How to Be Submissive

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The AskMen Guide for How to Be Submissive in Bed

How to Be Submissive

The AskMen Guide for How to Be Submissive in Bed

When you hear the word “submissive,” what do you think of?

Many people think sexual submissiveness is all about allowing yourself to be (consensually) “punished” or otherwise denigrated, but the reality is much more complicated.

And thanks to either sensationalist or outright false portrayals by movies and pop culture, myths and misinformation continue to abound when it comes to this unique area of sexuality.

In this piece, we spoke to several leading sexperts in the world of BDSM and beyond who know what it means to navigate submissive play time in a healthy, safe way.

So if you’re curious about exploring your submissive side, or wondering what that might look like, read on.

What Is Sexual Submission?

“Sexual submission is a form of power exchange and a way to experience a consensual negotiation of surrendering power or decision-making to another person,” says Mark Cunningham, a licensed marriage and family therapist, AASECT-certified sex therapist, psychedelic therapist and owner of Adaptive Therapy.

Ideally, says Cunningham, these actions are things that are discussed and mutually agreed upon prior to the experience.

“These negotiations define how one person may demand or take action toward another person,” he says.

If that sounds a little vague, it’s in part because submission is a broad concept. BDSM play is not a “one size fits all” or uniform area of sexual expression in the least.

“There is almost no ‘always’ when it comes to BDSM play,” says BDSM educator and author Jay Wiseman.

Being a submissive can thus vary widely depending on what you and your partner agree to.

“Sexual submission can involve the use of props, toys, ropes, nipple clamps, cages, and so much more,” says Cunningham. “Or it can purely be a psychological or behavioral relationship that does not involve any use of items.”

In other words, how you play is all down to you and your partner (or partners).

It’s also important to remember that “submission and kink are not always related to one another,” clarifies Leighanna Nordstrom MA, MFT-C of Break the Mold Therapy. “Kink is about non-normative sexual expression (i.e., trying all the things you didn’t learn about in traditional sex ed); submission is about power and control (i.e., allowing someone to determine how you feel and behave during certain scenarios).”

Meaning, you can be in an otherwise “vanilla” relationship, but still have a little power exchange dynamic in a sexual relationship, or you can use submission as a vehicle to explore various kinks, such as those that often fall under the umbrella of humiliation play.

Being a Sub Isn’t Set in Stone

It can be useful to see “submissive” and “dominant” power dynamics as appetites, instead of hardened identities. (And being a submissive also does not necessarily make one a “bottom” automatically either, contrary to many people’s assumptions — it’s definitely possible to bottom while domming, and vice versa.)

In a tutorial video, the world-renowned sexologist, educator and author Midori discusses the differences between topping and bottoming, and how these terms can work in the context of BDSM power exchange — but can also apply even if you’re more on the vanilla side, too.

“Top is usually the person doing an action — being in charge, doing the tying, doing the spanking, or being physically on top, or going ‘into’ the other person’s body with a finger, tongue, dildo or penis. Top may or may not include being dominant or sadistic,” Midori explains.

“Bottom is the person who is receiving the actions: being spanked, poked, nipple-clamped, penetrated, or following the orders. Bottoming may or may not involve being submissive [all the time] either,” she adds.

Therefore, this is why, as Midori suggests, it always a good idea to ask a current or potential new partner what exactly they mean when they say: “I’m a submissive” or “I’m a bottom” — and really listen to their explanation, because all too often people make the mistake of assuming that expressing sexuality is a uniform experience or undertaking when this is not the case.

Additionally, Midori cautions against assuming that our sexual appetites for how we want to experience sexuality are set in stone: “Sometimes we get really stuck in the idea that ‘I am a top’ or ‘I am a bottom’ [but] don’t narrow yourself, paint yourself into a corner being attached to an identity; these are ‘appetites,’ not identities,” she explains.

As such, it is totally normal for your appetites to change or evolve over time — it’s merely human nature.

As Nordstrom says, “If you’re reading this, you may be developing a new appetite for submission in sex. This could be because your appetite for dominance has been more than sated, or because you have become curious what other possibilities sex could hold if you were to experiment.”

Exploring Sexual Submissiveness & Masculinity

If you’re curious about sexual submission but worried that your sexual partner(s) might see you as less manly if you’re not fulfilling the dominant archetype, that’s understandable. It’s normal to experience anxiety when we crave the acceptance of a partner and are not sure how they will react.

However, if you “zoom out” and look at the bigger picture, you can see where this anxiety is ultimately born from outdated social stigmas and sexist stereotypes of manhood and gender roles.

As Cunningham suggests, ask yourself a question: “First, whose values/definition of masculinity are you using to define your masculinity, and do you agree with that or is this something you have simply adopted without much reflection?”

Cunningham also notes that “many top leaders in positions of power like CEOs, or high-ranking military members for example, are drawn to submissive play because of the freedom, excitement, and healing that they can experience in moving outside of their ‘normal’ mode of operation as a leader or position of power.”

“Sex is a powerful way for us humans to cope and express parts of ourselves that we may struggle to access in our day-to-day lives,” he adds.

In other words, you could be the most powerful man in the world, with days filled with success and conquering, but at night you might find yourself wanting the release of surrendering to a partner who’ll be in control.

Kink and power exchange can be a great, temporary escape from reality and the baggage that comes with the performative roles we all play in mundane society.

In short, you are not “lessened” in the least by wanting to explore submission; being brave enough to admit your true desires and allowing yourself that opportunity means you can be enhanced by a new depth of connection and variety in your sex life.

How to Talk to a Partner About Your Submissive Desires

Ok, I want to explore: What are some ideas for communicating with my partner about my submissive desires and fantasies?

Assuming your breakfast conversation does not get particularly kinky, you might be in need of an “icebreaker” or two. Not to worry! There’s no need to make this terribly complicated or convoluted…

“Having a ‘catalyst event’ for bringing up the conversation can be an easy “in,” says Nordstrom. “You might say, ‘Hey, I was reading this magazine, and it made a suggestion about having positive, playful conversations about sex with your partner. I’d love to try it! Would you?’”

Or, Nordstrom adds, “Instead of springing your newfound submissive appetite onto your partner, consider trying to have a positive conversation about your whole sex life, and work the submissive appetite into the conversation.”

In other words, “zoom out” and share with your partner what you already really enjoy about being with them–and then ask them what they’re enjoying — and would like to try. This way, you both have the opportunity to be and feel heard.

As another “in,” Wiseman also suggests commenting on a book, movie, TV show or other piece of pop culture that depicts a D/s dynamic.

And notwithstanding submissive desires, having an understanding of your partner’s fantasy life can help you to better understand where they are coming from and what might excite them.

Nevertheless, it’s always good to remember that it totally is normal for someone to have sexual fantasies that they do not necessarily want to act out in real life—so never, ever take for granted the need to establish clear consent.

Now, if you and your partner already enjoy open communication about your sex life (yay!), then by all means go ahead with a straightforward Q&A session.

Midori suggests you ask your partner how they would like to feel in a dominant role. 

“This isn’t about what toys to use or what you end up doing,” she explains. “This is about the core of [their] pleasure, leading to your hot submission. [Do they] want to feel adored, cruel, gentle, imperious, fickle, selfish, nurturing, powerful, or….? Then ask yourself how you want to feel: surrendered, willful, obedience, devotional, small, strong, enduing, obliterated, vulnerable, or…? And [then] find an overlap of emotional journey in your scene.”

Additionally, give yourself and your partner some grace, especially if you are navigating uncharted waters together.

“It is very common to have fear, uncertainty, confusion and many other challenging feelings in addition to excitement and curiosity when considering submissive exploration,” says Cunningham. “Do your best to name and even journal about your feelings and thoughts and to share these with your play partner so you can feel a greater sense of connection, understanding and ultimately intimacy.”

But remember: this erotic play time should also be a source of unabashed joy and delight; being open to the experience fuels the enthusiasm, Nordstrom says.

“When it comes to trying out any new sexual behavior, I have to remind my clients that sex is play!” she explains. “This means that it may be cumbersome, awkward, messy, confusing, or funny. But it shouldn’t be a job with an expected outcome. Going into new sexual scenarios in a curious mindset opens doors for anything to happen, instead of just focusing on one specific outcome.”

Best Practices for Exploring BDSM Submissiveness

According to Wiseman, good ‘best practices’ include getting adequate education and talking ahead of time about what will occur. In other words, sexual submission is not something you ever do (or expect your partner to do) ‘spontaneously,’ and certainly never under duress.

As with many other pursuits, when you are new to BDSM, it’s best to start slowly, as Nordstrom suggests: “My recommendation when partners are playing around with power dynamics is to always start slow, evaluate how different sexual acts are working, adapt behaviors as needed, and then go deeper into the dom/sub roles.”

“I cannot stress the importance of consent enough,” Nordstrom adds. “Creativity can take over when partners engage in BDSM. That said, it’s still VERY important to check in each time a new idea gets added to the sexual scenario. With consent comes trust (i.e., I believe you will ask me before you do something new to my body AND I believe you will tell me if I’ve done something that went too far).”

Nordstrom continues: “Safe words or actions are vital to any kink/BDSM scenario. Simple, easy to say words are best for safe words. “No” is not a good safe word, because, depending on the intensity of the scene, you may be begging your partner to stop when what you really want is for them to keep going.”

And this is where sexual submission can baffle outsiders.

“The funny thing is that in a power exchange relationship, the person who is in the submissive role is actually in a greater degree of control, because of their prior defining of their soft/hard boundaries and in their ability to create the play scene and rules with the dominant or master partner(s),” Cunningham explains.

As such, it is important to understand that the best BDSM scenes involve mutual collaboration between the submissive and the dominant well ahead of play time. If the power exchange feels one-sided or reluctant, then it’s really not a true exchange and the excitement is lost.

“Kink desires are much like appetites,” Midori says. “Creating a scene with your partner is like planning, cooking, and sharing that meal together. Even when you are surrendering in the scene, the creation is collaborative. Both of you have to like the ingredients and the whole meal for it to be fantastic.”

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Source: AskMen


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