Some Thoughts about Submission
(Original article from http://kinktoychest.com/index.php/castle-realm-archives/68)
What is submission?
Submission is a word that we hear tossed around pretty often lately but I often wonder if most people really understand what it means. Being a "submissive" has become very popular in the D/s, BDSM fad that is sweeping the chat rooms and websites. There's even a fashion and cultural trend based on some of the facets of the BDSM lifestyle. You can find collars and leather fetish items being worn by the rich and famous or you can have dinner in one of New York's newest, trendy restaurants that features all the trappings of the lifestyle dungeon, complete with submissive waiters and waitresses. All of these things are interesting and amusing but they are not a true picture of what it's all about. Submission isn't a fad or a role playing game that we see so often online and at clubs, and you aren't a submissive because you like to be tied up and have kinky sex once in awhile.
So what is it? Submission is the act of surrendering some or all of ones personal power to another person. It's allowing someone else to control your body and behavior within certain preset limits. This must be a willing act on the part of the submissive or the boundaries of abuse have been crossed. The methods and levels of submission are infinite. Each person must decide how much and how far this exchange of power will go but the rules of "safe, sane and consensual" must always apply.
Why does anyone do this?
If you asked a hundred people you'd probably get a hundred different answers. For some it's a way to add a little more excitement to their love life. For others there may be deep, psychological reasons that go beyond my ability to understand. Based on my experience I believe there are three distinct types individuals who fall into the definition of submissive. Please understand that these are my OWN definitions and not some standard issued by the D/s community.
1. The sexual submissive. Also known as a bottom or sensual sub. This type of submissive is into it mainly for the sexual gratification derived from some of the activities practiced in BDSM. Once their needs are met they no longer feel a need to submit or surrender any other personal power or control.
2. The psychological submissive. This group contains many of the masochistic submissives. They are into it for the pain, punishment and humiliation often inflicted on them by more sadistic dominants. Many abused individuals often end up in this category and are not actually submissives but may have emotional problems that keep them in the "victim" mode because of their previous experiences.
3. The natural submissive. Also called true submissive. This type of individual seems to have been born submissive. It goes beyond the sexual aspects of the BDSM and is a normal part of their makeup. It is their nature to please others and readily relinquish their personal power with little or no urging from their dominant.
Which one is right?
All of them or none of them, depending on your views. Each person must do what is right and fulfilling for them. There have been countless, needless argument over who is and who is not a "real" submissive. Some start out as a sensual sub with little interest in pleasing anyone but themselves and end up growing into some of the most beautiful submissives in our lifestyle. It's not the right of anyone to judge who is and isn't submissive based on what activities satisfy them or how many scars or piercings they may have. Submission is a condition of the heart and only the individual knows what is in theirs.
My Own Awakening
I recall so well those unnamed feelings I had from the time I could remember. There was always something different about the way I reacted to authority and the natural instincts I had when it came to the desire to please people. I didn't understand it but I sensed there was something about me that set me apart from some of my friends and playmates. As I grew older these feelings never went away even though I tried to pushed them deep inside me because I was afraid of them. I intuitively knew that these feelings made me very vulnerable to anyone who wanted to take advantage of my nature. Although I tried to ignore or hide this nature, it still worked its way into my life in many ways. I was always willing to give more, expect less, try harder and take so little in all the relationships I had with people, especially when it came to those involving my heart.
After a few disastrous relationships I was finally forced to take a deep look inside myself to see what made me tick. What I saw were those very things I'd felt so long ago. The day I met another person who understood what I was feeling was a day I'll never forget. This dear, wonderful, submissive lady explained so many things I asked about and I found out that there were others just like me. It wasn't some awful secret I had to keep hidden from the world. What I felt had a name and for the first time I didn't feel like I was some kind of freak of nature. I felt like I'd been let out of a prison and was free to fly for the first time in my life. I was a submissive and it was okay to be who I was.
To me, my submission isn't unnatural, nor is it sick or twisted. It just is. It's normal in most species and I believe that humans are no different. It's important to understand that I see a big difference between being a "submissive" and being a "bottom." A bottom is someone who will, for sexual gratification, become submissive for a given period of time, i.e. for a sexual encounter in the bedroom or during a BDSM scene. They have no other desire to continue a power exchange beyond the confines of a particular scene. Many can easily switch roles in these scenes and become the top or dominant. This is very different from a natural submissive who, by nature, has submissive desires that are not limited to sexual activities
Some Different Terms
I'd like to bring up another "touchy" subject to some lifestylers and that is the difference between BDSM and D/s. BDSM has been defined as B-D-S-M with the "B-D" being bondage/discipline, the "D-S" meaning dominance/submission and the "S-M" for sadism/masochism. Some consider all these terms to be interchangeable definitions and activities but I think it's very misleading to most novices. D/s does not fit in with the other terms for one major reason. Domination/submission is a description of a lifestyle. BD and SM are two things people do. Some D/s couples readily accept these two activities as part of their relationship but a large percent of D/s couples do not embrace activities that are based on giving or receiving pain.
So what separates the masochist from the submissive?
My answer would have to be motivation. A submissive is motivated by the desire to please and to serve. When pain becomes necessary for satisfaction or fulfillment, the relationship has moved beyond my definition of the D/s lifestyle and had moved more toward S/M. When pain becomes the motivation and gratification comes from receiving pain, the person could best be described as a masochist. This difference is often evident in the behavior of these two types of personalities. A SAMmy (Smart Ass Masochist) deliberately misbehaves or challenges their dominant in order to receive the punishment (pain or humiliation) they crave. Outside the confines of a scene or other sexual encounter there may be very little submission evidenced in the relationship. A submissive (one who desires to submit) is constantly striving to improve their behavior in order to please their dominant by surrendering to his/her rules and expectations. Submission, in the confines of a D/s relationship, is not measured by the amount of pain one can endure, instead it is measured by the amount of control one has relinquished to their dominant.
Is one better than the other?
No, not to anyone but the people in the relationship. Just keep in mind that pain or bondage are not the basis for determining a dominant/submissive relationship. It's based on a power exchange and not the trappings of the people involved. Don't automatically assume all submissives want or need to feel discomfort or pain (beyond erotic pain) to experience submissive tendencies and desire to relinquish control.
Here are just a few facts about submission that might give you some more insight.
- Submission occurs in both males and females in about equal proportions. Although men and women may express it differently, they share this trait.
- Submission is not a sign of weakness or inferiority. Some of the strongest, most successful people in our society are submissive in their personal relationships.
- Submission does not indicate lack of intelligence or motivation. Most submissives are very intelligent, creative and are highly motivated people.
- Submission is not a hidden desire for pain or humiliation. Some masochistic people may turn to the D/s or BDSM lifestyle in order to fulfill their needs for these things but there are many more gentle, loving individuals who are quite happy not to receive either humiliation or pain.
- Submission is not the same as passivity. Submissives are not passive. They participate actively and are thinking individuals.
- Submission is not something that can be demanded or forced. The definition of the word means it is a willing act. A submissive submits because they have chosen to do so, not because someone forced them.
- Submission is not a miserable state of existence. Most submissives are happy, well balanced people who are simply fulfilling their nature.
- Submission is not slavery. All slaves are submissive but not all submissives are slaves. A submissive has not given up their right to choose but has given some of those choices to another to make for them. They have input into their relationship and maintain their identity.
- Submission does not indicate sexual promiscuity. Submissives are not sex crazed nymphomaniacs who cannot control their drives. Most are husbands or wives, mothers or fathers, friends, neighbors, workers, or family members who have a need to relinquish control of some aspects of their lives to someone they trust. It isn't a sex thing...it's a condition of the heart.
Reality or Fantasy?
Far too many people have formed their ideas about submission and submissives from such books as "Story of O" by Pauline Réage, "The Beauty Trilogy" by Ann Rice, or the Gorean novels by John Norman. While these books may be interesting works and very erotic to many, they are not a true picture of what the D/s lifestyle is about. While many may have experienced the first stirrings of submissive feeling while reading these books, fantasies such as "O" or "Beauty" don't work well as a lifestyle. D/s is far more than a fantasy. It's a way of life where many find fulfillment and peace for the first time in their lives.
If you have these feelings and have often felt alone or overwhelmed by them I hope it gives you a bit of comfort to know you're in good company. There are others just like you who are healthy, happy and functional individuals that are quite content to be called "submissive." Come and explore the information you will find on this site and learn what it is that makes you tick. You just might find you've found yourself somewhere along the way.