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(Non-sexual) domination, submission, and me

Written by annonymous. Posted in Asj Members Share Their Thoughts

 

For the following post it got tiresome to say “in my experience” all the time, so I’m just going to say it once at the beginning: Any generalizations are generalizations based on my experience and are only meant to apply there. If it speaks to you, cool. If it doesn’t speak to you, also cool.

Most BDSMers are not very aware of sexism or heteronormativity, and a very large chunk of people who do understand those things don’t understand BDSM, or are actively hostile to it. So I don’t have a lot of people to talk to about my orientation confusions. For most of this journey I’ve had to find my own way, and I’m still just getting started, basically. I haven’t even put any of my feelings about BDSM into physical practice yet; I’m still working things out inside myself.

About a year ago I started identifying as a submissive based on my sexual fantasies (from a young age) and online erotic activity. But lately I’ve become a little bit doubtful about that identification. There are a couple of reasons for this: my extreme hesitation bordering on fear when thinking about actually becoming sexually active in the 3D world; the incongruity between what mainstream BDSMers tend to say submission looks like and what I want for myself; a couple of Dominant fantasies that are sneaking into my imagination; and various aspects of my nonsexual behavior. For example, when watching movies with friends, I most prefer a movie that I’ve seen and they haven’t so that I can enjoy their reactions, which is the kind of pleasure in creating experiences for another that I associate with Dominants.

Yesterday when talking online with someone I don’t know very well, I realized he was a Dominant. I confirmed it privately with him. We weren’t talking about BDSM, but it was obvious. Dominants tend to use certain patterns of speech that subtly assert control over the conversation, and I am very sensitive to those patterns.

(Because the line between dominance and bullying is pretty thin in some places. A good, mature Dominant knows not to assert authority over someone who isn’t interested or who seems vulnerable in some way, but there are a lot of bad or immature Dominants. For example: Sometimes Dominants try to act alpha over someone without realizing it. If I notice that a Dominant just tried to control me subtly, and I point this out and say I’m not okay with it, a good Dominant will back down, apologize, and modify hir behavior. A bad Dominant will keep trying to control the conversation by belittling or being condescending. He may be so bothered by my request that he brings it up in later conversation as proof of my “hostility”.)

You see, dominance in this case has little to do with sex. There’s a high correlation between people who have dominant personalities and people who are sexually Dominant, but it doesn’t have to match. I know an aromantic asexual who is Dominant, for example. The point is, those speech patterns indicate not a sexual kink but a personality orientation.

Last night I connected some disparate thoughts I’ve had about all this and it totally blew me away.

I asked myself why I was so sensitive to Dominant patterns of speech. Obvious answer is obvious: it’s because I’m Submissive! OMG. I’m extremely responsive to Dominant behavior because I have the complementary personality orientation. I just fucking blew my own mind.

I told this conclusion to a friend and he pointed out that he is a Dominant type as well (“like a steamroller,” he's a mutual friend.) And then I thought back to the night before—I’d asked him if we could establish a procedure where I can shut off any avenue of conversation by saying “We’re not talking about this,” so that I don’t have to get upset by him on delicate subjects. (He said yes.) HOLY SHIT, I just set up a safe word procedure!

The more I thought about it, the more examples I came up with of interaction between me and Dominant people that were clearly the result of our complementary personalities, you know, complementing. And I was suddenly able to point to recurring behaviors that I can identify as submissive. Before yesterday, I knew I was sexually submissive, but I had not at ALL realized that I was submissive in this nonsexual way.

And there’s something else I realized: I am uncomfortable with all this. That realization was confusing to me for a bit, but I think I’ve figured it out.

First of all, understanding myself as submissive threw a lot of my past and present friendships into a new light. I suddenly understand problems I have in those relationships, and it’s pretty clear that some of those problems are DIRECTLY because I was responding submissively toward a Dominant without realizing it. HOLY SHIT. This explains SO MUCH. I can’t tell you how much I now understand went down the crapper because of my immaturity as a submissive and / or because a Dominant person acted inappropriately or exploitatively. Awkwardness: explained! Sexual tension: explained! Bewilderment and upset: explained!

If I had only understood myself better, I could have understood that I was responding to Dominant personalities with a mixture of attraction, confusion, and insecurity. And I could have understood why I was so sensitive to some of their flaws.

Second, it’s still difficult to think of myself as “submissive” because of all the negative connotations with the word. You know, “doormat,” “weak,” “immature,” and “needy.” So there’s an urge to judge myself for being this way.

But if I can figure out exactly how the nonsexual Dominant/submissive dynamic works, and figure out how to recognize bad Dominants more quickly (I’ve already encountered loads and some of them really messed me up), then I think my ability to take care of myself emotionally and socially is going to level up, like hella.

I have a lot more thinking about this to do. I’ve never read anything in the progressive/radical blagosphere, or in psych class, or even on Fetlife, about anything like this so I guess I’m on my own.

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