text by Audra Wist
I never thought I would think twice about being sweet, too sweet, nice, expressive. I’ve been thinking about sweetness the last few weeks and my complications with the term, the idea, and the enactment of a certain kind of feminine softness. “You’re sweet,” he says.
This issue first came to a head for me when I started out as a professional dominant - I thought to myself, oh, am I not bitchy enough for this? Should I start being mean to people just ‘cause? I realized how silly that thought was and saw my kind demeanor as an ally, not something to distance myself from. Certainly, men see me for cruel and extreme encounters, but these encounters rely heavily on fantasy and developing the fantasy relies on an origin of vulnerability and love, respect, and in a lot of ways, sweetness.
I remember a woman, an artist I looked up to at the time, met me and told me I was “too nice” to be a domme. That really irked me and I seriously questioned (again) my legitimacy as someone practicing domination. Can you be a sweet person and impeccably cruel at the same time? I thought, well, what are the characteristics of a good domme? I made a list: self-aware, intelligent, alpha, controlling, managerial, caring, thoughtful, stern, empathetic, passionate, etc. To be mean, bossy, tyrannical, perhaps more “negative” items on the list - I thought these things all came from a delicate spot, too. Never once was “ultra bitch” or “psycho cunt” mentioned. Sure, those are roles, but to practice domination it requires a wheelhouse of generally positive and sane attributes. I determined her read to be bogus and her perception of me limited. My sweetness actually feeds into all these descriptions and it is a place where I like to be - in contradiction. It is an asset to my sexuality to be a chameleon, not something I have to hide.
And really, my sweetness comes out in strange ways. Because I want you to be better for me and I care for your betterment, you must take 40 lashes. That’s an element of sweetness in my mind. I’m being generous to that person who needs it. I press my ass up against you when we’re in bed together and grab your hand, showing you how to feel me up that right way. You acknowledge my kindness with a delicate sigh. I will make you a flower arrangement for your birthday, slapping and spitting on you later in bed. I show my sensitivity in all kinds of ways and in varying degrees. It’s what makes a good lover.
Whitman famously exclaims in Leaves of Grass “I contain multitudes” and I subscribe to that fully. I have permission because I am a human being. Something I forget frequently, but remember in times of desperation or sadness at my divided self. Another famous busting passage is in James Joyce’s Ulysses where Molly Bloom exclaims:
“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
I use this as a cornerstone to describe sexuality: distracted, zipping, direct, sweet, biting - it contains multitudes and that’s what makes it so accurate, all frayed at the edges and a bit urgent. We identify with the fluttering from one thing to another and feeling moments as they come. Sweetness or rage or bliss is never a permanent state. They live and they die but were true for the moment. Perhaps sweetness isn’t a trait inherent or needed in a D/s context, but being able to draw from sweetness in a moment of passionate boundary pushing dominance can amplify one’s read and dismantle their expectations in a pleasant and memorable way.