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What is a Submissive?

by The Secret Submissive

What is a Submissive?

The Oxford English dictionary uses the adjectival form of ‘submissive’ to define someone who is ‘too willing to accept somebody else’s authority and willing to obey them without questioning anything they want you to do’; it is synonymous with the words meek, passive and compliant. But what about the noun?

Over the last few years, we have all seen the wild media frenzy around fiction that portrays an abhorrently skewed view of BDSM and inaccurately perpetuates two-dimensional archetypes for both Dominants and Submissives (no shade intended.) As BDSM most certainly does centre on the concept of power exchange and usually involves the wild, kinky sex shown on the big screen, is it easy to see how the truth has been lost, somewhere along the way. To unlock the truth about what it really means to be a Submissive, we need to examine that power exchange in greater detail…

The Fundamentals:
Regardless of what we are led to believe from books, films and pornography, Submissives actually come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. As with any relationship, there is a Dom for every Sub and physical appearance is not an indication of one’s ability to submit. Submissives can come from all walks of life and quite often, their public-facing persona and day-to-day personality can starkly contrast their desire for sexual or private submission. However, the one fundamental factor that ties all Submissives together is a willingness to consensually relinquish power and control to another. The extent of this power exchange, naturally, will vary between individual Dom and Subs but the basic principle remains the same: real-life submission is a consensual and collaborative exchange of power.

The 4 Pillars of BDSM:
As with any healthy relationship, a D/S relationship requires four basic and mutual principles, in order to develop and thrive: trust, respect, consent and communication. Firstly, a Dom must use patience and respect to build a safe space for their Submissive; this is most easily achieved through effective communication. Both the Dom and Sub should be able to share every ounce of their heart and mind with the other, without fear of judgement or betrayal. Of course, this can take time and a huge leap of faith even, which is why submission is not for everyone; a key trait of a Submissive is the ability to try and give every part of themselves to their Dominant, without reservation.
Once a Submissive feels that deep bond of trust with their Dom and they truly believe they will not be harmed - mentally, physically or emotionally - by this person, in turn, they will return that trust and respect but with the additional gift of their consent. Once a Sub is confident that their Dom has earned their trust, they will relinquish their power and the exchange will begin.

The Power Balance:
Where the adjectival form of the word ‘submissive’ fails to translate effectively is through the suggestion of weakness. In a true D/S dynamic, the ‘power’ should be 100% in the hands of the Submissive and although an effective Dominant will challenge and push their Sub to learn and explore; ultimately, it is the Submissive who lays out the boundaries of their consent. With this in mind, although control is given to the Dominant, this is a conscious choice and the Submissive will always have the power.
The extent to which a Submissive chooses to relinquish control is absolutely up to the individual and can often change and vary as a relationship blooms. For some Submissives, the D/S dynamic should only be prevalent in the bedroom, during a scene, whereas for others, it is an integral part of their relationship and cannot be separated from daily life. As every relationship is very different, it’s important not to compare your needs and boundaries to others’ or to aspire to unrealistic notions portrayed by the media.

The Sex and Smut:
Yes, BDSM play often involves smouldering sex and kinky activities and whilst Domination and Submission clearly overlap into this field, actually, they are also very distinct. BDSM play relies on the same basic yet fundamental principles described above: trust, respect, consent and communication. Because successful D/S relationships are built upon the same strong foundation, they pave the way for mind-blowing, boundary-pushing, sex and smut to take place but true Submission is separate from kinky sex.
Submission is a state of mind and the giving of one’s self to another; however, it is not about mindlessly obeying without question. D/S relationships work best when both parties share the same sexual desires and kinks but new interests can be explored and compromises reached if this is not the case. A Submissive should never feel forced or coerced into taking part in any kink but similarly, they shouldn’t force or expect their Dom to deliver beyond their consenting boundaries either. Because both Doms and Subs have an intrinsic need to satisfy and please their partner – via the taking and relinquishing of control – communication is pivotal to ensure that play is heathy and consensual at all times.

As a Dominant is there to teach and guide their Sub, infractions are often met with punishments. A Sub’s duties may be sexual in nature or linked to daily routines and behaviours, or even a mixture of both. Through discussion and sometimes negotiation (depending on the D/S relationship) a Submissive should be well-aware of their Dom’s expectations and also of the consequences of disobedience. A Sub should always try their hardest to please and meet their Dom’s expectations and shouldn’t be made to feel like their efforts are not good enough. Again, this comes down to trust and respect – a Sub must be trust that their Dom will guide them and a Dom must respect their Sub’s mind and body and not abuse that trust.
Another important aspect of submission is that a Submissive should be willing to own their mistakes and think about how to be a better person and Submissive in the future, both for themselves and for their Dominant. As long as they feel they are being treated with care and respect, they should accept the punishment deemed fit by their Dominant and see that it is completed in full.
Scene punishments and impact play (such as spanking, caning or wax play) can be distinct from behavioural correction but may also overlap. This is absolutely up to the individuals to decide and it’s what makes BDSM so interesting and unique – there are no rules, apart from the ones you decide together. Regardless of the context, a Submissive should always have their safe word and should always feel able to use it. The ability to question and challenge and therefore remain empowered is another key part of being a Submissive.

What is a Submissive to me?
For me, submission is strength. Submission is about having the strength of mind to trust another so completely, without regret or reservation. Submission gives me freedom from the toils of daily life and allows me to stop being strong when I need to rest. It is about having the power and control to live and act in the most holistic way possible, both for myself and for my Dominant. Submission is about exploring the strength of my body and enjoying the balance of pleasure and pain. Finally, for me, being a Submissive is about relishing the bond that I share with my Dom and making sure that everything I do, both in and out of the bedroom, makes him proud of me.

How would you define yourself?

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