I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all my articles in KinkWeekly!
This afternoon, I had a good discussion (online) with one of my readers, who was challenging the notion that the definition of submission must come from the dominant. In his challenge, he stated that this statement excludes people who self-identify as submissives who do not have a dominant to serve. As far as the discussion goes, I stand firmly with my statement – however, his point got me thinking about “self-identification” as a submissive and what that really means.
The process of self-identification is an important part of today’s gender and sexuality discussions. It is an effective tool to break through predefined constructs and to open the door to more open thinking. I do, however, feel it’s rapidly becoming overused, particularly when it’s applied in ways that go beyond the gender discussion. You can identify as a lot of things…but sometimes calling yourself something doesn’t really make you that.
In BDSM and D/s circles, people self-identify a lot. You have people who declare their preferences by labeling themselves. Words like “dominant”, “submissive”, “fetishist”, etc., are thrown about without real definition. Even the words “Submission” and “Dominance” can mean different things to different people, so calling oneself a “Dominant” or “Submissive” only has meaning when we understand what dominance and submission mean to that person. Having a “fetish” actually has a dictionary definition,
but modern usage has thrown away the clinical meaning in favor of “This REALLY makes me hot!”. Since there is no credentialing system, people are free to declare themselves “Dominant of the world” and no one can really argue. In reality, the labels are meaningless – but they bring a sense of belonging and inclusion to folks, so why not?
Getting back to the basis of the discussion, how can you define submission without a dominant?
I searched for an analogy to support my point and I arrived at a reasonable one: A man who REALLY enjoys cooking and feels he’s good at it, decides to self-identify as “A Chef”. Let’s say he only cooks for himself at this point. In my mind, this self-identification is closely analogous to the man who really likes the idea of submitting and calls himself “A Submissive” – although a submissive doesn’t submit to himself.
My self-identified “Chef” doesn’t have anyone to cook for at this point. Can he really be a chef? Would you hire him to cook for you?
My assertion is that self-identifying as a Chef is a statement of your passion. It’s your preference and “identity” and it means that you want to cook. I further assert, however, that when this person is hired to cook for someone, the recipesthat are needed are subject to the tastes and preferences of the person. What KIND of chef does that person need / prefer: a meat chef; a fish chef; a pastry chef; a sauce chef? Until you know what type of chef is desired – or what type of recipes the person for whom you are cooking prefers, you can’t define the content of the food that will satisfy them. You might be a “chef”, but you don’t know what you’re cooking until you know what’s ordered!
Self-identifying as a submissive is all well and good as a statement of preference and identity…but until you have someone to submit to, you can’t define submission. Submission, since it’s tied to what you are doing for another person, requires that other person to be there. You can’t submit to nothing. Submission must be received as submissionto be realized. If you doubt that, ask the myriad of folks who are frustrated trying to submit to a partner who won’t accept their efforts from a position of dominance or who are unfulfilled with “stealth-submission” because the meaning is missing without reception. Can you identify as a submissive without submitting to anyone? I suppose you can, but there isn’t really any definition in that label.
In fact, trying to define it without a partner can be detrimental. I have met a lot of folks who try to define submission without consideration for a specific partner. They have preconceived notions of what submission is and what dominance looks like. They create their own challenges by doing this. Very often, they talk about “finding compatibility” (usually in the context of NOT being able to find a compatible partner), which is really a colloquialism for “trying to find someone who has defined submission the same way that they did”, which, if you really think about it, is basically confirming that the dominant is the one setting the definition of submission, it’s just that they happen to want the same!
BTW: These are often the same folks who accuse their partners of not being “dominant enough”… or … “not knowing how to dominate” or “needing training in how to dominate” or any number of other inappropriate attacks. Don’t be that guy.
There is also the notion that someone will be a good submissive because they are “experienced”. What does that mean in the context of a new dominant; with new preferences, tastes, and desires? I’d buy into it if they said, “I’ll make a good submissive because I have experience adapting to how people define submission to them. My skill is learning and adapting.” THAT statement, I’d believe. But thinking that they’d be a good submissive for dominant ‘B’ because they served dominant ‘A’ doesn’t fly.
So, self-identification as a submissive is fine. Identity is important and preferences are important. If the label means something to you, use it. However, defining submission without a dominant to serve is folly. If your goal is to serve your dominant, you need to allow that dominant to define what serves them. Then you know what “dish” is required of you and you can work to deliver that.
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com
i feel that you’re conflating here the definition of a submissive with the expectations and preferences of a Dominant. This is evident in your statement, “…the definition of submission must come from the dominant.” Don’t definitions come from dictionaries, rather than Dominants, after all? As defined, submission means simply being controlled, and, as a definition, this is a universal statement that applies to all submissives, regardless of who Dominates them.
Your misuse of the word definition is further evident when you state, “…defining submission without a dominant is folly. If your goal is to serve your dominant, you need to allow that dominant to define what serves them'”. By ” define what serves them” don’t you really mean, “you need to allow that Dominant to” state their expectations an preferences?
This distinction between definitions and stating one’s expectations and preferences is of no samll consequence to me. In this connection, you state, “They [subs] have preconceived notions of what submission is and what dominance looks like.” Exactly, Unlike you, i believe that this is as it sould be. You go on to state, “…they talk about ‘finding compatibility’ ” And so they should. i say this because, unlike you, i feel compatibility is essential to a D/s relationship. The fact of the matter is that subs do have their own expectations and preferences. They have their own needs and wants. Without being compatible with their Dominant, then , i am concerned that subs, in denying themselves their needs and wants in favor of satisfying the expectations and preferences of their Dominants, will be unhappy with their relationships, and their relationships will fail, as a result. Surely, there can be major compatibility issues in a relationship, such as, the use of protocols, the use of punishments, etc.
To me, asserting that the expectations and preferences of a Dominant define submission is disregarding the expectations and preferences that a sub also has.
This is a really great post and mirrors my own awakening as a submissive–and one which is only just beginning. Although I have had submissive feelings all my life, and have known this was a part of me, I never really explored it until recently. My journey began with random strangers via text and email originally found online mainly through Tumblr, but also Reddit and Twitter. These online D/s interactions were not relationships per se, but one of them lasted 6 months with a Domme, and I was certainly obedient to Her, if not truly submissive. You see, those interactions were really sexual, and because they were remote, they spoke to only a very, very small part of me. I knew that what I was tasting was a pale shadow of what I was looking for. So began a 6 month quest to find an in-person Domme who would be a good fit for me.
That was a real challenge. Almost all of the pro-Dommes advertise themselves as dispensers of fetish services or kink. And that didn’t resonate with me. If I come to a. Domme for fetish fulfilment, who in the end is submitting? Although certain fetishistic things turn me on, I also know that with the right person, anything can be fetishised. What I was looking for was someone who would guide me into submission without any preconceived notions of what that would be. Someone who I could trust to lead mer to her own version of how she would like to receive submission. Someone who would be inspired by leading me and bending me to Her will, and enjoy it and one another’s company for the. sheer joy of life.
For various reasons a lifestyle Domme seemed inappropriate for me, though one in particular has given me some wonderful coaching and guidance along the way.
It was very, very hard, and I looked at literally hundreds of profiles, but in the end only wrote to two people–one who was incompatible in some ways it seemed (she was too intimidating) but who had achieved a similar relationship with one of her subs, and another who seemed to be a natural, lifestyle oriented, interesting, very adult Domme, with whom I shared many non-kink interests.
I have begun a journey with this person that is teaching me anew what submission is for me, but it sure has nothing to do with what preceded it in my life. Best of all, though erotic, it isn’t sexual…and this allows me to develop deep feelings without guilt or shame.
dig it <3
quite fascinating perspective