Is God the Ultimate Submissive?

My, it’s been a while! I’ve been trying to find time and energy to write for weeks, and now, I have it, courtesy of coronavirus lockdown. I want to take this opportunity to post all the ideas that have been noodling around in my brain without worrying about polish. Without further ado, I’ll dive into the main body of this post.

I’ve heard it said that God can be imagined as the ultimate dominant–valid, I see it. I haven’t seen anyone propose the idea that God is the ultimate submissive, however. Considering that a healthy power exchange dynamic requires at least two people on basically equal footing to function, I find that discrepancy interesting (and frankly, troubling).

So I’d like to try a little thought experiment and ask whether God is the ultimate submissive–or even whether God has submissive qualities. What might I/we learn about God (and about kink) from this angle?

These are my current thoughts (my beliefs about who God is and what God is like vary from day to day, so for the purposes of this post, I’ll say that God is all-powerful and chooses to be vulnerable in order to be in relationship with us even though I don’t necessarily believe that all of the time).

What might make God the ultimate submissive?
Let’s start at the beginning. God creates the marvelous world and gives humans the freedom to do what we want. God sets basic limits and boundaries, as a submissive would*, and we humans take control, making plenty of mistakes along the way. God has the theoretical ability to end this exchange at any time, but God doesn’t.

God lets us try and fail, trusting us day after day with what we have been given–the power to care for, learn from, and reshape creation, the most precious and vulnerable aspect of God’s self. We’re not perfect, and God doesn’t expect us to be. We can hurt God and each other when we don’t use our power wisely. God is strong and resilient enough to live without us–God could survive our self-destruction. But God chooses to live with us, to see what we’ll do next and work with us as we learn.

As ‘dominants’, how could we not do whatever we can to show how much we appreciate this extraordinary trust? If we imagine God in this way, how might we approach faith differently? How might we approach kink differently?

Those are my thoughts for now. I’m interested in what this conception of God sparks for others!

(*I know, dominants get to have limits and boundaries too!)

Fetish Foibles, Part 3 – Social Submission

Welcome to Fetish Foibles, the series where I recount my mistakes as a Dominant for our mutual edification. In the wise words of Queen Clarisse of Genovia, “Don’t make the same mistakes I did; make your own mistakes!” 

This one’s a twofer. Both of these situations relate to the tricky issues that can come up with ‘public’ acts of submission (in kink-oriented settings). The first one is someone else’s foible, but it made me remember one of mine. 

Tl;dr – When experimenting with D/s in a social setting, clarify expectations with your partner and the people with whom you’re socializing. 

I had a strange and mildly unpleasant social experience at the local fetish club recently, which I’ll pick apart now. A Dom and sub asked to sit next to me on the sofa, which was fine. Then, the Dom sat on the sofa, and the sub knelt on a cushion in front of him and began to massage his feet. Neither party spoke to me after settling in. Now, normally, that sort of thing is my jam. Power exchange with service and protocol is often more interesting to me than play without power exchange. And not talking to people? Great! But in this situation, I felt like I had been roped into a scene as an unwilling spectator. 

We were sitting close enough together that I could have made eye contact with the sub while looking straight ahead. I felt like I was sitting too close to something so intimate. I’ll freely admit that I’ve gotten a bit desensitized to sex. I can watch a sex scene and think “Huh. That’s nice; they’re using protection. Good technique…” without getting hot under the collar. D/s protocol scenes are a different matter. It’s the vulnerability! *bangs fist on table* And the intimacy! Ahem. Anyway. This couple could have chosen any other location in the dungeon, including various chairs. I got the sense that they wanted others to be close and to watch. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but I had two issues, which I didn’t fully understand in the moment:

  1. They didn’t tell me they wanted to do this dynamic interaction when they asked to sit down, so I didn’t get to consent to being so close to the scene (generally speaking, it is etiquette here to stay at least a few feet away from a scene in progress). 
  2. They didn’t talk to me or even introduce themselves before starting their scene. I then didn’t feel like I could talk to them or ask for clarification, as they were cultivating an interaction with each other. I just happened to be mere inches away. 

Combined, these issues made me feel like a prop. A very awkward prop. 

Here’s what would have helped:

  1. They could have scened elsewhere in the dungeon. Granted, this couple may not have thought of what they were doing as a scene, but the sofas are generally social spaces, and these two were cultivating something very specific and personal. It felt different from the kind of socializing that D/s couples sometimes do, where the s-type sits on the floor in front of the D-type while they watch others play. 
  2. They could have introduced themselves and clarified what they wanted to do. The Dom could have said “Hi, I’m So-and-so, and this is Such-and-such. I’m speaking for her right now because she’s under protocol this evening and is only talking to me. We’d like to do a little foot massage scene here because it’s right in the middle of the dungeon, but we don’t want to invade your space…” And then, I probably would’ve thought “Cool!,” introduced myself, asked a couple of clarifying questions (like whether the Dom was open to socializing or wanted to focus on his sub), and had a lovely time watching. 

If they’d taken one of those steps, I would not have felt used (fortunately, I was able to make a fairly quick exit, as my sub prepared a space elsewhere to give me a massage). 

Now, that situation reminded me of a mistake I made many months ago, when my sub and I were experimenting with ways to show our D/s dynamic in kink spaces. The first time I brought him to the dungeon, I had him sit on a cushion on the floor in front of me. What we didn’t realize was that when people see that configuration, they sometimes assume that the floor-sitter is under some sort of speaking restriction protocol. My poor sub, social butterfly that he is, found himself largely left out of conversations because people did not know how to interact with him. 

On top of being in a new space and trying to meet new people, he was trying to be a good sub in a public setting for the first time, and my expectations of him weren’t clear. I simply hadn’t considered the practical, social implications of our physical positioning. It left him feeling unstable–and even unwanted. As the D-type in that situation, I should have clarified my expectations for his behavior and checked in with him about how the new protocol felt throughout the evening. If I had realized that people thought they weren’t supposed to talk to him, I would have clarified with them too, or I would have had him sit beside me so that he could converse more easily with others. 

Moral of the story: when using a public protocol, don’t assume that everyone’s on the same page. Clarify expectations with your partners and others in the immediate area. And if you’re the D-type in a situation that renders your s-type more vulnerable than usual, remember that your duty of protection extends into the social arena. 

Being a Body

I had my first “Bodies and Theology” class today. It was great. Apropos of my last post, we started class with theatre-influenced movement exercises. At one point, the professor (who is wonderful) asked us to walk like dogs. While my classmates remained upright, I dropped to the floor and scurried around like a puppy. I got to be silly–and there is exhilarating bravery in silliness. We also created some body sculptures, an exercise borrowed from the Theatre of the Oppressed. Posing together without any foreplanning, we attempted to convey the concepts of “knowledge,” “theology,” and “God” through our bodies. 

“God” was the most challenging; our professor invited those who weren’t part of the sculpture to modify it. They joined our hands together until we formed a circle. As a result, the body sculpture that started as a vision of disconnected hierarchy (one person standing, others kneeling and cowering), became an image of connection and interdependence. A very different understanding of God. Rich discussion arose from the choices that we made to represent each idea, the beliefs and biases that they revealed. 

In this class, we are invited to discover God as people with physical bodies. Christianity isn’t traditionally good at that, so I’m excited about this opportunity. It also feels good to have a break from the intensely cerebral space of other classes. When we shared our reasons for taking the Bodies class, I said that I wanted to work on being ‘present’ as a body and to experience things without immediately intellectualizing them. For those who follow my kink journey, that’s also a goal I have for my current exploration of submission. My Dominant said early on that she wanted to see me “feeling without thinking.” What a terrifying thought!

Thinking and feeling are my bread and butter. My strong feelings are normally mediated through intellectual, critical thought, which is useful most of the time. It can, however, lead to a sense of distance from my body when I most want to be present, as if I’m more of a brain floating along than a full being. It sometimes means that sexual experiences feel ‘hotter in hindsight,’ more intensely erotic after I’m removed from the situation than in the moment. I hope that the movement and physicality that this class requires, my continued kink exploration, and the interplay between those two different realms will encourage me to enjoy my body and connect with the Divine in a new way–as an embodied person.

Penance, Part 3

I’m exploring some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance” through this experimental semi-fantasy flash erotica series. It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. For best results, read Part 1 and Part 2 first. This installment is a response to the Masturbation Monday blog meme. 

He’s not sure why he’s just sitting here, and not just because the stool is too small. The Dominant has barely touched their water, opting to scribble more notes with that scarlet ink. 

He’s not exactly fuming anymore, just sort of sputtering along while he waits, sometimes swirling the ice in his sweating glass. They ignore him. 

He settles in for a while and then gets annoyed again, gripping the glass in cycles of calm and baffled frustration. 

The ice has all but melted when they look up at last. Well? he thinks loudly at them. 

“I have a few questions,” they say. 

He straightens, some part of him still wanting to make a good impression. “Okay.” 

If his lack of formality bothers them, they don’t let on. “Why did you contact the Agency?” they ask. 

He blinks. “I want to be punished. You’re here to punish me, right?” he mutters.

The Dominant clicks their tongue, folding their papers away. The man thinks he catches a red flash of a tic-tac-toe puzzle in the corner of one page. 

“I am in charge of your penance.” 

“I know that,” he says, unconsciously grabbing at the loose fabric in his lap. He’s ready. 

“I don’t think you’re ready to be punished.”

“What!?” he blurts. “Of course I’m ready! Have been for, well…” He refuses to look down, instead gazing past the Dominant at the old cat clock on the kitchen wall, the only relic kept from his mother’s house. Its pendulum tail swings silently. 

The Dominant nods at the edge of his vision. “When you can finish that sentence, I will consider it.” Their words are grave and stern, but their face is softer than it has been all evening. 

He swallows, glancing around the space and its over-large windows. Damn them

“It doesn’t have to be today,” the Dominant says. 

“Okay,” he repeats automatically.

“Let’s talk through your form answers now,” they say. And they do. In excruciating detail. As it turns out, ‘erotic humiliation’ involves more than being called a ‘worthless worm’. Well, he’s starting to get an inkling of that. 

“I want to see the…implements,” he says, blushing again for some reason. 

The Dominant thinks about it for a moment. Then, they nod. “Pick up the stool, take five steps back, and sit back down.”

Oh. Maybe he’s finally getting a real order. He does as he’s told, heart beating faster as the Dominant unzips their black bag. He imagines clanking chains, bright red ball gags, wooden paddles and sleek fiberglass canes. 

Instead, they pull out…a spiral-bound notebook and pen. Expression neutral, they open the notebook. Empty, college ruled pages. 

“What?” he says again, too confused to muster any other emotion. 

The Dominant laughs. “The implements.” They look fondly down at their notebook. 

The man finds himself smiling at their glee. “I thought you were gonna break out the dragon-tail,” he says.

“I didn’t bring the corporal implements today.” 

“Well, will you use them on me…some time?” he asks. Strange, hopeful dread seethes in the pit of his stomach at the thought. 

The Dominant leans forward, eyes still dancing with mirth. “You’ll have to earn them.” 

-To be continued-

Masturbation Monday

That Awkward Moment When Even Theoretically Discussing Punishment Makes You Cry…

[Image description: Photo is of an old bamboo rod, not recommended for heavy impact.]

Negotiations continue for #Subpocalypse2019. I’m currently negotiating a new D/s dynamic and making discoveries along the way. Today, we’ve been discussing the concepts of “bratting” and “punishment.” I asked my prospective Domme to give her thoughts. She explained the nuances of bratting well. Bratting is a slippery term that encompasses many complex ideas (including but not limited to playfulness, manipulation, flirtation, and acting out). Folks pursuing D/s, make sure you’re on the same page about bratting! But I’ll reserve thoughts on that for another post. The concept that really got to me today was Punishment. 

Now, I know I’m not the only kinkster who grew up dreading punishment, whose childhood school identity was “angel” rather than “brat.” I glowed under the praise of my teachers and rarely got in trouble. Of course, the other side of that coin was that on the rare occasions when I actually did get in trouble, I was a wreck. The punishments felt so public–through the fourth grade, most teachers used a tag-pulling system, cutesy laminated construction paper cut-outs labeled with our names. If you got into trouble, you had to “pull your tag/card/take down your airplane.” For me, having to go up and move my own name to lower level was embarrassing, even shaming. And yet, other students, whose identities were not rooted in their similarity to divine beings, got in trouble daily without a care. I’ve learned some of their habits over the years. I’m recovering from perfectionism and have grown a fiercer, more flexible approach to life–one can’t be an angel in justice ministries; only humans need apply. 

Today, however, I read this Domme’s descriptions of the scenarios that would warrant punishment (mostly outright disobedience or disrespect) on the brink of tears. It wasn’t just vulnerability related to giving someone the authority to punish. Apparently, the prospect of punishment–even entirely theoretical–was enough to put me right back into that third-grade “I disappointed the teacher!” mindset. 

So, you might wonder, why even make punishment part of the dynamic? Not all D/s dynamics incorporate real punishment (and most scenes use, at most, ‘funishment’). In vanilla life, I have limited faith in the utility of punishments to change behavior. But. I can’t imagine subbing to someone in a stable dynamic without giving them the power to punish. As a Dominant, I occasionally use punishment in my dynamic with my sub. To me, in a D/s context, punishment calls attention to a problem quickly and decisively, it reinforces the power exchange dynamic, and it helps both parties to reset and move forward. 

Does punishment itself modify behavior? Perhaps, but not necessarily. As I think back to my school days, I imagine that I would’ve made about the same number of mistakes with or without punishment. Disappointing people that I respected, on top of failing publicly, regardless of the reason, hurt.

As I think about it more, while I would hate to do something ‘punishment-worthy’ as a sub, I also realize that I’m not stuck in the ‘angel’ mindset anymore. This is a dynamic that I’m choosing as an adult. I’ll try my best, but I don’t have to be perfect. My identity isn’t built on that anymore. And when–not if–I get punished, I won’t be recoiling in defense of that identity. Punishment is not about ‘being bad’; it’s about using all the tools available in this consensual power exchange to learn and grow, even when it’s hard. I will need to be vigilant when that ‘angel’ mindset pops up, but I now have the resources (perhaps including punishment) to treat it as a way of thinking borne of perfectionism, not my core identity. 

For other takes on punishment, check out my new flash erotica series Penance and my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance.”

“Wow, you’re so domly!” – Negotiating from the Other Side of the Slash

[Image description: Photo is of red and purple flowers in a hanging basket.]

I’m already learning about myself through submission (even though I haven’t actually submitted yet). Having spent the past year exploring dominance (read my erotica “Stay Like This” to get a sense of my D/s dynamic with my sub), I decided recently, in abject terror, to start exploring submission. You can read about that here and here. As I browsed articles about D/s from my shiny new submissive perspective, I found one by Pearl O’Leslie called “Why a Special Protocol to Approach Dominant Women is a Bad Idea.” It made me think about the ways that men approached me on FetLife while I explored dominance. 

One pattern I noticed was that they sometimes perceived my frankness, my refusal to sugarcoat or soften my boundaries, as a sign of dominance. More than once, men I had been messaging with said they could sense my dominance. I think that happened for a few reasons: for some desperate souls, it was surely flattery. Others probably lacked experience with firm, direct women in their vanilla lives (which makes me sad). Still others were comforted by my ability to ask good questions; it inspired in them a desire to submit that made me feel authentically dominant. I’ve had the most fun with group three. 

I didn’t enter these conversations with the intent to be Ms. Domly Domme. I was interacting online as a woman, distrustful of men as a group and thinking that clarifying my boundaries quickly would shoo away the creeps. But it’s more complicated than that; in hindsight, I believe that part of what empowered me to set such clear boundaries was my dominant mindset. As Pearl O’Leslie writes, “Sure, it feels good to say ‘how can you hope to be a submissive for someone if you ignore my ‘no dick shots!’ request in my profile!’” 

And it did feel good. It felt powerful to be so firm. It felt comfortable. For a year, dominance has been a security blanket, reinforcing my sense that I can claim firm boundaries without guilt. But firm boundaries and dominance are not the same thing. Likewise, lacking firm boundaries is not submission. As I would tell any sub, everyone gets to have boundaries; no special approach required. That has been strangely hard for me to tell myself. Why? Because now that I’ve started exploring submission, I don’t have my security blanket. It’s made me feel awkward and prickly in a way that I rarely do as a Dominant, anxious and uncertain about whether I’m negotiating ‘correctly’ as an s-type. That’s been a challenge, and I couldn’t quite articulate why until I read that article and recognized my reliance on my dominance. 

Even without my security blanket, I need to have strong boundaries for my own safety and that of potential partners. With an ethical partner, I can expect them to be learned, acknowledged, and respected, no matter what role I choose. So when I put a “no dick pics” request in my profile or set any other boundary, in any role, I can let the boundary be without feeling either overly defensive in my vulnerability or guilty for the boundary’s existence. While understanding that doesn’t take away the fear of the unknown, it does reassure me to know that I don’t have to compromise my boundaries to negotiate as a submissive. 


Further reading: “Domism: Role Essentialism and Sexism Intersectionality in the BDSM Scene

Teaching from the Bottom” by blogger Kinky & Nerdy

“Just as I Am” – Confessions of a Kinky Churchgoer

[Image description: Photo is of a cautious but curious calico cat that has just stepped through a doorway.]

Church felt weirdly relevant today. Not that church is ever irrelevant, but I kept making connections between this morning’s worship service and my personal life in ways I don’t always. You see, I’m currently negotiating a new power exchange (which I will hereafter refer to as #Subpocalypse2019), and it’s brought up a lot of difficult feelings. I’ve felt more overwhelmed, afraid, even desolate in the past couple of days than I have in months. Maybe that’s tuned me in more than usual. 

My sense that the service was speaking directly to my inner turmoil started with the Prayer of Confession: “We fear failures, and we cling to unquestioned habits […] Show us your way. Open our eyes to new ventures,” we prayed. I do fear failure in this new venture, one that’s appeared seemingly out of the blue. It will involve questioning my habits in unusual (and embarrassing) ways, as I make my life available for another to view. I felt like that prayer was for me. 

Other messages jumped out at me as the service continued, especially in the hymns. When I saw “Just as I am” in the service order, I looked up from my bulletin suspiciously. “Just as I am though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt…” the song goes. I could give or take some of the theology in that hymn, but the thought of just…being…and showing up as myself with all my fears feels especially poignant right now.

Fortunately, I have a supportive pod of people who are proud of me for showing up and have given me space to feel scared without judgment. My sub is excited to see me experience life on the other side of the D/s slash; he’s been giving me pep talks over the past few days and encouraging me when I’ve been tearful. I don’t know how much involvement God has in shaping personal relationships, but I think God understands my feelings and is proud of me too. 

The final hymn was “Here I Am, Lord.” That one’s just always a tear-jerker. It was a very special song to one of our members who died a couple of years ago. It illustrates his way of being so clearly. It’s a song about committing to mission even when you feel unprepared and vulnerable–it also imagines God as immensely loving and thus, vulnerable to hurt. 

Today’s service was about being courageous, vulnerable, and flexible in ministry to the world, but I hear it another way too: I hear a call to minister to myself. I hear a call to grow more loving to myself through the discomfort that submission brings. With the guidance and care of others, I am called to minister to myself “just as I am,” fearful and brave and loving. 

*Prayer is from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, John Knox Press, 2013.

Submission is Scary

[Image description: Photo is of a freshly rained-on brick patio with plants growing around the edges and through the cracks. A pair of pale human feet is at the edge of the frame.]

This’ll be short because I’m emotionally exhausted.

I’ve heard it said that in BDSM, dominants learn power, submissives learn courage, and switches learn wisdom (I wish I could find the original source). That statement oversimplifies things for sure, but it illustrates where I am right now. Looks like I’m about to be very courageous. I’m talking with a friend about experimenting with a low-key D/s dynamic where she is dominant and I am submissive; it’s more of a mindset than a specific kind of play. Not having had any experience with actually submitting before, I’m terrified. 

She brought up the idea of D/s a couple of days ago, and my subconscious wouldn’t leave it alone (I actually dreamed about it; I pay attention to dreams). When we finally started discussing it in messages, I had a physical fight-or-flight response–pounding heart, churning stomach, etc. Having only experienced kink so far as a dominant and top, giving up control and letting myself be led is scary. But scary doesn’t mean bad, and I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t let myself be scared sometimes, I won’t grow. 

Even though I’m intimidated by the vulnerability of it, I’m proud of myself just for being courageous enough to explore this path–I feel braver already. I’m also terribly curious about what I will learn and the wisdom that this experiment will bring. 

That’s all I got for now, but I’ll have more reflections soon!