I’ve recently had an conversation with a submissive who is just beginning to explore the lifestyle, which went something like this:
‘Honestly, one of the issues I had was that being a sub would affect my confidence, and you have made me feel much better.’
‘What do you mean, the effect it would have on your confidence?
‘Just it would make me feel bad about myself.’
‘Why would being a sub make you feel bad about yourself?’
‘Because you’re inferior.’
‘Being a sub makes you inferior?’
‘I think so. That’s the general perception.’
‘Degradation and humiliation as part of a scene is one thing, but that’s not representative. I would never seriously say my subs are inferior to me.’
‘Don’t you look down on your subs?’
‘No, definitely not.’
‘It’s amazing you think that.’
It is should not be ‘amazing’ that I think that – in fact, I would argue that that is the attitude all Dominants ought to have, and most indeed do. It is however not surprising that many people, especially looking in through the frosted glass of vanilla relationships, will take it as read that the submissive side of the dynamic is inherently inferior.
On the surface, this perception seems fairly self-explanatory. After all, in many dynamics, the submissive is frequently degraded and humiliated, beaten, punished, and subject to daily rules and restrictions, and not solely sexually – many Dominants will frequently monitor the minutiae of their submissive’s lives: what they eat, how much water they drink throughout the day, how they dress, whether they get enough exercise…
Without any understanding of power exchange, and the hours of conversation which go along with it, it is easy to see how that could add up to the idea that the submissive is inferior to the Dominant and, consequently, that anyone who chooses that position is weak and spineless (or being coerced as part of an abusive relationship, but that is a view of D/s that deserves separate discussion).
In my opinion, however, the roots of this idea lie in broader modern societal expectations and trends, rather than the specifics of the lifestyle. The concept of submission is and always has, by dictionary definition, linked with weakness or inferiority – it is a passive state, arising from unfortunate necessity, as a consequence of being in an unfavourable position in one way or another.
However, the modern world is increasingly enamoured with individualism and ultimate personal autonomy. The perceived value of social conformity has drastically fallen to the new generation, with a number of studies showing that older individuals are more likely to conform than younger individuals, 1 as the decline of collectivism has become increasingly apparent over the last forty years or so. 2
Where once submission to higher authorities – the Church, the government, the local community – was once a highly desirable characteristic, in the age of the internet, ‘conformity’ has been bandied around like an insult. Personal identity, self-determination and a stress on ‘uniqueness’ have become, quite paradoxically, the status quo. Both to the left and right of the political spectrum, there has been a veritable obsession with the right of self-expression; from demanding various legal impossibilities to protecting the absolute right of free speech, no matter the point of view, the entire political spectrum can essentially agree that what they want is to have the right to do whatever it is that they want. It is no longer fashionable to respect anyone’s authority but your own.
Thus, we live in an age where everyone is trying to grasp at as much personal autonomy as they can. It is then hardly surprising that most people cannot justify someone willingly and actively giving up so much of it.
So, then, submission, to the minds of the majority, must be a character flaw – the mark of someone with no back bone, someone who cannot think for themselves, who looks to others because they are not strong enough to stand on their own and decide for themselves. 3 There is no more scathing criticism than that in the modern day and age.
In truth, however, submission is neither a product of oppression or weakness. 4 In fact, it takes a very strong person to embrace that part of their nature, despite the societal pressures to the contrary. Just because a sub defers to their dom does not mean that translates to other areas of life – as Persephone Bell said, 5 just you try and give someone else’s submissive an order, and see what happens. I assure you, you won’t get meek compliance.
Submissives are very often formidable people and, just because they trust and respect me enough to submit to me, isn’t a reason for me to think any less of them. On the contrary, their submission frequently leads me to look to how I can be a better domme, and make the best use of that trust and respect.
1. Robert L. Klein, ‘Age, Sex, and Task Difficulty as Predictors of Social Conformity‘  27(2) Journal of Gerontology pp. 229-236.
2. Henri Santos, Michael Varnum, Igor Grossoman, ‘Global Increases in Individualism’ (Sage Journals, Psychological Science, 13 July 2017), [Accessed 21 December 2018].
3. This is probably a more commonly a criticism of submissive men, but I will write about that in a separate post.
4. Of course, there are submissives of whom the stereotype is true, just as there are abusive Dominants, of whom that stereotype is true, as indeed there are weak or abusive people in all walks of life. They are however not representative of subs and Doms in general.
5. Persephone Bell, ‘Submissive Does Not Equal Weak… Or Inferior’ (Mileage Does Vary, 20 June 2014), [Accessed 22 December 2018].
10 thoughts on “Submission Is Not Weakness”
Thank you for sharing, Rosa.
This is a topic that I have thought about a lot over the years. Personally, I believe that someone being willing to put their vulnerability on full display when they submit to someone else takes an immense amount of courage. If this wasn’t a risk, people wouldn’t go to such great lengths in daily life to avoid feeling vulnerable.
I think it is common for male subs, especially newer ones, to develop a negative image about their submission because of how different it is from the public face that they show the world. While society is slowly changing for the better, male submission still doesn’t have an acceptable cultural ideal in many ways.
Strong women who are seen as decisive and powerful are championed and applauded.
Strong men who are seen as decisive and powerful are still perceived as the top within the male hierarchy.
Women that embrace a subservient role to their partners are seen as “traditional.:
I know a lot of sub men, myself included, developed in such a way that they feel like they shouldn’t be this way. It takes quite a bit of exposure to people that see submissive men as a positive thing to change a lot of those ingrained negative perceptions.
I think it is clear that if you have made a sub feel better about their submission that you are helping people in that regard 🙂
Thanks for your thoughts on the subject 🙂
I was trying to think of the best way to put it, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with ‘courage’.
I completely agree about specifically the current and historical views of male submission, and how male subs tend to have the most difficult time of it. I would like to write a post about it, insofar as I can, being dominant and female. My point here was (and I probably used far too many words to make it) that submission is equated with weakness now more so than ever, because of this increasing obsession with being not only able, but having the right to do whatever you want. Not that there is something inherently wrong with that freedom, (although some people and organisations have pushed it to an illogical extreme) but it has meant that submission has become even more difficult to understand by the majority of people.
I do try to actually talk to people, and I think a Domme who does that tends to be a first for a lot of male subs my age, so hopefully I’ve managed to make quite a few people feel better.
Thank you, Rosa.
Your comments here to help consolidate that point. I had interpreted something loosely along those lines but this makes me sure of it. Something related that I have felt over the years is that submission is difficult to understand for some because the choice to do so doesn’t seem like a sound, rational choice (unlike dominance).
I am glad that you are able to help people in that way. That is rather rare 🙂
The issue with these posts are that they s
I think you didn’t finish this comment?
What I meant to say is my issue with posts like these that go out of their way to say “the stereotypes about subs aren’t true” is instead of just saying “it’s a stereotype that doesn’t represent everything” The posts usually go too far in the opposite direction
Like how you compared a sub not being “formidable” to an abusive dominant
Thanks for the comment. Just a few things I’d like to clear up :
I did explicitly make the point that, whilst there are subs who fit the stereotype, they and the stereotype are not representative. What did you mean by ‘too far in the opposite direction’?
As for your second point, I see what I wrote might be misinterpreted, but my point was merely that there are people who fit the stereotype about both sides of the dynamic, but they are not representative of the group as a whole. The reason I specifically refer to those two is that submission is quite often seen as a product of weakness and/or coercion – i.e. ‘Weak’ subs and abusive Doms. I wasn’t making any comment on or comparison between the two, but merely saying they exist, and are not representative. I’m afraid I’m not quite sure how to phrase it better.
“What did you mean by ‘too far in the opposite direction’?”
I didn’t mean only this post,it’s a common theme when people (especially insecure male subs) try to disprove stereotype they end up shitting on people who do fit it to some degree and this post is similar to those types of posts.
“‘Weak’ subs and abusive Doms. I wasn’t making any comment on or comparison between the two, but merely saying they exist, and are not representative.”
You’re still putting “weak subs” on the same level as “abusive doms”
Fair enough, if that is your experience. I can’t say I have come across it myself but, by all means, if you feel like sending me some links, I’ll happily check them out. I would just like to point out I am a female Dominant, for the purposes of all of this.
Of course, stereotypes exist for a reason but they are, by definition, over simplified. They’re almost caricatures of reality. Saying that the stereotype is partially true is not saying very much – everyone is human and has their weaknesses. In my opinion, that’s not the same as saying submissives are weak and inferior, but again, please do say if I’m misinterpreting your argument.
I would also argue that putting them in the same sentence isn’t the same as putting them on the same level, unless of course you mean typographically 😉 Of course, by all means, please do explain your thinking.
Thanks for the critique,
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