Twenty-odd years ago, when I was just realizing that there were words for the things I wanted in sex and relationships, I read a bunch of trashy femdom-themed magazines someone gave me. During the same time period, I read the book 9 1/2 Weeks.
The magazines were full of stories of men being houseboys for dominant women: bathing these women. brushing their hair, and dressing them. These were submissive acts; the men were being servants.
9 1/2 Weeks also depicted a man bathing a woman, brushing her hair, and dressing her. He was the dominant one in the relationship, and these were acts of objectification. She belonged to him and he was taking care of her the way a car aficionado might wash and detail a treasured vintage Cadillac.
The same exact actions; completely opposite meanings behind them. And a light when on in my brain: ohhhhh maybe there AREN’T specific things subs always do or dominants always do. Maybe people in D/s relationships just do what makes them happy, and it’s dominant or submissive because they say so.
I’m glad I figured that out so young. A lot of people – people older than I am, even – still seem confused about that concept.
I got to thinking about this stuff again recently because when Mine kneels before me – our one formal ritual is that when we get home from being out somewhere together, he kneels and takes my shoes off for me – I feel weak in the knees. Sometimes when I see The Bunny naked I just about swoon, too. And a lot of people would try to tell me that dominants should be powerful and invulnerable, and the fact that interacting with my boys makes my heart pound and my breath catch and my knees go all floopy means that I’m not a Twue Dominate. After all, I see dudes on FetLife all the time talking about what makes them “feel submissive” and what they mean by “submissive” appears to be “breathless/weak in the knees/really turned on.”
But when I feel these things, it’s in a dominant way. I’m feeling breathless with power, or with the feeling of proud ownership. I may not be cold and invulnerable like the archetypal porn domme, but my moments of weakness come from a place of strength. And, honestly, if I didn’t ever enjoy D/s to that heart-pounding level, why would I bother with it? To love or desire requires vulnerability. A relationship with a sub I neither love nor desire would I guess give me the upper hand in negotiations, but it would also be pretty much empty of all meaning and fun.
So yeah. Dominance and submission are states of mind. They’re like gender identity: only you can say what you are. Nobody else. And what you are may not be what you look like to some people, and that’s okay.