Understanding Submission

From PeterMastersWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Psychology of BDSM
(all psychology articles)
 
Fundamentals
 
Penetration
Engagement
Consent
Communication
Power, authority,
and control
Trust
Fetish
Defence mechanisms
Mapping motivations
to activities
Roles
 
Top   Bottom
Dominant Submissive
Master Slave
Trainer Trainee
Owner Property
Mistress
Switch
SAM
Motivations
(all motivation articles)
 
Ecstasy
Subspace
Catharsis
Surrender
Experiencing power
Hotter sex
Recreation
Expiation of guilt
Intimacy and bonding
Physiological outcomes
Chemical high
Unhealthy motivations
Just a bit of fun (not)
Pain (not)
Play versus "deep play"
versus work
Transformation of pain
into pleasure
The joy of being a top
or dominant

Introduction

I like to understand things. I like to know what is really going on. I like to be as good as I can in what I do. To this end, being the analytical type that I am, I like to have a model, or theory, which helps me to understand what I am doing and what is going on around me.

BDSM is full of frills and window-dressing. Getting to the core of it---understanding which are the basic "components"---means looking around at what people do, looking at their feelings and extracting the common elements.

I am going to present the framework in which I see and play with BDSM. I am optimistic that submission and submissives, in all their BDSM forms, will fit into this framework. This document is one man's evolving opinion, ie. mine, and not an academic work. It is the result of experience and much thought and discussion with others in the BDSM scene.

Because there are so many ways of "doing" BDSM, and because there are so many people doing so many different things, terminology can be very unclear---the same word can mean many different things to many different people. To make my framework clear it is necessary that I define the terminology that I use. Some of these definitions you may not agree with, but please keep them in mind, even if only while reading this.

Oh! And, by the way, to make the language simpler, and because it suits me, I refer to dominants as male and submissives as female. There is no gender bias implied, it just saves me fiddling too much with words.

Goals of this document

  1. One goal that this document does not have is to be a guide on how to "do" BDSM. There are no rope techniques, candle guides, anatomy diagrams for floggers and floggees, etc. The document is about psychology and philosophy.
  2. To identify, categorise and label different forms of submission and submissive behaviour (including slavery).
  3. To identify characteristics of each form:
    1. Wants or needs
    2. Modes of satisfaction
    3. Relation to identity of individual
  4. To describe the modes of progression, or growth, in relation to personal development, personal satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, perception of self-worth, development of identity.
  5. To discuss the dominant factor in:
    1. Satisfying wants and/or needs
    2. Development/growth
    3. Teaching
  6. To describe characteristics of the dominants required by each type of submissive.

Definitions

The definitions key to this document are given in the following Cornerstones section. In this section I give some background definitions that might help a little with my use of terminology.

Acronym.png

BDSM is a clever little acronym that stands for:

  • Bondage & Discipline
  • Dominance & Submission
  • Sadism & Masochism

Bondage involves being restrained physically, for example in chains, rope or in stocks.

Dominance and submission are the subjects of this document and will be defined below.

Sadism and Masochism refer to the giving and receiving of pain, respectively, often for erotic purposes.

BDSM, collectively, is a consensual activity practiced amongst adults.

The world of BDSM: the people involved in it (the players), the activities and the parties at which it can occur are called "the scene".

A particular BDSM event between two, or so, partners is called "a scene". Like a scene in a play or movie, a BDSM scene has a clearly defined start and end. It could be something like a flogging scene, where one partner is flogged, a bondage scene, where one partner is tied up or restrained in some way, and so on.

A particular activity is often called play. Thus you can have bondage-play (eg. tying someone up), pain-play inflicting pain or exploring pain, etc.

There are very many people involved in BDSM if only for kinky sex. Kinky sex is ordinary(?) sexual intercourse with elements of BDSM included to fuel fantasy and/or add spice and variety.

Cornerstones

There are some key ideas that form the basis for everything that will be discussed here. I am going to mention them now, and then elaborate on them throughout the rest of this article.

There are two key elements to BDSM. The first is control. The second is pain, discomfort and restraint. Both of these are required in BDSM activities. If both are not present then it isn't BDSM.

Control

The term "control" refers to a submissive (person) surrendering of control of some aspect of her activities to a dominant (person), who also must accept that control.

Even in a simple scene between two strangers at a party, where there is no emotional or spiritual bond between the players, the submissive must still give up control, enough to allow the dominant to, for example, take over and tie her or flog her how he chooses.

In deeper, longer-term partnerships, the surrendering of control may extend to areas of general behaviour, attitudes, dress, availability to the dominant, etc. This often can involve a deep attitude change and a pervading awareness in the submissive that she is a servant or possession of the dominant.

Sometimes the surrendering of control by the submissive and the taking up of that control by the dominant is referred to as power exchange.

The surrendered control has specifically to do with pain, discomfort or restraint (see below) being inflicted or imposed on the submissive by the dominant. The dominant is in control over some or all aspects of this while the submissive is not.

Pain, discomfort and restraint (PDR)

A submissive gives her dominant control over her. This control extends to inflicting some form of pain, discomfort or restraint on her.

BDSM activities all involve some form of pain, discomfort or restraint. If there is none then it's not BDSM.

  1. A submissive gives control over her pain, discomfort or restraint to a dominant. There is a direct or indirect reward achieved by this "act of submission".
  2. A dominant is one who accepts this control and then imposes or inflicts pain, discomfort or restraint on the submissive.
  3. The "act of submission" is the submissive giving up the control and then accepting the pain, discomfort or restraint from her dominant that leads to her reward.
  4. The "act of submission" is the submissive giving up the control and then accepting the pain, discomfort or restraint from her dominant that leads to her reward.

In the rest of this document pain, discomfort and restraint will be abbreviated as PDR.

It should be noted that the obvious physical associations with pain, discomfort and restraint are not the only ones. Equally, or possibly, more relevant are the emotional, psychological and spiritual pains, discomforts and restraints such as humiliation, embarrassment, discipline, behaviour modification, tasks and duties, etc.

It is not the case that every submissive is "into" every form of pain, discomfort or restraint. It is that every submissive must be "into" at least one.

Three types of submissive

  1. The immediate submissive finds an immediate reward as a "consequence" of the act of submission. This may be something like sexual arousal, the satiation (temporarily, at least) of feelings of guilt, or simply the pleasure of an endorphin rush. The act of submission is not pleasurable or satisfying on its own.
  2. The psychological submissive finds her reward in the act of submission itself. This satisfaction or pleasure can, for example, come from the associated with temporarily giving up responsibility. Or it can come from a relaxation of the need to "be herself" while the dominant is in control; she can, instead, simply be nothing, she can abandon herself completely.
  3. The slave has an internal need or craving that is appeased by the act of submission. The act of submission itself may or may not be pleasurable to the slave, but the release from the pressure of the need always is.

A submissive friend of mine offers the following analogy for the three types:

Submission is like drinking a glass of water
Immediate submissives might have water only when they eat curry. They don't do it for itself really, they drink it because it makes the curry much better, cleanses the mouth, cuts the fire, makes them able to eat more. They wouldn't think of drinking water without the curry.
Psychological submissives drink water because they like it. Sure they will drink it with curry, but they'll drink it with roast beef, they'll drink it with sandwiches, they'll drink it without food at all---because they like the taste, the way if flows down the gullet, the cleansing feel.
The slave is someone in a hot climate. They have to drink water. Nothing else does the job. They can try wine or beer or sweet drinks, but when push comes to shove they must have clean water, because the others don't cure the thirst. They might allay it some but when the heat is very fierce, water is the only solution.

More on pain, discomfort and restraint (PDR)

I see PDR as aspects of the same thing. To make it easier to present and understand I decided to use three words to describe this single "essence" of BDSM.

What these three words have in common is the element of discomfort. Pain is simply extreme discomfort. Physical restraint, while it may not be physically uncomfortable, is a type of psychological discomfort---a restriction of physical freedom.

Obvious examples of the types of PDR seen in BDSM include: bondage, flogging, whipping, piercing, waxing and branding. These are "physical". Psychological pain, etc., can be humiliation, abuse, degradation and psychological torture, while psychological restraint can be just simple authorative control.

The so-called "service ethic", or desire to please one's dominant, is a pleasure experienced by a submissive due to the restraint imposed on her by the dominant. The submissive given free rein is far less happy than one who is instructed on what to do and how to please by her dominant partner. In this way he imposes restraints on the way that she may please him.

It may also be that this service ethic is a reinforcement response to the pleasure experienced by the submissive as her dominant takes and exerts control over her. By adopting the "service ethic" the control tranfer is highlighted, or even magnified, and the submissive experiences the control transfer in a more concrete way.

Abuse and submission

A woman, before realizing or being aware that she is a submissive may feel the stirrings of the as-yet unfocussed desires or needs for control and PDR. Ignorant of what they mean or how to handle them she may consciously or subconsciously start looking around for satisfaction. It is very easy for a submissive in this state to find herself either being abused or taken advantage of.

If her PDR desires or needs are very strong she may find herself subconsciously propelled into relationships with abusive partners---the difference between loving PDR and abuse not being recognized.

She may even find herself in the BDSM scene and then find that her inexperience and her needs conspire and make her vulnerable to (ie. fall into the hands of) uncaring or selfish dominants.

It is difficult to avoid these situations as they are born of ignorance and desire. However, over time, one can hope that each submissive will find the control and PDR that she needs imposed by a caring and capable dominant.

On what makes a submissive

Undoubtedly my earlier definitions of the three types of submissive will cause many readers to jump up and down yelling, "No! No! You've got it all wrong!" Let me explain a little.

My idea is that the three types of submissive all give up control and accept PDR from a dominant and then internally "convert" (or transmute) that discomfort into pleasure. The difference between the three types is how this "internalisation" works.

This definition of a submissive tends to leave the dominant out in the cold, minimalising his "role" in the process. In fact, the dominant has two important roles in this. The first is as the one who accepts the control and imposes the necessary PDR from the outside on the submissive. That this is imposed from the outside is very important to the submissive's experience in much the same way as a self-administered backscratch or masturbation is not as pleasurable as when done by a trusted partner. The dominant acts, in fact, as the controller or regulator of the submissive's experience.

The second important dominant role is that of "environmental engineer". The dominant creates and maintains the environment of trust, safety and security in which the submissive can relax and completely immerse herself in the experience.

This second role requires that a level of trust and intimacy exist between the dominant and the submissive.

A possible third role, not as important as the first two, could be that of creator and supporter of the fantasies that some submissives use to enhance their experience.

The immediate submissive

So. All three types of submissive internally convert the transfer of control and the PDR into pleasure. Above, when defining the first type, the immediate submissive, I spoke about sexual arousal and satiation of guilt as the typical "motives" of this type of submissive.

For the immediate submissive the act, or acts, of submission---the pain, the flogging, the whipping, the bondage, etc.---often fulfil a sexual fantasy leading to high sexual arousal followed by extra good sex. These fantasies might have any origin, with childhood or early pubescent experiences being the likely causes. The actual origin of these fantasies is not important here.

Another typical motive, satiation of guilt, occurs mostly when the submissive has left-over guilt feelings, maybe from childhood or maybe from some post-pubescent traumatic experiences. The submissive then feels the need to be punished and flogging or whipping satisfies that need for a time.

Finally, some submissives use pain to achieve an endorphin rush. Endorphins are the natural chemicals released by the body in response to sustained and relatively intense pain. These chemicals act on the brain producing a type of euphoria.

The key to defining an immediate submissive is that they find no satisfaction directly from the act of submission (the flogging, whipping, restraint, etc.) It is the "immediate" consequence of the act, eg. the sexual arousal or satiation of the need for punishment, which is the reward for this type of submissive. Without the reward (eg. the guilt remains, or no hot sex follows) the act of submission will be viewed as "wasted".

The psychological submissive

The psychological submissive finds satisfaction from the act of submission in itself. The act is its own reward. There need not be any other consequence.

This type of submissive is basically a type of masochist and internally converts the pain or discomfort to pleasure, be it through experiencing the high of an endorphin rush, or some other psychological mechanism. This will be discussed further below.

The slave

The act of submission is something that both the immediate and the psychological submissive do for the direct or indirect pleasure that they receive from it. It is something that they choose to do in much the same way as anyone chooses to do any of life's pleasures.

The slave on the other hand has no choice about submitting. Where the other two types of submissive experience the act as a source of pleasure, the slave experiences the act as a way of satisfying a deep and powerful need or craving. The satisfaction, or reward, for the slave comes from the release---for a time---from the need.

Typically the slave experience will be that of a need, slowly growing or building in intensity, until it is so strong that the slave must seek release via her particular act of submission.

Due to this being experienced as a craving-type need passive acts of submission, eg. bondage, are typically not enough to appease the slave's need. Something more "active" is required---typically immediate, hard, physical pain. or tightly-maintained active control.

Because the pleasure aspect, experienced by the immediate and psychological submissives, need not be a part of the slave's makeup, it may be that the slave is not an active participant in other BDSM activities. She is only "there" when her need forces her to be.

A summary

It is important to note, in the descriptions above, that the relationship is between each type of submissive (or slave) and the act, or acts, of submission that lead to her satisfaction. The dominant is not really in the picture. I will get onto Him a little later.

Although I describe three types of submissive, classified according to how they internalise their own individual act(s) of submission, I do not want to imply that these are "steps". Instead I see it as a continuum, with an infinite number of gradations and with each submissive being able to identify herself, or aspects of herself, at one or more positions on the scale.

On combinations of submissive in the one person

By defining the three types of submissive I am not trying to fit every submissive person into a single one of these "categories". Instead I am trying to identify characteristics of submissives.

I would expect that the only "pure" form of any of these three types would be the immediate submissive, mainly appearing in the guise of the kinky-sex practitioner. In the vast majority of these I doubt whether you would find any elements of the psychological submissive or the slave.

On the other hand I would expect that the psychological submissive would often also have immediate submissive characteristics, maybe finding her act of submission both satisfying on its own and, at the same time, sexually arousing---a double reward for her.

And I think it likely that the slave when not submitting for the sake of satisfying her need or craving, may also submit for a immediate or psychological pleasure.

The dominant factor

Up to this point I have been mainly discussing the the submissive and her experience in isolation. I have tried to avoid mentioning the contribution that comes from the dominant so as to present an artificially clear picture. The addition now of the dominant factor brings a bit of reality into the discussion.

A submissive, on her own, can of course experience self-inflicted PDR. It is, however, a shallow, predictable and lonely experience.

The dominant introduces elements of unpredictability, apprehension, fear, love, intimacy, sharing, togetherness and sharing; as well as pacing and external control.

One of the principal contributions of the dominant is that by being in control of the PDR he allows the submissive to explore her feelings is a relatively responsibility-free and relaxed mind-set.

Here is a list of this and other contributions of the dominant:

  1. The creator and controller of the fantasy (if any),
  2. The controller and regulator of the PDR,
  3. The source of the trust and feeling of safety that allows the submissive to "let herself go" and fully immerse herself in the experience,
  4. A focus for the submissive's surrender of control,
  5. Protector of the submissive's well-being.

Even though the "good stuff" happens inside the submissive's head, it is the dominant who is in control and who directs the action.

To maximise the experience the submissive needs to be protected from all distractions and to be relieved of any necessity to do other than "feel". To this end the submissive gives control over herself, to varying degrees, to the dominant. This control might simply be physical, allowing the dominant, for example, to inflict pain on or bind the submissive, or might also extend into the emotional allowing the dominant to play "head games", eg. humiliation. The degree of control handed over to the dominant is dependent on the extent of the submissive's desire or need for PDR, and by the amount of trust that the submissive has in the dominant's intentions and ability.

So the submissive gives up control and, therefore, can relax more into the experience of her act of submission. The more control she gives up, the less she has in the way of distraction and therefore the deeper she can immerse herself.

The dominant, now in control, directs the "action". This might involve fantasy role-playing for couples/submissives so inclined. The submissive, to some degree immersed or "lost" in the PDR, follows the lead of the dominant within the fantasy. It is not surprising to typically find that the submissive's role in any fantasies is also submissive, while the dominant's role is correspondingly dominant.

Submissives often immerse themselves to such an extent that they cannot judge or respond correctly to the pain that they are receiving. It is the job and responsibility of the dominant to regulate the stimulation and to monitor the effects that it is having on the submissive, guiding the "session", taking the submissive through her act of submission and back safely out the other side.

The dominant, naturally enough, must remain aware enough and unaffected enough (eg. by tiredness, alcohol or drugs) throughout each scene to make reasonable judgements as to the well-being of the submissive.

The dominant, as regulator of the stimulus, serves two purposes. He allows the submissive to concentrate, or focus, on the experience rather than concerning herself with how and when the stimulus is applied, and also serves as the guide, taking the submissive in and then bringing her back out again.

The submissive trusts the dominant as the inflicter of the stimulus, but there are other areas of trust involved as well.

The entire ambient of the scene is under the control or, at least, watchful eye of the dominant. He ensures that, during the scene, while the submissive is "away" that there will be no distractions for her and that she is kept safe. He is her protector. Her trust in him to do this properly also affects how deeply she will be able to immerse herself in the experience.

The submissive, as she relaxes into her experience, surrenders control. The dominant typically serves as a focus for this surrender---being a trusted, maybe loved, partner. At the same time as the submissive surrenders control the dominant must be perceived to be accepting it from her. The relaxation occurs best when the submissive "sees" that the dominant has actively and obviously taken control---this gives the submissive confidence in her action of surrender.

One of the key words as far as trust goes is confidence. The submissive must be confident that her dominant will be able to, and will, take care of her. To be able to take care of his submissive the dominant must be able to understand her feelings and emotions (empathy), be aware of how these ebb and flow through the course of a scene, and indeed often outside of a scene as well, be able to communicate the fact that he has these understandings to the submissive, and be capable of handling the physical and procedural elements of the scenes, ie. that he is aware of how to flog or bind safely, that he is aware of techniques to handle physical and emotional crises, and that he is stable and reliable if such occurs.

Also, a submissive will trust a regular, well-known partner more than a stranger. And, the more intimate and detailed the understanding that the submissive has of the dominant the more comfortable she will feel handing over control to him.

For the psychological submissive and the slave the emotional intimacy leading to deepened trust is very important. These types of submissives require more than physical submission and thus, the vulnerability that the submissive feels is greatly increased over that experienced by the immediate submissive.

For trust in these two types to grow it is absolutely necessary that the dominant's performance---be it physical skill, or emotional sensitivity, understanding or support---be constant, reliable and predictable. The submissive must have absolute confidence about how the dominant will behave, and that her feelings and expressed desires are respected. Just slightly overstepping stated limits by even a fraction by a dominant can cause wariness and distrust that can take a long time to dispel.

The role of the dominant to each type of submissive

Each type of submissive requires different skills and abilities from her dominant. One which often goes unmentioned is the dominant's ability to "carry off" the "act of domination". This is being able to present himself and act in such a way that the submissive can both feel comfortable giving up control to him and also feel him taking it up. Some try to be dominants but cannot carry it off---they may appear comical instead of authorative for example. In any case, this ability can be either innate or learned, but must be present in all dominants.

The immediate submissive requires, above all, a dominant who is physically skilled at BDSM. Ie., he must be aware of safety techniques, be skilled at bondage, flogging, whipping, waxing, etc. It is often the case that variety of techniques is the key to the success of this type of dominant.

Also good acting skills and imagination are important where the submissive requires fantasy to support their act of submission.

These skills are not skills that require emotional understanding or support of the submissive. They are plain and simple S&M and role-playing skills. "One-night stands" are possible and likely with this type of dominant.

The psychological submissive and the slave require someone who is capable of creating in them the feelings of trust that let them open up and experience their act of submission at a more emotional and spiritual level.

This dominant for these types of submissive need not be so gymnastic as that for the immediate submissive, nor must he be so capable at so many techniques. Instead he must be capable of understanding and supporting the submissive, and of providing the PDR for the specific acts of submission that satisfy the submissive.

These two types of submissives generally don't look for a wide range of techniques from their dominant. They find their satisfaction more in the depth of the experience rather than the breadth.

The dominant for these submissives must generally be capable, and interested, in sustaining an emotionally or spiritually intimate relationship with the submissive in the long-term. This allows the deep trust to develop which is required for the submissive's surrender, at least within the act of submission.

The dominant required by the slave has a different focus than that of the psychological submissive's.

The slave's dominant is looking to apply the PDR to satisfy the slave's need. There may be no recreational or pleasure element in the activity, or if there is it often must be considered as secondary to the primary need-satisfaction goal.

The psychological submissive likely receives more pleasure from the activity than the slave and therefore the dominant's role and focus is less business-like, more pleasure-oriented and more emotionally intimate than the slave's.

Because the slave experiences a need and not simply a desire, the dominant must be more responsible and recognise his duty to the slave to satisfy that need.

Applying the pain, discomfort and restraint

It is not enough for a submissive to just feel PDR. It must be applied in such a way that satisfies or stimulates the submissive. It is a positive reaction that is sought, not a negative one, so the PDR must be just right.

The immediate submissive, particularly she who is looking for BDSM as a type of sexual foreplay, will most likely be looking for superficial PDR. It is not these that the submissive responds to directly; they are, instead, symbols which form part of her fantasy. Too much PDR and she will begin to suffer, be distracted and then the effect will be lost.

Where the PDR serve in themselves, eg. to satiate feelings of guilt, then intense pain may be required to cause the physical or emotional suffering or stimulation needed.

In general the immediate submissive requires very different types of PDR than the psychological submissive or the slave.

The psychological submissive and the slave seek to "lose themselves", or surrender to the PDR. It must be applied continuously (or regularly) over an (extended) period of time to allow the submissive to acclimatise herself somewhat to it, to feel it, focus on it and immerse, or lose, herself in it.

This is not to say that the PDR is constant. This is not so. It will generally be applied slowly, maintained and then withdrawn in such a way that the submissive is not, at any time, shocked or startled by its application.

The submissive reaction (to PDR)

Each type of submissive "processes" their PDR differently. However, at any particular time the submissive's response will be tempered by their own emotional and spiritual state. Thus worries, nervousness and anxiety may serve to dampen their experience while feelings of excitement, anticipation and fear may serve to heighten it. To some extent these feelings may be completely internal, or may be inspired in the submissive by the dominant.

The immediate submissive often uses the PDR to feed a fantasy or satiate some feeling, such as guilt. Her reaction is indirect in that the consequence of the PDR is generally not logically related to the stimulus; or, to put it another way, the PDR is a key that unlocks the reaction rather than creating it.

This reaction then, will be something like sexual arousal, a release of emotional tension or an endorphin-inspired state of euphoria.

The psychological submissive instead reacts directly to the PDR. Her reaction might also include reactions typical of the immediate submissive, but will mainly---as far as the submissive is concerned---consist of emotional or spiritual feelings such as loss of identity, floating, feelings of belonging, being protected and desires to please her dominant. Note that these cited feelings are sometimes collectively called sub-space.

A more long-term consequence for the psychological submissive or slave is a growing emotional attachment to the dominant due to the increased emotional intimacy between them.

The slave reaction may be one of simple release (from the pressure of the slave's need). There will likely be gratitude as the slave is aware that she cannot satisfy her need herself and knows that the dominant is making a sacrifice for her.

At the same time it is possible that the slave will also experience the same reactions (and pleasures) as the other two types of submissive, although while the slave's need is "active" the primary concern of the slave, and primary source of satisfaction, will be the satiation of, and subsequent release from, the need.

The three types of submissive each have different levels of "commitment" to submission. This ranges from practically no commitment on the part of the immediate submissive through to potentially vital or life-saving commitment on the part of the slave.

The submissive's response to their own level of commitment may also see other reactions, such as love, the desire to "feel submissive" or the "service ethic" appearing.

The service ethic---the desire to please and serve the dominant within a scene, or as part of the submissive's out-of-scene relationship with the dominant---is likely a combination of:

  1. the emotional intensity experienced by the submissive,
  2. a manifestation, outside of scene, of the desire to be controlled. This occurs as a consequence of the pleasure experienced "in-scene" when the submissive is under the control of the dominant, a sort of pavlovian response,
  3. possibly gratefulness,
  4. possibly something else

The submissive's self-image

The submissive's participation in BDSM activities may change her perception of herself. Immediate submissives into the kinky-sex side of BDSM may not think of themselves as more than sexually adventurous.

As their involvement, and pleasure/satisfaction, from PDR grows they may begin to question their moral and social values. This will likely come from a realization that what they are doing "isn't normal". They may feel confused or guilty and their own self-image may be lowered if they think that they are doing something "bad".

Alternatively, as they realize that they do achieve a significant amount of satisfaction from their act of submission they may enter a phase of self-denial, denying how satisfying, pleasurable or even necessary it really is to them. Slave's, particularly, are prone to this, denying that they are truly experiencing a need as opposed to a simple desire.

A submissive, when experiencing any of these negative self-image reactions to her involvement with BDSM will recover best when she has the support of others with similar interests. This will help her accept her desires and activities. Left alone or isolated she will find no community support and her feelings may turn to guilt and lowered self-worth.

With the support of a caring dominant a submissive can also feel pride in her achievements as a submissive. The physical and emotional skills that she must learn, the discipline that she must master, all give her skills that she can recognize as making her "better" and making her grow as a person.

The growth and development of a submissive

A submissive does not enter the BDSM scene "fully formed". Instead she enters with some idea of her wants and needs and, as her experience grows, her appreciation of what is available in the scene matures (possibly sparking new ideas) as does her own awareness of her wants and needs.

She will try various things, possibly with a range of partners. The different techniques, both physical and emotional, will have their effects and she will select what she likes and what she finds pleasing or necessary for her.

Things that were possibly new and exciting at the beginning will maybe lose their gloss and things that were once considered beyond her limits will become desirable.

Variety will likely be important for purely recreational BDSM, but for psychological submissives and slaves certain specific acts of submission will be discovered that "do the trick" better than others. These will become "favourites".

It is likely that a submissive will enter the scene as an immediate submissive. It is unlikely that she would be aware that there is the possibility of any deep satisfaction being found in PDR alone unless she recognizes masochism in herself.

So. She will explore sensation and pain play, bondage and fantasy role-playing. This may be enough for her and she may remain an immediate submissive for her entire BDSM career.

Or she might find that control and PDR itself stir something inside her. She will explore different types of PDR and play with different intensities, maybe pushing her own limits. With experience she will both be able to identify the acts of submission that she best responds to, and will also learn the ability to let herself respond deeply to the control and to the PDR and find satisfaction in it. This "learning to respond" is both a psychological and emotional skill that will take her considerable time to develop. It consists partly of a journey of self-discovery and self-recognition. She will become, as a consequence of this journey, a psychological submissive.

The "something" that stirs inside her may be the coalescing of miscellaeneous small, different feelings, cravings, wants or needs into a single focussed one. What she finds from satisfying this may be enough to trigger a type of dependency, thus making her, instead of a psychological submissive, a slave to the resultant need.

In any case, along the way she will undoubtedly experience new feelings and find new desires and possibly needs within her.

The growth and development of a dominant

Like a submissive, a dominant is likely to enter the scene either as a sadist, or with ideas of finding an immediate-type submissive, possibly for kinky-sex.

As the one who inflicts the PDR on the submissive one of the first things that he must learn is how to do the inflicting and how to do it safely. The early stages here are purely mechanical---involving tying knots, and learning how to wield a whip, flogger, crop and candle.

If he is into role-playing fantasy then he must also learn how to create scenes in his mind and how to express them, story-teller style, to his submissive.

His growth might end at this point. He might remain an immediate dominant.

Further development requires that he don a mantle of significant responsibility because to involve himself with a psychological submissive or a slave means exploring and playing with the often-sensitive emotional and spiritual sides of his submissive. Cuts and bruises caused by a whip or flogger will heal in a few days, but the real emotional hurt that a dominant can inflict on a trusting submissive by poorly chosen words or actions can take weeks or months to heal, if ever.

The skills required by this type of dominant include perceptiveness, compassion, wisdom, sensibility, understanding, empathy, patience, openness, honesty, the ability to communicate, the ability to explore trust and the ability to explore intimacy, both his submissive's and his own, without fear or deception.

Some dominants have these skills. Some must learn them. Some will never have them.

The dominant of a psychological submissive or a slave will take often the role of teacher and mentor for his submissive. She will look to him for guidance and authority in her exploration of herself and BDSM. He will need to be sensitive to her changing needs both within scenes and in "real-life" as her submissive aspects develop and integrate with the rest of her personality.

Of course, the dominant must learn these things, often doing so with a submissive whose experience reasonably matches his own, growing with her and, undoubtedly, making mistakes along the way.

The best tool that the dominant has to aid his learning and his growth is his ability to communicate with his submissive. By talking with her, discussing her reaction to him and to their scenes together he will learn how she reacts and gain more confidence in himself. From her and his growing pool of experience he will develop new ideas and new approaches.

He needs to be very open and very accepting. It will often be the case that his own preconceived ideas will be clearly and definitively wrong, and he must be ready to read the signs and hear the words from his submissive that tell him so. Stubbornness in some things is good, but responding and adapting too slowly to his submissive can be just as damaging to the submissive's trust as responding badly or not responding at all.

This article originally appeared on a different website in 1997/1998

It was converted into wiki format in January, 2009, and includes all the italic, bold, and underlined characters from the original

Copyright © 1998, Peter Masters