The Dominant Submissive

I subscribe to the RSS feed for the sfbay-bdsm group on Tribe, and someone recently posted about a class they’d attended called “The Dominant Submissive.”

The class apparently lauded the good qualities of a particular kind of submissive, one who was independent, stable, confident, opinionated, and strong. This, to the person giving the talk, was a “dominant submissive.” She continued by saying that such submissives were attractive to dominants, because they were a good “challenge” for the dom; they needed to be conquered instead of just lying down at his or her feet. She (a self-described dominant submissive) explained that she needed a very strong dom, someone who would accept her challenges and push her down.

All of this makes me a little uncomfortable. First of all, the “dominant submissive” construction implies that the un-adjectived “submissive” label describes a person who has none of these other positive qualities she listed off; the average submissive is thus dependent, unstable, unsure of himself, unthinking, and weak—a doormat. Is it not possible for someone to be just a submissive—to not resist, to enjoy the act of submitting without being forced into it, to be a willing slave—and to also be strong and in charge of her own desires, to speak her mind? Can a person not be both obedient and self-confident? It’s as if once deciding to submit, a person is suddenly now and forever a SLAVE, no rights whatsoever, no capacity for independent thought, no ability to speak out for herself.

And that’s total bullshit. Yes, of course there do exist submissives who are terribly unsure of themselves and wholly dependent on their masters. But that doesn’t mean those are qualities inherent to submission—”submissive” isn’t a personality type—or that we need a new category to separate that kind of submission from the good kind of submission.

Everyone—including bratty bottoms, humiliation-craving slaves, and service subs—has the right to own their own sexuality and their own desire. The fact that I willingly kneel does not mean I’m weaker than the one who wants to be forced there. It means that I derive more pleasure from that particular style of submission.

Which gets into the second thing that really confuses me. To me, the “dominant submissive” is a wholly different kink than what I have come to think of as submission. What this person was describing sounds to me like the sort of kink that comes out of me during a lot of “rape play” or forced submission scenes—the desire to fight, to struggle, to be pushed down roughly, to be controlled, to be bratty and even angry. It sounds completely different from the sort of kink that I usually enjoy, which is a more humble and self-given submission, a gift given, a choice made, a decision to kneel and obey. I certainly don’t think it’s any better or worse, but to me comes from a completely different place. The assumption that the average sub is just a weak pushover because they don’t like to resist or struggle during play seems, to me, like a simple bias in favor of one’s own preferred kink. If your biases lie on the other end, you could easily retort that the “dominant submissive” is really just a “resistant submissive,” one who doesn’t fully own her own submission and who relies on her dom to place her there; she, not the compliant or self-directed submissive, is the one who is weak. (Not that I necessarily think that; just to prove a point.)

Of course, this is all a reaction to an anonymous, secondhand description of a workshop I didn’t attend, so I suppose you can take all of it with a grain of salt. But I suspect that the speaker at this workshop is not alone in her assumptions.

10 comments so far

  1. devastatingyet on

    I feel like this person is confusing personality type (where one may be assertive, confident, etc.) with their kink (where one might like to fight and be conquered, etc.). It is a bit like saying “I am a Smart Submissive – the kind who likes to be given tricks and puzzles during a scene.” One has nothing to do with the other.

    Also, there is no one thing that “dominants” prefer. In general, I guess dominants are like other humans and prefer partners who are competent and together as people. But I don’t think it’s at all universally true that dominants prefer submissives who struggle and have to be overcome (or that they prefer the opposite, or whatever).

    This concept makes me angry since I am privileged to have a partner who is more like you and not like either side of this fake dichotomy.

  2. devastatingyet on

    (I also don’t think it’s the case that someone who has a generally weak, doormat-like personality is necessarily extra submissive, even assuming they have that kink. I just don’t think the two are related much at all.)

  3. Wanderer on

    You just helped me define a bit of my kink…”the desire to fight, to struggle, to be pushed down roughly, to be controlled, to be bratty and even angry…” that resonates with me quite a bit. I really like the idea of service freely given as well, but I do really like the idea of struggling and failing to resist.

    Aaaaaanyway, my kink aside, I think that you’re absolutely right, those are two separate but related kinks. Whether the person giving the talk actually meant to demean one or not, I know there are others who would demean one, the other or both. It’s good to know that there are people out there to defend the validity of various kinks. Kudos as usual.

  4. Dw3t-Hthr on


    I’m reminded of my liege’s comment that the willing slave is much more valuable than the compelled one. One can trust someone who loves the service to do things when not compelled, after all.

  5. Eileen on

    Good post!

  6. […] Subversive Submissive (who always reminds me of Jos in a big way) wrote recently (third hand) about a workshop in which, it is claimed, the presenter described “dominant submissives” – the kind who like to fight and be subdued – as a superior type of submissive. Apparently the kind of doms who are worth having like these difficult challenges and consider other submissives boring. I found myself somewhat incensed by this idea on a variety of levels, as you can probably imagine. […]

  7. Veronica on

    This is an excellent post, and one that I’ve reflected much on recently… particularly since my Dominant has set specific challenges before me, with the goal of learning that I can be assertive and be her devoted submissive.

    I concur with earlier comments, that being assertive shouldn’t be confused with being “dominant.”

  8. subculture « violetwhite on

    […] “willing” submission is superior to “forced” submission, in response to a great post by the Subversive Submissive which relays her thoughts about the concept of the “dominant submissive” that she heard […]

  9. herslaveboy on

    I could easily be catagorized as a “dominant submissive.” But would that really make me superior to a non-dominant submissive? Perhaps in the eyes of a Domme who wanted such a sub. But, not from a Domme who didn’t. So, it strikes me as a strictly objective argument. And egotistical to boot. Now, if we are talking about a sub who can use his/her creativity, intelligence, and independance to better serve their dominant partner, then I would agree… long as that is what the dominant partner wants. This sounds an awful lot like Ms. Rika’s philosophy (google search and you will find her) only with a large and overflowing dose of egotism. I think Ms. Rika’s explanation is much better…..but then again, I wasn’t in the class either.

  10. Tianca on

    We dominant subs are rather lonely lot, I would assume, because it is not very easy to find that one man (in my case as a female domsub) that fits your profile. 12,600 years ago I met him, he was my bodyguard. By law, I wasn’t allowed to have sex with him, but we fell in love anyhow. So we hid our relationship, until I got pregnant. Back then marriage didn’t exist. That was created centuries later. We had a Union.

    He had to study and work for years, very hard, in order to even be eligible to be my bodyguard. So he was devoted to me before I even met him! Strong, trained, muscular, attentive, honest to a fault, and he was required to learn everything about me. EVERYTHING. That included my sexual likes and dislikes so he could protect me properly. To say that he knew me inside and out was putting it mildly.

    He thought I was a spoiled brat when he met me, and I was. I was the High Priestess Healer in the Temple of Life, Poseidia, Atlantis. I was also headmistress of the school for Healers. I was on call 24/7, and under a great deal of stress, because my life (as I knew it) was disintegrating in front of my eyes. Atlantis was about to go into the ocean because it had become so corrupt. Evil was taking over the land, and there was nothing I could do about it.

    To make an extremely long story shorter, things happened since then to build on our bond, and it grew and grew. We are SoulMates. But getting here wasn’t easy! From day one, we were dom/sub, and we have gone through quite a lot to get where we are now. But love just rows stronger when you are devoted to each other like this.

    Dominant/Submissive people are just a part of life, even without the label applied to it recently. It is called human sexuality, and is so deeply ingrained now, no amount of religions or government are going to change it. There are always some who take it to the extreme. But they will grow up eventually. Everyone does. It is all about respecting yourself and others. Loving yourself and others. Being honest with yourself and others. Knowledge is power, and oddly enough, the truth really will set you free.


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