Thursday 8 August 2013


Following on from last week's post on dominance, this week I'd like to talk about the idea of submission, along with how I approach it in my writing.
For me, submission ultimately boils down to the idea of exploring unsafe or unsettling elements of the human psyche within a safe space. Much like watching a horror movie to get scared, or peeking at something from between your fingers, part of us is drawn to the appeal of being vulnerable, exposed, and threatened in some way. Of course, in the real world this is something we tend to avoid at all costs, and with good cause. But within a safe, secure context, and in the hands of a partner we can trust, sexual submission becomes a way to experience a dark thrill without ever having to put ourselves at risk in order to do so.

I talked last week about the idea of control, and how the varying levels of it between partners can create an exciting sexual dynamic in the bedroom. For a submissive, the lack of control is the truly exciting part of sex. Not only does it provide an erotic psychological undertone to the entire situation, but it can lead to some of the most incredibly intense physical sexual responses as well. This is once again verging into personal preference, but similarly to the idea of dominant partners wanting to be challenged, submissive partners wanting to be pushed is perhaps the most keenly erotic element of a dom/sub relationship for me. The ultimate moment of sexual bliss for a submissive (something which you'll probably have picked up on if you've read any of my BDSM stuff!) is being driven to the tipping point of comfort and held there, right on the edge, between intense stimulation and unbearable discomfort.

Here's a little challenge for you to try out if you want an intimately personal example (don't worry, you don't need a dominant billionaire and a sex dungeon for this one): The next time you're working out, or going for a run, or just struggling to drag a heavy bag full of shopping home, push yourself to go just a little bit further than usual. Force yourself to do ten extra seconds on the treadmill, or squeeze out five extra push ups, or hold that uncomfortable position just a few moments past the point of endurance. Then imagine it happening in a sexual context. The physical rush you get from that moment, the mind-numbing almost-panic of knowing your body is on the brink of what it can stand, is the holy grail of sexual submission. It goes without saying that reaching orgasm during a moment like that is utterly incredible. Whether it's accomplished through bondage, spanking, orgasm denial, breath restriction, or any other kind of kinky practice, the end goal is always to reach that tipping point without being driven beyond it into the realm of discomfort. A skilled dom will bring their sub to the edge and reel them back in over and over again, and it'll blow their mind.

Needless to say, this ties in very strongly with the idea of needing/wanting to give up control, but it's a desire that manifests for many different reasons. The sub who needs an evening of catharsis after spending all day in control at work is just as much a tried and true archetype as the sub who has a natural desire to let others take control in all areas of their life.

This leads on to how I like to write submissive characters. I have no doubt in my mind that there are many dominant/submissive couples out there where one partner is an assertive asshole while the other is a timid doormat (and, spoiler alert, it's not always the way around you might expect). However, when it comes to writing, this is something that I feel should be avoided at all costs. Submissive characters should not be timid doormats, and if they are, it shouldn't be without very good reason (such as having an arc that leads to a more confident personality).
Again, this is somewhat personal preference, but my moral compass when it comes to writing points me very firmly away from intentionally glorifying negative or damaging themes in my work. I never, ever want to perpetuate the idea that it's okay for a wife (or husband) to allow their partner to walk all over them because it satisfies a sexual tingle they have deep down inside. Just as I don't believe in writing gritty military thrillers that paint violence as glorious and heroic, I'm not comfortable with erotica that portrays submissive characters as weak and ineffectual. That isn't to say I think it's wrong for a book to ever do either of these things, but it has to be presented in the appropriate context (hint: light and steamy erotica isn't always the best place to be injecting heavy social commentary on sex).

So don't make your submissive characters doormats, but that doesn't mean they have to be strong, outgoing, self-driven individuals either. They simply have to be able to think for themselves. Explore the reasoning behind why they're submissive. In Wild Instincts I gave the heroine Lyssa a very plot-device-y reason for being submissive (one that runs counter to her proactive and self confident personality), but as the series goes on I've hinted at the idea that she needs something (or someone) to help take the weight of the world off her shoulders. She's strong, but brittle, and she needs the help of the right partner to help her bend before she breaks.

A good rule of thumb, and one that applies for any area of characterisation beyond just the submissive/dominant example we're discussing here, is to make it a part of who your character is, but not their defining characteristic. Your character sketch should never just be "Submissive Girl", just as it shouldn't be "Christian Man". Create the character first, then think about why that character is submissive, and tie it in with the rest of their personality. The weakest characters I've written are always those that stem from a two-dimensional archetype that constrains them into a specific role rather than allowing them to grow and take on new traits.

Just like Dominance, Submission is a broad area to cover, and I'm sure there are just reams and reams of essays that could be written exploring the psychological and physical motivations behind it, but this is just my little window into what I think are some of the most prominent aspects of being sexually submissive. It might be an area I return to in the future, and it'll certainly be something I continue to write about in my stories.

And that, for now, is the end of my brief take on Dominance and Submission. Hopefully it was an enjoyable little read!
I'l be back from vacationing next week, so blogging and writing should be able to resume as normal.

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