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Savage Love

I was recently advised to begin reading your column by my therapist

I was recently advised to begin readingyour column by my therapist. I am a 21-year-old male and a senior at an Ivy League school. Despite my academic success, I've battled a lot of stuff in the past few years: anxiety, depression, substance abuse and porn addiction. It's quite a load of shit to try to wade through, but I honestly feel I'm getting better.

About sex: Before I even knew what I was really doing, my fantasies involved being subjected to the erotic whims of a powerful female. I've tried to hide my interest in “submission” from everyone, including potential sexual partners. Only recently have I begun to address this directly. I feel it is, broadly, an issue of sexual orientation that requires something like a “coming out” process. But while there are resources out there for gay people who are coming out, I have no road map. I have told a few friends but don't think it's necessary to reveal all this to my family.

I cannot have a fulfilling sexual experience unless my desire to have a tilted power dynamic is understood and indulged, and I don't think romantic love is possible for me without this part of me being accepted and appreciated. What I would like to do is seek out sexual partners who would be compatible. But when do I bring it up? I have this dread of that moment on a date, perhaps a first kiss, or whatever, when things are becoming unambiguously physical. WTF do I say? Should I try to get involved in a BDSM “scene”? Date “normal” people? Online personals? I don't want to try to have sex again without it being known or understood. It feels like pretending and it sucks.

Seeks Understanding Baba

Generally, SUB, if it's something that gay, straight or bisexual people can all do – like erotic power exchange (bondage, D/s, BDSM, etc.) – then I consider it a sexual activity, not a sexual orientation.

Which is not to say that submission and/or BDSM can't be hugely important to an individual, as much about self-conception as it is about sexual expression. But you don't have to come out to friends and family about being submissive – you don't have to tell them about the stuff that turns you on – in order to fully accept yourself, get out there and date and find a nice girl who wants to subject you to her erotic whims.

Now, I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't tell people other than the women you date that you're submissive. You can be as open as you wanna be – say, with friends you feel comfortable telling everything – but the only people who absolutely, positively need to know about your desires are your sex partners.

So how do you find a partner? Date vanilla girls? Trawl online personals? Get involved in the BDSM scene in your area? Yes, yes and yes. Get involved in the BDSM scene and take out a kinky personal ad, and maybe you'll meet a nice, dominant girl who wants a sexually submissive – and Ivy League–educated – boyfriend. At the same time, date girls you meet during the normal course of your daily life, like any other single guy. After she gets a chance to know you, but before she's too invested and/or smitten, discuss your kinks with her. This is not a tearful confession. Your kinks are a selling point; they're something that makes you a more interesting sex partner. If you open up to a vanilla girl after a few weeks – and some good vanilla sex – and she runs screaming, she wasn't the right girl for you. (And if she blabs to her friends about you, you may get a call from a friend of your ex who is the right girl for you.)

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