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Is There Power in Submission?
Picture a “sexually empowered woman.” What comes to mind?
Maybe she’s commanding, dominant, with a no-nonsense attitude regarding her pleasure. Perhaps she’s got a whip in hand, decked out in leather or latex. Maybe she has sex with whoever she pleases, as often as she pleases.
Or maybe…she’s submissive?
Though “sexual empowerment” and “submission” aren’t mutually exclusive, many see it as inherently degrading. This viewpoint wasn’t formed in a vacuum – women have been pressured into some form of submission for centuries, always expected to prioritize men’s pleasure over their own. Of course, tons of women are ready to be dominant for a change!
But this view of submissive women as weak or compliant needs an upgrade. At best, it’s completely false. At worst, it can be damaging and dangerous.
The only way to foster understanding is to set the record straight.
What is a Submissive?
If you want to learn more about submission, throw everything you’ve seen or read from Fifty Shades of Grey out the window. Yes, it’s the most famous portrayal of BDSM in media– it’s also the worst.
Let’s start with the basics. BDSM stands for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism. While there are as many different types of submissives as there are people, they all have one obvious thing in common: submission.
Some couples go down the 24/7 route, with the submissive partner serving their Dominant pretty much all the time, in a total power exchange. This is not to be taken lightly; most couples who do this have prior BDSM experience, are committed to each other, draw up contracts concerning the details of their power exchange, and often have regular check-ins. So, while the submissive partner serves their Dominant (in whichever way is agreed upon), it is also the Dom/me’s responsibility to care for and respect their sub.
It’s important to remember that BDSM is a spectrum. Not everyone is breaking out the whips and chains, and even if you do, you’re probably not doing it daily. Most BDSMers start with bedroom-only scenes. You could be a high-powered career woman by day, a submissive by night, or vice versa. And guess what? Neither of these aspects has to negate the other. Honestly, actively pursuing your true desires, regardless of what they are, is probably the most sexually empowering thing a woman can do for herself.
But not everyone sees it that way. Many people are just confused about submission. They picture a woman meekly kneeling before a man (despite the rich, extensive history BDSM has with the queer community), and their kneejerk reaction is to oppose it. That makes perfect sense, assuming the women don’t want to be there. But BDSM, when done right, requires communication, education, and above all, consent. Without these things, it’s not BDSM or true submission. It’s just abuse.
The Fake Dom Problem
The issue here is that not everyone who misunderstands BDSM is well-meaning. Characterized by their manipulative tactics when interacting with submissives, “fake Doms” feel entitled to submission. They’re known for messaging submissive women online and demanding to be called “Sir” or “Master” without earning the title or even getting to know the women first. News flash: just because a woman is kinky doesn’t mean you get to send her dick pics and demand that she call you “Master.” You should probably ask first. You know, like you would with any other woman.
This phenomenon emerges from a belief that “submission” means “letting your partner walk all over you.” And fake Doms, who only care about their subs so long as they can control them, might be its most prominent proponents. Many of these guys got their ideas from unrealistic BDSM porn; as one commenter on the BDSM blog Chloe’s Space notes, “everything is about sex with them and nothing to do with BDSM.” Meaning all they want out of a possible dynamic is sex. They don’t care to research what they’re getting into or get to know their sub – they don’t even think they need to. This idea of submissives as weak, vulnerable, and easy prey feeds into this notion, subtly encouraging their manipulation.
This is not to say that it’s impossible for abuse to occur within the BDSM community. The popular kink social networking site FetLife is a hotbed for fake Doms and other manipulators. But when we push this false image of meek, disempowered, submissive women, when we refuse to believe that sexual empowerment can emerge from even the most unexpected of places, we unconsciously feed into the stereotypes that encourage abusers to continue their harassment. Of course, sites like FetLife need to do better. Until that happens, it’s up to individuals to open their minds, view submission with respect, and give submissives the credit they deserve.
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