‘I need someone to force me to submit’ is yet another sentiment which shows up in my inbox surprisingly often. It has rubbed me the wrong way for as long as I can remember, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.
After all, the rhetoric of force weaves itself throughout a variety of kink. From CNC scenarios to bratty ‘make-me’s, ‘forcing’ a sub is a common thread. And, as a sadist with an emotionally masochistic sub, varying degrees of force are very much my cup of tea. So, why did it make me prickle?
It took quite a few drafts, but here’s the conclusion I came to.
There’s a colossal difference, however, between an element of force and viewing submission itself as inherently forced.
Why can ‘force me’ be treated as a red flag?
Of course, a good chunk of those who rock up in my inbox can be discounted as one-handed typists; they haven’t thought through the practical implications, because the idea never goes beyond a fantasy (and probably never will).
But I have had this conversation so many times that I can’t write the entire topic off that way. I had a think and several conversations about it.
It turns out, it’s treated as a red flag by quite a few dominants, for two broad reasons:
i. Using ‘force’ as a means of avoiding responsibility
I’ve written about the cultural perception that submission is weakness before. It’s undoubtedly something a lot of subs struggle with.
It can be difficult to come to terms with being submissive for anyone, both in terms of confronting societal expectations and reconciling submission with a sense of self. Male subs can particularly find it difficult, given the varying degrees of societal expectation of dominance can get tangled with their own sense of masculinity.
The construct of force, therefore, can offer a degree of distance from their own desires – if submission is the product of force, it’s not a choice. If it’s not a choice, they aren’t faced with the responsibility for wanting something, on some level, they feel they shouldn’t.
This isn’t inherently an issue – plenty of people happily use CNC as a vehicle to explore things they have hang-ups about.
(Although, just to be clear, I am not saying that every CNC scenario is secretly something a sub enjoys – there are a variety of ways something can push someone’s buttons without them enjoying the act itself, but that’s for another post.)
So, what’s the issue with ‘force’?
The problem is, the subs who talk about how they need a dominant to force them are quite often using it as a means of completely displacing responsibility for their own feelings. They’re not suggesting they want to pursue a mutually enjoyable, negotiated CNC scenario. They want someone to make them confront and indulge in their kinks, while taking the entirety of the emotional risk for them.
The emotional fallout from play can be of nuclear proportions for subs like that. As often they are not open about, or sometimes even aware of how they feel, those feelings can become easily be blamed on the dominant.
Most commonly, this ends in ghosting which, sadly can be discounted as one of the inevitable pitfalls of any modern partner acquisition experience. The thing is, the risk is slightly greater than that.
Particularly when it comes to F/m, people tend to miss the fact that dominance can be just as socially unpalatable as submission and that dominants take emotional risk too.
Taken out of its consensual context, a dominant’s behaviour could be construed as unreasonable, socially unacceptable, perhaps even abusive and, most of all, just plain weird.
That subs, particularly submissive men, place themselves in a vulnerable position laying bare their kinks is common knowledge. The thing is, the same is true of dominance. And what is more, you’re not just laying out some potentially unpalatable desires. You are vigorously inflicting them on someone else.
Some dominants inherently struggle with feelings of guilt or shame. Most dominants will need reassurance of some kind, particularly early on in dynamics / experience, that they aren’t actually hurting their partners.
A sub who can’t take responsibility for their own feelings is very unlikely to be able to give a dominant that support. That’s a risk in itself.
More than that, however, they can exacerbate existing feelings or concerns. I’ve spoken to several doms who had bad experiences with subs blaming them afterwards. For example, a friend of mine in fact had a sub blame her for ‘making him’ a masochist (in addition to a variety of other things).
(To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with a sub having those feelings, or struggling with them. A good dominant should be prepared to support a sub through those kinds of issues.
However, there is a colossal difference in supporting someone through emotional issues brought to the surface by mutually consensual and desired activity, and being blamed as the cause.)
ii. The misconception that submission is passive
Across the various conversations I’ve had with the ‘force me’ crowd, a common view of submission emerged. To their minds, it’s occurs spontaneously and effortlessly, in response to an omnipotent mega-dom imposing their will.
In short, they view submission as forced, because they believe submission is a passive thing.
Part of the appeal in that lies in the idea that submission is involuntary and easy. It’s not something that requires work. It also makes submission seem safer, I think. To believe that, in a sense, it is out of one’s hands.
The thing is, a D/s dynamic can’t be sustained unilaterally. Yes, a dominant can press a sub’s buttons, get reactions, push them into space, but the same is true vice versa. Just as in any relationship, putting effort into a partner who doesn’t reciprocate it isn’t particularly rewarding.
What is more, feeling responsible for putting in all that effort can be exhausting.
Particularly recently, I’ve had quite a few conversations with dominants interested in 24/7, who wanted to know how I sustain it.
‘How do you do it? it seems so exhausting.’
As we talked and probed into what their dynamics looked like, a common theme emerged – that their subs viewed submission as passive.
While perhaps some were just unwilling to put in the effort, a number had the idea that being submissive meant being a blank slate. Or trying to be, in any case. The thing is, that left their doms burn out and worried that they were just not cut out to be dominant at all.
D/s is about a connection with another person. You need something to connect to. You can’t dominate a blank slate.
More to the point, no one actually is a blank slate. Everyone has preferences. The pretence you don’t has an exceedingly short shelf-life and can burn a dominant when it inevitably falls apart.
I understand where the idea comes from – the language which surrounds D/s relationships can unhelpfully support the misapprehension that it’s all for the dominant’s benefit and pleasure. But a shared understanding that the dynamic is something mutually desired and mutually fulfilling is crucial to a successful dynamic.
So, why is viewing submission as inherently forced a red flag?
Well, very simply because it can indicate that a sub lacks of self-awareness, emotional maturity, and stability in their own submissive identity. It’s also commonly associated with viewing submission as passive. All of which can pose a variety of emotional risks to dominants.
If you have an interest in CNC, ‘brattiness’, emotional sado-masochism, or any other ‘force’ related kink, by all means pursue it. I’m very partial to some myself.
Just no matter which side of the slash you’re on, take responsibility for what you want and discuss any issues openly and clearly with your partner.
And for the love of all that’s green, remember submission is not passive. It takes two people to make a dynamic work.