I need approval.
Someone patting me on the head and giving me that “Good Girl.” Can melt away the thickest glacier of self-loathing and dissolve the greasiest oil-slick of self-imposed reflexive hatred. I clearly recall, with fondness, having resentment, anger, self-pity, even rage, wiped away by my dominant telling me how good job I was doing, how proud they were of me.
It doesn’t take much, really.
I recently realized that I set myself up for fail by blaming myself for having needs. Oh yeah, when I first became involved in the BDSM community I was carefully groomed to prepare to shed ego, desire, personal needs and, ultimately, to find my complete fulfillment in service to another.
I believed that the only way to be truly in service (in the Highest form of service, of course, because who wants to be less than the BEST….?) The HIGHEST form of service was to become the Empty Vessel, into which the dominant or owner may pour their will, creating with you a perfect and beautiful servant. An agent of their whims and desires and needs.
That was, of course, what I wanted. To be the purest awesomest, the best.
But I have, since then, discovered a few problems with this ideal.Thing is, I’m not empty. I have stuff in there. Things I need to keep in there so that I may feel OK about myself. I have talents in there that I need to share with the world. Opinions. Good ideas. REALLY GOOD ideas. Things to say, shit to do.
And it became clear to me that this is not, to say the least, “desirable” to the “Empty Vessel” people.
OK, well, I need to find other people!
But now what? Where are the people who see a vessel that’s pretty fucking full and say “Yeah, that’s the one for me”? The thought of having to handle, without sloshing, that full vessel is a bit of a pain in the ass. The newer, more impressionable partner is far, far easier to handle…the one you can make in your own image. To your own specifications. The one who doesn’t know about or expect accountability is far more likely to let you get away with shit. Tabula rasa, choose-your-own-adventure.
This ideal of craving for emptiness triggered for me a series of thoughts about what it is, exactly, that makes some women submissive, and not others. Nature, nurture, something that got bent back in the day? A desire for a structure so blatant and rigid that we can’t but run into it at every turn with a resounding thud? Past issues being played and replayed?
I had a conversation with a friend this weekend about submissive women in the BDSM / Kink / Leather community. We talked about the Dirty Open Secret: that so many in this demographic are survivors of abuse. In our opinions, and according to our experience, it seemed that a disproportionate number of these women were abuse survivors. I have no statistics to back this up. But I can say this: until I became involved in the BDSM community, I never met people who were surprised I had not been abused. Is there corroboration? It easy to say “Well, these are abused women re-creating their abuse.” But are these abuse survivors using BDSM to take back their power? Or to re-create their abuse in a “safer” environment?”
I know this is troublesome. And it is fucking weird to me that I am not par for the course in that I don’t have a history of abuse. My Mom spanked me once, and I totally earned it. My Dad did force me to play the soprano sax and drums and I hated that, but I think children have been shoehorned into music lessons since the first motherfucker stretched a skin over a log, hit it with a stick, discovered that was a cool thing to do and immediately herded the sprogs around for log beating lessons.
I do not really enjoy doing the pop psych 101 thing that we’re just all acting out negatively on our need to redress abuses, that submissives are simply re-enacting issues from the past in a “safer” context. I truly believe it is more complex, individual, nuanced, personal, and ultimately, ( I need to believe) healthier than that.
I still wonder, though, if that need for approval, that desire to endure pain to prove our strength to ourselves and others is, in whole or part, due to that very simple craving for approval coupled with a desire for the intense emotional and physical sensations that BDSM can provide.
When I get my ass beaten, is it as much for the sensation as it is for the “Good girl…I knew you could take that for me.” that I want so badly at the close of the scene?