Submission and the art of letting go

The last post was kinda bitchy, and I apologise for that. I was feeling quite hurt and uncomfortable about the whole thing, and that really came across. So while the point still stands (slut-shaming is wrong, and we should try to call people out on it, even if they’re our friends), the bitchiness was unnecessary. It also wasn’t particularly positive, and while I’m not necessarily what you’d called a ‘positive person’ (usually used to mean one of those blonde chirpy girls you get in sit-coms), this is a broadly positive space. So here’s some sex-positivity.

I talked a while ago about how I discovered BDSM and the impact it’s made on my sex life. What I’d like to do now is go into slightly more detail about one particular aspect of that: being a sub. Let me just say that I love the word sub. Mistress Matisse, professional dominatrix who used to keep a really awesome blog about BDSM, hates the word. She says it sounds like a type of sandwich. I think it’s a smooth, sexy abbreviation of submissive, and can be used as a noun and a verb, as well as just an adjective. You’re such a good little sub, or Do you want to sub for me tonight, sweetheart? Mmm, sexy.

But anyway, moving on. I am a feminist, a self-defined, card-carrying feminist. But I like to be dominated. More specifically, I like to be dominated by men. I guess I’m a bit of a switch by nature, and I’ve played around with topping girls for fun, but what really gets me off is being pinned down and fucked by a man while I struggled and try to throw him off. And that’s not a picture that immediately fits with how feminism is usually portrayed.

I think I’ve made it clear by this point on this blog that I consider consent to be paramount. I’ve had experiences where consent was dubious, or overridden and ignored completely, and they were some of the least fun experiences of my life. I also don’t go in for the somewhat Biblical idea that women are naturally submissive, and that our husbands need to dominate us and put us in our place. Down that road lies rape, emotional abuse, and all those creepy organisations you find in the southern states of America where girls are taught that their feelings and desires are secondary to whatever man is most important in their life. The ideal of the perfect submissive woman is a damaging one, and impacts women in all areas of life, be it in the bedroom where their protests are ignored, or the office where they are passed over for promotion in favour of a ‘stronger’ man. Women are not weak, but the concept of submission is so fiercely tied to that of weakness that they sometimes seem impossible to separate.

And yet here I am, a devoted feminist who likes to be dominated during sex. I am hardly alone – my discovery of the feminist blogosphere taught me that fairly early on. And in my head, I have no trouble separating how I feel in everyday life and what I want in bed. As far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s with consenting adults, anyone can do whatever they want when it comes to sex, and I hope they enjoy it. But that realisation took a couple of years to get to, so while I don’t feel like I owe anyone any kind of apology for my sexual preferences, I am offering an explanation to whoever would like one.

I am not a masochist, not really. I don’t like pain – I don’t enjoy it, I endure it. In fact, I don’t like submitting for someone. Tell me to kneel and I’ll glare at you defiantly, tell me to stay still and I’ll thrash around just to spite you. I need to be forced. I need to be thrown to the floor, yanked up by the hair and spanked until it hurts so much I give in. If I actually enjoyed the pain, that wouldn’t work. I won’t stay still unless I’m held down, and even then I’ll struggle. Why? Because for me, there’s something incredibly erotically charged in the moment when I realise that I’m powerless. I’m twisting my arms, trying to push up and throw him off me, but of course I can’t, and that realisation gets me off like you wouldn’t believe. I enjoy discovering that I’m physically weaker than the man dominating me, which is probably why it doesn’t work quite as well with girls where we’re more equally matched. And only then, when I’ve fought and and worked out that I have no chance of winning, can I properly let go.

That feeling is unbelievable. To relax completely, to stop thinking about anything and just let someone else take full control, it’s overwhelming. I’ve read other feminists talk about how women are socialised from an early age into pleasing others and putting aside our own pleasure, and maybe there’s a little bit of that in what I feel when I let go and just let somebody else handle it all for a change. If I come (and I often do), it’s not of my own choosing. Nor is it my responsibility when and how he comes. It’s only when I stop thinking entirely that I realise how much of the time I usually spend worrying. And for an hour or so, if I’m lucky, I can give all that up.

Afterwards, there is aftercare. This is something that I didn’t know about until Alexander, but now I couldn’t do without it. I curl up in a ball and make quiet mewing noises, while the guy who was holding me by the throat minutes before holds me close and tells me how lovely I am, and that everything is going to be okay now. Aftercare is as much a part of the BDSM scene as the sex itself. It’s the part that allows me to slowly slip back into reality. Because that’s the whole point of a scene, it’s not real. That’s why it’s called a scene. I wouldn’t go so far as call it role-play exactly, because I’m still me when I’m subbing for someone. I’m still a feminist who believes that women don’t have to be submissive and that men do not have the right to dominate anyone. But the submitting I do during sex isn’t real submitting, because I know that afterwards there will be cuddles and hair-stroking, that I will be looked after, and that I can end it any time I want.

I guess what I’m trying to get across that is in my mind I can separate real life from what happens during a scene, and the bridge between those two things is the aftercare. Which is useful, because that feeling of letting go entirely is beautifully therapeutic. I’ll often be considerably calmer for a few days following a session involving some kind of power-play. Which isn’t to say that I like it all the time. I don’t, and if I have too much of it I start to feel distanced and crave slow and sensuous vanilla sex. But it is something I like and, to be honest, something I think I probably need if I want to stay emotionally healthy. All the stress and anxiety that comes from thinking all the time and worrying if everything is okay can be hard to cope with, and subbing for someone provides an outlet for all that to drain away.

It also results in absolutely mind-blowing orgasms, which is definitely a bonus.

So, that’s my take on it. I am very interested to hear other people’s thoughts on what they feel during BDSM encounters, if they have experience of that and want to talk about it. Because I know that there are about as many different ways to have sex as there are different people, and this is no exception. But I hope that explains how I can square submission with progressive activism and not feel torn in two. I mean, sometimes I’m into that, but you know what I mean.

Happy New Year everyone!

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One thought on “Submission and the art of letting go

  1. Pingback: Mirrored perspectives: submission and control | Procne The Swallow

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