While the above-mentioned references may give us a familiar idea of what a submissive is, these are all still just fragmented, often poorly portrayed pieces of an even bigger picture. And just like any picture, there are different meanings and layers that can be subscribed to it depending on who is interacting with it at any given moment.
Submission In Kink
With that in mind, let’s break down the term submissive under a real kink lens, and not one of media stereotypes. While at a glance being submissive may be quickly described as “a person on the receiving end of BDSM play” or “just a doormat”, this still may not get into the deeper nuances that an individual can derive from said label of submissive. As a professional submissive, I firmly believe that labels are a placeholder for greater, in-depth conversations, and when breaking down what a submissive is – well this ideal seems to hold even more strongly, with as many different kinds of submissives as there are people practising submission.
Different Kinds Of Submissives
Under the submissive category you may find those who prefer labels such as bottoms, slaves, brats, pets, or a variety of other things. Yet each of these hold a different depth of meaning depending on the person. For example, to some being a slave is the equivalent of being married in vanilla parallels. And, if you’re familiar with the old adage “a square can be a rectangle, but a rectangle can’t be a square”, you’ll also understand when I caveat the introduction of these other labels with the warning that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are always submissive in a general sense.
Confusing? Yes, and a rabbit hole to explore at a different time! But I’ll leave you with one last example. Are you familiar with the character of Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? She’s a brat, but she’s also completely in charge of her father! A spoiled brat, and yet despite her diminutive frame and assumed social norms, she is unquestionably the boss of her father – something that may not be gleaned until she opens her mouth. And that’s yet another nuance to keep in mind when thinking about what it means to be a submissive, noun, as opposed to submissive, adjective. But I digress…
Does Wanting to be Submissive Make Me a Bad Feminist?
This is a very common question, and one that is perfectly valid. When one begins exploring their submissive identity, finding the balance between what you feel may be in line with societal expectations versus your personal desires/curiosities can definitely be a struggle! We are taught from a young age to throw the ideas of “traditional feminism” away – that no one should be in the kitchen, baking pies, waiting hand and foot on a partner… that is, unless you like it! That’s right, one of the major cornerstones of modern feminism is your right to decide what is best for you. If you want to explore submission, don’t let the judgement and preconceptions of others stand in your way.
There are a few “schools of thoughts” known in the kink community such as RACK, PRICK, SSC, (Risk Aware Consensual Kink; Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink; and Safe, Sane and Consensual). These help to create a framework for more empowered negotiations on each end of the slash, as well as enshrining that all-important consent at the centre of all kink interactions. So, with knowledge and communication, you can decide what you feel open to exploring.
Whether you are dominant leaning towards yet feeling conflicted about wanting a submissive partner, or submissive yourself and wondering about these urges, only you can decide what is best for you. Through being open about your own desires and fears you can assist in starting a dialogue with a partner and start out on the road to finding what mutually feels good.
This can seem intimidating at first blush – I should know! As a queer submissive woman of color, I know firsthand the melting pot of feelings ranging from shame to reflection as my journey began. My ancestors in all identities and respects, from Stone Wall to the slave eras would be rolling in their graves, wouldn’t they? However (and this is a realization from my personal journey) I have been fortunate enough to come from such a historically heavy background to be in a place where I can form my own identity. I can seek what feels good to me, achieve catharsis in my own right, and have nuanced conversations with loved ones where I’m able to evaluate in both a self-reflective and societal way why I do what I do.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Is anyone getting hurt in non-ethical ways? Is my pursuit causing me harm in a way that’s crossing a line mentally or physically? Do I have a support system in my friends/community that I know I can lean on if I do have concerns?
These are questions I began using as my own personal checklist, and questions that may serve as a springboard for you as well should you choose to explore your submissive identity.
Common Misconceptions Around Submission
One common misconception may be the idea that submissives are doormats or don’t have a say in their dynamics. This is entirely inaccurate! All D/s relationships and “scenes” should be negotiated so that limits, interests, and boundaries are understood and respected.
Another misconception is that a submissive needs to enjoy pain in order to be submissive. As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of identities that fall under the submissive umbrella, and there is no obligation to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you. You can be submissive without enjoying pain! You can be submissive and love pain! Both are valid, and if anyone tries to convince you otherwise, consider it a red flag.
Benefits of Being A Submissive
Being a submissive can have a variety of benefits, depending on the intent and the communication involved. People may often refer to one of their love languages as being “service-oriented”, and while it may not have exactly the same connotations as being submissive in the sense we are exploring today, it is a step in the direction of understanding the benefits.
For some people, submission allows them catharsis through their dynamic. Are they in a stressful job and need to “let loose”? Do they have a fantasy they are curious about enacting? Do they want to be attentive to their partner’s every need because doing so gives them gratification? These are all valid and common reasons why some may personally benefit from submission.
It can go even deeper. For some, the benefit of being submissive might not be a sexual enhancer, but a tool to create a more nuanced understanding of a partner that may not be ordinarily obtained through more traditional methods. For some, (depending on their protocols, playtimes, etc.) being submissive to a partner means forming a bond that allows them to share their fears, needs, and curiosities, in a safe space with someone who cares for them and accepts those nuances.
Depending on the dynamic, this can take the form of trusting a partner enough to have “enforced” meal times, sleep schedules, and self-care activities that may not be prioritized on the submissive’s own for any number of reasons. For some submissives, the act of physically submitting may give them the negotiated security to accept scenarios in a world that may otherwise feel too chaotic and overwhelming.
And of course, the main benefit of being a submissive? If it’s an identity that one aligns with, it just feels good! There have been certain studies presented that argue BDSM can be considered a leisure activity, just like golf! Remember, responsible pleasure can be valid as its own end result.
How To Be A Good Submissive
There is no “one true way” to be a good submissive! As long as you are approaching dynamics with a mutual understanding of expectations and limits, as well as ample communication, you are on the right track! Being a good submissive means realizing your limits and needs so you can better communicate with your partner, and in return also being attentive to the Dominant or Top’s needs. Tops may need aftercare just like submissives do, and may need reassurances that scenes went well! Being mindful of a Top’s limits, expectations, and boundaries are also crucial ways of not only being a good submissive, but a good friend, partner, or whatever other dynamic you may have with a fellow human.
That being said, want to know a secret of how to be a “bad submissive”? Not honoring your personal boundaries, and feeling the need to bend or get rid of limits in order to appease a partner.
Remember: submissives are not doormats…unless it’s negotiated!
“Sinfully Sweet & Good Enough to Beat”, Cupcake SinClair (she/it) is a lifestyle and professional submissive of nearly a decade in the western united states. From panels and podcasts, to teaching and demoing classes on a variety of subjects, Cupcake’s goal is to help create a richer understanding of the nuances of kink to create more empowered players within her community. She can be found via her website https://cupcake-sinclair.wixsite.com/sinfullysweet