The Strength of Submission
Guest writing by euni
The Strength of Submission
There are many assumptions, glorifications, and judgements of what submission is. What it is to be submissive or to submit to another through relationships and what this title and actions hold. There are nuances and complexities that can only be truly understood through a devotion to the practice of surrendering and letting go of control, and with intentionality, this can be a powerful and healing experience.
A sub or submissive in the context of BDSM and Kink is a person who agrees to submit or give up control in a relationship, scene, or activity. It can also be identified as a bottom in scenes and relationships where power dynamics are only included in reference to the activities you share within the scene (i.e. in rope bondage you might say the bottom is the person being tied or receiving rope vs. the submissive). Roles are not exclusive to gender, age, or body type/size, but are rather connected to a person's feelings, desires, and choices. The label and role of submission is self-selected and ethically cannot be assigned by another person. The reasoning for choosing and embodying this role is uniquely each person’s own and is justified.
One of my core beliefs as an educator, practitioner, facilitator, and mentor of intimacy, kink and healing is that we don’t have to explain our “WHY” to anyone. And that we don’t need to know “WHY” about anything unless it’s something that we choose to explore for ourselves. With this permission, to choose the role of submission can be a highly rewarding and healing experience if you explore it with intentionality. Many of us have had to build walls to protect ourselves from the responsibilities and hardships of life. This has become a part of our personality and a way of navigating through the world. It can be exhausting to be in control all the time and submission can be a dedicated space to find safety in letting go of control and surrendering. Many people find it healing and freeing to be allowed to release the demands of decision making and to receive connection, care, and service through their choice in submission. It can also be powerfully healing for those who have had their autonomy taken from them in other parts of their life. Submission can allow us to rewrite stories, learn how to build healthier relationships with power dynamics, develop trust in relationships, and can allow us to just relax and let go for a moment of time.
No matter the roles we choose to play, the foundations that we all must prioritize, uphold, and act from are ensuring that our desires, decisions, and actions are ethical, consensual, and center safety. This begins with ourselves and reflects out to the people we choose to connect with in relationships, casual connections, and various forms of play. If we practice prioritizing these values in the ways we explore, express, connect, play, and build relationships - in intimacy, kink, BDSM, and even more vanilla relationships, the choices we make will leave us and those we are engaging with greater possibilities of feeling good about the decisions we make which can be healing, empowering, and liberating.
If you’re curious to explore kink + BDSM there are a few things I recommend you do to get started that will support you with not only having greater possibilities of aligning with connections and experiences that will leave you feeling good about your decisions, but will also help you have better experiences and possibly avoid harm. There are so many things to consider but here are 3 things you can do to get started. If you choose to prioritize these in your explorations, you’ll likely feel more empowered in your decisions and have outcomes that you desire, even when they don’t work out exactly how you thought that would.
Educate yourself before you move into actions.
There are lots of online resources and in person classes that you can utilize to learn more about kink, BDSM and power dynamics. Before you start planning scenes and sinking into submission, learn about the standards, codes of ethics, risks, harm reduction, and how to find and form community. This will be really important foundational pieces of your journey and will help keep you safer, lead you to finding better and more aligned partners, and will also help you maintain agency over your experiences even as you choose to surrender control. A couple books i’ve read that have been helpful with learning some basics are: Somatics for Rope Bottoms by by Natasha NawaTaNeko and The New Bottoming Book by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton and Karada House has online workshops that centers queer, intersectional and trauma informed education.
Vet potential partners, communities, and venues/spaces
The best way to feel empowered and develop your autonomy is to take your time! Vetting is a way to help us create intentional connections and it allows us to center safety through community accountability. Vetting is like an interview process and you can use to get to know people, spaces, or groups/communities better before you open up more vulnerability within them. Each person’s vetting process will be uniquely their own and investing in creating your own vetting process will inform the experiences you create. A few of my favorite and standard ways of vetting are:
Intentional “get to know you” conversations that help you get a feel for someone before negotiations (finding out what they’re desires, interests, intentions, and curiosities are as well as their skill and experience levels, how they handle stress and what they will do if something goes wrong).
Asking around the community. Ask about other people’s experiences at venues or spaces and checking in with the past and current partners, friends, and peers or prospective play partners. Find neutral questions that can give more information about them like, “What was your experience playing with this person?” “What did you like?” “Was there anything that you found concerning or that was out of alignment for you?” and “How are they with consent, safety, and aftercare?” Getting a variety of perspectives will help inform if their standards and style are in alignment with your risk profile, values, and desires for experiences as a submissive.
With a venue or space, watch scenes, organizers and volunteers, and the crowd before you begin. Does the venue have safety protocols, consent standards, and do they follow through with them consistently? It’s pretty common across communities in Kink + BDSM to be dry spaces. This helps increase the standards of safety for pickup play and this can be really important to honor, especially when you first begin. When vetting a partner, watch them play. Take time to witness them in scenes if that is available. Observe how they interact and engage with other partners and decide if this is a style of connection that you want or desire. It’s important as a submissive and across all identities to choose partners from a place of your own needs, desires, and alignment with what you’d like to experience and not solely from a place of trying to fit someone else’s boxes. It may take time to find partners that align with what you’d like to experience and it’s okay to allow that time.
Check out their social media (if they have it). Do their values align with yours? This is something that I have found to be really important for me to feel safe enough to explore. What types of people do they typically play with or showcase? What type of content do they share? This is important to me as it gives me an understanding of a space or person and how they choose to represent themselves, their craft, and their offerings.
Begin as a voyeur - watch and learn! There enjoyment and so much learning that can be experience just by watching at a space, you don’t have to do anything. With a prospective partner, set up a casual, light, and platonic play session in a public space for your first time. This is important, especially if you’re wanting to explore more edge play or a D/s dynamic that includes sexual play, to take your time and to feel out your prospective partners. I also recommend only playing to about 50% intensity for your frist scene and including no more than 3 elements. This allows you to leave space for your body to really feel into the connection and give you feedback that will help you determine better how you feel with this person as well as it will allow you to find an understanding of their negotiation, play and aftercare style and to determine how they manage boundaries and safety.
Develop your own negotiation style and risk profile
Negotiation is a neutral space, even when exploring power dynamics. Everyone in negotiation has equal rights, power, and responsibility to make sure that all the information needed and desired is shared before a scene begins which means it’s really important for you as a person interested in submission to develop your own negotiation style and determine your risk profile before you enter negotiation with another person. Negotiations are the conversations that happen before a scene begins and are where we gather important information, share details about ourselves, ask questions, set boundaries, share desires, and define the mood and what will happen within the scene. Negotiations include: informed consent, boundaries, risk profiles, the theme/mood of the scene, what would you like to explore, hard and soft limits, safety protocols, and aftercare. Other things that I have found to be important and that I like to include in negotiations are: relationship boundaries (what agreements or boundaries does each person have with romantic partners if applicable), wellness check ins (how are you feeling in your body-mind-spirit right now, have you eaten, are you hydrated, do you feel rested or tied), and if you are exploring sexual play, discussions around sexual heal and safety.
Risk profiles are developed through education, understanding, and personal awareness. A risk profile includes your understanding of what the risks for harm for any particular activity and/or scene might be and your level of willingness to take on this risk. Your risk profile may vary depending on the activities, person, and day.
There are so many things that you can and will develop from here as you have experiences, you will learn each and every time. It’s important that you take the time to really get to know yourself and develop a relationship with your submissive side before you begin surrendering and sharing this with others. This will allow you to make better decisions with play partners, amplify the ways you communicate, support you with minimizing or decentering people pleasing, and will keep you within your risk profile so that you can have experiences you feel good about after the scene has ended.
If you’re ready to start your journey and looking for resources to help you begin, I lead online classes, in person workshops, and private sessions and mentorships for education and experiencing for individuals and people in relationships. My work centers trauma informed principles, intersectionality, and personalized experiences. Popular offering for those just getting started are the Confidence in Intimacy + Kink Lab or Mentorship and the EMBODIED EsXeD. Find out more at selfstudylab.com
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Check out my interview with euni, today’s blog author here!