The Psychology Of Submission

Dont' be afraid. :)When most people picture a Dominatrix, they think of a woman dressed in all leather, or some sort of shiny black plastic thingy, with giant heels, and a whip at her side. I think when people think about BDSM, they think of people who like pain, like abuse, and who have, somewhere along the way, gotten confused about the purpose of a good spanking. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe the dominant culture is more progressive than I believe, but from what I’ve seen in our media, that’s not really the case, which is a pity.

Ok, So Who Is into this?

I don’t think I can watch an entire season of CSI: Something without seeing an episode relating to BDSM. There’s the Dominatrix who lost her daughter and nearly beats the murderer to death in a contrived scene. There’s the man who has “issues with his masculinity” and so has to dominate women in the bedroom. Frankly, after a while, you start to wonder which character you are in all of this. Am I the curious girl who gets sucked into a life of depravity (I hope so!)?
The funny thing is, of all the people I have met in the DC scene, most of them belong to two groups;

  1. Totally normal people who just happen to enjoy exploration

  2. People who are using the scene as a way to work out trauma or issues

The Psychology Of Submission

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of psychology that goes into the BDSM lifestyle, particularly what most people consider your basic BDSM scene: one Dominant plus one submissive. You may be surprised to learn that most of BDSM is actually more work than sex.

I like to think of sex as a great outlet. It’s an opportunity to be totally open to another person, and get rid of those frustrations that build up in your life. I think a lot of people would agree with that, which is why the stereotype of the big, powerful, CEO who likes to submit by dressing up in a little French maid’s outfit and run around in heels is so pervasive, but there’s a lot that goes into a scene that most people don’t think about.

You Learn About Yourself

Recently, a friend confided to me that he had been in the middle of a scene with a woman, nothing too heavy, and he had been working on a particular psychological scenario with her. It was totally unrelated to her life, or so he thought. It was a situation where certain obstacles got progressively harder, but it was meant to be in fun, and she had, in the past, enjoyed those games. That night, however, for some reason, the games took her to a different place. She stopped enjoying it (to my friend’s credit, he took note of this very quickly, and was immediately responsive to her needs), and started shaking. For whatever reason, the scenario had brought back long repressed memories of rape. It had happened when she was so little, that she didn’t recall it until that night. Has she been in what we call a “vanilla” relationship, or one that is not based in BDSM, she might never have discovered this, because sex may have just been “business as usual.” Whether or not her rediscovery of long lost, painful memories is a blessing or a curse, and you can debate that as you will, there is no argument that “The Scene,” as it’s called, is a place where a lot of people come to learn more about themselves. In my opinion, those who choose the role of submissive learn more about themselves than those who choose to be Dominant.

A Power Exchange, Not A Power Loss

I would argue that the lifestyle which is called “deviant,” “bizarre,” and “perverted” is actually incredibly misunderstood. Submission in sex doesn’t necessarily mean, “I want you to beat the crap out of me and then screw my half-dead body,” although I am sure that there is someone out there who loves this idea. Most submission is actually more of a power exchange, not a power loss. I, as a submissive, choose to give you the ability to do what you will, with the understanding that there are limits, and that you will use that power wisely. I don’t necessarily want you to rape or hurt me, and many scenes between people may never involve intercourse of any kind.

For example, a “Service submissive” is someone who performs a service in a Dominant’s life. This can be anything from caterer, to care-taker; from geisha to gardener. A Service sub derives pleasure and satisfaction from knowing that they have helped in some way, and have earned the esteem of someone they respect, namely, their “Master.” Service subs may never have sex with their Master. They may never even receive a “Thank You,” but knowing that they have helped, feeds their psychological need to be needed. The point here is that while sex in the “vanilla” world may be for either procreation or enjoyment, sex in the BDSM world serves a variety of functions, not the least of which is to fulfill needs that sometimes aren’t met in our daily lives.

Our Culture Looks Down On Us

I think our culture views people who willingly defer power, especially sexual power, in the lowest possible terms. To give up power in the bedroom can be seen as akin to giving up your ability to think for yourself. Sure, there are people who like to get tied up with silk scarves to keep it interesting, and I have zero problem with that, but I think our culture would derive a lot from taking a look at how BDSM views sex and power exchange: a means to grow and learn about yourself, as well as a FANTASTIC past time. Although, with half our country still preventing sexual education in schools, it may be a long time before folks understand how much you can gain from a scene, and the benefits of the psychology behind submission.

So what do you think about power sharing in the bedroom?

About OtiliaBicheno


  1. Awesome explanation! Thank you so much for writing it. I am going to share it with friends!

  2. Absolutely! As long as you have condoms (or whatever), and have taken those rope-safety classes, I say, go crazy with your little horny selves!!

  3. who the hell wants to have safe sex?

    most boring thing EVER.

    i’ll have my sex with a little bit of danger and thrill, thank you.

  4. Diva – I’m sorry to hear that you’re no longer involved, for whatever reason. Also, I wouldn’t be too concerned about you read in a “Dear Abby” column. Our own “Dear Redhead” is far superior, and I think she approves of our “deviant-tendencies.” As my mother would say, “Good! More for me!”… though she wasn’t talking about BDSM. 😉

  5. I am unable to “practice” any longer, but I loved it. My biggest peeve about it is I remember reading a Dear Abby column and someone had written about it and she referred to those that participate in the lifestyle as “deviants.” Really pissed me off.

  6. Hi dubiousma, you are absolutely right that a person can’t just walk into a “scene,” it’s why there are so many classes and pre-fun stuff (all of which is VERY useful, and should not be overlooked). And dub? I’m totally cool with you shortening my name :)

  7. I am ALL ABOUT “the scene.” My motto has always been “if it feels good and nobody gets hurt (unless they want to) then do it!” Hang-ups are the things that make me feel weird, not the weird stuff, ironically. However, it does take a certain mentality to participate in such a scene and one should be very well prepared. Great post Kink! (I also have a “thing” about shortening people’s names)

  8. crap… there’s no “www” for the link. Sorry!!

  9. S – I totally get where you’re coming from. You get just as many problem when you and your partner(s) are both “tops” or people who like to control an encounter. My suggestion to you would be to discuss with your partner whether or not you want to reach out to your local BDSM community, and learn more about what’s out there. As I said in the article, there are ways of fulfilling desires that sometimes don’t include sex. Or, if yours do, then maybe you can find people who can help teach you and your partner what a more “open” and inclusive relationship can look like.

    Reach out to your community. If you don’t know how to find them, I encourage you to reach out to your Queer-based community, as they’re often linked. If you don’t feel brave enough, try using where you can find people, groups, seminars, and classes in your area. I would suggest you go to classes and groups first, before meeting individual people. That will help you learn who’s who in your community, and may better help define what you do and do not want to try.

    Otherwise, LIVE IT UP, KIDDO!

  10. Kinky Jew – Just finished slapping myself silly for thinking in stereotypes without knowledge. Great article.

    Dear Redhead – You took the words out of my mouth – nicely said.

  11. Dear Redhead says:

    Here’s my two cents on the sharing of power in the boudoir:

    It’s. Simply. Brilliant. If you always feel like you have to be in control during your day-to-day, it’s kind of exhilarating to relinquish control on occasion. And what about for your guy? I don’t think there’s a guy out there who will tell you that he doesn’t think it’s HAWT when a woman tells him exactly what she’s going to do and that he’s going to sit there and take it (and her).

    But you’re right – there’s a societal stigma associated with toys, sexual exploration and…well…making sex fun. It’s not the Holy Grail, but it is a tool that you have to understand. It’s powerful. When you’re with the right partner, it’s a constant stream of communication that makes the sex better and better. Ever slept with someone you just “click” with and someone else that…you could have plugged in a reading lamp and been just as happy? Chemistry. Communication. Awwyeah.

    All that aside, everyone has fantasies. Instead of plodding through your sexual peak ashamed of them, why not explore them, harness them…strap them into something like a sled dog and see where they’ll take you. If you embrace that, you’ll find a partner who’s willing to take the journey with you. We’re all a little kinky (or a LOT kinky). Stop trying to straighten yourself out and enjoy the twists and bends!

  12. The problem (in my life) come into play when both people involved are more sub than dom. Coming to a happy spot (pun intended… kind of….) is a difficult thing.

  13. Well, we all know I have a little policeman fantasy, so yes. Submission= FUN!

    (This post made me want to read Exit to Eden and Story of O again.)

  14. Yeah, they’re kind of the shiznit. Let’s hear it for vagina-positive spaces, people!! WOOT!

  15. I’m all for safe fun and games!! And I’d like to put in a plug for one of your sponsors, Babeland, from a satisfied customer.