03/26/2012 02:00 EDT | Updated 05/25/2012 05:12 EDT

The Lure of BDSM and D/s: MY <i>Shades of Grey</i>

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Today, as women everywhere breathe heavily over 50 Shades of Grey, an erotic novel complete with bondage, discipline and power fantasy role-playing, I actually find myself breathing a little easier...

Because it's something I've experienced in real life. Moreover, I chose to tell the world about it in my just-released memoir (gulp). And at the back of my mind I've always worried, "Is everyone going to think I'm a freak for this?"

My curiosity around BDSM and Dominance/submission (D/s) arose during the first year after my divorce. I was going through a sexual reawakening and personal metamorphosis, open to learning more about myself, relationships and my body. For some reason, scenes from the movie, 9 1/2 Weeks kept flashing through my mind too. There was just "something" in how Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke connected -- how he seemed to "see" her, intuit her, push her beyond her boundaries and in turn, empower her to know herself more. That connection spoke to me, though I didn't understand how or why. It wasn't until I began talking to "Sir John the Dom" -- a sexual Dominant from the United States -- that I even realized that that movie was about D/s...

(Shaking head) I had so much to learn.

A D/s relationship, in its truest form, is all about the submissive, John explained to me. It's about her wants, her needs, her fantasies. Some of her desires may be conscious, but others may be locked in her subconscious. The Dom's job is to build a bond so strong with her that she feels safe enough, connected enough with him, to unleash her creativity and explore her innermost self. Through submission, she actually becomes empowered because she connects with her body, heart and mind in much deeper ways.

"Trust. Honesty. Communication. And respect," he said firmly. "Remember those four words. Those are the four pillars that a genuine D/s relationship is built upon. And until they are in place with any dom, always meet in a public place and always keep your clothes on," he warned, "because there are men out there who use D/s as a way to abuse women -- they think the sex is all about them, that they can 'take' whatever they want. A Dom never abuses or 'takes away,' Delaine... he only builds."

After many months of getting to know John, those four pillars gradually grew strong and firm. Our relationship then became more psychological -- a battle of the minds. I "tested" him constantly long before we became sexually involved -- mouthing off, ignoring him, deliberately trying to arouse him. I wanted to see if I could break his self-control; find a crack in his armour, so to speak.

But he always remained in control; patient, calm, and sometimes even amused. His goal was to make me learn more about me and MY needs. For that to happen, I had to be the one who went to him.

No doubt, much of what I experienced sexually with John involved my being physically "forced." And my "need" to experience that was scary and weird to me -- it seemed dark... twisted... violent. I feared some part of me longed to be abused.

But I now realized that my fear was misguided. The sexual and physical control John exerted over me actually empowered me, not stole my power. The sex we'd shared had been the final gateway -- a passage through which I was able to learn to trust a man again and to claim the ecstasy and power of my sexual energy as my own. Nothing he did to me was without my consent -- and beyond the bedroom, our relationship was as loving and "equal" as any other healthy relationship.

But what this sexual exploration did do was "add" to me; I became more of Delaine. I became more confident. I was more in tune with my passion and creativity and saw the value in keeping those channels open. I had more faith in her my body's intuition and no longer quashed it without listening. And most importantly, I felt freer and more capable of expressing my wants and needs -- not just in bed, but in life.

Ladies, are you allured or repulsed by BDSM and D/s? Why do you think some women relegate it to "fantasy only" vs. acting on it in reality?

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