This is the counterpart to my last column, Seven (Random) Suggestions for Dominant Types! Submissive and slave type people, hopefully some of the following bits will resonate for ya. As I mentioned before, these are hardly anything like hard and fast rules. My hope is that, regardless of whether your reaction is “Holy shit totally, this makes so much sense!” or “Meh.” or “Holy crap, you are so full of...of...crap!” that your reactions might spin you off into a deeper process around your own submission, and how you can best navigate the wide, wide seas of submission!
Be realistic, honest and transparent about your (emotional, physical, mental & spiritual) needs & motives
It is very tempting to start submitting before you even submit. When faced with the prospect of a potential dominant, it can seem like you’ve finally, finally found the pot of gold at the end of the leather rainbow! As the submissive, it’s your duty to adhere to the needs, wants and desires of that potential dominant, right? I mean, you gotta prove yourself worthy of them and their dominance!
Hold on tiger. If you don’t advocate for yourself...who exactly is going to do it?
If you do not step up to the plate when negotiating your D/S or M/S relationship, you’re fucking yourself over, big time. Plain and simple.
It is absolutely necessary for you, as a submissive, to be your own chief advocate. First and foremost? Be honest with yourself. When I first explored my role as a submissive, I assumed I needed to be an intense and full-bore as I could in order to be a “real” slave. When I met a dominant with whom I had great chemistry, I listened to what he was looking for, heard about his needs, what he sought in a slave, and said “OK, yes, I want to be that and I will do everything I can to be the slave you desire.” And I did! I worked very hard to make sure I met his needs, his wants and his desires. I had the idea that, since being a slave meant putting my needs behind those of the dominant, it meant I had to focus on him, first. I will say that I feel it is the responsibility of the slave to please the dominant and within that responsibility lies the duty to make sure you are having your needs met.
If you are someone who needs affection, love and support and you are being courted by a dominant who favors a strict, hands-off, formalized approach that doesn’t include affection? No one is being done any favors by suppressing these desires. Hold out until you feel comfortable, safe and accepted for who you are now, not who you think you might want to be.
It can be terrifying to say “I need, I want,” but if you do not do it? You have almost no chance of having your needs met. List for yourself what you want, stand by your choices. Don’t let anyone else’s bullshit and posturing interfere with you getting what you need. Be true to who you are. Know that your motives inform your service and being transparent with potential partners means you have a better shot at blending your energy with someone who has motives that align with yours.
Honor your dominant’s humanity
It is often very tempting to think of your dominant or master as an infallible, flawless, godlike creature. I mean, shit, you’re agreeing to obey them! How nerve-wracking is it to consider the possibility that they (gasp!) may just be human, like, you, and subject to the vagaries of human imperfections?
But by putting that much pressure on the person you serve, you increase the risk of them disappointing you by being human. This is not a good thing. Part of what makes this dance of dominance, that samba of submission, so breathtaking, is that there is always a chance for missteps, arrhythmic glitches, and toe-stepping. When that happens, it behooves us to take a deep breath, embrace the gorgeous humanity of imperfection, and carry on. Remembering that they are human, giving them space to be so, and lovingly accepting their flaws empowers them to be the very best master and owner and dominant they can be! And then everyone gets to roll around in the awesomeness!
The whole lowly, subservient thing absolutely cannot spill over into and color your self-esteem. It is so important for you to have a massive stockpile of self-respect before you engage in power-exchange relationships. I cannot stress this enough: If you do not value yourself highly, if you do not know, in your gut, in your heart of hearts, that you are a creature if inestimable value and intrinsically worthy of respect, you will never ever find a way to engender that response from others.
All too often, the appearance of subservience is equated with a reality of mitigated value. Personally? I become monkey-hopping-mad when I see people who identify as submissives shitting away their power by bowing and scraping before anyone with a keyboard calling themselves a dominant. Once you have indicated you expect to be treated like chattel by any and everyone who sets you in their sights? You will quickly find you’ve dug yourself into a hole out of which it is difficult to climb.
In addition to healthy self-respect and esteem being critical from the inside out? The reality is that the Default World will be a rough place to navigate feeling good about your submissive self. If you aren’t able to stand with your head held high and feel secure and powerful in your choice, those doubts have hold-fasts with which to begin to dissolve your foundation.
And even within the so-called “community” there are plenty of people ready, willing and eager to talk the kind of shit that has the potential to generate that discomfort and conflict. They are the other submissives who will question your commitment, the “Twue Doms” who will insist you “don’t seem very much like a real sub / slave” because they don’t like the way you behave. And let me tell ya, fellow slaves, bottoms and subs? I firmly believe we are responsible for some of this treatment. I think we have devalued ourselves, and over the years, the energy of emotional poverty has pervaded our minds. Don’t devalue yourselves to the point of compromising yourself away because you don’t think you can do any better. Be the most magnificent you that you can be, and treat yourself like the singular being that you are. A healthy attitude and a strong sense of self is a cornerstone to healthy power-exchange relationships.
Adhere to the Prime Directive. No matter what.
I wrote about it here.
I usually avoid hardline blanket statements. But I feel so strongly about the Prime Directive that I will come as close to one as I possibly can when I say that any dominant, top, master, trainer, whomever...any of them who eschew the PD as a vital pillar of power exchange relationship are...how do I put this diplomatically...flagrant fucking flounderheads.
Self-care and self-protection is the shit.
That is all.
Be authentic and play to your strengths
Many of us who discovered we are kinky did so after a great deal of soul searching, and maybe we even did a little bit of research. I’m willing to wager a lot of that “research” involved sticky-fingered fantasies as we ready hot and heavy kinky porn over which we sighed and cooed and wanked, hoping someday to find that perfect indomitable dominant of our fervent fantasies. By the same token, we probably envisioned ourselves as the willful but beautiful slaves of myth, legend and purple prose. It is likely you ran across some pretty unrealistic ideas about mastery and slavery and what it takes to bring these fantasies to life. Back when I first started my research into kink, I was confident that I would find nothing more fulfilling than kneeling silently in blissful obedience at the feet of my master for hours on end. Funny thing: kneeling is stressful. And kneeling for hours on end might not be your potential dominant’s idea of exemplary service.
I see a whole lotta one-upmanship among submissives, playing passive-aggressive “subbier than thou” reindeer games. This is damaging for several reasons: first it erodes what has the potential to be an important support system, additionally it can set unrealistic expectations, and furthermore it creates a culture of competition that doesn’t do anyone any damned good.
Modeling your behavior after the behaviors or the elaborate fantasies of others is a recipe for disaster. I mean, really. Even the people who write the stuff of which our lurid kink fantasies are made of understand it is just this: fantasy.
Nowhere is it written that you have to push yourself to be the person you aren’t. Or some goddamn doppelganger of a creature from a fictional wankfest! Or even to emulate the very real slaves who have gone before you. Find who you are, who you need to be, and present that with pride. This is the only way to engage with a dominant who will be a good match for your needs and desires.
Provide your dominant with feedback and positive reinforcement
Inasmuch as it is vital for you to receive a “good job!” from your dominant or master? It is also important that they know how they’re doing in the work of managing you and your dynamic. It can be very easy to forget that providing feedback is also a service to them! Let’s say I’ve been given an assignment, some research to do, and I bring back my findings and my dominant then makes a decision based on my work. A nod of the head and moving onto the next task might be all that is needed at that time. But I suggest that sharing your joy is helpful, too. Letting them know that “It really helps me to feel useful, acknowledged and fulfilled when I see how my service benefits you, thank you for trusting me to help you in your decision making!” is a great way for them to note what works, and tuck it away for future use.
But what happens when the dominant type...gasp...does something that causes distress? Well, again, by dint of The Prime Directive it is absolutely your responsibility to let them know you are having difficulty. Freaking out and throwing shit and screaming “You’re a doodoo head, ma’am!” might not avail you of the level-headed problem-solving you seek. However a system needs to be in place to insure that difficult issues are also embraced with compassion. I find that writing about my stuff helps. If I’m having a tough time in my relationship, I will write a message and ask for time to address it. I might even go into depth about it. Or I might just need to vent. Whatever the ultimate solution is, honoring that the dominant needs to know about the issue, so that it can be addressed, is key. A simple “thank you for listening” or “I appreciate you taking the time to connect with me.” can be a show of your gratitude as well as a gentle reminder of how important those communications can be.
Put that potential dominant “Under Consideration.”
This is something I heard of only rarely before the explosion of the Internetz. At that time, the idea of slaves being placed “under consideration” was one I’d heard of here and there among people who modeled themselves on a very rigid tradition of master / slave relationships. That is, I rarely heard of it until the advent of FetLife, currently a very popular social media and networking site for kinky folks. Placing someone “Under Consideration” was a way for the dominant or master to “test run” the submissive / slave to verify that they were “worthy” of ownership.
Which is great.
S-types? I strongly bloody suggest you put the dominant or master you’re thinking of owning your ass “under consideration,” too. I believe that power exchange can be absolute. And I absolutely believe it must be a mutually agreed-upon dynamic. I hold the somewhat controversial belief that human property is human first, and as such are fully responsible for making sure that they are giving their power to someone who is capable and worthy of holding it. I’m not sure how well you are doing that when you don’t hold them accountable for that power.
For some people, relinquishing their power with no accountability except acceptance is just fine. If it doesn’t ring true for you, think about how you may best self-advocate until such a time as you have carefully considered the person to whom you are offering yourself, found them to be someone with whom you truly wish to engage in this particular manner, and discovered the depth of trust needed to create a healthy power exchange dynamic.