I’ve written a lot about submission. As with everything, though, my thoughts shift, sometimes subtly, sometimes radically, over time – even within just a few hours.
Here are some thoughts right now.
Words are tricky. They point toward meanings, but their ability to enable communication and thought depends both on the idiosyncratic meanings they hold for each person, and on the relationships each person has to those meanings.
Think of words like liberal, or feminist, or conservative – political terms that mean very different things to different people depending on their political perspective. Or words like narcissist, or pedophile, or sadist, which can be clinical, descriptive, diagnostic, or derogatory, depending on the speaker, on the situation.
My experience has been that a lot of times, we use words to stop thinking – ours and that of others – rather than to open up the possibility of thought and deepening communication through exploration. An example: I’m often asked if I’m a Dom, or told that I’m not really a Dom. I’ve written a gazillion words on this subject, but the executive summary is: to the extent that you have some predetermined set of characteristics of a Dom in your mind, I’m likely not to meet all of them. I tend to shy away from those who think themselves submissive and in search of a Dom for this reason: they’re looking for something specific in me, and not for me. Instead, I tend to gravitate toward those who say they enjoy submitting, that they enjoy discovering another’s form of dominance. This leaves space for me to be me, rather than some projection or fantasy or demand someone might have of me.
Ironically (or perhaps over-determinedly), and certainly unfairly, I seek some very specific forms of submission in my partners. Forms so specific that they may well render me guilty of the very same projections, fantasies, demands I try to avoid in others.
When I collect the submission I crave, it does not look like simply saying “yes” to all I ask. It does not look like masochism or enjoyment of degradation or humiliation. Rather, it looks more like a contractual agreement to communicate in a very particular way, coupled with a deep, resonant hunger to please.
I don’t claim to seek “submission,” because people tend to imagine that describes a very specific set of desires, requirements. And while I welcome some of those characteristics in a partner (a desire to please, an openness to the privileging of my desires over those of my partners, the elevation of my desires and the subordination of hers), alone, they aren’t enough. It matters far more to me how you communicate your responses to my requests than that you simply accede to them.
If you offer me your submission, what I take that to mean is:
1. You commit to full honesty and transparency in relation to me. If I ask you a question, you commit to answering it to the best of your ability, as honestly as possible.
2. You commit to a certain type of fidelity – to yourself, and to me. If I ask you to do something, to give me something, there are, to my mind, three possible responses: to give it to me then and there. To tell me when you can give it to me. Or, to contritely explain that you can’t or won’t, and why – and, to do your best to offer me something you imagine might please me, might approximate or approach what I seek but feel more viable, hotter, for you.
Some women – particularly, but not exclusively younger women – struggle with this. They often think that their submission represents a desire to be a “good girl,” to please, not to disappoint. Often, though, I’ve found this to be an inaccurate, incomplete description: many desire, rather, not to be present for the moment of disappointment, not to admit they disappoint me, not to witness my disappointment. Ghosting exemplifies this: disappearing, rather than remaining present for the end. Not responding, over-promising, exemplify it as well: leaving open the theoretical possibility of satisfaction while withholding its achievement. These, to me, represent cowardly avoidance rather than courageous engagement, which I crave.