What is “Submission”?
Submission is the act of giving up one’s control or authority to another. In the context of BDSM it is to give this control to a Dom or Master. In turn, they control the action, behavior, and mental state of the submissive.
Being submissive takes on many different forms in the BDSM community. By definition, it is being ready and willing to conform to the authority or a Dominant figure, but not all submissives are made equal. In fact, many submissives, also known as ‘subs,’ might be bratty or defiant in order to elicit a particular response from their Dom. Depending on the submissive their service to a Dom can be either psychological, physical, or both.
There are two main kinds of subs, session-based subs, and lifestyle subs:
Lifestyle-submissives tend to be constantly in service with a Dom. This can be a romantic partner, someone who’s not part of their daily life, or it can even be a non-sexual Dom/sub relationship. Lifestyle submissives are commonly referred to as “collared” as if they belong to a Dom or have a deeper ongoing connection and relationship with them. Lifestyle submissives have been depicted in mainstream movies such as The Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhall and James Spader as well as the wildly popular 50 Shades of Gray. Although 50 Shades of Gray is largely viewed by the BDSM community as an inaccurate representation of true lifestyle BDSM relationships and as abusive.
Session-based subs are only submissive in the context of a sexual or otherwise BDSM encounter. Being a sub during a session does not automatically make the person in that role as a lifestyle submissive. They can be what’s commonly referred to within the BDSM community as a switch, playing the role of Dom, sub, or neutral as their desire or situation permits. Submission often works inside a reward/punishment dynamic, which often fulfills the psychological needs of both the Dom and sub.
The psychological and sociological aspects of submission are a topic of intense debate among many subcultures, and being a sub is not limited to any specific gender, sexual orientation, or identity.
Ironically, one thing that the BDSM and fetish community agree on is that submissives are the ones who hold the true power, for if there was not someone to sub, there would be no Dom.
Dos, Don’ts & Tips
- Any kind of submission and Dominance should be done with the consent of both parties.
- Discussion as to what will occur should be discussed prior to play or a scene.
- Giving up power or authority does not entitle someone to do whatever they would like in a Dominant role.
- Understanding risks, guidelines, and having a negotiation as to what can or cannot occur during a scene is paramount.
Related Practices & Fetishes
The opposite of submission is dominance. Doms, Masters, and other similar roles become the authority figure in BDSM. It is through these roles that they may train slaves or submissives for sexual and psychological encounters.