DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a geeky girl who needs some help figuring out how to bring up an awkward topic with her boyfriend. I noticed your site is very sex positive, so I thought you might be able to give some advice from a non-judgmental standpoint.
I’ve been in a relationship for about a year with a really great guy. He is not only affectionate, but appreciates my affection towards him; we share a lot of interests and communicate very effectively under nearly all circumstances (I’ll get to the exception soon). The icing on the not-at-all-a-lie cake is our sexual compatibility. He is very dominant and I am reciprocally submissive. Our personal boundaries are complimentary and the master/servant dynamic ends as soon as the act is done and we fall into an oxytocin-induced snuggle coma. He has never tried to use this power structure to make me do something I am uncomfortable with and we employ enthusiastic consent into our role-play to make sure things do not get out of hand. I feel incredibly safe with this man and fulfilled in a way I didn’t know was possible.
However, twice in the past couple weeks, my boyfriend’s sexytimes alter ego has said something that has upset me. He always asks if I am prepared to be dominated by him, but a couple times after my affirmation, he replied “good, because it’s happening either way.” I was raped three years ago and still struggle with the aftermath and my boyfriend is aware of this, so his use of such a triggering phrase is particularly hurtful.
I meant to bring it up, because I am sure he is saying it as a character and unaware of its impact on me. On the day I psyched myself up for the conversation, he told me how grateful he is that I am accepting of his desires because he was ashamed and afraid of them in the past. He seemed like he had struggled a lot with his sexuality, so I chickened out.
I am certain he does not intend his words to hurt me and they don’t routinely show up in our dialogue. I do not want to cause him further anguish about his certain proclivities because he would be very distressed that he said something upsetting to me. But I do want to ensure that he doesn’t use that phrase again. I feel I am caught between our fragile and still-struggling psychologies. I know I should tell him how I feel, but I don’t want to hurt him. How should I approach this conversation?
Between a Rock and an Innuendo
DEAR BETWEEN A ROCK AND AN INNUENDO: First of all Rock: I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. It’s a testament to your strength as to how much you’ve healed – even thrived – after everything. It also sounds like you’ve chosen a great guy and have an amazing relationship. But as great as he is, he is tripping over an emotional land-mine you have – however unintentionally – and that’s something that needs to be addressed.
And the only way for that to happen is for you to tell him. Kink and power exchange requires trust and safety – physical and emotional – and that’s not going to happen if he keeps triggering you during your sessions. The other thing to keep in mind is that you’re not playing “dueling emotional scars”; the efforts it’s taken your boyfriend to come to terms with the fact that he’s a dominant and gets off on power exchange doesn’t negate or supersede the fact that his comments hurt you and bring you back to a place where you were assaulted.
Honestly: he’s not going to know he’s doing this unless you tell him, and I’m pretty sure his feelings can take the hit.
Now you don’t need to roll it out like he’ s a horrible person or shaming him for being into power exchange and master/servant role-play and this doesn’t mean that you can’t continue having the kinky sex you enjoy. You should tell him that some of the things he’s said hurt you and explain why and how. Even when you’re both doing a scene and he’s in his role, he’s still him and once you’ve let him know that he’s been hurting you and how, he’ll understand where the line is and know not to cross it again. This isn’t about blaming him, it’s simply informing him of a limit he was careless over and now you’re renegotiating the rules under which the two of you play. That level of implied non-consent, even in the context of a D/S scene, is a hard “no”. And if he does trip over that particular line again, don’t be afraid to use your safe word and put an end to the scene. That’s the whole point of safe words, after all.
If he’s as good a guy as you say he is – and nothing you’ve said implies that he isn’t – he’s probably going to be a little horrified that he’s been hurting you accidentally. Don’t let it go beyond “Oh God, I had no idea, I’m so sorry!” to “Oh God, I’m scum”; that’s the point where it’s no longer about you but instead becomes about his fee-fees… which is not only not the point but can be a passive-aggressive way of making you feel bad and having to comfort him.
But like I said: he sounds like a good guy. Let him know and soon enough you’ll be seeing this as just a rough patch in the early days of an amazing relationship.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have what might be an unusual question, and it has to do with the general theme of working on the image your project.
Without giving too much detail for personal reasons, I was at work, and a female coworker was giving me a hand. I announced myself before entering a room, and had to pause because my coworker immediately gasped, and when I looked at her, she just said “That voice!”, before laughing at my expression. It took me a second, but I realized she had probably never heard me when I speak to a customer in my Work Voice.
Naturally, I have a very low voice, that can sometimes be a little raspy, so when I’m in a professional setting dealing with customers, I make sure to project and speak very clearly. I’m aware there is a distinct difference in my tone, and the general sound overall when I do this, but had never put much thought into it beyond “it’s easier for the people with hearing issues I work with every day to understand me.”
Leaving the room, I decided to go have some fun, and in a quieter version of my Work Voice said something along the lines of “Liked that, did you?” And winked. Of all things, she nodded, and giggled. And not in a “laughing at you” kind of way. It was a rather nice reaction, beyond the general amusement. Walking back, she commented that she’d never heard me speak that way, and it really surprised her.
This really got me thinking: All this effort we put into what we say, and how we stand, and how we dress, and not panicking on just talking to a girl… How many of us have honestly ever put serious thought into what our specific individual voice sounds like while doing any of it?
And it seems to me a serious lapse in judgement, especially after that exchange.
So, Doc… Any tips for how to train a Sexy Voice?
– “In A World…”
DEAR IN A WORLD: Voices are hugely sexy. Vin Diesel wouldn’t have quite as much sex appeal if his voice wasn’t a bass so low that it registers on the Richter scale. Neither would Benedict Cumberbatch. Or Alan Rickman for that matter. Nor would Tom Hiddleston be quite as attractive if it wasn’t for his very posh, cut glass accent and diction as Loki.
Thing is: most of us don’t speak in our “real” register. We tend to speak with our “head” voice rather than with our “real” voice, speaking more through our noses than through our throats – and usually higher than our natural pitch. So the first step to having a sexier voice is to find your true register. It’s actually surprisingly easy: you just hum. As you’re humming, you want to vary the pitch a little up and down as you try to find a level that feels right and natural to you. Too high and you’ll feel it more through your sinuses; too low and you’ll feel it more in your chest. You’ll know it when you feel it. After you find the right pitch, you’ll want to practice talking. At first you’ll sound a little monotone as you attempt to get used to the way that it sounds to you, but with practice you’ll start to be able to speak in a normal tone with all the usual inflections and emoting. Spend some time recording and playing the sound back so you’ll understand how it sounds to others.
But the appeal of a person’s voice isn’t just the pitch and timber, it’s the way they talk. This is why you need to focus on how you’re saying things. You said it yourself, IAW: you project and speak very clearly. Let’s get on YouTube and take a look at those Jaguar ads that featured Mark Strong, Tom Hiddleston and Ben Kingsley – all men with sexy voices. They enunciate their words – meaning you can hear them clearly and understand them. Muttering and mumbling isn’t cool or sexy; making the other person say “What? What?” over and over again is going to negate any impact your voice or words might have. Similarly, they speak with a deliberate, measured rhythm. All too often, we speak way too fast; speaking slowly indicates confidence while speaking quickly comes of as nervous, and as we all know, confidence is supremely sexy.
You also should practice breathing from your diaphragm, not from your upper chest. Learning how to breathe deeply and properly means that not only will you be able to project without straining your throat or vocal chords, but it also ensures you’ll have the breath control and air flow that will help your voice resonate and flow smoothly.
When in doubt: watch some Shakespearean movies, especially anything with Ian McKellan, Kenneth Brannagh, Derek Jacobi or other Royal Shakespearean Company veterans; you’ll notice how much effort they put into using their voices to convey character. Practice some of their lines out loud – record them into your smartphone and play them back. The more you become aware of your voice, the more control you’ll have over it… and the sexier you’ll be able to make it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)