Since getting out of my first and last adult relationship in 2015, my approach to sex has been unique; I swing almost wildly from asexuality/erotic apathy to craving sex like some sort of female Eros. Generally, I fire-up dating apps every three months, speak to a man, go for a drink, sleep with him and don’t speak to him again. This is a protective system I’ve adopted in response to the behaviour of a lot of white men on dating apps. As a black woman who ticks the ‘curvy’ box, I encounter all manner of fetishising openers from these men: "I’d love to see your big brown ass", "You black girls can take a dick" and the unforgettable, "How would you feel about slave/master role play?"
Two months ago, I received a message from a guy I’d messaged first. "Nice pins" was my opening line. Because I was going away for a week, we had a lot of back and forth before we eventually met. He seemed kind and interesting; we spoke about everything from family to feminism by way of film. Most attractively, he presented himself as a man seeking something that abolished longstanding gender roles. I’m a busy woman and relationships aren’t for me, so when we eventually met for dinner, we went back to his house, had sex and I snuck out at 6am.
We shared a few messages the next day but he sensed that my interest had waned and bid me adieu. A few weeks later, though, he sent me a message that made me double-take. "I’m acutely aware that this might not be your bag, but I enjoy being submissive." I looked at the message for a few seconds before replying, "Beg pardon?"
"I like giving pleasure a lot. And that can manifest itself in a variety of ways," he continued. "Right," I typed back. "In the bedroom? Or everywhere?" I thought it best to make as many enquiries as possible before going further. "Well, that’d depend. Maybe just the bedroom or everywhere if that was agreed by both parties. Basically, you being the boss." I told him that I wasn’t best suited to it as I like things to be even, but he pressed on. "As a couple, you would be the one to make decisions in the full knowledge that you were in control."
Popular culture has always told us that this domme/sub dynamic exists; Secret Diary of a Call Girl opened my eyes to it in 2007 and when I told my friends about The Sub’s proposal, half of them asked if I’d watched Billions, which opens with Paul Giamatti’s leather-clad woman pressing her lit cigarette into his chest. I slept on it, and came to the conclusion that one should try everything once.
We discussed the terms of how the dynamic might play out in my flat. "I would come prepared to cook anything you wanted, because you would have told me in advance," he told me. "Then after cooking, I would clean for you and pleasure you. Then, if you wanted, I would sleep at the foot of the bed, on the floor, outside. Whatever you wished, mistress." Where had that title crept in? I was hesitant. As somebody who grew up in a Caribbean household, the idea of allowing somebody to cook or clean for me is a no; I was taught from an early age to do these things myself, and to a high standard, or God wouldn’t love me.
So, The Sub came around with a tub of ice cream, because I felt that I needed to order him to bring something. When he got to my front door he stood there awkwardly. "Tell me what to do mistress" he mumbled, not making eye contact. "Er, take your clothes off so you’re in your boxers?" I offered feebly, trying to fulfil the role that he’d pressed upon me.
I cooked, although he protested throughout, then I sat in my room as he shut me out of the kitchen to wash up. When finished, he told me that it was time to pleasure me. We had sex, I asked him not to sleep at the end of the bed, and he left in the morning. We continued with the dynamic for a couple of weeks, though I could tell that I wasn’t being the mistress he wanted when he’d repeatedly message me asking, "Are you enjoying it or not?!"
He came round to my flat again, this time surveying what I was wearing; there was a financial side of things that resulted in him buying me underwear to wear when dominating. When he ordered it, he’d send me screen grabs of the order confirmation and would follow with a picture of the erection that buying the items gave him. The evening was an exercise in me uncomfortably finding arbitrary things for him to do around the house. "Um. Would you consider shampooing my carpets?" I asked, grasping for something I didn’t want to do myself. "Of course, mistress" he replied. I felt uneasy, and he could tell. Something in him seemed to switch, and that night he asked me to command him to do more and more. I faltered, and out of nowhere he announced that it was time for him to pleasure me. I thought it odd, but went along with it. We began to have sex and, halfway through, he grew more forceful. I asked him to stop, and he slammed out of my flat. The control that I hadn’t asked for had suddenly gone, taken back at the point I was most vulnerable.
Some time later, I got a message from him. "How is your dad by the way?" he asked. "Daddy issues." I suggested that he might be the one with issues. "You’re damaged goods," he fired back. "I’ve got a sub anyway. She’s 20. She’s at uni." I blocked him. I guess he got what he wanted. I didn’t. My carpets still need shampooing.