Queer Issue 2012

How They Do It

Open Marriage

Where to Party for Pride 2012

Lecherous Marriage

Transgender Marriage

Arranged Marriage

Polygamous Marriage

Interracial Marriage

Sexless Marriage

Marriage for the Purpose of Getting a Green Card

Boring, Traditional, Religious Marriage

Vi and Me

Gay-Married and Wary

Love Is the Ultimate Radical Act

I have to step over a tricycle and a battered doll on my way to the front door. More evidence of small children lies just inside the tiny Wallingford bungalow. And standing amid the toys, stuffed animals, and primary colors is a frazzled-looking dad.

Robert apologizes for the mess. I tell him that apologies aren't necessary: I remember how chaotic things are during the toddler years—and Terry and I had one child. Robert and Elizabeth, his wife of a dozen years, have three: a 5-year-old daughter and two 7-year-old twin boys. They get a pass.

Robert calls out to Elizabeth, letting her know that they have company, and offers me a seat at the tiny dining room table. Robert is in his early 30s. He's a little over six feet tall, and his shaggy, dark hair obscures his arty glasses. Elizabeth is almost a foot shorter than her husband, with a hip, short-cropped haircut and dark, expressive eyes.

"We met at a party in Toronto in the late 1990s," says Elizabeth, when I ask about how they fell in love. Elizabeth and I are sitting at the dining room table while Robert serves Elizabeth coffee. "Robert was wearing white pants and hoop earrings—Toronto in the '90s looked like the rest of the world did in the '80s."

Elizabeth wasn't interested in Robert. She had a crush on a friend of Robert's and she blew Robert off when he tried to talk to her at a party. Robert's friend would wind up blowing Elizabeth off after the party, leaving Elizabeth and Robert standing together on a sidewalk outside a coffee shop. Elizabeth turned to Robert and said, "It's you and me, then."

The pair wound up talking all night over coffee—"Talking has always been my secret weapon," says Robert—and they've been inseparable ever since.

Young, straight, and in love, Robert and Elizabeth did everything right: They finished college before they got married; they got their first real jobs before they had their first child.

"In just about every way, we had a standard heterosexual husband/wife relationship," says Elizabeth, and that included a fairly standard—even cliché—conflict about sex.

"Everything had to be perfect or I couldn't get into it," says Elizabeth. "Robert was always ready to go, and we fell into this pattern of pursue and withdraw, pursue and withdraw."

Married eight years, the sexual conflict that had always been a part of their relationship was complicated by the pressures of parenting.

"Our marriage was never truly on the rocks," says Robert. "But our low point was fairly low."

"There were dark times," says Elizabeth. "I went away for a few days and came back feeling really rejuvenated, excited to see Robert. And then he went away on a weeklong hike and came back and said, 'I hate my life.'"

It was at this stage that they began to radically reinvent their marriage.

"We had to find a way to grow together or we were going to grow apart," says Elizabeth. "And that's when Robert started coming to me with these crazy ideas. And I was like, 'There's no way I'm using a dildo on you.'"

Robert carefully interrupts his wife.

"My opening was actually chastity," says Robert. "I was wandering around the internet and found these stories about chastity, about men whose wives kept their husband's cocks locked up in cages, and that was the thing that first—"

"I remember it differently," says Elizabeth, cutting Robert off. "He wanted to be penetrated, and I didn't want to feel like the only way for me to have power in this marriage was to pretend to have a cock. And that's when he brought up chastity."

That was four years ago. And while the trajectory of Elizabeth and Robert's love story isn't as simple as this recap is making it sound—it wasn't a perfectly smooth transition from vanilla marriage with conflict to Femdom marriage without conflict—they are happier today than they have ever been, and they wish they had discovered the Femdom model sooner.

Elizabeth and Robert did attend some classes at the Center for Sex Positive Culture when they first began exploring BDSM, but they weren't interested in the trappings of BDSM—the chains, the fetish gear, the parties—nor were they interested in playing with others. Most of the classes seemed to be geared toward locating and negotiating with new partners, not introducing erotic power exchange into an established relationship. (Robert and Elizabeth are monogamous.) So they made it up as they went along.

"At first I was like, 'Okay, I will be dominant in the bedroom if you will be submissive in other areas of our lives,'" says Elizabeth. "What I really wanted was a submissive to do the fucking laundry," she says. "I wanted him to do the dishes."

Both agree that, at least at first, their exploration of erotic dominance and submission—Elizabeth's dominance, Robert's submission—was about Robert's desire to submit. But assuming the dominant role inside and outside the bedroom awakened something in Elizabeth. Today, she wouldn't contemplate returning to the way things were. Now Robert is submissive to Elizabeth at all times, in and out of the bedroom, and Robert's cock is locked in a male chastity device whenever Elizabeth isn't using it. Robert is not allowed to be sexually assertive in the bedroom, and that's the way Elizabeth wants it; Robert does what Elizabeth tells him to do outside the bedroom—makes her coffee, cleans her car—and that's the way Elizabeth wants it.

How does that work in front of the kids?

"It's very subtle outside the bedroom or when others are around," says Elizabeth. "You would have to be looking for it. Mostly it comes across as Robert seeming gentlemanly and attentive."

Both wish they had discovered Femdom earlier in their relationship. They don't have more sex than they used to back in the "dark days," but they have more sexual contact.

"We have more sexual interactions," says Robert, "even if we have less penis-in-vagina sex now. But we are more sexual. We have some kind of sexual play every day. Elizabeth gets to come all the time. I hardly ever get to—I'm never allowed to masturbate—and we've both learned it works better that way."

And what Robert used to experience as near-constant rejection—Elizabeth's lower libido, everything having to be "just right" for her to be interested in intercourse—he now experiences as a long, slow, arousing tease.

And what would Elizabeth and Robert say to anti-gay social conservatives—the Maggie Gallaghers and Brian Browns of the world—who claim to be the defenders of opposite-sex marriages?

"The thing that they think they're defending—the idea that there's only one way to be married—is already dead," says Robert. "And the one thing that would truly undermine our marriage would be to tell us that we're doing it wrong. We might not be married now if we had kept doing marriage the traditional way."

"Exactly," says Elizabeth. "The only way to protect our marriage is to allow everyone to do what works for them. This works for us." recommended