Saturday, January 24, 2015

Submissive ≠ Passive

I think it’s time we cleared up a common misconception. Look at the title of this blog post. Yep. That’s the one.

What made me want to write about this? Well, I was talking to a friend of mine one day at lunch and we were talking about my books. I brought up the subject of BDSM, and she instantly wrinkled her nose. She then commenced to spew some comments about women and how hard they’d fought to get out of the kitchen, about how she couldn’t imagine any self-respecting woman “letting” a man do that kind of thing to her, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam.

I don’t think she’d ever noticed my collar.

I decided not to try to explain to her. There was nothing I could say that would make sense to her anyway. Unless you’re a person who enjoys restraints and gets off on the feel of the whip, you can’t understand. Or maybe you could, but you’re not about to admit it. There are a lot of those out there.

But one of the pervading ideas I’ve heard over and over is that submissives are the weaker of the pairing within a D/s relationship. And I’ve read more than a few BDSM romances, at least a couple of series too, in which the submissive is this fair, frail little flower who just bends to the will of her master. Oh, yeah, she’s bratty sometimes, but in the end, she just submits and leaves her self behind (yes, I meant that to be two words). She’s indecisive, or mousy, or just basically inert. Here’s the definition of passive from

Not reacting visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling. Not participating readily or actively; inactive. Not involving visible reaction or active participation. To play a passive role. Inert or quiescent. Influenced, acted upon, or affected by some external force, cause, or agency; being the object of action rather than causing action (opposed to active ).

I tried to think of something that would be a good illustration, and then I remembered something I was told by a minister once. He was recollecting his seminary days, and he was talking about allowing their god to be in control. But he remembered a group of students there at the seminary who were so focused on this point of teaching that they would literally stop and pray to ask if they should go out to buy a tube of toothpaste. Without a direct confirmation of what they were supposed to do coming from their god, they’d just sit there without any toothpaste.

And just last week, I had the TV on and caught a commercial for The slogan was something like, “Sometimes we wait for god to make the next move, while god is saying, ‘It’s your time to act. The next move is yours.’” I instantly thought about how that translates into a Dominant and submissive relationship, and it really does.

So let’s look at the definition of submissive, again from

Inclined or ready to submit or yield to the authority of another; unresistingly or humbly obedient: submissive servants. Marked by or indicating submission or an instance of yielding to the authority of another.

There’s a huge, huge difference between the two. I know some of you still don’t see it. So let me try to help you out.

Let’s talk about dentists.

If you’re a submissive person and you have a toothache, you make an appointment with a dentist. When the time comes, you get dressed, brush your teeth (of course), and head out. When you get there, they call you to come back and sit in the chair. Then the dentist comes in. You don’t want to do this. It’s not fun. You’re pretty sure it’s going to hurt, and although you know it’ll be better in the end, this isn’t your idea of a fun way to spend an afternoon. But truth is, you know you need to do this. So you submit and let the dentist numb your mouth, do his worst, and send you home. And while you’re miserable for a little while, in a short time you’re glad you went because when the pain of his work is finally gone, so is the toothache.

But the passive person wouldn’t do that. They’d wait until they had a massive abscess, then it turned to sepsis, and they’d be unconscious before someone took them to the hospital and actually took care of the thing. They’re waiting for outside forces to work on them. They don’t initiate anything.

I know what you’re thinking: No one would do that. So let me ask you something. How do most submissives find a Dominant? Do you know? Well, I can tell you this: They don’t sit at home and wait for one to come by and knock on their door. They go out looking. They make their intentions clear. They find a way to get involved in a situation where they can meet a Dom or Domme who will fulfill their needs.

And here’s another characteristic of a submissive: They communicate. They talk about their needs and desires. They look for a Dominant who is compatible, someone who is able to deliver what it is that they crave.

Look at that definition again. Inclined or ready to submit or yield to the authority of another. Inclined. Ready. Yield.

So let me make this clear: These BDSM stories you read where the man walks into the room and the woman instantly knows she’s supposed to fall at his feet and obey him?


That’s right, I call bullshit. Any woman who was really like that would probably be dead in a few weeks because she’d walk right into the most abusive relationship that anyone could possibly imagine. Yes, there are men out there looking for women like that, and those women do exist. But I wouldn’t call them submissives.

I’d call them doormats.

A passive individual would go to a club and sit down, then just wait for someone to come along and ask them to scene. A submissive interacts, tries to meet people, wants to know what they’re about and if they’re someone who would make a good play partner or Dominant. In short, a true submissive takes responsibility for having their own needs met by interacting with people in the community until they find someone who’s willing to do what they need done.

If you’ve read anything at all in the BDSM realm, you’ve heard about safewords and how they’re used. And there’s nothing that makes a true Dominant sadder than a submissive who’ll refuse to use a safeword to the point that they’re injured. It’s a terrible burden for a Dominant to carry, and something that they all dread, at least if they’ve got a conscience. A true Dominant is looking for a submissive who’ll be in control of themselves, enough so to communicate what they want, how much is too much, and when they’ve had all they can take. The Dominant’s job is to then push them just a tiny little bit farther to challenge their boundaries, and then back off and give them the aftercare they need.

But that Dominant is depending on the submissive to do this. A passive person wouldn’t be able to. They’d let the Dominant do as they pleased and run great risk of being injured simply because they were waiting for someone or something to act on them, not being a participant in their own life.
Speaking from a personal aspect, as a submissive, my role is simple. Sir expects me to communicate what I want, and I don’t mean just in the bedroom. “Oh, nothing” is not an acceptable answer. Neither is “Never mind.” “I don’t care” won’t work either. We talk. It’s a give and take. That kind of interaction is why, when scening with a play partner, scenes are negotiated. Questions are asked, questions like, “If this is something you want, how many lashes are you accustomed to receiving?” Or, “Does this frighten you? Why? Is there a trigger here, something that might cause a past issue to come to the forefront in a negative way?” Dominants want to know these things. The encounter is supposed to be mutually satisfying.

In short, the D/s lifestyle was never intended to give the Dominant free rein over another person. Even in Master/slave arrangements, a real Master/Mistress wants to know what the slave is thinking, what their needs are, and how to meet those while having his or her own needs met. The lifestyle doesn’t work if only one person is being satisfied. Most Dominants are trying to find ways to drive their submissive higher and higher into subspace, not ways to control and oppress them. In return, they expect to have their own needs met, and a true submissive will gratefully pleasure their Dom/Domme because of the pleasure they’ve received from him/her.

A true submissive is far from passive and weak. In fact, there is something empowering and strengthening about being able to tell another person what you need, rather than just expecting them to read your mind. That mind reading thing? It’s the reason why so many sexual relationships are unsatisfactory. No one can read your mind. And it takes a very strong person to be able to submit their body to another and trust that they’re safe and will have their needs met.

I’m a submissive, and I’m far from passive. Just ask Sir. He’ll gladly tell you.