What It Means To Be Submissive

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I am a submissive. This is something I have had to say to many, when I first begin to try and make myself known to them. It's something I've had to write in text messages, throw out into the empty space of a phone call, and blurt out over coffee at 2pm on a Tuesday. It's something I've said many times while naked in bed with another human, trying to explain myself and get my needs met, if only for the night. And yet as hard as the phrase can be to let slip, and as loaded as it is with connotations, it still often fails to make me any better understood. The words often fall dead and heavy between me and whoever I am speaking to, only adding another layer of confusion. I wish more people had a better understanding of what BDSM, and specifically, dominance and submission, actually is, so that people like me could make ourselves better known with that phrase, which is after all, the only phrase we have.


"Submissive"; adjective: ready to conform to the authority or will of others


There isn't just one kind of submissive: Submission is a blanket term for a huge variety of sexual inclinations. It's a vague jab of a finger in the direction of a preference, and nothing more. You can't tell much about what someone will enjoy just because they are a submissive, or "sub" for short. There are many different submissive roles and personae, including littles, pets, slaves, dolls, and many others, all with their own desires, needs, culture, jargon and fantasies. In its essence, I would describe submission as finding joy through yielding to another.

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Different kinds of subs like different kinds of things: What is pleasing to a babygirl might be boring to a slave, and what is delicious for a slave might be tedious for a pet. A babygirl might love being called "princess" for example - a slave probably won't. A babygirl might love getting spanked, but pets might not. Who spanks a cat, after all? One particularly common mistake is assuming that all submissives love being called a slut or a whore or any old cuss word. This is simply not true. Subs tend to be very specific about the words that they do like to be called, because language is so important to maintaining any sexual fantasy.

A submissive is not the same thing as a masochist: Dominance and submission (or D/s) is about power and control; sadomasochism is about pain. The two often coexist, but they don't have to. There are a lot of submissives who don't enjoy pain-play. There's obviously nothing wrong with that at all and I do have a little masochistic streak, but it isn't a package deal.

There are active and passive forms of submission: Just like anyone, subs can take an active or a passive role in sexual play. For example, an active submissive might like begging, body worship, performing tasks or following instructions, and earning rewards. All of these things are a demonstration of mental submission, aiming to please, obedience, or whatever you want them to mean. A passive sub on the other hand might not enjoy any of that jumping through hoops; they usually yearn to feel physically overpowered, the illusion of force, or coercion. This could include restraints and bondage, reluctance role play, consensual non-consent, punishments, blackmail, or being chased. Basically anything that allows the sub to fully resist and feel for a moment as if they need take no responsibility.

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Submissives aren't submissive with everyone: Being submissive in bed rarely overlaps with how one wants to be treated at work or school or daily life. That would be ridic. We aren't submissive with every Dominant, or even with everyone we are attracted to. I've dated people who were not into BDSM, and my submissive side simply lies dormant, until I meet someone who brings it out again. It very much depends on the chemistry I have with each individual.

Being submissive is not incompatible with feminism: This should be obvious, but unfortunately it's not. A lot of people still feel that because you are a girl who enjoys submissive role-play, you must believe that it is somehow "where you belong", or that being submissive is "natural" for women. This is obviously bollocks, and I hold no such ideas. It goes without saying that there are just as many men who enjoy being submissive as there are women, and no one, regardless of gender, should be shamed for wanting something so normal. I consider myself to be a sex-positive feminist who strives to be intersectional. To me, there is nothing empowering about denying our sexual natures, whatever they may be.

If you want to learn more about the psychology behind submission and other sexual fantasies, then I recommend this video on BDSM 101 by Laci Green,  and this one on Understanding Sexual Fantasy from The School Of Life. The nipple pasties and luxury rope in these images are both available at Ann Summers.

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