A reader with the pen name Slap Unhappy asked Em & Lo for advice with the following situation.
My wife and I have been together just over five years. The other night while having sex, she asked me to slap her in the face. Repeatedly. I was raised not to lay a hand down on a woman, and now I am being asked to. We are pretty active and broad in our sexual tastes, but this one is kind of weird to me. Thoughts, ideas?
– Slap Unhappy
Source: Em & Lo
First of all, I recommend reading E&L's response, which is both informative and thoughtful. But the question brings up another dimension that I don't think is explored often enough.
Back in the late 1970s or early 1980s I ended up breaking up with someone early in a relationship because she wanted me to slap her. It just totally freaked me out. A few years later I was really freaked out when a partner told me she was terribly turned on by spanking.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know about BDSM. In fact I’d done a fair amount of bondage and coercion role-playing. But neither of those partners had seemed the least bit interested — they’d just had previous partners who’d done it to them and they’d discovered they liked it.
My loss in retrospect, and of course theirs too.
What I didn’t understand at the time, and it’s really important for Slap Unhappy too, is that boundaries and respect for boundaries are really important not just to protect the sub, and in more gendered terms they’re not there just to protect the woman.
You’re absolutely right that, especially when we’re turned on, people can withstand far more “impact” than their partners may be psychologically or even physically comfortable giving. (Psychologically as in Unhappy’s and my case where hitting someone went against ingrained upbringing. And physically it often hurts one’s hand more to spank someone than it hurts the spankee’s bottom.)
So anyway, while it might be Unhappy’s partner’s wildest turn on to be slapped, if it’s a turn-off for him then she needs to a) recognize that it’s a boundary issue for him, b) negotiate to see if there’s a way to make him comfortable enough to consent, and if not then c) respect his boundary and his decision not to participate.
Oh, and possibly if he goes ahead anyway then she may also need to d) help work with him through what I’m going to call potential “top drop” afterwards. Because what he might agree to try he might still be bummed about after.
Bottom line: We don’t usually think of boundaries and consent as moving in the direction of the top, or in heterosexual relationships as working towards the man. But boundaries are boundaries and consent is consent and when they’re confronted it’s important that they be respected regardless of who’s boundaries they are or who’s consent is required.
It’s always ok to say no.