All too often, when submission is mentioned, be it in the Biblical helpmeet sense, the BDSM sense or any sense you can imagine, we start finding the debate turning to what submission actually entails. After all, for every sort of submission there is, you also have “topping from the bottom”, ie, playing the part of submission, doing the jobs and saying the right things, whilst being in control the whole time. And we also have the concern that submissiveness is akin to being a doormat, relinquishing all your willpower and independence.
To understand the difference between “genuine” submission, forced submission and subversive submission, we need to understand that, in terms of wording both are still submission.
The literal meaning of “submit” is:
1: To accept and/or yield to a superior force.
2: To consent to something.
3: To refer something to a third party for judgement.
4: To subject someone to something.
5: To present something for judgement.
6: To suggest or argue.
Now, ignoring the last one that is a metaphorical use, we can see where the confusion lies. 1 and 4 clearly suggest something being forced on someone. 2, 3 and 5 suggest willing participation. 3 and 5 suggest deference to the third party. The very word has its trouble.
So firstly, we must understand that people against submission are thinking of definitions 1 and 4, whereas people who believe in submission are thinking of some variant or combination of 2, 3 and 5.
And in all of these definitions, a sort of power play is happening, with the result being clear.
1: The submitted gives up all power. They have no power.
2: The submitted willingly restrains their power. They disengage some of their power, but retain the rest in full.
3: The submitted accepts the limits of their power. They employ their power alongside that of others.
4: The submitted has their power forcibly removed. They have no power.
5: The submitted agrees not to subject the object to their power alone. They employ their power disregarding that of others.
Therefore, we can see how a positive sort of submission differs from a negative sort. The positive forms of submission all give the submitted room to exercise their independence or to back out of a bad deal or situation. The negative forms leave the submitted helpless in the hands of their leader.
And that is the other key aspect to submission: there must always be a leader for there to be a submissive. The very nature of submission requires that you in some way give your power over to someone whom you’re trusting to use it well.
And giving power over isn’t the same as giving power up. When you give power up, you are doing the equivalent of putting yourself in a straight jacket for anger management. Sure, when you’re angry it stops you hitting people. But when you need to defend yourself or, you know, just make a cup of tea, it becomes inconvenient. That is an example of giving up your physical power. But all power can be given up, to a point where someone won’t defend themselves or make themselves a cup of tea because they lack the mental or emotional power to do so. And someone who is powerless is, by definition, weak.
When submitting, you need to hold onto your power. You need to have it. All of it. You need to be able to run and jump and fight, to think and talk and read, to make yourself a tea or to buy a computer, without turning to your leader every time.
What you’re doing instead, if you are giving your power over to them. You are accepting that there can’t be two leaders in a relationship, two captains to a boat, two teachers to one piano student. Too many cooks spoil the broth. And when you submit, you are saying to your leader: “You make the better leader. You have the confidence to make the right decisions. You have the mind to be the most rational out of the two of us. You have the connection to understand my wants and needs without letting them blind you to reason. And I trust you.”
And you’re not just giving them power in some areas, or a little bit of power. All your power is for them. They can’t take it, but like a little soldier, you are using your power to fight for your leader. You don’t doubt their leadership skills in any area. Feel free to question their knowledge, their conclusion, their emotional state. After all, you are a human being with agency and sometimes even a leader will not have all the facts. But never question their authority, their confidence, their respect for you or their ability to lead. It’s equivalent to questioning an artist’s ability to draw an egg: at best it’s insulting, at worst you have just killed their drive to draw or to lead.
Submission isn’t easy. It isn’t the lazy path. It isn’t giving your leader all your troubles and having a meltdown when the leader can’t or won’t magically fix them.
Submission is an exercise in discipline. Just like the person with anger management issues, you need to learn to hold your power inside you and not use it. You need to learn to restrain any behaviours or actions that could negatively impact on yourself or your leader. You need to learn to defer to your leader’s decision when there is doubt or when they have a clear picture.
Submission is allowing your leader to guide your power, so as to establish some sense of order in the relationship.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!
What is your perspective on submission? Are you the submissive or the leader? What struggles have you met when it comes to leading or being led? How do you control and direct your power?