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. 😛

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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~ by isiskali on January 31, 2007.

12 Responses to “Is it a sin to be ‘”Taken In Hand”?”

  1. This is really a good post.

  2. Thanks!

  3. Let me preface this by saying that your desires are your own and that they are inherently valid and as long as you’re happy, that’s what matters. My response to your post is more philosophical than anything else.

    I admit, I have a lot of problems with the idea of a dominant/submissive relationship where power breaks down along gender lines the same way it does in the rest of our patriarchal society. If men and women were truly equal, I wouldn’t be bothered by the image of a woman wanting a man to be in charge of her. But men and women aren’t equal, and while we’ve come a long way, there’s a lot farther yet to go. So the image of a woman voluntarily accepting a lesser role still makes me uneasy.

    I also think it’s interesting to read this post after the great post about your father. I’ve known quite a few women who wanted to be dominated by the men in their lives, and they all had absent, alcoholic or abusive fathers. I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all, and I wonder if maybe your desire is an emotional need expressing itself in a sexual way. And if that is the case, maybe addressing the emotional need through emotional channels (therapy, journaling, posting here) might be more direct and have fewer possible negative consequences.

    All the women I’ve known with father issues who pursued dominant guys used the term “a *man*” and disparaged the feminine aspects of other men. However, sooner or later, all the “manly” guys started turning into abusers. I tried to explain to a friend of mine that there’s no such thing as a macho guy who believes in feminism. I maintain that such a creature doesn’t exist, that any guy who buys into the whole “dominant” thing will, sooner or later, see the woman who submits to him as less than him. And in a sense, why shouldn’t he? It’s exactly what she’s telling him. The guy quoted above sounds like he’s proud of his girlfriend for being strong, but really, he’s proud of himself for being able to dominate her and the stronger he says she is, the more of Big Strong Dominant Guy that makes him.

    Bear in mind, this is from my own perspective and it’s just my thoughts. As always, your post is incredibly well-written

  4. Nah, I can see your points. You have to be incredibly careful on how you go about your search. For instance, I’m sticking to BDSM channels, not general ones like Craigslist or something. That way, you can check references, ask advice, etc. Also, I would be looking for something that’s more bedroom based within a vanilla relationship, for the most part. I also used to be a pro domme, so I can tell a faker/abusive fucker from a guy that just happens to have dom tendencies.

    I can totally see that a weaker father figure could make a women seek a more “masculine” male as a lover. However, I also see it as a common fantasy or desire from women (note the burgeoning Dom/sub/Alpha erotica market). It’s one that many don’t quite know how to act on in any sort of safety, so it can turn pretty ugly down the road. But not every dom guy is an abuser- in fact, the great majority aren’t, just like in the vanilla world- and most relationships are very happy and stable- just like in the vanilla world.

    As far as feminism is concerned, I really see it as a choice that is full of boundaries and fair limits if done correctly. Trust me, unless you’re doing a Total Power Exchange/Gorean relationship (which make me shudder, personally), you’re really calling the shots and setting the limits. In other words, the decisions are in your hands. Also, if you’re not pushing your beleifs on others, and I’m not forcing them onto someone who doesn’t know better (such a raising a child in an overwhelmingly male-dominant atmosphere), I don’t see where the problem is. I still fight for women’s right, abortion, affirmative action, etc…but, in my home, that’s where the outside stops and my rules take over. Hell, might not even be in the whole home, but just the bedroom.

  5. That’s a really good point. I’m completely clueless on BDSM stuff, but I do remember hearing that the sub is truly the one in control. So maybe the relationships I’ve been seeing aren’t true dom/subs but just messed-up vanilla. 🙂

  6. There is an article in today’s New York times that describes new studies on issues related to this topic. Insufferable Clinginess, or Healthy Dependence?, By BENEDICT CAREY
    Published: March 6, 2007, New York Times. It is not clear to me how much of a person’s emotional desire to be Taken-in-Hand is a product of underlying fears/anxieties/insecurities that may not be healthy and how much of a person’s emotional desire to be Taken-in-Hand may be a healthy precursor for strongly motivating successful strategies for a healthy, long-term, mutually rewarding intimate relationship. The article suggests that the answer lies in the Submissive/Dependent partner’s ability to balance their own emotional needs with realistic expectations, effective communication, and deliberate resistance against making false negative inferences about the Dominant/Enabling partner’s mental state during times of perceived emotional hurt. I suspect that one reason there may be a high rate of misery and/or relationship failure for people with a very strong emotional desire to be Taken-in-Hand is that when the Dominant/Enabling partner fails to satisfy a need, or (possible even worse) fails to perceive a need in the Dependent/Submissive partner, the emotional HURT/PAIN felt by the Dependent/Submissive partner is very, very REAL, IMMEDIATE, OVERWHELMING, and “TRUE”. From that felt pain, it becomes very tempting, if not irresistibly seductive, to infer the truth of what must have been the evil/unloving mental state of the Dominant/Enabling partner. Sadly, that inference may often times be false. Even more sadly, that possibly false inference builds the foundation for contempt, hatred, and the beginning of the end of the relationship. Curiously, I suspect that many Dominating Manly Men are also likely to be deliberately or characteristically less empathic than others in their basic approach to life and daily living, i.e., more likely to be completely unintentional in their failure to satisfy or notice a felt emotional need in their Dependent partner. Tragically, it may be the very same traits in the Dominant person that cause both strong attraction in the beginning and ultimately contempt and hatred in the end. Like anything in life, the article seems to suggest that moderate dependency/submission may be a good thing for developing successful strategies for long term emotionally rewarding relationships, while very strong emotional needs for dependence/submission often leads to pain and psychiatric illness.

  7. Dang. Excellent post.

    Therein lies the rub. You have to be strong enough to stand on your own two feet to make these partnerships work, at the same times being strong enough to yield. I mean that on the parts of both parties. If the Dom isn’t in a place to be empathetic, the relationship is flawed. If the Sub can’t deal with their own problems, the relationship is flawed.

    I would love to see stats on how many of these relationships work out in the end (meaning last for more than 10 years, let’s say? Seems about the limit for a lot of “vanilla” relationships). I’m going to check out that article.

  8. Is this the sign of a post-feminist consciousness emerging? If so, I endorse it heartily. This idea touches upon what many men and women perhaps feel instinctively but cannot rationalize intellectually (or worse, politically). The good thing is, it is not a regressive return to patriarchy but a more nuanced, sophisticated, informed form of relationship that is far more equal than mechanically-equal relationships! Bravo.

  9. As a christian my wife is already subject to me, not that I dominate her as I don’t think that is right. Her submissiveness is a gift she gives to me in return I have to take responsibilities as head of the house. The bedroom is a completely different area and if things take place in there is because of sexual preferences, not because of anything else. I certainly have not got the right to punish my wife. The beroom is another area where it may look that way.

  10. Takeninhand is Christian site that wants to take the all the rights away fom women that women earned over the years.

    Women are humans just like men. They are equal as men and their opinion worth the same as any men. Why does men have to discipline the women; are women like little kids that need to be disciplined. This kind of relationship are not based on love but rather fear (sometimes taken in hand works in relationship unfortunately due to women psychology ie battered woman syndrome).

  11. Hi,

    I am a Sr. Producer on a new national talk show called “The Bill Cunningham Show.” I am producing an episode TOMORROW, August 24 (!) that deals with control issues in relationships. For one of my stories, I would love to have a couple engaged in a TIH relationship. I think it would be great to present to the viewer such a unique and eye-opening interaction. I know this is incredibly short notice, but if you or anyone you know is engaging in a mutually consensual controlling relationship, and might enjoy some exposure and the promotion of their unique lifestyle – please contact me at the e-mail & #’s below! ***FREE TRIP TO NYC + $100 AND CASH FOR MEALS!***

    Thank you,

    Rich Goldman
    Sr. Producer
    Office: 212-419-7485
    Cell: 646-701-3860
    Cell: 855-833-7770, ext. 2
    Fax: 212-419-7406
    NEP Studios
    401 7th avenue
    2nd floor
    New York, New York 10001

  12. may have some Christians on it but the owner and creator of the site stated that he is an atheist and their posting rules ask posters not to try to convert readers to their faiths, so to say it’s a Christian site is not really fair. I believe they try to keep religion out of it.

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