Submission: better than “A gift.”
I think about Various & Sundry Things and Stuff all of the time. And I question pretty much everything. This includes a great deal of thought about kinky stuff. Since my first explorations of Leather and BDSM via books and online bulletin boards, I’ve read and listened to a great many ideas. And there are some ideas that hit me and resonate. And others that hit it and quit it. There are concepts, like the necessity of consent, and the â€œPrime Directiveâ€â€¡ that remain core anchors, and with them I do not fuck. I’m done mulling whether or not they work for me. Then there are things that fall into gray areas: stuff that makes sense but always nagged me.
Over the course of time, some fell into the realm of â€œShit I get, but ain’t workin’ for me personally.â€ â€œSafe, Sane & Consensualâ€ being one of them. I get it, and its fine. But there is too much relativity to make it truly useful beyond its intended purpose: to have a quick shorthand for the Default World so that they could separate us kinky types from abusive maniacs.
â€œThe submissive is always in charge!â€ was another one that niggled my headbone. I do not want to be in charge. I realized that this touchstone works very well for people who engage with submission as something that they do rather than a personal identity. And in my identity of a slave AND submissive, it fell apart entirely. If I swap out â€œbottomâ€ for â€œsubmissiveâ€ it works better for me.
Then there’s shit that bothers me outright. â€œTopping from the bottom.â€ It is a sneaky pejorative used to smack down a bottom who is clear about insisting on getting what they want. Its a lazy phrase, too: what is MEANT is probably something more like…fuck, I dunno… â€œDominating from your knees.â€ because, yeah, trying to run the engine when you are ostensibly assuming a submissive posture? Passive aggressive. But â€œtopâ€ and â€œbottomâ€ don’t specify a power exchange: it is a â€œgiverâ€ and â€œreceiverâ€ dynamic. I can bottom to people, tell them how I want the scene to go, make adjustments to it in the course of the scene, and expect them to cater to my desires because topping and bottoming are about mutual satisfaction. D/S and M/S are explicitly about power exchange, and I feel controlling the dynamic as a submissive or slave is less acceptable in terms of fostering and nurturing a healthy and functional imbalance.
Another point of aggrievement? I’ve run across some who say that they do not not permit their slave to refer to them as â€œtheir masterâ€ because that implies the master belongs to the slave. Or they take it further and mandate that the slave reject the use of grammatically standard self-identifying pronouns instead shoving them in to awkward third person discourse. (i.e. â€œThis slave begs permission to use the restroom, master.â€)
The phrases â€œmy streetâ€ or â€œmy professorâ€ or â€œmy sisterâ€ don’t imply that my street, professor or sibling BELONG to me. â€œMyâ€ and â€œmineâ€ are ALSO indicators of relationship. Not only possession. Yargh. Douchbaggery, really.
There are some things that sound super romantic, like â€œfinding Y/your O/oneâ€ (or capitalizing that shit, in the first damned place) that some people love because it looks cool or reinforces the dynamic or whatever and yet it drives me batshit. Some people I simply adore practice this pattern. Doesn’t change my idea about what awesome people they are. But it means I can’t read past a few sentences.
The â€œsubmission is a giftâ€ thing is personally wonky. I get why people wish to submerge themselves in and hold fast to it. I believe it is a reaction to a presumption, within some circles, that slavery and submission is an honor that the slave must earn. This flows into the whole â€œbegging a collarâ€ or being â€œunder considerationâ€ vibe: the slave is humbly beseeching the honor of being owned by and scrubbing the floor of the master, who sits and mulls and decides if this person, this human being who has made themselves vulnerable, who had revealed themselves fully, is â€œworthy.â€
I’ve already gone on about that before, so I won’t rehash it. But OK, on a positive note, the â€œsubmission is a giftâ€ trope says â€œHey, look, this is special, This is important. Treat it like you would something given as a present.â€ I feel as though it is a reactionary move towards adding value BACK to submission. And I think the fact that we need to assert this and other shit like â€œA submissive is not a doormat!â€ means that, somewhere? We mighta, probably, let that become true. How much responsibility are you willing to take, as a submissive, for standing up for yourself in the face of belittling, demeaning, presumptuous language, syntax and behavior? I’m always working on not accepting this type of bullshit. But sometimes I wind up not holding my boundaries as diligently as I need to. And I accept that responsibility, too.
Why the â€œsubmission is a giftâ€ thing misfits me is layered. First? To me a gift is something you give to the receiver, with no expectation of reciprocity and no conditions, no caveats, no backsies. I give it and let it go, abdicating responsibility for what the receiver chooses to do with it. It. Is. No. Longer. Mine.
Also? You can give someone a gift without asking, without negotiation. Hey, you can surprise them with that shit, even. I think that is a recipe for fail if you try “OMFG LOL SURPRISE SUBMITTYNESS!!!11!” on a dominant you fancy.
Furthermore: when I subsume my will, and ultimately give myself to someone, I have a number of expectations. I fully expect that we will talk about what that exchange means, first. The person who is receiving my submission and ultimately the entirety of myself, has agreed to treat me with caring, love, affection and respect. And I have to be responsible for following up to make sure my needs are being met. This is an ongoing thing. If I were to analogize it to a gift, this would be tantamount to me giving someone an expensive sweater, checking up to see if theyâ€™re wearing it, if they are washing it by hand in Wooliteâ„¢, laying it flat and air-drying it, if they store it properly in the summer. That would be fucking weird, no? I gave them the damned sweater. How they treat it? That’s none of my fucking business.
When I submit, when I am owned? Making sure that the agreements under which my submission was accepted are being maintained is my Primary Responsibility.
When I give a gift it is a righteous win if the receiver acknowledges it, and offers thanks. If they don’t, I don’t snatch it back. I DO note the person’s reaction and it will inform my future gift-giving. People who don’t say â€œPlease.â€ and â€œThank you!â€ irk me, and they fall out of my life quickly. I’ve found it to be a symptom of a personality type with which I happen to not jibe. If I give a gift and it is poorly treated? I don’t demand its return. I will take note and likely refrain from gifting that individual going forward: I don’t like ill-treatment of anything. (unless, of course, it is consensual :-P)
If I submit, and I am neglected? If I am owned, and am poorly treated? The Prime Directive is automatically invoked and it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to rescind my submission until the situation is resolved to the satisfaction of all involved parties. If there can be no resolution, then the property must, according to the logical extraction of the PD, remove themselves from the situation.
SO that’s why the gift analogy rings weird for me.
My friend MargoEve, asked, in the thread on FetLife that spawned this post, what I might say about submission since I shun the romanticism shimmering in a cloud around the â€œSubmission is a gift!â€ thing. And fair play. I don’t want to crush the sparkly fairies, bring about a thousand years of darkness and smush the shiny happy dreams of submissives and slaves, or undermine the power of a power exchange. Because that’s much more accurate: an exchange. And I guess, sure, it sucks the romance out of the concept.
I’m not much of a romantic.
I have let a great many romantic notions fade, and moved past that. Not from jaded cynicism: rather because default â€œromantic idealsâ€ aren’t organic for most folks. We do shit we are told is â€œromanticâ€ where what truly moves our hearts might look nothing like a jar full of the reproductive organs of long-dead plants, or a white-knight rescue scenario. Many of our ideas of romance are built by fiction writers and fairytale spinners. Realizing Prince Charming wasn’t ever going to come for me is a wound that, to this day, aches on some nights.
I should bloody sue motherfucking Walt Disney Inc. for a good 6 months of primal scream therapy, frankly…
But I digress.
I think I have the key to what my submission is in one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies. Which is, ironically, kinda romantic.
In The Princess Bride, the (smoking hot) protagonist, Westley, is a farmboy. He is obviously in service to this chick, Buttercup. He fetches and carries and takes all kind of snottery off her. And he always does it without complaint, with this little half smile,and the same response.
That was his only reply to her orders, her whims, her desires. And soon, the narrator tells us, Buttercup realizes when Westley was saying â€œAs you wishâ€ what he really was doing was expressing love.
So what is submission?
It isn’t a gift, because love is not a gift. Love happens. It is patient and kind and all of that shit. But I don’t’ wait around to know if the people I love love me, too. I love them, and I feel grace in loving them. Is it exponentially, amazingly, eversomuchmore fulfilling when that love forms a circuit and is reciprocal? Fuck yes. Yes it is. However? I have felt love for people who did not love me, and though there was sometimes terrible pain, the emotion, the heart of the love? Was untouchable. Pure. Mine.
Submission is love. Love, and adoration, which is an even more multifaceted word for love, because it incorporates the worshipfullness that I think can blossom in power exchange relationships. It IS sacred. It is a meditation. My adoration carries within it holiness, respect, love, respect, awe…joy.
Yanno what else that means, dontcha? Oh yes. Here it comes. Dominance is love. Mastery is adoration. Taking responsibility for the well-being of your property, creating safe space, guiding them, remaining engaged enough to care and yet objective enough to correct, these are all acts of love.
So I’ll not refer to my submission as gift. I will refer to it as the most exquisite way in which I can physically, emotionally and spiritually show love. How I say â€œI adore you.â€ wordlessly. Constantly.
â€¡The primary responsibility of the (slave/ property) is to protect the (master /owner’s) property at all times, up to and including from the owner themselves.
This is the first post of yours I’ve read. I’m struck and moved by your clarity and self-awareness. Love. Yes. That makes perfect sense. x Rosie
Hi Rosie! Welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your comment :-D
I’ve been thinking about this post for days. You really got under my skin here. :)