Submission vs. Subjugation

Submission is a definite kink of mine. So I have some definite ideas about what I
think it is. These may differ from yours, and if so, that’s fine; write your own damn entry. This one certainly has come both in response to other people’s views as well as my own experience in relationships.

If you want me to submit to you, you’re gonna have to earn it!” “Make me submit!” “You might get me to submit, but it won’t come easy!” These are the kinds of things I’ve heard from people both intimate and non-. I’ve had a few thoughts I’ve had about it.

I’ve got nothing to prove. Here’s the first reaction: Honey, if I’m not good enough for you as I am, then that’s just too fucking bad. Personally, I look back on my life, with certain milestones like being a Marine, a single father, a business owner, a teacher, an author, a performer, and I am pretty satisfied with both what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve turned out. The only thing I really feel I need to do is maintain enough integrity to look myself in the eye every morning. If that’s not good enough for you, then it means one of two things: either you haven’t taken the time to get to know me well enough, or else I am not what you are looking for.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to work on our relationship, or that I’m saying “Take me as I am, I’ll never change for no one!” No, what it means is that your submission cannot be dependent on some transient quality of mine – such as being able to tie you up, to beat you down, to cook you dinner. Because there will *always* be someone who can do that one thing better, and more than that, I may not always be able to do that one thing that “made” you submit. And when it’s superseded or gone, where does that leave our power exchange?

Force is easy, and transient. When someone talks about wanting to be “beaten down” or “made to submit” I personally feel that they are not talking about submission. Submission is a willful act; it requires action by the individual. Think about it as a part of speech: you don’t say “I SUBMIT YOU!” (well, unless we’re doing it to something else: “I submit you for the competition.”). At the risk of Godwinning it, there’s a whole lot of theory about how the human body can be beaten down, damaged, etc, but the human spirit can *only* be beaten when the humans themselves choose to allow it.

So can I subjugate someone? Sure. That’s basically physics, or failing that, tactics, and if necessary even strategy. One of my key personal mantras, second only to “*Confusion to the enemy!*” is “*Old age and treachery will always triumph over youth and enthusiasm.*”Not only that, but I can be subjugated – and have been, in the military, in the dojo, even in one or two classes I’ve taught. Subjugation is even fun, and is a great way to build yourself back up after being torn down. But it is not submission.

Submission is a choice you make to dedicate yourself to something outside of yourself. That is sometimes something you believe to be “greater”- such as your religion, your country, or some higher principle – and it is sometimes just to something you believe *in* – such as your family, or an individual or organization you believe has potential. Your level of submission may be total, such as the “blank check” a soldier writes when she or he takes their oath, or it may be partial, such as going to church every sunday and reveling in the hymns and rituals that allow you to feel more a part of something greater.

But you have to choose to do it. If you’re dragged to the church against your will, odds are you are not going to feel that connection to the sublime that the draggers hoped for. And how well has compulsory service worked out in times of war?

Submission is a gift. Now, before I get a whole lot of people yelling about how it’s not, let’s note how I’m using it – as a verb, not a noun. It’s not a gift as in “*Happy birthday! Here’s my submission!*” It’s a gift in the same way that a person can have a gift for writing, for dancing, for building, for destroying. It’s a gift in the way that we call an individual “gifted”. It’s the *ability* to devote yourself to something outside of yourself, to surrender – which is something very different than being conquered.

I think some people have a problem with the idea of submission because they either see it as a weakness or else they fear that others will see it as weakness. Fair enough; everybody’s entitled to an opinion, and I’ve heard enough Doms say “I don’t have a submissive bone in my body!” in a tone of pride.

That’s not my view, though. I have found submission to be amazingly beautiful when I’ve seen it, and incredibly powerful and humbling when I’ve been the recipient of it. There’s a level of dedication and trust that comes with submitting to a person that I envy. I haven’t found a way to submit to anything since my last child left our home; before that, family, community, and country were experiences of submission that molded me and fulfilled me in ways that I truly miss.

Now, however? Trust issues, I HAZ DEM. I can barely manage to be an adequate bottom, much less actually submit to a person, place, or thing. So when I see someone who really groks submission – like Mollena, for example, who has far wiser things than I to say about it – I listen to them, not only for what I learn but for the voyeuristic thrill of seeing something that I envy, that I don’t experience, and that I long to share with my partners.

Basically it’s a lot like porn. Or the food channel. Or IKEA.

If your attitude about submission is make me, that’s fine. But personally, I gotta say that I believe you are gonna have to make yourself.

And that will be a beautiful thing to see.

3 thoughts on “Submission vs. Subjugation

  • printed and pinned over my desk for me to see 10 hours a day because the ideal and words you used to express it are, well, perfection:
    “If your attitude about submission is make me, that’s fine. But personally, I gotta say that I believe you are gonna have to make yourself.

    And that will be a beautiful thing to see.”

    ~loki

  • As a frequent bottom who adores subjugation whilst loathing expectations of submission, I absolutely groklove the distinction you’re highlighting.

    But sometimes the language of “earning” or “forcing” submission isn’t a request for subjugation – it’s a bravado-tastic (coined against a background of socialization towards slut-shaming) stand-in for describing person-driven, rather than solely experience-driven, partner selection (or more simply “I don’t submit to everyone”). And while I think we need better language around it, it’s a declaration I’m prone to appreciating. An exchange based on my obsession with footnotes is eons more likely to make me feel engaged->fulfilled than one based on my reputation for skillz (or, worse, my sheer availability). So when I’m playing or flirting at the top of a power exchange (no matter how brief the exchange), I look for situations in which the noun-of-me appears as important as the verb-of-dominating in a partner’s equation of desire.

    Which is to say, I want someone who expects me to “earn” their submission by showcasing how fantastic(/absurd/smart/ridiculous) a person I am – just as I expect a partner to similarly “earn” my domly awesomeness.

    • Hmm, I understand your point, but I think based on your last sentence we are conflating the word “earn” – which denotes a value which has yet to be achieved – with “worth”, which denotes a value already achieved. I believe that you are saying (if I may rephrase): “I want someone who thinks I am worthy of my submission because of the awesome that is me, as I expect them to be worth my domly attentions.”

      I think that’s fine, and it’s also fine to say “…and I expect them to continue to be so.” But, as I said, if what I’ve already accomplished/who I already am is not worth your submission…well, that’s fine, there are other fish in the sea. Because how domly would it be to change myself to try and meet your expectations?

      I guess it’s just the word “earn” that bothers me. I also had the unpleasant experience once of someone telling me they loved me “not for what you do, Gray, but for who you are.” Yet when what I did changed, that love also withered, so I tend to mistrust the idea in and of itself.

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