Joy and I have had some difficulties with Domination/submission lately, and therefore we are in the middle of a four-part series of submission exercises. Well, actually, we have just completed the first exercise, with another three to go. Because of this, I thought it might be a good time to write a post focusing on the topic of submission.
My belief is that when a couple first begins to tread the path of BDSM, each partner gravitates towards their preferred role, with the partner who likes to take control assuming Dominance, and the partner who enjoys relinquishing control choosing submission. Generally this choice does not come from a conscious decision—instead, it occurs naturally based on subconscious desires and their relative strengths within the two partners. And because this does not necessarily happen at the level of consciousness, there may be some conflict between worldview, upbringing, education and conscious thought and the wants and needs of the subconscious.
The conflict takes place more often on the submissive side than the Dominant–submission often carries negative connotations in Western civilization–and it occurs relatively frequently. I believe that there are some submissives who embrace their submission with few qualms. However, most do not, and instead must uneasily work their way through a raft of issues and controversies within their minds and emotions.
Joy certainly provides an example of this second group. She has had and continues to have many conflicts between her desire to be overpowered and her upbringing and worldview, which focus on inner strength and independence. She’s made some progress over time with reconciling her two diverging needs, but as I said, it’s still a source of inner turmoil. Her need to be in control wrestles with her desire to have control taken from her, and while this can provide a huge source of excitement at times, it can also cause stress.
One way in which conflicted submissive partners can deal with the stress is through pretending, and this is particularly common among those who are new to D/s relationships. In pretending, the submissive’s thought process goes something like this: “Okay, I’ll let my partner put me in this situation, and okay, I’ll permit them to bind me like this, and yes, I can take this next step and accept the gag, and okay, I can handle a little light spanking.”
By doing so, the submissive partner essentially gives permission (sometimes explicitly, by saying okay, but more often tacitly, by not objecting) for each act, allowing themselves to both experience the physical aspect of submission and yet maintain at least a semblance of control. I believe that this state is the one that Joy currently resides in, and though she’s had literally years of practice, she’ll tell you if you ask her that she doesn’t see what the difference between that and honest-to-goodness submission is.
However, there is a difference, and I don’t particularly believe that Joy doesn’t understand it. I say this because I have succeeded in taking her beyond pretending a couple of times, and in those instances, she’s been well aware. She’s frankly been a little scared each time, because true submission can be like that. It can be frightening.
In pretending, the submissive gives permission for each step and because of this feels that they can also deny permission, and therefore have control. However, in true submission, the submissive has no doubt that they have no control, and they place themselves in the hands of their dominant partner. They feel that they cannot revoke permission, or perhaps, that if they do try to revoke it, it will be ignored. They must trust that whatever activity the Dominant plans for them and whatever situation their partner places them in, they will emerge safe, exhilarated and happy. They climb onto the rollercoaster, and wherever the car takes them, plunging over steep drops or careening around high-speed loop de loops, they ride their wild ride, holding on and trusting that all will turn out roses in the end.
Yes, there is still a safe word, and yes, it must be respected! However, the safe word is reserved for use when something goes wrong—someone’s hurt or about to be hurt, or a limit is looming too close. Casual use of the safe word is simply another way of denying permission, and therefore the submissive partner must understand and agree that it is reserved for serious transgressions.
How does one make the jump (or help one’s partner to make the jump) to true submission? First there must be desire to do so. My own personal belief, however, is that the desire is easy. Many, many people can gain extreme excitement from submission, and just about anyone who is “pretending” in the submissive role also possesses the desire to move beyond that state into true submission.
Second, there must be trust…great trust. True submission means that the submissive will not say “no”. Think about that! In many cases, they have been bound in positions where physical defenses cannot be employed—they have allowed themselves to be made helpless. They have to be able to trust that their Dominant halves have their best interests at heart, and that while they may subject them to situations that the vanilla world might consider outrageous, those situations will not be more than they can handle. Obviously good communication and knowledge of each other must accompany the trust, so that limits are well understood.
And third, there must be practice. Like anything else, submission comes easier the more you practice it. However, there’s a technique to practice. You have to start small and grow slowly. That’s how just about any sort of practice works—if you want to become a black belt in karate, you start out with the white belt exercises (wax on…wax off), then slowly progress to harder and harder forms. The same is true of submission.
Pretending is a form of practice, and should be encouraged as such. Rituals can serve as practice. And so can the tradition of setting tasks or daily requirements. However, in the end, to reach true submission one must go, inch by inch, beyond these.
That’s the purpose of the series of submission exercises Joy and I are performing. By the end, I expect to have taken her beyond pretending to full submission, at least briefly. Briefly is okay, because I know Joy and I know what she wants, and she knows her own self as well, and while I expect that once again she’ll step back, afraid, each time she experiences this it gets a bit easier. Each time that we’re successful the trust between us grows a bit stronger. And each time the lure of truly surrendering becomes a bit more powerful.