While leaving some comments on Lady Grey's blog posting Rules, Responsibility and the Kink it got me thinking about this subject more in depth.
Something that doesn't sit very well with me when these types of topics come up and I think it's due to a mix of factors that tend to contradict one another. Subs will have a tendency to speak out that their wife isn't dominant enough but when someone refers to the dominance or submission that occurs in their lifestyle as being inadequate, the rabidly defend their position that it is everything they'd hoped for but always follow it up with a "you can't expect a fantasy lifestyle of
a) is enough to keep you happy in the long run.
b) is not enough to keep you happy in the long run.
Everyone seems to hope for c) it is enough because she refuses to dominate me further and if I press it too hard she'll divorce me so I've convinced myself this is the end-all-be-all of lifestyles or I couldn't be happy.
I wrote a post of a similar type a while ago titled Thoughts on Vanilla to D/s Conversion Techniques.
While this isn't really a technique, it's more of a thought process to try and "bridge the gap" between fantasy and reality that might help some people in this kind of situation. This post will hopefully give some insight to subs, potential subs, fledgling Dommes, and reluctant Dommes.
Analyzing The Great Myth
There is a great myth in sub-land known as "I do it because it makes her happy and her life easier." This is a great ideal and I'm sure it makes up a fraction of why a sub actually submits and performs activities/actions he wouldn't want to do in a standard vanilla relationship. State this in front of your wife's friends and then beam in pride as they say they wish they had a man like you. While it is a non-kinky way to introduce the D/s dynamic to a vanilla S/O, the key phrase here is "it makes up a fraction of why."
The natural follow-up is, what is the rest of it?
Digging into the psyche of the submissive male, things get a bit strange. While "to make her life easier" flows so well in logic and in the heart and makes a D/s lifestyle desirable and natural, if it didn't arouse us, we wouldn't do it unless we felt like it. Unfortunately "to make her life easier" and "to make her happy" aren't the primary driving factors of submissive male arousal (although Dommes would find their searches much easier if they truly were).
Introduce rules, chores, and routines into the mix and your logic might wish to believe it's "because we're supposed to do it." This becomes a game of principles. "Any man that loves his wife should do this," "it's the right thing to do," and "it's the way it should be," come to mind. State these reasons in front of your wife's friends and beam in pride as they say they wish they had a man like you. It is a bit more D/s than the previous reasons, but it's still not quite that way. This is where many subs who have reluctant wives get stuck. They do it because they're supposed to and because of the other two reasons above. Again, this is great in principle and makes up a fraction of the reasons for D/s, but then why do they still imply a desire for more?
This brings us to the next step and at this point you will find the source of arousal for a submissive male. "I do it because if I don't do it or don't do it well, there will be unpleasant consequences." It is really the "do it or else" consequences that gets off the male sub. No one wants to state outright that this is what turns them on because it makes them feel selfish and abnormally kinky/deviant. However, the truth of it is that it gets them off when she steps up in an authoritarian way and exerts the inequality of their D/s relationship that really gets his blood pumping.
An example breakdown:
1. I clean the bathroom because it makes her life easier and she's happier when I do it for her than when she has to do it. (~20% of the reason)
2. I clean the bathroom because a husband who loves his wife should make sacrifices for her. (~20% of the reason)
3. I clean the bathroom thoroughly because if I don't clean the bathroom to her expectations I'll get a painful over-the-knee spanking, some time-out corner time, and I won't get to orgasm for a week. (~60%+ of the reason and ~90% of the arousal)
NOTE: I have met a few of the rare type that make up 0.02% of submissive men, these being the types that actually have a fetish for no-strings house-cleaning and similar activities. They get off on doing something that isn't enjoyable and to be thanklessly brushed off by whomever they are providing service for. This truly is a rare type, but they do exist. What I can say for sure is that if you have ever said something like "it's all for her happiness" and within 5 minutes also said "it's enough because the other stuff is just kinky fantasy," you aren't one of these types. Those types would never say it's enough for them because in most cases it turns them on that no one cares if it is enough for them or not.
What this Means for Dommes
Observationally speaking, the above breakdown may make sense but there is still a gap that needs to be bridged and that is "what useful application of this knowledge is there to be had?"
Newer and reluctant Dommes tend to be a bit afraid of going too far in dominance. They are often scared of hurting their sub emotionally and physically in a bad way and scared that if they unleash a significant amount of cruelty that he will want to leave. Intensity tends to grow together in both dominance and submission. I have referred to this in the past as "progressive escalation." This is completely natural as when something becomes ordinary, the boundaries must be pressed in order to achieve the same level of intensity in the future. In cases where a sub introduced the D/s lifestyle to his wife, he has usually been fantasizing for a loooooong time before she even thought about it, so there is a naturally catching up that needs to be done. If he was as new to the fantasy as she was, this learning curve wouldn't seem so steep but in most cases he is several years into the mindset while she is just beginning. The stumbling blocks tend to happen as she is in the process of catching up to where he is.
While it might be hard for a Domme to inflict cruelty on someone she loves, it is the cruelty that he truly craves. The threat of punishment and consequences... the fear of her potential wrath at displeasure... the knowledge that she controls his pleasure and pain... these are the things he craves and deep down, truly needs.
I can see how this would be a strange concept to embrace for a newer or reluctant Domme, but it's the truth. He wants to face your wrath if you're displeased. He wants to be denied pleasure if he failed to please you. He wants to give up control and has resigned himself to following your lead. If you want him to truly love you, be selfish and let the dominance flow. The more difficult you make things the more he will be yours.
Lady Grey took this one giant leap further in her last entry, an excerpt I've quoted here:
"A written rule like "Clean the toilet every day" becomes quite a different thing when I tie my husband's hands together and attach them to his cock and balls with a two foot rope and then tell him to clean the toilet."
This is a perfect example of tossing a curve-ball to a sub and keeping the mundane interesting and arousing. Chances are he would be fighting a hard-on the entire time at both the situation you set out for him, the additional struggles he has to bear for no apparent reason, and the panic knowing that he must perform as well as when his hands are free to please you.
So how does it work for Her?
All of this might be fine and dandy so far in understanding his needs but there's still a problem with "doing it" for her. Unless she's naturally dominant, there's no reason yet for any of these things to get her off. I propose a certain way of thinking about it.
Simplify things by getting to the root of her emotional spectrum:
My submission is a symbol of my love for you.
My obedience is a symbol of my respect for you.
My focus on your priorities is a symbol of my devotion to you.
My acceptance of your will is a symbol of my trust in you.
I want everything to be perfect for you so that you will be happy. I know I will stumble and I hope you will help me be your perfect man. This process won't be easy.
I hope your hand will guide me. I accept any pleasure or pain you feel I deserve.
By submitting to you he is giving you his all. This is the most he can give of himself and he chose you as the person he wants to give it to. Know that he submits out of strength rather than out of weakness. Yes, it turns him on to do so, but there's worse things that could turn him on. Let him display his love, devotion, obedience, respect, and trust for you in actions and cherish his submission. Know that he will thrive under adversity if you place that upon him. It will keep him focused, aroused, and happy. He needs your love and appreciation but he does not crave kindness in return.
He wants you to control his orgasms. When he cums he will do so with pride. When he is denied it will make him try harder to please you. He has given you this control out of love and trust. He only wants to have pleasure when you have been pleased.
He wants you to punish him when he has failed to please you. A submissive mind carries loads of guilt. Punishment frees him of this guilt and he will love you for it (even if he hates the actual punishment). Punishment will also make him try harder the next time. He accepts this punishment so that he can make you happy.
He wants you to hold him to impossibly high standards. If you expect only the best from him it shows him that you think highly of him and he feels like he is capable of being the best. Cherish that you have a man who wants to be the best to make you happy.
He wants you to fuck with him. While it might seem wantonly cruel on the outside, he will accept your cruelty with happiness because this means you love him enough as a submissive to provide situations that keep him focused and aroused. Take this as a sign of his devotion and he will be happy if his struggles entertain you.
I could go on an on but basically, accept these things as a symbol of his love and try to flow with it to love him back. Know that by being cruel you are delivering pleasure and try to take some pleasure in that knowledge. If you haven't found a way to make it turn you on, please, keep searching.
Looking back over this post... it seems like I derailed a bit but I hope it went somewhere that someone might find useful or interesting.