What is Submission? | 30 Days of D/s
We’re back with another post taken from our 30 Days of D/s program to answer another big question: What is submission? Much like the question on dominance, defining submission is inherently personal, and it can change — over time and from relationship to relationship. At its core, submission means giving up power or control of some aspect of your relationship, life, and actions to another partner. But what does that look like?
It’s…complicated and unique to each person. But here are some things to consider for yourself.
For some, submission is about taking care of another, serving, doing as they are told. They want to be of use in some way that benefits their Dominant partner. This can be sexual, physical, emotional, mental, you name it. This desire manifests in many ways, and it can take many forms. Some submissives find that they fall into this naturally. I, myself, served many people in life who didn’t deserve that level of care from me– partners, bosses, friends — in very vanilla ways, knowing it was important to me but not understanding there could be a healthy alternative within a relationship. Or that it could be a conscious choice.
Serving can be very obvious — cleaning, taking care of appointments, literally serving a meal. It can also be more subtle like taking care of small things to make a person’s life easier. While being of service can be an inherent part of your nature, it still must be discussed and consented to between partners. Why? Because sometimes what we call “service” our partner might call a major annoyance. It’s not “serving” if they don’t want what we’re offering.
In my opinion, submitting is different from serving (although not everyone will see it this way and the differences can be subtle). To submit is to allow someone else’s will, desires, wants, control, words to supersede your own. We all submit in the vanilla world — doing what a boss or teacher tells you to do is a form of submission.
“Don’t orgasm until I give you permission” is a form of submission. You give up control over your choice of when to orgasm. You might really, really want that orgasm, but (when you submit) you choose to wait until you have permission.
“Go to bed at this time. Do these chores. Complete this activity.” You might have done these things willingly, without being told, but when you take direction from a partner, this is a form of submission. They want you to do something, at a certain time, in a certain way. Instead of deciding for yourself how and when to do these things, you take direction from another person.
It’s not that you don’t have a mind and will of your own. Instead, it’s that you allow someone else’s mind and will to take the lead. Sometimes, submission is very easy — it’s what you wanted to do anyway. At other times, it’s much more challenging because you may have to choose between what you want and what your Dominant wants.
I could have also called this “being taken care of” or being “led” by another person. To follow someone’s lead may look exactly like submitting to or serving your partner. But I want to make a distinction here between the three. They want you to do something, tell you to do it, and you let their desires (sometimes) override your own. (Although, hopefully, one of your desires is to do what your Dominant wants you to do. If not, it’s time for a conversation.) To follow means they are someone you allow to lead, to make decisions, and/or to take care of you. It can absolutely have elements of submission and service, but not always.
I think both of Owner/slave dynamics and Caregiver/little dynamics, as well as 24/7 power exchange relationships (regardless of dynamics) when I think of leading and following. In these situations, the dominant partner leads in a very consistent way. For us, John Brownstone isn’t just the Daddy Dom, he’s also The Decider™. I may serve. I may submit. Or I may simply follow his lead without consciously thinking of service or submission. Very often I do some level of all three. But ultimate responsibility in our dynamic sits with him. (For the record, I am still an autonomous human being, and I have a responsibility to my own well-being. But as long as he willingly accepts and I willingly agree to give him this responsibility, he can have it, and I will follow his lead.)
Never think for a moment that submission without consent continues to be submission. A person’s willingness to serve, submit, follow, or some combination only works as long as they agree to do it, and the Dominant partner agrees to be served, submitted to, or lead. Any and all levels of power exchange must be discussed. Everyone should have an idea of what’s going on. And either person has the freedom to opt out.
You, as a submissive, may find yourself doing things (or wanting to do things) you didn’t realize tapped into your submission. It’s important to discuss them with your partner as they occur and make sure you’re both on the same page going forward. It’s too easy to overstep as a submissive. I do it all the time because I like to be “helpful.” It’s also very easy to create expectations in your own mind as to how your Dominant partner “should” react to what you do for them. But if you don’t talk about what you’re doing and they don’t consent to what you want to do, it’s unfair to set an expectation about how they should react.
There are as many ways to express your submission as there are submissives in the world. None of us fit neatly into any one box. Labels and titles come and go. What works for us today might not work tomorrow. You don’t have to know exactly why you submit or how to define it for it to be valid. But it’s helpful to think about how you want to submit, how it makes you feel, and what you need (and are willing to give) as a submissive. And remember, it will likely change as the years go by, as partners change, and as your life and circumstances change — and that’s okay, too.
Want to figure out what Dominance, submission, and power exchange mean to you? You can do 30 Days of D/s, too. Get the 30 Days of D/s workbook here!