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 of my articles in KinkWeekly!
Yesterday, I was chatting with a dominant who was boasting about how he had put the “fear of God” into his submissive, so that she would never disobey him. He talked about a sequence of scenes that he created, whereby she was subjected to her worst fears. In fact, he was particularly proud of how the use of spiders, a phobia of hers, had made her wet herself in fear. He said that she is now perfectly behaved and responds immediately to his every demand – since she never wants to relive that experience.
The conversation turned my stomach, frankly. I know it’s a flavor of fantasy, but it struck me more as abuse than D/s. Still, it did get me thinking. In many circumstances, punishments are used to establish a baseline of fear in order to obtain compliance. I’ve often heard of the practice of punishing a new submissive before they’ve actually done anything wrong – as a means of showing them the consequences of misbehaving and establishing the fear of having to repeat the ordeal. This technique was even used in “Venus in Furs” upon the signature of the contract, where Wanda told Severin that he shall feel the bite of the whip, for no reason other than her whim – as a means of solidifying the agreement and establishing the cost of disobedience.
As I thought more about it, I found myself considering how I treat my submissives and comparing it to this technique. I have complete authority over them and can do anything I want to them. Sometimes I choose to cause them discomfort. Do they fear me? More importantly, do I WANT them to fear me?
I found my answers in the differentiation between ‘compliance’ and ‘submission’. Compliance is doing what you’re told; submission is dedicating yourself to the preferences of another. I concluded that, while there is no doubt that establishing fear is an effective technique for gaining compliance, it is not the best technique for gaining submission. I further concluded that, while I enjoy obedience from my submissives, I’m not interested in their BLIND obedience. I don’t want obedience to be their goal, I want it to be the byproduct of their goal. I don’t want them to please me by obeying me, I want them to obey me because they’re striving to please me. Certainly not doing what I want would not please me and would make my life more complicated. When the focus of the submissive is to be the best submissive that they can be, their motivation is to strive to deliver top-notch service. So, in order to serve me well, one of the things they’ll do, is to do what I want them to. What I know for sure, is that I don’t want them to obey me because they fear the consequences of not obeying me.
What’s wrong with fear-based motivation? I see a few key issues when you consider submission and not just compliance:
• The submissive finds themselves looking for “Outs” – ways to avoid the consequence. The goal is that they will avoid the consequence by complying with the request. However, if they can avoid the consequence more easily than complying with the demand, they will – because the motivation is all about the consequence and not about the request itself. The “Loophole” in the rule becomes a possibility…and then the dominant is forced to punish use of the loophole…and round you go.
• The submissive will comply only as much as is needed, to avoid the consequence. Most fear based victims will not attempt to exceed the ask. They will do the minimum to avoid the consequence. They also will not apply lessons learned to other requests. In other words, unless there is a specific consequence looming over another task – even one that’s similar to the known task – the submissive is not motivated to get the job done, as there’s no consequence attached to that item. The dominant is forced to establish a consequence for every action they wish to control.
• The onus of successful completion falls on the dominant! With fear-based motivation, the dominant must first establish a consequence that’s compelling enough to motivate the submissive. It must be something that can be actually delivered, as a sub will not be motivated unless the consequence is real. And it needs to be effective. Should the submissive NOT execute the demand, it is because the dominant did not establish a fearful enough consequence, did not consider a loophole, or didn’t apply a consequence to a particular outcome.
These three points establish obedience as the dominant’s responsibility to enforce. All the sub is doing is avoiding the consequence they fear. The dominant is busy creating maintaining, and delivering the consequences. That’s a lot of work and responsibility for the person who’s supposed to be the one being served!
Contrast this with a submissive who is motivated by their own inner desire to please and serve (and therefore, obey) their dominant:
• The dominant is only on the hook for communicating their preferences – then the submissive takes responsibility for delivering what the dominant wants. The onus of success is on the submissive.
• The submissive’s focus is on the results of obedience, not on obedience itself. If the sub completes the task, that pleases / serves the dominant – and there’s a successful exchange. The objective is to serve the dominant, not to follow orders.
• Submissives are much more likely to exceed the dominant’s immediate demand, in an effort to serve them even better. The better the sub gets in touch with the preferences of their unique dominant, the better the level of their service becomes.
While fear-based motivations are quick and don’t require a lot of communication to enact, they lack the depth of adjustment that submission-based discipline provides. In the short term, and for a specific task, fear-based may be more efficient, but ultimately, when the submissive is focused on the dominant’s satisfaction, rather than on themselves (avoiding their own discomfort), there is less work for the dominant – and the dominant is better served. This is because submissives are more apt to internalize the dominant’s preferences, and adjust ALL aspects of their behavior in accordance, rather than only a specific, penalizable action.
Personally, I haven’t needed to resort to fear-based motivations. I’m glad, because I really don’t want to. I have found that my submissives are quite capable of providing the self-discipline required to focus on my satisfaction. We are in a partnership, working together to help them provide the best possible service and to tune that service uniquely to me.
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