"Take off all your clothes," the tall, lean man in the bathrobe said calmly. He was lying on the sofa, looking at the gawky girl standing in the middle of the room. Startled, she responded in a quavering voice, "You mean, like, all of them?"
"Start with your top. Take off your blouse, then unhook your bra, and take it off slowly. Then undo your skirt, and take off your ..."
I've been thinking about that scene in "Love Serenade," an Australian film, ever since I saw it. I found this humorous scene of an aging Lothario taking advantage of an ignorant filly so erotically charged that I began to wonder about myself: What was going on in my twisted little sexual psyche? There was a similar demand from the Daniel Day-Lewis character in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," and that too supplied many a masturbatory fantasy for me at the time.
What is it about men ordering me to do sexual acts that gets me off more than anything else? In this day and age, it rarely happens with my lovers -- and who could blame them? In my day-to-day existence, I'm not a wilting lily -- the terms "strong-willed," "opinionated," "extreme," "bad-tempered" and -- horrors! -- "bitch" have all been bandied about over the years. So it doesn't surprise me that when the clothes are off I see a slightly scared look in the eyes of the man I'm with. He relaxes into a position on the bed, arms at his sides, willing me to crawl on top of him. His expression says, "Take me, I'm yours. Do with me what you will."
One of the wonderful things about sex is all the different roles one plays, and when the sex is really good, the roles change quickly and seamlessly without conscious thought or intent. I don't mind being the aggressor in the bedroom some of the time, but it frankly shocks me how many men seem to like this role more than anything else. We could get very Freudian about this: modern gender roles in transition, fear of powerful women translating into erotic fixation, guilt, blah, blah, blah. The same reasoning could be applied to me: I spend so much of my time being the strong, dominant, independent force that in the bedroom it turns me on to be transformed into a sexual handmaiden.
Maybe it's not surprising that another of the more feminist-inclined women I know is turned on by domination. My friend Jemma is a nanny by profession; she spends her whole day saying to little people, "Do this, don't do this, don't go there, put that down, don't touch that, eat this, try this." She is also an active practitioner of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism. Whipping, knife play and rape fantasies are a part of her that never gets appealed to in her real life. The power roles are like the threads in a sexual quilt: When one is pulled here, another gets tugged over there. When her "master," whom she refers to as "Sir," donned a ski mask in the middle of the night and fucked her at knife point, "it was the most erotic experience of my life," she told me.
One of the most wonderful and mysterious aspects about the sexual experience is its appeal to so many facets -- historical, cultural, psychological, sensual, biological. "Think about the sexual roles as a pyramid," Jemma told me. "At the very top, in the smallest numbers and highly sought after, are the submissive women. And at the bottom, spreading out far and wide and represented hugely, are the submissive men. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, at least in the B&D world."
I don't travel in the B&D world, but this made sense to me, with my limited (compared to Jemma) encounters. I wouldn't want to be dominated all the time, just as I don't like being the aggressor all the time. But what really turns me on, the stuff of my sexual fantasies -- speaking hypothetically, selfishly, fantastically and without regard for my partner's pleasure -- is being dominated: I'm enormously aroused by being told to take off my clothes, to go down on him, to touch myself, to being taken from behind and by surprise.
Politically incorrect? Of course, and that's probably why it's exciting. Life is boring enough nowadays without trying to shoehorn the mysteries of sex into the tidiness of explanation and regulation.