Monday, January 9, 2012

submissive as less than

A few things i've come across and read lately have painted the picture of submissive being "less than" Dominant.

They were subtle - and from people within the lifestyle  - so it wasn't the ignorant "submissve must mean doormat" from someone who has no idea about anything.

But the message was clear - it was still - a submissive is somehow less than a Dominant.

Obviously -  sub is sub - literally - below;  by definition and convention - bottom, subject to, subjugated to, and under, among other adjectives.

But this kind of "less than" that i ran across was more along the lines of  less value, less desirable, less admirable, less how a person ought to be, than a statement of relative position in a dynamic.

The implication was that submissive is a stage to go through and learn from, but ultimately to outgrow.  Or - submissive is for those who can't quite cut it at being Dominant: as in "those who can - do, those who can't - teach" - except with Dom and sub instead. 

My knee jerk reaction to this implication was indignation.

Then i thought about it awhile and thought maybe it was the predominant view, or maybe even reality, in parts of the BDSM community with which i'm not familiar, that is to say - lots of parts.  Maybe in clubs, for example, where people are D or s perhaps  independent of a partner...maybe in that context people do tend to grow through stages of submission --> Dominance.

Then i mulled it over for a few weeks and started seeing other sides to it:

Being ruled, being overruled, being subjected to humiliations - no matter how small, or physically dominated or - well - the list goes on - all these things are designed to put one in (her) place.  They are potentially - or in other contexts would be very demoralizing, deflating, probably damaging.  They work to maintain the power distribution and meet the vastly different needs of the people involved (the D's to be dominant, the s's to submit).

But there is a very fine line between maintaining a dynamic and breaking one person down by building yourself up; doing actual damage; each party believing the D is just a more worthwhile person than the s.

Or is there?

Maybe i'm supposed to truly want that - maybe that is the issue - maybe that is truly what submission is.

I am saying this sincerely, not sarcastically, maybe to truly give oneself, to truly submit, one has to believe that (she) is not as valuable as her Master/Dom.  Or - to see it the other way - maybe i am not truly submitting if i don't believe he is altogether better than i am.  

I know  i'm not there.  I'm not outraged or even indignant at the whole thought anymore- but i don't want to be less than.  I admire my husband enormously and will tell you he is more than me in a great many ways, maybe in most ways.

But I don't think i believe he is more worthwhile as a person than i, and i'm really not ready to accept that i am less worthwhile as a category.

But can one really be submissive without that shift?


  1. Very, very interesting post. Something to really mull over.

    With my Husband I don't feel that my submission makes me less anything than him. But in a long term relationship where you have been through all the better and worse moments together I think it unlikley you would feel less.

    But when I've had dealins with online Doms I have had that less than feeling. Enough where I could understand that being possibly part of a newer dynamic.

  2. "all these things are designed to put one in (her) place.

    The question a submissive needs to determine is "what exactly is my place?" It is a question she MUST DEMAND her Dominant to answer.

    Is the humiliation being used to help the sub learn to be open and unguarded with her Master? Or does the Dom just enjoy humiliating her? The same activity can have very different results depending on the intent of the Dominant.

    When I hear that a Dom intends to "break" his sub, I cringe because he often means just that--to dismantle, take apart, disassemble. Even a trained psychologist would never attempt such a thing!

    Submissives are of equal value in a proper D/s relationship. A power exchange is just that--exchange. The Dom is not "worth" more than a sub, nor the other way around.

    Absolutely you can be a submissive while still being worthwhile and whole! Who would want a worthless, less than whole sub?

    Your head is on the right track--don't let others sway you.
    Never follow the crowd. Listen, consider, and then create your own dynamic with your husband with what works for you both.

  3. My initial reaction mirrored what DannahB said. That a power exchange is an exchange. I don't believe that being submissive makes me less than, it just makes me different from.

    I too will be htinging more deeply on this one. Thought provoking post, gg.

  4. Interesting.. i definitely believe not only can someone be submissive and of equal worth, but that it is very important to have equal worth. Any Dom who would tolerate the sub thinking of themself as less than, scares me. Submission for me is about a lot of things, but becoming of less worth is not one of them. I used to think it was, and maybe for some it works, but it truly is not a mindset i would personally recommend for a sub. There are healthier ways to increase submission. In fact, seeing myself as of equal worth is one way that has worked for me. To me submissive is not synonymous with subordinate, necessarily. I think of it more so as a yielding to.

    Great question...i too will ponder further on this.

  5. Green girl,

    Fascinating topic indeed, it never occurred to mouse that she was less. Tho, she certainly felt that way with Alpha, so let's forget about him. Now humiliation is part of some's dynamic, sometimes it's made mouse fretful at what some will do just because they can.

    Maybe the difference is how the sub feels about it?

    Now, mouse just wouldn't be mouse without Omega's hand guiding. But his leadership doesn't make mouse less than him, but an important part. There are so many things in life that are out of our control. Things happen. The one thing we can count on is his control and mouse's need for it.


  6. Master and I actually discussed this a little last night after my post about submissive/slave differences and my opinion on it and how I feel they can go hand-in-hand for some people. A title, if you will.

    She expressed that she found if I were to be called her slave it'd be 'weird and icky' her exact words. She's much more comfortable calling me her 'submissive'

    She followed that up with 'You are my equal'

    So I will never be valued below her. The only time I am below her is when I am quite physically below/under. If ya know what I mean. ;D

    Of course, I value and respect anyone's opposing views on this.

  7. I suppose this varies widely from couple to couple. Many (too many, imo) couples DO either say, or act, as if the D is more important, of more value and greater worth than the s. I think so many simply people have low self esteem to start, and the s's will see their submission as a refection of their lesser value, and the men use their D to pump up their own sense of self. But is this healthy, or what the dynamic must or even should be?

    I would say "no" to both those questions. My "place" is beside my husband, so I fit my s to his D, and we become an intergrated D/s unti. In truth, he serves me as much as I serve him. He works at our relationship just as hard, and we both serve the marriage, submit to the higher good for us. My husband sincerely respects me and shows me that respect. He believes I deserve to be respected. I also respect him and myself.

    Finally, is an s somehow a lower or less developed D? I truly think not. I AM a D...out in the world. I had to work hard to learn to be an s at home. In some ways, I think being an being an s takes more focus, more self control, more emotional effort. The D can get away with a lot due to his power position, while the s is in the postion to have to answer for herself.

    Yin and yang...just two sides of a coin..neither better, or more or less, than the other.


  8. I would not want a submissive that was not every bit the "s" that I am the "D". She had better be as smart, as strong, as self determined and many other things as I am and she had better hold up her side of the deal.

    To make yourself better by believing you are better than some one else is not to be dominate. In fact if that is the definition of being dominate that I will forgo that label for myself.

    I think anyone who believes they are better than a whole group of people they have given a label to is a person who holds their own label - bigot. I truly wonder why any self assured and intelligent sub would wish to grow into being that.

  9. I think that the D and the s go together, yin and yang, one perhaps being on top while the other is on the bottom, but equal nonetheless. And remember that while one can look at the top as being "over" the bottom, it's also possible to see the same scene from a different direction and view the bottom as raising the top up with their strength.

  10. I am desperately trying to get out of the habit of thinking, but since it's not really working for me...

    I don't think a sub needs to be "less than" for a D/s relationship to work. I rather think that if one partner is worth less in any relationship, that relationship doesn't really have a future.

    If Alpha thought of me as less than him, I doubt I would be able to handle ttwd. And I wonder at how healthy our relationship would be.

    While D/s may be rather defined by a certain level of inequality, we are of equal value.
    I may be rambling nonsensically here...

  11. I just want to applaud absolutely everyone who has chimed in here for being rightheaded. :)

    I would add my two cents, but DannahB and lil and K have pretty much covered everything I would have said.

    Great post.

  12. Greengirl,

    I have been reading your blog for a while and thought this was a great post. I am just trying to find my way and give in to my submissive side and have been concerned about "losing myself" Everybody's comments really helped put things in perspective, especially when there is so many confusing feelings.

  13. I agree - this is a very inyetesting post. Personally I would wonder how we could ever say that any one person has more "value" than another. Thanks for posting this greengirl -my brain needed a workout. Alice

  14. Serenity,
    I do think that the fact that we have been together so long is part of what makes it impossible that i would really change to feeling less than him. He wouldn't allow it in any case. But i do wonder about the tricky space between taking a role that is subordinate and yet still knowing you are not less.

    When we started ttwd, my husband and i talked and talked about what he wanted my place to be - that was established long before any of the rest was accepted. You've made me think about it though - the things he does - sometimes for fun - but sometimes to help me stay - as you say - open and connected.

    Thank you. I hadn't thought about the terminology of power exchange in relation to this. It's a good point.

    I like that idea - yielding to... i like the implication of equality but making a conscious decision to bend.

  15. mouse,
    Maybe that is a perfect example of viewing the sub as less than, and making her feel that way also, being abuse. I think that the Dom needs to be careful that the sub is feeling right about things. He can't make her feel the right or wrong way, but, at least for me it would be terribly tricky to maintain my views and healthy feelings about things if he weren't reinforcing that.

    Hmm - that is the best way to be below. We also stick with "submissive" and just know what that means for us. She sounds wise i would say.

    You make a good point - which of course is a pattern in so many relationships - beyond ttwd, and even beyond intimate relationships. I really like the idea of fitting your "s" to his "D" - that is the whole idea, no? But also - easily lost.

  16. Sir J,
    So you have an opinion about this? Framing it as a responsibility to hold up her side of the deal - remain strong, engaged, competent in whatever ways - that is an intriguing idea. It makes it perfectly clear that you don't want her to slack off, that you want her to value herself, and that you value those things in her.

    Very cool take on it. Thanks. I think my husband would agree.

    I think you're absolutely right - if i flet my partner viewed me as less than him - i may be able to stay attached for awhile- but it wouldn't last. I wouldn't have the strength to give myself to him.

    Thank you.

    Welcome. And thank you. It is confusing - each little piece i thing adds to the understanding and helps.

    Aisha did write about that - and you are of course absolutely right - it's a fallacy to try to think we can measure people's worth at all. Thanks.