Thursday, September 14, 2006

There Is No Such Thing As Stealth Submission (A little history, a little lament)

Much of my recent thinking around submission and where this is going was catalized by a post on Ms. Rika's site. Most of her site is an extended essay on how real service-oriented submission might work for a woman and her submissve man. But she also has a forum that gets surprisingly little traffic, and it was there that I found this gem. The whole thread is worth reading, but what she said so succinctly, was

Guys...there is no such thing as stealth submission. Let's end this notion. It's not submission if it's not received from a position of dominance. It cannot be received from dominance if it's not known.

Communication is the key to all aspects of a relationship - including D/s.

D/s is a power EXCHANGE. It's not a one-way street. It is not something you manipulate your partner into - it's something you share. Most importantly you share is not hidden.

To be fair, after reading what she said, I refined my idea of "stealth submission" a bit. I absolutely agree that submission without dominance is not submission, it's something else. But that's not what I'm trying for. As I said earlier, I'm trying for a "habit of mind" that will make real submission easier.

But I'm trying two other things two: becoming comfortable enough with myself to acknowledge who I am and what I am interested in. And learning to ask for what I want.

I've talked about the former several times - it's why I'm writing this blog. It's giving myself permission to think about what in fact I've been thinking about since I was 12 years old. It's not having to hide that from myself, even if I do not yet have the courage to share it with my beloved. It's letting myself explore, at least in my thoughts. It's reading and sharing with others who are exploring. And it's letting this fascination with power dynamics in relationships be part of my life instead of being opposed to my life. Where was it I read recently that anything you oppose and make "other" will end up controlling and owning you.

Learning to ask for what I want is paradoxical, and is, I think, a paradox that confronts many submissives. Sort of by definition, the act of submission is (or appears to be) the ceding of control. That's why there are all these fantasies about being abducted or enslaved or becoming someone's servant against one's will. But of course real life doesn't work that way.

I can't tell you how many streets I've wandered on how many continents (I used to travel a lot for work) on how many nights, waiting for that to happen, waiting to see "the person," waiting for the situation to occur. In all fairness, if that had been now rather than 35 years ago, things could easily have been different. Power dynamics and fetish are far more out in the open now than they were then. But that obscures the real point, which is the simple child's maxim: good things come to those who ask. If I don't take responsibility for asking for the things I want and creating the life I want to have, that life is not just going to happen.

Which also doesn't mean that if I ask for what I want, it is magically going to happen either. Some time I will write some of the story of the travails my beloved and I have gone through around this subject. In Dan Savage's adage, she was "good, giving, and game." But I didn't know what I was trying to do, and 20 years of repression just came erupting out of my psyche - not a pretty sight! It wasn't horrible (well, there were one or two horrible moments). It clearly wasn't blissful (and I use the term advisedly, although there were one or two moments of great peace and satisfaction). Honestly, of the several (four?) runs we've taken at this, I remember the denouments of only two. In each there was enough unprocessed "stuff" to founder the experiment.

Each little moment of asking for what I want is a little step in the right direction; each one is a little brink I can put on to the ediface of my self definition. Suggesting that I could paint my beloved's toenails is that kind of step. Answering honestly about how much satisfaction I get from having intercourse only at her pleasure is that kind of step. Telling my beloved how much I enjoy the necklace that is our symbolic chastity device is one of those steps. And the more of those steps I take, the close I come to being able to do what I really must do.

Ms. Rika is absolutely right that without conversation and interaction, there is no submission; by extension I'd say there is no wife-led marriage or loving female authority.

I also think that there will be no conversation between my beloved and myself. I'm sure I didn't start it, but I've been a great fan of that meme; I've used it in a couple of discussion groups and I think I've mentioned it here. I think it's a mistake.

It implies that at some point we sit down and I say "Honey, I've been thinking about all that power exchange stuff and I think it's really important to me, and we need to do something about it." That raises all sorts of questions about who it is I want her to be, while she just wants to be herself.

I think what actually happens, is that we find one thing at a time that works for us. This requires patience on my part, and if personal (figuratively) masturbatory fantasies form a part of that patience, I don't think any harm is done - why despite Ms. Rika's dismemberment of "stealth submission," I think the concept still has some utility for me.

I suspect that many/most/all of those early things will be service things for her. If I get to paint her nails, I got a treat; I'm happy and if it doesn't do violence to her sense of self and it isn't a hassle for her, she's happy. If I just follow her leadership on everything that calls for a decision (after doing my due diligence and obligation to give her all the information and best options I can think of), then even if that isn't the authority that I say I want, I think I can be happier doing that and acknowledging to myself, who I am, than I was denying the whole thing and shoving it away.

I keep using the necklace as an example that could grow and be acknowledged because it's the thing we're closest to talking about. But it could end up being something else. And, I suspect, for this to work for me in the long term, I am going to want more than just that. The kinds of "standing rules" that Saratoga and Mistress Laura's Boy refer to in Saratoga's post on "On The Domina's Firmness vs. Yielding in a FemDom Relationship" and their partners' acknowledgement of them occasionally are what give life to this kind of relationship. But that's far in the future.

1 comment:

saratoga said...


Nice piece. Thanks for the link to my post.

Btw, and this comes from my acquaintance, Marquise, a more appropriate phrase or term is probably "power transfer."

She notes, and I agree, that power is not 'exchanged' in a FemDom or D/s situation. It is transferred from the submissive to the DOmina, but that exchange of power is not reciprocated. The submissive may, and hopefully, does get other things in return, but none of them is 'power returned.'

It's a small point, but almost laughably obvious when you think about it. And, yet, everyone uses the usual 'power exchange' term without further thought. Marquise is the only person to my knowledge to have pointed out this inaccuracy.