Submission and Abuse

Are submissives more likely to end up in abusive relationships? Does being submissive imply acceptance of abuse? Is a submissive a victim?

These questions, inspired by my last post, have come to me in emails and IMs the last few days (come on, people, don’t be shy; post a comment!). I realize now that I did not elaborate on some elementary aspects of BDSM before that post, and those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle might not understand them. So it probably would be responsible of me to back up, and reiterate the basics of BDSM safety.

One poll in 2011 reported that 30 percent of women have experienced abusive relationships. I am one of them. I am a survivor of an abusive marriage. I know all too well the terror, the agony, the resignation, the despair of abuse victims; the sense of being trapped with no way out. I also know what it is like to try to convince an abuse victim to leave an abusive relationship; the helplessness as you struggle with their twisted sense of loyalty to their abuser, and their intransigent belief that their situation is hopeless.

So yes, I know something about abuse.

I also know the other side. I was lucky. I escaped more or less intact and, after a lot of healing and work, have been blessed with a D/s relationship that is the polar opposite of abuse. I know, now, what it feels like to be loved, respected, safe, and cherished.

subbeamIt may seem that submissives face a dilemma. How do you surrender control, and yet be safe, steering clear of abusive Dominants? How do you end up in a healthy D/s relationship like mine?

In my previous post I talked about my desire to surrender control to my Master and the pleasure I have received from giving up my right to make decisions. BUT it is essential to note that this surrender occurred only AFTER I had carefully considered and made a thoughtful, conscious choice to submit. I willingly gave him my right to choose—but first I had to own it, before I could give it away.

My choice was the culmination of a long, careful process. I did not jump into the collar of the first Dominant I met; I “auditioned” quite a few. A D/s relationship must be built on trust. Trust rarely happens instantaneously. Even after my Master expressed his desire for me, I did not say yes to him immediately. He had to earn my trust, until I was sure that he would take responsibility for my emotional and physical safety. I had to be sure of his character, and know that I could depend on him. By the time I submitted to him, I had proved, beyond any shadow of doubt, that he was not an abuser, but a generous, loving man of integrity.

“Safe, Sane, Consensual” (SSC) is your key. Be smart, and strong, and responsible. Some believe that when one is “submissive” you just naturally do whatever anyone tells you to do, without thinking, and that you become conditioned to blind obedience. I don’t know what that is… but it is not submission. Submission requires your clear-headed consent. You must be able to choose whether or not to submit, and to whom.

You get to negotiate the terms of your submission. You may expect a Dominant to push your limits a little, but not to ignore them. You do not have to experience anything unless you want it, and have agreed to it, and then, only in the context of emotional and physical safety. And if something goes badly wrong, you must have the choice to walk away.

In my post, I also said, “I don’t want to be equals.” This doesn’t imply any lack of respect from him. My Master respects me, even admires me a little. I know that I am valued; he makes it clear to me every day. I defer to him, because I chose to. It is consensual. He would never put me down. He raises me up, and I raise him up out of my admiration and respect for him. I can release myself into his arms, trusting and secure. He will never let me fall.

If you are very lucky—like I was—you will find a kind and loving relationship that is safe, sane, and consensual. Then, and only then, you will have the choice to throw off the chains of freedom, and experience the delight of surrendering total control to a competent, trustworthy, loving Master.

The Chains of Freedom

Many subs before me have written on this topic, so I’ll admit right away that this thought is in no way original. Even so, I find myself musing this morning about “freedom.” And since this is my blog, for me to write down what’s on my mind, here it is.

Latex Midnight 2When I came to realize that I am submissive, it meant embracing certain aspects of my personality that are at odds with present-day American culture. I was thinking again about my friend with the balloons and the value he places on freedom. I was thinking about women who don’t want anyone to have power over them. I was thinking about women who complain that their boyfriends are too possessive. And I was thinking about how different I am from these people, and from women in general in 2013. And about how, to them, my preferences are incomprehensible.

How can I explain it to them? How can I make them understand that “freedom” to me is unpleasant? How could I ever explain the depth of my longing for a certain captivity and confinement? How weird is it to actually want a man to be possessive and controlling? What modern American woman in her right mind would want to be owned, and would willingly — no, not willingly, joyously — surrender her freedom, allowing a man to control her and take away her right to make her own choices and decisions?

I don’t mean to say that it’s an absolute. It’s not submission unless it is freely given, and clearly, I had to have some degree of personal liberty so that I could choose to submit, and to whom. He did not take that from me against my will; I gave it to him. But to focus on that element is to miss what I’m trying to say.

For me, in the context of a D/s relationship, to surrender my freedom and give it away to the Master I love and trust is the ultimate thrill. I want him to overpower me. I want him to control me. The more of my freedom he takes from me, the better I like it. The more possessive and controlling he is, the happier I am. I don’t want to be equals. I want to be less than him. I want him to be first. I want him to be above me, more than me, ahead of me. I want him to be in charge of me. I want him to take all my power… except the power to give up my power to him.

The weird thing is that the tighter he holds me, the freer I feel. In fact, I need him to hold on really tight or else I don’t feel free at all. All those years when I was an equal partner, a self-empowered woman, in charge of my own life, I was vastly unhappy, and I felt chained and trapped and confined in a way that I no longer feel. Submitting to my Master, surrendering my control to him, makes me feel happy and gives me so much more pleasure than “freedom” ever did.

I don’t know why I’m wired this way. But I am. Giving up my life to his control is what sets me free.

A Valentine

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such fine hands

e. e. cummings

I love you, Master!

Real Friends

Let me tell you about friends.

In addition to having the best family in any world, I am blessed to have some really awesome friends. I also have a lot of pseudo-friends. There is a difference. There’s nothing wrong with pseudo-friends, but it helps if you can tell the difference.

How can you tell if someone is a real friend?

A lot of people will SAY that they are your friend. But just because they say it, that doesn’t mean it’s believable. If they really are a friend, they will SHOW it.

What really matters, more than what you say, is what you do to the people you say you care about.

Real friends will show you that they want you. If they actually like you, they will take the initiative to seek you out, because they enjoy your company. Even simple, casual contact, phone calls and IMs show you that they want to be around you.

Real friends will show you, in word and action, that they respect you. They will show you to your face… and they will show it behind your back, too. Even when you are not present, they will not say anything negative about you to others, or do anything that communicates a lack of respect for you. Real friends will defend your honor.

Real friends will show respect for the things that are important to you, even if those things are not important to them. They will refrain from making derogatory comments about the beliefs and people you cherish.

Real friends will honor important milestones with you. They respect your significant events, places and people.

No one else but you is responsible for your feelings, but real friends will notice your feelings. They let you know that your feelings matter to them. They show you that it occurs to them to wonder how you might feel, and that they care. They know you well enough to sense how you feel.

Real friends share their important feelings with you, because they want you in their lives. Pseudo-friends continually shut you out, which tells you that they don’t want you or trust you.

Real friends allow you to care about them, and for them.

Real friends value you for more than your skill set. They value you for your character: for who you are, not just for what you can do.

Real friends give you room for failure. They do not devalue you for being imperfect.

Real friends are dependable. When you need them, real friends are there for you. And they trust that when they need you, you will be there for them, too.

Are you a real friend? I try my best to be one.

Are you blessed to have real friends, like I am? I hope so.

.

SOMA: sensual pleasure on Bondage

Friends noticed me in SL a lot more for a few weeks, and I want to share a bit about the project that I just completed there. Stop by the sim Bondage and have a look at SOMA.

SOMA is not easy to describe. They are a group of friends who share an interest in the pleasure of intellect, erotic sensuality, art and myth. At first glance, one may wonder whether it’s a sex club, an art gallery, a dance club or a temple. The answer is yes.

In ancient mythology, Soma was the drink of the gods, the Hindu equivalent of the Greco-Roman ambrosia. It is the elixir that celebrates the divine character of life. SOMA is a group of passionate friends and thoughtful lovers. Or is that lovers of thought? SOMA hosts discussions, dances, art exhibits, erotic parties, rituals, theater, concerts and more. SOMA is a pleasure feast of body, mind and spirit, a celebration of art and sensuality, of wild and tender passions.

SOMA began as one small building on a small parcel, and grew rapidly without much planning. When they finally took over the entire sim, they asked me to come and help them expand in a more thoughtful way. I retained their original Asian building and helped them expand into a large Roman area and a Celtic-themed area featuring a stone circle.

SOMA now has a blog, “Ambrosia” and can be found on Twitter @SomaSecondLife. Inworld, join the group Bondage Soma to receive notices. Below is a quick photo tour of SOMA.

One arrives at a central plaza that leads to all the various venues. Yes, that is an Egyptian god in front of a Roman villa. That type of convergence is typical of SOMA.

Soma Roman Villa

The group enjoys weekly dances in The Pleasure Dome. Love the Alchemy Immortalis “Haute Suite” chairs.

Pleasure Dome

Sculpted deities by the amazing Ryusho Ort are featured in the central plaza.

Soma Statues Hindu Egyptian Gods

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions.

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions

Villa de L’Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng, a successful RL artist whose vibrant, colorful images celebrate life and love.

Villa de L'Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister.

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister

Artwork and logo by my wonderful friends Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Artwork and logo by Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Bacchus Pub, furnished with Max Graf’s excellent Rustica pub set.

Bacchus Pub, Rustica pub

The villa has several nooks and terraces for intimacy and romance.

Soma Romantic Terrace

Flute Alonzo’s furnishings have gorgeous textures and top quality animations.

Soma Flute Alonzo Furnishings

One private room has a Gorean dance pit and a setting for small group gatherings.

Soma Private Room

The sim is named Bondage. That said, it is not primarily a BDSM sim. But there is a small, elegant, intimate dungeon, the Temple of Bondage, well-equipped for sensual bondage play.

Temple of Bondage

The Temple of Bondage has a lovely public room and three private rooms equipped with dozens of the finest BDSM toys from BFE, Deviant, Dictatorshop and Nihil.

Temple of Bondage Dungeon Rooms

The Temple of Zeus and Hera provides a setting for pagan rituals and… well, other things.

Temple of Zeus and Hera

The Serene Meditation Garden is a lovely place for Tai Chi or just sitting, when you need to breathe.

Serene Meditation Garden

This Stone Circle is the setting for a popular weekly discussion group. I landscaped the oak grove around the group’s slightly kludgy standing stones to which they have grown sentimentally attached.

Stone Circle Oak Grove

Other features not pictured here include an elaborate undersea mer garden, tree house, beach house, and Japanese pleasure palace.

Be sure to stop by SOMA on Bondage and partake of its many pleasures.

True power

Virtual worlds have opened a door to BDSM for many people, allowing them to explore their curiosity about it in a fantasy environment. People who would never do so in “real” life can try on handcuffs, be chained and bound, and even submit to a Dominant, all without the risk of physical injury or social stigma. The wild popularity of BDSM in virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim attests to its genuine appeal in the sexual imagination.

But while casual dabbling in BDSM is safe and easy in virtual worlds, this very ease can be problematic. Those who have only experienced Domination and submission (D/s) in virtual worlds often think their experience and comprehension is complete. To be fair, I think some do develop a deep understanding; and the experience can be legitimate and worthwhile even for those who only get a glimpse of their own hidden desires, without fully exploring them.

Sadly, while virtual BDSM may be physically safe, I have seen far too many inhabitants of virtual worlds cause real-world emotional damage because they have no real idea what D/s is, or what it requires of them. It’s true that there is no one “right way” to do D/s. My Master and I practice an all-or-nothing form of D/s called TPE (Total Power Exchange), but even casual dabbling in D/s is not intrinsically wrong when it brings pleasure to all those involved. Unfortunately, too often it does not.

I’m not going to discuss the abusive sexual predators that lure women by claiming to be “Masters,” and then take advantage of them while ignoring a Dominant’s responsibilities. Much has been written of this elsewhere. In my case, I am fortunate to have a genuine Master who knows what he is doing, a good and loving man who takes his responsibilities seriously and who has the training, good character, compassion and strength to be a skilled Dominant.

Instead, I’d like to reflect on women I have met who call themselves submissives, but who are only posing. Bogus submissives have only their own self-interest in mind; they manipulate others and take advantage of them for their own agenda. They cause just as much emotional damage as bogus Masters. They are a special breed of sexual predator.

The dabblers who call themselves submissives usually have no idea what submission involves.

If you enjoy being restrained during sex… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you are attracted to a strong-willed man… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you wear a collar and know how to nadu… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you always do what everyone tells you to do… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you cooperate with a Master because you have no choice… you are not necessarily a submissive.

If you allow a Master to do only what you want him to do… you probably are not submissive.

If you tell a Master only what you think will get you laid… you probably are not submissive.

If you think you could roleplay as submissive sometimes… you probably are not submissive.

What are the differences between a bogus submissive and a genuine one? To me, the difference is a matter of character and nature. Some people play a submissive role. But some of us find that submission reveals our truest selves, our deepest, most authentic nature. Submission isn’t about what we do. Submission is about who we are.

Does the idea of surrendering complete control of yourself to a trusted Master thrill you? Does the excitement increase the more you surrender? Are you turned on by the thought of permanently abandoning your will to his? If so, then you probably are a submissive.

On the other hand, if it fills you with dread and suspicion, you probably are not a submissive.

The acid test comes the first time the Master directs you to do something you really don’t want to do. Many women are willing to play a submissive role temporarily—as long as she trusts that the Master will do exactly what she wants him to do to please her. There is nothing wrong with that. But it isn’t submission, it’s just cooperation. True submission is complete surrender. Of course you want pleasure, and a good Master wants that for you. But TPE submission means completely letting go of your own will, and trusting him, without setting your own pleasure as a condition. For a true submissive, that very act of surrender is the pleasure—that intoxicating rush of letting go and giving yourself to him.

You may think it sounds passive and easy to surrender your will. Power exchange is far from easy. It is a conscious choice you must make, over and over again, that requires a great deal of courage and inner strength. Saying yes to him means that you must be strong enough to say no to everyone else, including yourself. True submission means having true power, and then giving it away. You must own your own power, before you can give it away.

You may be able to deceive him, to play along and make him think you are surrendering, while in reality you hold on to your own power. That’s why I mentioned character. You know if you are not being honest. And eventually it will come out. If you are willing to lie to your Master, that is a matter of character. If you know you aren’t a true submissive, if you basically just want him to be your lover on your own terms, and yet you play the part of a true submissive—you are living a lie. You may in fact be a sexual predator. You risk causing emotional damage, whether you mean to or not.

If my description of total submission doesn’t appeal to you, there is no fault in it. It’s not a bad thing to admit that you like to role play as a submissive occasionally, but that you are not really cut out to be an authentic, 24/7 TPE submissive. I encourage you to enjoy dabbling in BDSM, and to take and give pleasure where you can.

But if you know this about yourself, do not try to hide it. If you are not a true submissive, do not try to pass yourself off as one.

In recent months, I have watched more than one bogus submissive wreak havoc in the lives of people I love. With only her own pleasure in mind, she accepted a collar and the loving care and protection of a Master. Thinking only of what was in it for her, she mouthed the words “yes Master” without revealing what she was thinking: “…as long as it’s convenient for me.”

She didn’t want a Master; she just wanted a lover.

She did whatever it took to lure him into a relationship under false pretenses.

She played the role, like a game, taking what she could get.

She let him love her, as long as it was convenient.

And when it came time to live up to her promise, she deserted him and broke his heart.

She damaged us, too. The betrayals cut like a knife through the community of family and friends who supported our beloved Master and friend. We agonized with him, hurt for him, dropped everything to stand by him when he needed us. We, too, suffered, as his open and generous spirit shuttered tight, his trust broken.

But the bogus submissive never stopped to think of what her lie would do to us, or even to him. She never considered the pain she caused. She thought only of herself.

She left in a whirlwind of drama that she created, a smokescreen with which she attempted to veil her deception. She did not have the strength of character to say, “I’m sorry. I thought I was cut out for this, but I’m not.” Instead, she invented some bogus reason to make it seem that she was not at fault. But she fooled no one, except perhaps herself.

I have seen this scenario play out more than once in recent months. My motivation in writing this post is not to claim “I’m a true submissive and you’re not.” It is, rather, a cry of resentment that the dishonesty of bogus submissives hurts me and my loved ones.