Fantasy to reality, or the fallacy of “turn-key” turn-ons
In the world of business franchises, “turn-key” refers to a type of franchise where the operator buys a business that is so thoroughly prepped and supplied that all they need to do is “turn the key” in the door and open for business. You don’t have to develop the business from the ground up, you’re just buying the whole package and that’s it, you’re the newest Domino’s or UPS shipping store or whatever on the block.
I thought about this business model recently, when a friend was telling me about someone who was pursuing her for a sexual relationship. They had briefly discussed their own sexualities and dynamics, and this other person revealed that they very much wanted to be in service and submission to her. This happened to dovetail with some of my friend’s interests, and so they arranged a first date, an encounter that was simple and not too deep or dark or hardcore, for which my friend gave a few specific directions and her would-be partner enthusiastically agreed.
But then two things happened: the other person instantly went for a very strict verbal protocol that the two had not negotiated (e.g. calling my friend “my Queen” and “Goddess”), and then they flaked at the last minute.
They had a fantasy in mind, I suggested, and my friend nodded. “Which was fine, because I liked a lot of the stuff they were talking about. But they didn’t want to put in the work of getting to know me and what I wanted. They didn’t want to grow that together. They wanted it all, right away.”
I would put this kind of package-deal fantasy on the same spectrum as fetishes; you don’t necessarily need it to get off, the way that fetishists do with their kinks, but who the other person is maybe isn’t as important as the clothing or scene or dynamic that you want them to step into. As far as fetish/kink goes—openly acknowledged and explored, lots of negotiation, etc—this is fine. But what my friend was talking about was something different.
Her pursuer had a particular flavor of submission in mind, and ignored my friend’s explicit statements to the contrary (e.g. “I don’t want to be called your Queen; you can call me ma’am”). This person wanted to serve, but they weren’t willing to talk with my friend about the ways in which that desire did and did not mesh with hers. This works out fine when you’re paying someone like a professional dominatrix—in fact, that’s mostly what I deal with in phone work, when talking with submissive dudes—or when you’re in a very time-restricted environment like a play party at a dungeon.
But when you’re looking at building a longer-term relationship, then the turn-key model just doesn’t work as well. Odds are very good that someone’s needs are getting overlooked, and furthermore, you’re not getting the full richness of connection that happens when partners listen and discuss their sex stuff, full out.
Sure, that takes time and commitment and maybe disappointment or disagreement to work through, OH NOES ADULT-LEVEL ENCOUNTER, but you can still end up with the same scene, whatever that may be, and when you get there together, the actions have more impact, the words have more mutual meaning, and the dynamic will be carefully handcrafted, together.
And look, I’m not saying that every coupling, kinky or otherwise has to be like this. Maybe that’s not the level of involvement you want. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe you want what you want, and nothing else. The turn-key approach may be right for you. But at least say it up front, because whether you’re negotiating a play scene or discussing a long-term living-together strategy, erring on the side of more communication, not less, is going to be way more likely to get your needs met.
I don’t think I’m privileging coupleness here. I’m privileging communication, which makes any kind relationship, of any duration, work better. Yes, it takes longer than turning a key, but it feels a lot better once you’re inside.