It had been over four years since my last relationship, and I was tired of the long stretches without sex. I was worried I didn't know how to be in a relationship any more and that I'd lost my skills in the bedroom. I wasn't naïve to the hookup nature of online dating, but I also knew that black women have the lowest reply rate of anyone using these sites or apps. So when I finally activated an OkCupid account in the spring, I didn't expect so many white men to reach out to me or for them to move so quickly into revealing their fetish for black women. One guy even referred to me as an "ebony girl," as if I belonged in a tag on a porn site.
I largely ignored the men asking me to dominate them, which happened as frequently as every third or fourth message, but they did make me wonder: Were these men simply casting out a large net in hopes of catching anyone, or was there something about me that served as a beacon to white male submissives? Or was it simply enough that I was a black woman that made them reach out?
I wasn't averse to dating outside of my race. I'd done it before with mixed results. As I headed into my late thirties, though, I thought of all the opportunities of sexual exploration I'd been denied because it may have interfered with an ex's "manhood," or because of my own lack of confidence. I frequently held myself back from approaching white men because I didn't think they'd be attracted to me physically or because of cultural differences. Yet here were several white men presenting themselves to me — even if I had to weed out the creeps, just as I would have to do offline. It would be foolish to continue to deny myself. All of this coincided with my decision to make 2014 the year of new adventures and to stop being afraid of taking chances. So when I received a message from a white man in his early twenties asking if I wanted deep conversation or a sub, I decided to say "fuck it" and go for it.
After a few messages, I gave him my Google Voice number and we began texting. In my mind, I started to call him Baby Sub because it became clear he, too, was exploring, but I made him call me ma'am or Miss _______ (a name I won't reveal here). I knew a little bit of the language used in the D/s community from erotica and eavesdropping on Twitter conversations, but sometimes he'd reply with a term that left me googling so I could fake expertise. For example, he told me he liked to watch joi porn. After a quick search, I discovered the world of "jerk off instruction." I'd later use the genre as a tool to punish him. Because he was still pretty new to being a sub, I felt more comfortable allowing the relationship to progress. I felt safer, realizing we would be experiencing our sexual awakenings together, in a sense.
After a week or two of texting, we met in person at a café. Close-cropped, wavy strawberry blond hair framed a face that made me second-guess his age and whether or not I could go through with whatever was about to happen. I checked his ID. He was the age he said he was, which was old enough to drink, but the double-digit age gap between us still left me wary. He was visibly relieved to see me yet also nervous. When I made him go into the restroom and change into a pair of my panties I'd brought for him, he stumbled. He modeled the underwear as best he could in a public setting, and there was no doubt about his state of arousal. He liked to be humiliated, and the thought that someone might see him in my panties had him erect. He went to work wearing them that same day and frequently texted me his thanks. Seeing him in the bikinis did nothing for me sexually, but making him wear them did give me a rush. I wasn't turned on by the thought of him in my underwear, but by the power play itself. I wondered what else I could get away with making him do.
I asked him why he reached out to me, what made him think it was OK to offer himself as a sub to me. He said he thought I looked lovely and was just taking a chance. Further prodding revealed he had explored some sub behavior with another older black woman. He liked the maturity of black women and how we don't put up with a lot of bullshit. He said white women his age were vapid and frequently dismissed him because of his youthful appearance. Because of his age and appearance, I didn't feel threatened by his ignorance, even though his desire for a Strong Black Woman to take control of him sexually was an echo of other messages I'd received via OkCupid. I also overlooked it this time because I wanted to test the limits of my sexuality.
As my relationship with Baby Sub progressed, I was surprised at how easily some domme behavior came to me. Small things like forbidding him from interrupting me while I talked were thrilling. I made sure never to punish in anger, but being able to express my anger and his fear of it were exciting — and I didn't have to worry about him passive-aggressively punishing me for my anger by hanging out all night with his friends or by flirting with other women, or even cheating.
I'd never participated in the D/s (Dominant/submissive) lifestyle before, and in my intimate relationships, I preferred the men to be in control in the bedroom. I could be aggressive, but it was usually with the purpose of getting the guy I was with to ramp up his own aggression. But there were limits. Whenever I had expressed a desire to do something basic like tie up my partner or blindfold him, I was met with resistance, which led to discussions about masculinity, not to mention straight-up fear: The thought that I might do "butt stuff" to my boyfriends while they were tied up was too much for them to bear. It was frustrating that I was expected to be the only one willing to experiment sexually and that my then-boyfriends couldn't trust me enough to respect their boundaries.
Still, when I told my male friends about what was happening in my sex life, they weren't surprised. In fact, one friend was shocked it had taken me so long to get to that point. My love of men on their knees is no secret among my friends. And neither is my sexual appetite. My love for receiving head and wanting sex as much as I can get it are favorite subjects of mine. Add being a feminist and my love for Wonder Woman, a character somewhat created from kink, into the mix, and I guess my guy friends figured I would've donned the latex and leather a while ago.
But even with Baby Sub, I never wore the expected leather and latex uniform of a dominatrix. Instead, I shaped my previous experience as an educator for my domme persona. I made Baby Sub grow his hair out so I could have something to pull. I put him on masturbation restriction. He wasn't allowed to touch himself unless I gave him permission. When he had too many typos in his texts, I made him call me and repeat an apology, which included calling himself too horny to type properly, until I told him to stop. He had a journal where he had to answer questions I posed. Sometimes I made him watch porn, knowing he wouldn't be able to give himself any relief. I did not allow any race play, but I would penalize him when he'd say something ignorant about his experiences with black people, like when he'd disparage the significance of the band within HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) culture, belittling what he saw as a lack of musicality. After a while it was clear he was bringing up racially sensitive subjects to bait me into punishing him, but I stopped that by forbidding him from talking about race.
He was a bratty sub who frequently tried to exert control by doing things he knew would require punishment or trying to manipulate me to get out of punishments, something called "topping from the bottom." I hated it when he was a brat. It was annoying and magnified how young he was. And I preferred rewarding him with praise and permission to touch me rather than punishing him, mainly because humiliating him with verbal abuse didn't arouse me. He wanted to be spanked and insulted so he would push until I had no choice but to retaliate. To stop his bratty behavior, I put him on time out: I refused any contact with him. He couldn't see me. No phone calls. No texts. He wasn't allowed to service me. He hated this type of punishment because it left him without order, without purpose.
Despite all of this, I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing — but I was learning. I watched more videos online, joined FetLife (an online community dedicated to sexual fetishes), found a mentor through Twitter, and asked questions. Nashville has a strong underground D/s and swinging culture, but the more I researched, the more I knew I'd never join any clubs or ask to be invited as a guest to explore my options. Through FetLife, I learned that the local men who were masters or dominants were almost all white and the language in their profiles frequently set off my internal racist alarms. I saw one man with a picture of a Confederate flag belt buckle he used for flogging. The most popular local club, or "professional dungeon," lists in its code of conduct that "respect should always be accorded to every individual…" but when I'd see the expected attendees for gatherings, I'd cringe at how few people of color seemed to be present. There were some black men who were doms, but based on their profiles, they were masters of primarily white women. If I'd reached out to them, I think I would've been ignored or rejected. I didn't feel like I'd be safe or respected if I tried to attend one of the gatherings — not as someone new to the life and definitely not as a black woman.
I tried to find local black women dommes, but the majority of the black women I found were subs and slaves, who subjected themselves to race play — being called nigger, or acting as maids or breeders. The few dommes I did see were fairly hardcore, their profiles filled with images of them in latex and stacked heels, whips gleaming in their hands. I was too intimidated to approach them for mentorship. And I knew that wasn't the kind of domme I wanted to be.
So I lived online, researching how to handle male subs. I asked my male friends to tell me ways they'd like to be punished, if they would allow themselves the freedom of being submissive. Because that's one of the many things I'd discovered as my relationship with Baby Sub continued: All he had to do was wait for me to give him instructions, wait to serve. There's something very freeing about that. Meanwhile I had to put him on a schedule — when to wake up, when to contact me, when to go to bed. I had to tell him what to wear, distribute punishments and rewards, figure out ways he could be of service. Imagine being a teacher and creating lesson plans then grading all day, every day, without break. It was slightly exhausting; his need to be controlled was controlling me. Being someone's mistress was more work than I'd anticipated, and I was no longer sure how sustainable it was for me.
Soon our schedules were in conflict, and it became a chore to see each other. I also began to resent how it felt like his need for a domme was taking over my life. He began to throw more tantrums, upset at the lack of time we were spending together. My knee-jerk reaction, habit from my more traditional relationships, was to try to give him what he wanted. Then I'd remember, I'm the domme here; not this pouty brat who needed more attention than I could give. And I decided that I didn't have to put up with his attempts to manipulate me into giving him what he wanted. So I told him to move on and find someone more willing to devote the time he clearly needed.
Since then, I've started a new relationship that follows more traditional roles, but there are parts of myself that playing a domme unleashed that can't be bottled up again. I'm much more confident voicing displeasure, as well as satisfaction. Being with Baby Sub gave me permission to explore parts of myself I'd previously denied and now I feel comfortable revisiting those areas in subsequent relationships. I've also learned that when people call it a lifestyle, they really mean it. Taking on dominant and submissive roles is so much more than tying someone up or wanting to be spanked. It can consume you, and you must be ready to handle the responsibilities that come with your positions.
I still lurk at FetLife. I have a few favorite boards and found a few kinks I didn't know had names. But unless I can find a local black woman domme to mentor me in person, I definitely won't attend any clubs here in town. And I can't see myself pursuing becoming a domme more seriously. My Twitter mentor told me I'm horrible at establishing boundaries, and she was right. Baby Sub and I sometimes hung out in public, going to the movies or out to dinner. Again — I had no idea what I was doing. Going out together gave the appearance that we were a "real couple" and let Baby Sub think he had a more significant status than he actually did. It was a rookie mistake my mentor often fussed at me about.
I deactivated my OkCupid account a couple of months ago, feeling like it had served its purpose. Right now, I'm seeing someone and don't feel the need to keep my options open. However, Baby Sub and I left things slightly vague. If I texted him today, telling him to put on the lavender panties and wait for me, he'd do it. He said he's leaving his hair long.
Contact Nichole Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.