“Submission is a gift.” I hear that phrase constantly in the kink community. I hear submissives say it. I hear Dom(me)s say it. Switches say it. I have said it. Pretty much everyone I hear speak about submission at some point utters this phrase. It seems almost like assumed knowledge in the kink world. But is submission really a gift?
I want to unpack the idea of submission as a gift in this blog.
Yes, It Can Be
Okay, I do see some parts of submission as a gift. When you enter a D/s or M/s relationship the submissive will decide at some point what power they want to give over to their D-type. This submission is an evolving thing for the pair. What power is given over depends on the individuals, the relationship, and the needs of both parties.
Ideally, giving over power as a submissive does not come until the relationship has been established for a while. I see too many submissives get into trouble when the meet a D-type the like and almost immediately give over power. I have seen it happen in as little as week or a month. A D-type and submissive have their first date and before their one month anniversary, the sub has a collar. I can’t endorse these relationships. Yes, the D-Type may be everything the sub wants. Yes, there may be an amazing connection. But most people can keep crazy under their toupe for 28 days. You can’t possibly know anyone well enough to safely give away your power that fast.
And if a D-type is pressuring you into a collared relationship immediately this is a RED FLAG.
So, in a healthy relationship, once the pair has established that they want to be together, gotten to know one another, learn to trust one another, then the conversation about what power will be exchanged comes up. Every coupling is different. For one submissive, they may want to give over all power for full slave status in one relationship and only want to give over partial power in another. There is no blanket “this is the power I give my D-type” statement that a submissive can reasonably make.
Submission is a gift in the sense that it is the submissive’s to give and cannot be forcefully taken. Submission by force is abuse. Power has to be willingly ceded to be be submission.
Power has to be willingly ceded to be submission.
I cannot emphasize the voluntary aspect of submission enough. If you are giving over power because you are trying to placate your D-type because you fear emotional, physical or financial retribution if you do not cede power, this is abuse. A D-type who “forces” submission is an abuser. Plain and simple.
Submission is Not Really a Gift
Gifts are given with no expectation of return. You give a child a birthday gift. Its nice to get a thank you card, its polite, but the gift is given without expectation of a thank you card. If the card is not received, you do not go back and reposes the gift. Same with most gifts. If you give a “gift” with expectation of something in return, its a transaction, not a gift.
In this sense, submission is not a gift. Submissives do not give power over without expectation. Just the opposite. Submissives give over power with the expectation that their D-type will take their needs and desires into consideration. They give over power with the expectation that the D-type will assume responsibility for what they have ceded power too. In that way, submission is transactional.
If, for example, you give your D-type power over what you wear, there is an expectation that the D-type will think about your clothing needs before telling you what to don. If it is 30 degrees outside and you are on your way to a munch, you expect your D-type to take that into consideration and include a coat with your outfit. If you are on your way to a play party, you expect your D-type to know you have to be outside in public space before walking in and not have you wear something that might get you arrested. You cede that power with the expectation that your needs and safety will be taken into consideration.
That does not mean that the D-type will do everything you want. This is a D/s or M/s relationship after all. In ceding power, you opt to give up some control. If you give over power during a scene, your D-type can decide if you are allowed to climax. Most D-types are kind and will agree that you can orgasm at some point but there is no guarantee that you will get to come. That is the D-type’s prerogative and you agreed to that when power was exchanged.
Submission as a Cudgel
Some submissives use the “gift” of submission to manipulate people. I have known too many submissives who have agreed to give over certain powers and taken a D-type’s collar. Then, when the relationship gets rocky or the sub is not getting what they want, they threaten to take power back. It is usually a hollow threat because they don’t really want the relationship to end. However, they see the threat as a way to “force” a D-type to do what they want.
This is different than reaching a period where the relationship needs to be renegotiated. In many long-term D/s relationships, there are points where some of the power exchange needs to be renegotiated. Couples take a step back from their dynamic, evaluate what is working and what is not, look at what they want going forward, and renegotiate the relationship. That is healthy and necessary. This is different from getting pissy about something, threatening to take power back to force a D-type to change behavior, and hoping like hell for a behavior change and not that the D-type will uncollar your bratty ass.
From the D-type Perspective
I chat with a lot of D-types. Even those who live it 24/7 are not always in full D-type mode. D-types accept the power exchange because they get something out of it. They understand that the submissive does this in part to show devotion and care. But, carrying the extra power is an extra responsibility.
This comes up a lot when it comes to play. Some submissives need a regular play session. I will admit I am one of them. I need a regular and heavy impact session to feel grounded. Most D-types cannot do a scene like this on command. You cannot expect your D-type to come home, hand him a cane, and say, “Go to it!” The D-type has a head space they have to enter just like a sub does to play.
The D-type can engage in a play session and enjoy it on a regular basis, but this isn’t something that they do without feeling some impact. I have had D-types throw out their shoulders or get blisters from a scene. Just like a submissive who may need physical scars to be attended to right after a scene, some D-types need the same type of attention. They also need emotional care. It can take a lot to engage in some types of play. Its important to remember that aftercare can and needs to go both ways. Check on your D to make sure they don’t need water or a smoke or a Tylenol after a scene. They often need to make sure their sub is okay so that the D-type can be okay with what occurred. Just as your submission is a “gift” so is dominance.
I see too many people forget that D/s and M/s are bi-directional relationships. Power exchange goes two ways. There are two people in any dynamic. Claiming submission is a gift without recognizing that dominance is also a gift is one-sided and selfish. Subs get a lot out of the power exchange as do D-types. Its about balance. Its about care. It has to be or it becomes either manipulation and abuse.