’s got an opinion to share and has desires I can enjoy fulfilling. Without that, you might as well be on your own, and you certainly can’t respect a woman who’s always placid or overly submissive. I respect J and what she wants, and she respects my needs, and accepts that I make the decisions for both of us. It is a meeting of equals but with different roles. I could not do this with a woman who was my inferior. I need to be able to respect my woman. That’s why I prefer a strong woman to a weak, placid, one.
The strong, feminist part of me is always appalled when I gravitate toward novels that feature powerful, dominant men that pursue (and win) a strong yet submissive woman. What woman wants to really admit to her girlfriends, or to the world at large, that it’s incredibly attractive to want to serve in a romantic relationship? Not a one, because you’re told that you’re a traitor to your sisters, to feminist living, and independence. So, I don’t see many people admitting to these preferences openly.
One of the best-known examples of this type of relationship would be the movie “Secretary”. The heroine, Lee, surprised at first by her mousy boss’ hidden dominant tendencies, soon surrenders, culminating in the very passionate and total willingness to place herself in the man’s hands. She’s not afraid to show her most raw, vulnerable, human side (hell, she pisses herself because she’s not going to budge an inch until he believes in her dedication to him). What’s interesting is that Lee is a cutter, fresh from a mental institution and completely bereft of any sort of self-esteem. Notice, though, that she drops the cutting and starts to come into herself as the movie progresses. It’s as if she’s found the ultimate outlet for all her pain and inadequacy through safer, less guilt-ridden ways. Lee becomes hot (her walk in the stilettos with the shackle bar is fucking criminal), while Grey starts to become really, really sexy. Grey’s actions allow her to be free and to give in to her true needs without fear of recrimination or judgment…since what she needs is what he needs as well.
Reading through the Amazon reviews, it’s interesting to see people call this relationship “twisted”. It’s really not. More people live this type of life than people realize. Like I said, it may not be as drastic, but the power dynamic of the alpha male pleasing his mate is there in full force. Why is it, though, that it’s fine in a movie…but reviled in real life by many?
The revulsion, I believe, comes from a fear that acceptance is a rejection of all of the advances that feminism has won for women. It doesn’t compute that a woman would choose to give up her hard-won power, or that a woman would take punishment and spanking as part of the day-to-day and like it. We forget that the dominant man is NOTHING without the gift of submission that the woman chooses to give him. What is a single dom man going to do by himself? Absolutely nothing. What about the sub female? Same. One needs the other, and there’s no shame in a woman making that choice. It’s not that it’s an abject rejection of feminism’s higher, liberal ideals; in fact, I would call it one of the ultimate embraces of them. What is more glorious than realizing and knowing that you hold so much power that you can be part of a team- a very, very equal team- without losing yourself? Think about the last part of the movie, and how Lee looks. Think about how they join together in a homemaking task, and how she has this look of temptation, delicious corruption, love, and satisfaction. It’s perfect. I think that was one of the first times I realized that yes! this was a dynamic that I wanted in my life.
Many would point out that Lee isn’t quite right in the head. Well, no, she’s not, hence the visit to the hospital. However, she comes out, decides to take her life into her own hands, and grows the hell up. Yes, she cuts and stresses herself out along the way. Lee is human, very much so. She is also a broken person taking part in passion and using it as a conduit to self-discovery. Lee embraces her shadow side, making it work for her rather than against her in masochistic ways.
It’s verboten to admit need in relationships. It’s also a no-no to want to give yourself up in order to receive what you honestly desire. We are the rich product of our perceptions of the world. For me, I’m formed from huge past successes coupled with crushing blows. I’m a very dynamic, complicated woman who can’t be bothered with a companion that I can walk all over. Many women on the Taken In Hand site are the same way; they’re accomplished, beautiful, and brilliant, and they want to yield to something else, someone else in their personal lives. Is this worse than normal dating situations, where there seems to be a lot of vulnerability that is hidden away out of fear? I don’t think so. I think that these relationships exhibit an huge amount of trust on both parts.
For the dominant, you have to believe that the more submissive/yielding party is strong enough to give of their power honestly. The dominant party has to be able to take what has been given and use it to the betterment of all involved. They have to employ empathy and compassion in the pursuit of their partner’s ultimate fulfillment. The dominant has to be responsible and mature enough to realize the value of the gift they hold, and to treat and value their partner’s loving service to them as something of incredible value. If the relationship includes any sort of BDSM play or punishment, the dominant must be properly versed in technique in order not to cause either party injury.
The giving or submissive party, on the other hand, places in the dominant’s hands their need to give loving service. It is the duty of the submissive to be honest about pain, discomfort, doubts, or issues in the relationship. They are trusted to know themselves well enough to retain healthy boundaries, and to put the relationship in a proper perspective. In other words, they must keep in mind that the other person isn’t using them like a puppet, but that they are an equal half of the whole. This is best done by valuing yourself, and valuing the gift of power that you are willing to share with your mate.
I think that many people are soured against Taken In Hand relationships because they get lost in the agendas of political and social conservatism. We see a woman’s submission as being a key attribute in fundie relationships the world over, and become uncomfortable with a free-thinking woman’s choice to partake in that lifestyle. When Taken In Hand is seen not as a choice, but as a supposed and necessary social truth that is being flouted by the evil feminists, it becomes tainted by inflexibility and restrictive dogma. Conservatism has made Taken In Hand relationships all about the Donna Reed-ism, effectively neutering the sexual undertones that are a vital part of making these relationships work.
Part of what is so appealing about these pairings is their primitive natures. I think that they exude a very raw sort of sexuality, since they are dependent on the most primal and clean definitions of male and female. The sexes are not created completely equal, though there are many ugly societal inequalities that can certainly stand to be thrown out the door. Just like you and your siblings are different, so are men and women. Doesn’t mean that you’re a worse or lesser person than they…you’re just not them. Why is it so wrong to admit this? The sexes have different strengths, and that’s not a crime.
Taken In Hand must be repackaged as a viable, accepted option for fulfillment that is consensual on the part of both parties. True Taken In Hand is free will in a new packaging that in no way signifies disdain of modernism or progress. It is a choice to explore power sharing in a whole new way, embracing a the valid choice, not imposed, of male leadership in a romantic relationship.
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