What is a BDSM Submissive? Complete Definition and Guide | Kinky Hookup

What is a BDSM Submissive? Complete Definition and Guide

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If you’re interested in exploring BDSM kinks and fetishes, you’ve probably heard the terms submissive, Dominant, and switch. You might also have heard words like Master/Mistress, slave, Top, bottom, and more. It can be confusing to know what all these different terms mean, if they’re interchangeable and if you are using them correctly.

Today we’re going to look at what a submissive is in the BDSM context.

What is a submissive?

Dictionary.com defines submissive as “inclined or ready to submit or yield to the authority of another; unresistingly or humbly obedient.

In BDSM, the submissive is – simply put – a person who consents to giving up control to another person and doing as they are told by that person. In many cases, they are also the person on the receiving end of BDSM activities such as impact play, bondage, sensation play, and so on. However, as we’ll see, this is not always the case.

 

Is a submissive the same as a slave or a bottom?

There’s no easy answer to this, because it really depends on who you ask!

Some people use the terms interchangeably, other people feel that there is a distinction and that each has a specific meaning. The most common differentiation between these three terms is this:

  • A bottom is somebody who likes to be on the receiving end of BDSM activities, such as flogging or rope bondage, without necessarily giving up any power or control.
  • A submissive is somebody who does what they are told by another person, either for a limited time or 24/7 in a power exchange relationship.
  • A slave is somebody who has given up all control to another person in a TPE (Total Power Exchange) relationship and has no say at all.

Debates about the specifics of these terms rage endlessly within the BDSM community, sometimes getting very heated. They are imperfect definitions and, as with all labels, can be limiting if applied too rigidly.

My advice is not to worry too much about it. Use the term that fits you best, in the way that makes sense for you. There is no one true way. As long as you and your partner(s) are happy, that’s all that matters. It’s also okay to use different labels in different contexts, relationships, or points in your life.

What is “subspace?”

If you’ve been in the BDSM community for any length of time, you’ve probably heard people talking about “subspace.”

Subspace is a specific mental state that a submissive may reach during BDSM activity. It can be physiological, psychological or both. Everyone experiences it differently, and some people do not experience it every time they play – or at all. While it can be great fun, it’s not necessarily a good idea to chase it or set it as a specific goal, especially if you’re new to kink.

Subspace might feel like “floating” or “flying.” Some submissives experience it as a mental blankness or quietness. Others giggle excessively, dissociate, or go non-verbal. For some people, the experience is akin to being drunk or high.

Physiological subspace is typically caused by intense physical sensations such as pain (e.g. flogging, whipping or spanking,) restraint, or sensation play. It is caused by the release of adrenaline and endorphins. The reason you might feel high after a really good spanking is the same reason you might feel high after you get off a rollercoaster! It’s all brain chemistry at work.

The psychological subspace tends to come about as a result of a strong connection between a submissive and a dominant. This might be a sense of intense calm and wellbeing when the dominant partner is around, a “giddy” feeling when submitting to them, or an overwhelming desire to please them.

What about subdrop?

Subspace is powerful and can be wonderful. It is also dangerous to mess around with if you’re not careful. What goes up must come down, and the euphoria of subspace might be followed – immediately afterward, or hours or even days later – by subdrop.

Subdrop is the crash that happens when all those amazing brain chemicals wear off and reality sets back in. A person in subdrop might feel sad, weepy, depressed, listless or low on energy.

The key to managing subdrop is to expect and plan for it. Proper aftercare – affection and tending between partners after a kink scene – can help to mitigate it. You might also need your dominant partner to check in with you later in the night, the next day or a couple of days later. Learn what works for you and ask for it.

What sort of people are submissives?

All kinds!

Stereotypes about submissives abound, but the fact is that a submissive can be any gender, any age, any race, body size or experience level.

Due to patriarchy and stereotypes about gender roles, many people believe that all women are (or should be!) submissive. There are submissive women, of course, but there are also dominant women and switch women. The same goes for men and all other genders, too. Your BDSM role is not tied to your gender.

Conversely, the stereotype about submissive men tends to be that they are high-flying career types, such as bankers or politicians, who submit because they need an escape from responsibility. While this may be true in some cases, it’s hugely over-represented in mainstream portrayals of kink.

So never let anyone tell you that you “have to” or “can’t” identify with a certain role within BDSM.  If you identify as a submissive – congratulations, you’re a submissive! There are no other qualifications required.

Why would somebody want to be a submissive?

The interesting thing about this is that you could ask ten different submissives and get twenty different answers. There is no standard motivation for being a submissive in a BDSM context. Some of the common reasons cited include…

  • Because they find unequal power and control erotic – it turns them on and gets them off.
  • Escaping from the responsibilities they carry in day to day life.
  • Catharsis or a form of healing, perhaps from abuse or sexual violence.
  • A feeling of safety, being protected or being looked after by a dominant partner.
  • As a way to avoid feelings of guilt or sexual shame – if they are being “made” to do it, they cannot be held responsible.
  • As a way to overcome inhibitions.

How do I know if I’m a submissive?

This is really hard to answer because the feeling of being submissive is different for everyone. Some people feel that they knew they were submissive from a young age, seeking out portrayals of dominance and unequal power without necessarily understanding their interests. Others do not discover their submissive side until their 40s, 50s, 60s or even later.

Do you consistently have fantasies about submitting to someone in a sexual way? Do you wish your partner(s) would be rougher in the bedroom or tell you what to do? Do you enjoy watching porn or reading erotica with an element of unequal power, maybe imagining yourself in those scenarios? Do you feel fulfilled when you’re in a “follower” role or pleasing somebody else? If any or all of these things are true for you, then you might be a submissive or interested in exploring the submissive side of yourself.

Ultimately it’s no-one else’s place to tell you if you’re submissive or not. You also don’t have to stick the label on yourself right now if you don’t want to. You’re allowed to explore, try out different roles and identities and labels, and see what works.

Can I still be a submissive if…

…I don’t like pain? Yes! Not all submissives are masochists (people who find pain erotic,) and not all masochists are submissives. You don’t have to play with pain to be kinky.

…I don’t want to be submissive all the time? Yes! Bedroom-only kink is just as valid and beautiful as 24/7 Dominant/submissive dynamics. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

…I like being on the other side of the whip occasionally? Yes! Lots of people are switches (enjoy being both dominant and submissive on different occasions.) Lots of submissives are also sadists (enjoy inflicting pain.) And lots of people are basically submissive but enjoy switching once in a while when the mood strikes. It’s all valid!

…I have a dominant personality in day to day life? Yes! Your “regular” persona and your kink persona might be quite different, and that’s fine.

…I want to be the penetrating partner in sex? Yes! There’s a myth that the person being penetrated is always submissive (this is rooted in cultural misogyny.) However, you can be submissive while being the penetrating partner during sex. What matters is not the act, but the intention behind it.

…I want to receive oral sex? Yes! Getting head isn’t intrinsically dominant, and many Doms enjoy going down on their submissives. No sex act is inherently dominant or submissive.

…I’m a feminist? Yes! Loads of kinksters of all genders and roles are feminists. Feminism is about equality between the genders and the notion that no-one should be limited because of their gender. If you choose to be submissive because it fulfils you, you can absolutely still call yourself a feminist.

…I have limits? YES YES YES YES! Everyone has limits. People who tell you they don’t, or that you shouldn’t, are either lying, abusive, or lacking in imagination. You get to set your limits and expect that they will be respected.

How do I tell my partner I want to be submissive to them?

I could write thousands of words on this subject alone!

To be brief, though: you’ve got to be brave, open your mouth, and use your words. Hinting won’t work. Despite what Cosmo told you, leaving a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey on the coffee table with a certain page dog-eared won’t work. Pushing your partner away or resisting during sex, hoping they “force” you, certainly shouldn’t work – because no-one should be engaging in BDSM activities, especially rape/ravishment roleplay, without explicit consent.

So this leaves you with telling them. Sound scary? It is! You’re putting yourself out there and that risks a rejection. But a partner who loves you will be at least open to hearing you out and having a conversation, even if they’re not going to become the Dom of your dreams tomorrow.

Try this: “honey, lately I’ve been fantasizing about being submissive to you. I’m interested in [being spanked/doctor and patient roleplay/being tied up/insert interest here.] What do you think?”

Listen to what they say and proceed. Best case scenario, they say “that sounds hot!” and you get to explore all kinds of delicious things together. Worse case, they’re completely put off and don’t want to go anywhere near BDSM. If this happens, you’ve got a difficult decision to make. In reality, their response is likely to be between these two extremes, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

If your partner is receptive, please heed one golden nugget of advice: move slowly. Try one activity, one scene, one element of this potential new dynamic. Don’t jump into a full Owner/slave relationship on the first day. This just sets everyone up for stress, burnout, and disappointment.

I’m single and submissive, how do I find a dominant partner?

Go where kinksters are! Get yourself on Fetlife and other kink and BDSM dating websites. Join some kinky dating Facebook groups (yes, they exist.) If you’re using the apps such as Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid, state in your profile that you’re a submissive looking for dominant partners.

Even better, get out into your local BDSM community. Go to munches (social gatherings of kinksters, usually in places like coffee shops, pubs or restaurants.) Go to play parties or club nights (you can just watch and don’t have to play if you don’t want to.) Be friendly and open to everyone, and make a kinky circle of friends. This will help you to meet potential partners. It will also help you, screen people, before playing with them, and keep yourself safe by having other kinksters looking out for you.

Be choosy. A BDSM relationship is still a relationship, and you need to be compatible with more than just a kinky level. Take your time, move slowly, set limits, and use your common sense. If something seems not right or like a red flag, pay attention to it.

Submissives are awesome!

It takes a strong person to realize that they want to be submissive and to follow that desire. The stereotype that submissives are weak human doormats is unfair and insulting.

So you’ve realized you’re a submissive? Hooray! Go you! Embrace your identity and be proud of who you are.

Have all the kinky fun your heart desires, and be safe out there.

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