Erotic chastity is one of those things I think a lot of people are confused or dismayed by when they first hear about it, and conceptualizing it as miserable, self-sacrificing denial is certainly one aspect of chastity play; martyring one’s sexual desire and leaving its indulgence to the whim and amusement of one’s dominant partner. But I think, while this interpretation is popular and easily the most commonly asserted, there can be a lot more involved in the appeal of this particular kink that seems to go unrecognized.
For the uninitiated, chastity play is a kink that centers in some way around the imprisonment of the male member, often in the form of a locking mechanism that fits around the anatomy, to which the dominant partner is given the key. There are many variations on and extensions of chastity play, but in all cases the underlying theme is one of deprivation.
The most common characterizations of this kink and its appeal revolve around what I consider to be a rather archaic and vaguely Freudian interpretation of sexuality, summarized by an adage that appears in The Republic of Plato, often given as:
“The male libido is like being chained to a madman.”
Put simply, it assumes that male desire is a forceful, primal urge that has to be mitigated by outside control, and it cedes immediately that a man himself is incapable of living up to the task.
Now there are many who validate this flawed and inaccurate portrayal, and indeed many who seem to appreciate it and some who even seem hell bent on living up to it, but I have yet to be persuaded. For me, the appeal of enforced chastity isn’t that it helps me be a “good boy” in spite of the handicap of my sex, an understanding that I find condescending and minimizing of my humanity, but rather that it is a demonstration of my devotion and commitment to my partner’s authority and power, and my desire for something other than the penetrative act in my sexual relations.
Erotic chastity play asserts and indicates immediately, in a functionally unavoidable way, that penetration and what is commonly identified as an act of sexual prowess is not a prerequisite for erotic interaction, and it says that With or without my hard, throbbing cock, I am here for this, and I am here for you, and here for this erotic interaction.
Now, to be clear, I like a down and dirty fucking as much as anyone, possibly more so in fact, but I do think it’s a mistake to consider that the be all and end all of sex, or even the main event. We like to imagine that sex begins when a man penetrates a woman, ends when he orgasms, and that everything else is some manner of “foreplay” or courting or ritual, but an enlightened view of sex dismisses this distinction.
To me, sex is characterized by the entirety of the erotic endeavor, and to specifically abdicate or forgo one’s supposed claim to the penetrative act reframes the scenario and changes its parameters.
There is a base and Philistine approach to sex that installs the male partner in a stupefied and befuddled role to which the niceties of sensualism and decorum must be explained, peppered with the exhibition of a furrowed brow and an occasional demand to know, “…But when do we fuck?”
There is a focus on this dynamic that turns some members of our society into deceitful and unscrupulous schemers, the ones who are bored by and disinterested in the wining and dining aspects of courting, and who see the whole of the romantic pursuit as a foolish, inconvenient, and socially constructed barrier to solving the underlying problem of how, and how often, they can fuck.
To me, chastity is an overt demonstration of the impulse and tendency to approach things differently, and to prioritize different things when it comes to a sexual and erotic interaction. Put simply, chastity play exhibits a commitment to romance, and to nuance and subtlety and artfulness, and to the participation and involvement of their partner.
When there are so many in the romantic landscape who are willing to put on a button up shirt and sit through a night of conversation if it gets them the opportunity to bang out an orgasm, only so that they can obtain a respite from their sexual desire and go back to ignoring those who participate with them so they can relieve themselves of the burden of being civilized and prosocial, it does have a way of undermining the efforts of those of us who are legitimately engaged in the process, or at least of calling into question the subtext of that engagement.
A lot of women, consciously or unconsciously, I think are rightly skeptical of what an adoring submissive might say or do to demonstrate their approach, even if that skepticism is ultimately unwarranted, but working through that reticence and those past betrayals, and earning that trust and establishing that validity is a wonderful and worthwhile effort that builds a solid and reliable relationship.
Chastity, then, is a demonstration of that earnestness, providing the reassurance that I’m not just buttering my lady up or flattering her as a means to an end when I confess my adoration and my esteem for her. It shows, plainly, that I couldn’t just be saying these things, or using things like worship and service to trick her into participating in that bland and alienating trick.
Chastity demonstrates that there isn’t a con at play here, she isn’t being had. She isn’t letting go of her instinct for self protection and letting the hormonal cascade of affection and bonding take place for nothing. It says, plainly, that I’m here for this. I’m here for everything but. I’m not just going to fuck you and leave.
There’s a nobility in that, and there’s a commitment to care that can go along with it. There’s a tacit, unspoken agreement that the encounter, and by extension the relationship, is bigger and more important than what can be accomplished selfishly. But the peace and the reassurance and the intimacy of that is not chastity play’s only appeal.
When I’m locked up and put away, and made to go about my day in that context, the intimacy of that comes with me, and in a very physical and sensual way I can feel the gentle grip of my dominant’s control, continuously, and in all situations and circumstances. I can feel the bond we have transcend the sexual encounter, and it becomes representative of our ongoing D/s relationship and enables me to incorporate that more broadly into my life apart from her.
There’s a sweetness in that, and it preserves what we establish in a sexual context in a way that carries it through into our broader context in and among the rest of the world, and reinforces it. It’s not that I can’t be trusted, it’s that I’m demonstrating and preserving the trustworthiness that I’ve asserted and even exhibited in other circumstances, and giving her tangible evidence with which to believe it.
Negotiating a woman’s rightful and valid reluctance to be be wooed involves demonstrations of this kind, earnest and with a desire to earn and be worthy of that trust and that respect, and in doing so with no connection to the sexual act and without the pursuit of its pleasures shows that one can listen to her and be engaged with her and involve oneself with her asexually, even when not just orgasm or arousal but sex of any kind is off the table.
That’s why I’ve never bought the explanation that, essentially, chastity makes for better orgasms overall. Not least because I have no problem enjoying exceptional orgasms routinely but more so because I feel it misses the point. The idea is that this forgoes your gratification to make a bigger, more salient point, not that you’re playing a game to hit a bigger sexual jackpot. It’s supposed to be about saying, You can have one without the other, and not in the way you’ve been conditioned to believe.
That shows humanity, and demonstrates a worthiness to be loved, and guarantees in some way the things that one claims to be true. What others exhibit as a sham is vouched for by this demonstration, and it extends the burden of living up to one’s words beyond the means that can be taken on by an alterior motivation. It’s a test of one’s mettle, and it gives her the chance to see what your affection is really made of.
It says, Even when I can’t fuck you, my love and my worship remain.
For that matter it recognizes her autonomy and her right to control not just whether she is fucked but to monitor and assure herself of the quality and spirit of that fucking. It literally puts the keys in her hand and lets her have the power to decide. It shows control over oneself that is formally gifted to her.
And that leads me to what I think is one of the more potent and gratifying versions of chastity play, one that takes it into a territory where her power and control may be more emotionally important (even critical) than anywhere else.
The gravest of the betrayals that men exact on women’s trust and belief and esteem is the victimization inherent in assault, and when you’re trying to assuage the hurt that that leaves behind and to enable emotional progress and growth in someone who has been cut off from that security and that peace, chastity can be a remarkable asset in enabling her to let go of the conditioned instinct to resist and be suspicious of authentic, nourishing intimacy.
In that situation it’s a way of acknowledging the impact that has been wrought by the indulgence of that fictitious, uncontrollable “beast” to whom we are all supposedly lashed. It distinguishes oneself from that which had been given license to exploit her by someone she trusted, and it says, No harm here. No chance, no possibility. No way it could just happen. You’re safe from that. It’s just you and me. And I’m here to worship and serve.
It gives her the chance to feel and experience in a tangible way that you are not that, and whatever similarity she must ascribe to you in common with that is formally and functionally neutered. Her ability to trust that you are in control of yourself and of that urge had been shattered, by no fault of either of yours, and so you can make progress in her emotional wellbeing by playing along with that fear and acting against it. It shows a legitimacy for her anxiety and dread, and it says, If that’s what’s bothering you then I don’t need it to be involved. You can release me if and when you’re ready, or never. We both will protect you from that.
It shows a solidarity with her and demonstrates that she deserves to feel cared for and respected and safe in her sexual encounters, even if that means your pleasure sits this one out, even indefinitely. It gives her something else to go on that dilutes and makes convertible the understanding of the conditions of sex that have been forced upon her. It lets her see, in genuine sacrifice, that This is not about me, or what I want or what I want from you or what I want you for. It’s about you, and how I can serve and facilitate your wellbeing.
Chastity can be so much more than just a funny little playtime kink, so much more than just a tease and denial game. Like anything else in the best versions of kink, it has the power to move and to be emotionally significant, and it can bring people together and encourage a deep emotional connection.
It’s hard for some people to imagine that what specifically keeps you from being horny could play such a deep role in the sexual context and atmosphere, but if there’s any point to it at all, it’s pointing out that being horny isn’t all there is to it.
This essay was featured in the 2020 Seattle Erotic Arts Festival Anthology.