There is more to being a great submissive (sub) than just doing what you’re told. A good sub is someone who consciously surrenders control from an empowered position, and actively co-creates a positive climate of obedience.
To be truly obedient and a great submissive, you need to first be deeply in touch with your own individual needs and boundaries, and actively communicate them with your Dominant (Dom).
First, what is BDSM?
BDSM stands for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism.
These three pairings capture pretty much all dynamics in kink and fetish play. Within these dynamics, people often take on certain roles in order to facilitate various scenes. Someone needs to lead, or give, while another needs to follow, or receive, which is based off of each person’s unique kinks. Some love to be assertive and controlling, whereas another loves to be used and enjoyed.
The leading assertive force would be the Dom, while the yielding, receiving force would be the sub.
When you really zoom in, to a granular level, on who is being “Dominant” and “submissive” the lines between the two start to blur. In different ways, each person is serving the other, and each person has a different type of control. That is, if they’re doing things in a healthy way. In fact, you could even argue that, in many ways, the sub has more control than the Dom.
Is wanting to be submissive in BDSM healthy?
For individuals who want to be a submissive… fuck yes it is healthy.
In fact, the only thing unhealthy or disempowering about it would be for someone to try and tell you it’s wrong, or you’re not allowed to want what you want, or like what you like sexually. If a sexual act is occurring between two (or more) consenting adults, and isn’t harming any parties who are not consenting to the act, then it is healthy.
Do some people go into BDSM because of their unfaced shadow sides, and put themselves and other people in danger? Sure. But that happens literally everywhere that there are people. It’s not about BDSM, it’s about the people doing it.
The health, enjoyment, and healing power of BDSM depends on the intentions and personalities of the people involved. If people aren’t in touch with their boundaries and haven’t learned how to openly communicate, or they haven’t done the work to understand the power-hungry, or manipulative parts of their mind, BDSM can quickly feel unsafe and unhealthy.
BDSM can help you unlock and express parts of yourself that you never will through any other means. You should never feel ashamed for wanting to explore submissiveness.
Once you start demolishing the walls of societal sexual taboos in your mind, you will feel liberation and euphoria like never before.
What does being submissive mean?
To be submissive means to yield and cater to another person. It is surrendering to the will of another. It’s about treating the needs and desires of others (namely, your Dom) as more important than yours. In this context, your role is to serve your Dom and follow their lead. You are a slave to a master.
It takes incredible strength and heart to be submissive. There’s a ton of trust being consciously given to someone you love when putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Your participation allows for the polarity of the entire scene or relationship itself to exist and play out for all involved.
A sub will always aim to meet their master’s needs – not just sexually, but across the board. Some submissives are only subs in bed, and that’s fine. But many couples will choose to emphasize these roles in regular life as a way of enjoying the dynamic and sustaining foreplay. Some people do it 24/7, some part-time, and others only for sex. You and your Dom will negotiate your own terms.
You might just like to get spanked when you have sex. Or maybe you enjoy getting punished when you don’t empty the coffee maker, or leave simple household tasks unfinished. The beauty is that the extent of your Dom/sub dynamic can go as far as you want. It’s all a blank canvas for you both to custom design together.
The truth is, we’re already always playing out Dominant and submissive roles in our relationships all the time – both inside and outside the bedroom. And yes, we can be in these roles while also being in our power. Now you’re just going to do it with conscious intention, to customize and emphasize the polarity.
What being submissive is NOT
Being submissive does not equal being a doormat. You are still in control of your ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. You can apply the brakes at any time. Your boundaries and hard limits should be observed at all times. Any Dom who crosses those lines is being disrespectfully aggressive… not loving and mindful.
Submissiveness is not blind obedience or an act of self-abandonment. You powerfully CONSENT to relinquish control and submit to their will. Healthy submissiveness occurs within a container that you actively co-create with your Dom. It should feel right for you to play this role because you have already agreed upon how far you’re willing to go, and set clear boundaries to act within.
Being a sub is in no way a weak or “lesser” role. It is not a disempowering position, and you shouldn’t feel “less” for wanting to play it. A good sub plays a counter-intuitively powerful and crucial role in BDSM. Don’t ever forget it.
What’s In It For The Submissive?
One of my favourite quotes on the subject comes from The New Topping Book by the authors who wrote the fairly infamous book The Ethical Slut. Take it away Dossie and Janet.
“One submissive we know, who drove twice a week from her work as a housewife and mother to take care of her master’s household, told us, “At home, I do the same things, and nobody cares. When I do them for my master, he notices them and appreciates them and gives me lots of positive feedback for doing them.” So for at least some submissives, part of their pleasure comes from being noticed and appreciated for what they have to offer. The owner of such a slave told us, “She is the most precious thing I could possibly own, and I never forget that.”
For others, the charge is just the opposite – being faceless, dehumanized, as much the dominant’s possession as her furniture or toothbrush and hence unworthy of comment. For these, the ability to “turn off their brain” by becoming a pure instrument of the dominant’s will can be both rewarding and sexy.
The fantasy may be that the dominant’s will is paramount and that the submissive needs don’t matter – but in reality, a submissive whose basic needs aren’t being met won’t feel submissive for very long, and a dominant who’s exerting her will over an unhappy submissive will find the experience hollow and frustrating.”
As with everything to do with sexuality, what appeals to one person about a sexual dynamic is often completely different than what someone else gets out of it. It all comes down to individual tastes and preferences.
Quick Sub Do’s & Don’ts
DO submit to someone you love and respect, and whom feels the same for you.
DON’T ever submit to someone you have no rapport, background, or social proof with, or that you just met online. This is too vulnerable of a position to be in with someone who doesn’t have good communication skills and the ability to read you on a deeper level. Take it slow, get to know them, and build the relationship over time. Assuming that your intention is to have a longer term dynamic with this person… you have lots of time, and there is no need to rush into things.
DO study your boundaries and moods, and communicate the shit out of them. Establish safe words and limits for each session.
DON’T continue your BDSM relationship if your Dom recklessly crosses your limits, ignores your safe word(s), or doesn’t respect your feedback. Have a serious conversation about boundaries and trust. If they don’t respond well, cut things off. It is absolutely imperative that you engage with someone who honours and respects your boundaries and needs.
DO go the extra mile to meet your Dom’s needs and expectations. Being a sub isn’t just passive order taking. It’s active generosity and service of their pleasure. Accept punishments when appropriate within the agreed terms and conditions.
DON’T ever do something that makes you feel a hard “NO” on the inside. Being a sub in BDSM isn’t about being used in a one-way street style relationship. This is about mutual service of your pleasure and best interests. No good Dom would ever want to put you in that position.
DO try on some pet names. A few common terms are: little, slave, pet, etc. But you will likely prefer something your Dom likes to call you organically. You can get as dirty or as precious as you want. Some people like “slut” or “bitch, and others prefer an alias, or cute pet names like “honey.”
DON’T talk back to, question, or sass your Dom when their request or behaviour is clearly aligned with your agreed contract. Unless you’re into brat play and love the dynamic tension… in that case then go to town!
Obedience: Submitting To Your Dom
As long as you aren’t crossing your own boundaries, surrender to your Dom and be obedient. Follow the rules they set in place. Proactively consider their needs and preferences, and meet them before they have to ask. If they claim you with a collar or other prop, wear it at the appropriate times/events.
BDSM is about pleasure and totality of self-expression. You should be PLAYING a slave dynamic, not actually feeling overtly oppressed. This is why it’s important for you to do the work of communicating what you’re into and willing to explore with your Dom.
Healthy, total obedience can only occur when you have helped set the stage that you’ll both be playing on. To fully surrender into your role as a sub, and serve your Dom fully, you need to feel trust and safety. This not only comes from how your Dom behaves, and the quality of your connection, but how well you two have established the ground rules.
From the outset:
– Describe your arousal blueprint to them (what turns you on, and what turns you off).
– Talk about your hard limits (what you’re not willing to do). It doesn’t have to be as extreme as hook suspension or blood-play to count as a boundary. You could have “No’s” around the simplest of sexual acts and punishments, like whipping, anal, choking, nipple play, etc.
– Hear out your Dom’s needs and be honest about what you are/aren’t open to, and what you’re willing to explore.
Once you have gone back-and-forth talking about your preferences and desires, clearly outline what is in your contract and honour those rules. Your Dom should provide you with defined expectations for behaviour and punishments for missing the mark.
Your Dom will only assume control once you have agreed to give it to them. They don’t just take it from you.
But once you’ve set the terms, your job is now to let go, trust, and surrender. Don’t direct, argue with, or question them. That doesn’t mean you can’t voice any legitimate feelings or problems, safe word within your scene, or renegotiate your contract. It just means you have to make an active effort to be in service and remain yielding.
Speak to them the way they like to be spoken to. Use their preferred title. Remember what they’ve rewarded you for in the past and repeat those actions and behaviours. It might be cleaning their space, performing personal tasks, touching or talking to them in a certain way, etc.
Important notes on safety & rough play for subs
It’s standard practice for your Dom to shoulder the responsibility of looking after your wellbeing, especially if you’re engaging in rougher play. They should be checking in, taking care of you and bringing whatever you need – towels, cuddles, ice packs, water, etc.
Getting your internal (and sometimes physical) needs met is critical to you feeling deeply safe with your Dom, and happy to continue BDSM play and obediently submitting in future. For them to hold up their end, you have to ask for what you need.
If you and your Dom like to get more intensely rough when running scenes, know that it can be normal for some subs to experience a dip in mood and mindset in the days after intense play. This is known as a sub drop.
It happens because your brain dumps a ton of chemicals into your system when you feel either scared or really turned on. It’s almost like the well of your body’s natural “feel-good juice” gets tapped dry, and needs a few days to replenish.
Those chemicals also mask pain and increase your tolerance, so you might be left feeling more sore than you expected to when they wear off the next day.
Even though rougher play might all be consensual, and not cross your expressed boundaries, our bodies still have a deeper subconscious intelligence that takes information from our environment, or what’s happening to us, and tells the body what to do.
So, if you’re getting into more intense scenes, your autonomic nervous system doesn’t necessarily know the difference between a legitimate threat and someone you’ve given permission to be rougher with you. As a quick aside, the exact same thing happens when you get a tattoo. You consent to having someone stab with you with a tiny needle for a couple of hours… and while you do want it to happen, it still taxes your nervous system and after a few hours of getting tattooed, it is natural for your body to start tremoring or resisting the pain more actively.
If your body thinks it’s threatened at some level, it kicks some responses into gear that are unhealthy in the long term. This is a big reason why it’s so important to have a Dom who truly loves you to make you feel safe and relaxed, whether it’s before, during, or after a scene. Your nervous system actually needs them in order to properly regulate itself and leave you in a good place.
That said, unless you’re being consistently pushed to a place of panic and high adrenal arousal, you probably won’t have to worry about a sub drop. Still, it’s always nice to keep in touch with your Dom and have them check in on you to make sure everything is more than okay, and you feel safe.
– Examine your boundaries and proactively communicate them
– Choose your Dom wisely (and slowly) and make sure they genuinely care for and look after you
– Once you agree to submit, really submit. Anticipate their needs and actively work to meet them
– Your contract is always up for negotiation. Raise issues when needed.
It can take time to settle into these dynamics. What submission feels and looks like for you will change over time. The most important things to start with are safe partners and total communication. The rest will unfold with a little exploration.
In the mean time, let go, have fun, and be sensitively of service.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed reading this article, you will like also love checking out:
– The Ultimate Beginners Guide To BDSM
– How To Cultivate Light And Dark Sexual Energy
– Supercharge Your Sex Life (video series for men)
– The Single Best Sex Toy For Couples