My submission is a gift, and other dime store romance novel bullshit

Hello party people.  It’s been awhile since I actually ranted about something, so here’s a tirade for you to ponder on your Earth Day.

There is a phrase that has become so ubiquitous in the BDSM culture that it is literally written on t-shirts and mugs that you can buy from dropshippers worldwide – but it is just plain wrong and it sticks in my craw every time I read it or hear someone say it.

The phrase?

“My submission is a gift…”

This is usually followed by other such sundry tripe as, “… and any man who can’t understand that doesn’t deserve it,”  or “… and if it is not respected, I will take it back.”

This is wrong.

It’s a terrible metaphor and we really need to stop using it.  Submission is merely half of a power exchange negotiation.  It represents something different for every power dynamic, and every couple or group.  Submission, like almost everything else that we deal with in this thing that we do represents a spectrum of possibilities.

Submission is not a gift.  A gift is something that you give to someone with no expectations.  If you are submitting to someone with no expectations, you are doing it very, very wrong.

A gift is something that you give to someone knowing that you will never get it back.  A gift is something that you give to someone because you are following a social convention, or because they are someone you care about and gifts are one of their love languages, or because you, yourself, enjoy giving things to people.

Only the worst gifts come with strings attached, and while every gift given creates some sort of socially bonded obligation on the part of the recipient – it is always acceptable at some level for the recipient of a gift to do absolutely nothing with it, or even to re-gift it to someone else.  If someone were to offer me their submission and I did nothing with it – I would be doing us both a massive disservice, and if someone were to submit to me, only to have me pass that bond onto someone else, that would be a serious violation of trust (unless this is something that you negotiated prior.)

To make matters even worse, the vast majority of the people that I see using this phrase seem to think that they are somehow maintaining some level of control by trying to use this metaphor, which is completely untrue.  Everything gets wrapped up in these bullshit harlequin romance novel terms and ceases to have any real meaning anymore.  These sorts of modes of thinking force us to treat submission like it is a binary condition – either you are submissive or Dominant and that’s that.

It is certainly possible for a particular power dynamic to be so black and white, but that has to be negotiated to be that way.  It is also just as possible for a power dynamic to be more fluid, for areas of submission to be valid under only certain conditions, or only up to certain levels of comfort, respectful of hard and soft limits.

In fact, in my not-so-very-humble opinion, binary D/s is boring and uninspired.  Even if someone wants to consider themselves my property, I am not going to treat them like a slave under most conditions of normal everyday life.  Not only is it exhausting, but it’s not fun.

So, if my submission is not a gift, then what is it?

It’s a negotiation.  How many times do I have to say that here?  In the BDSM world, everything is a negotiation. 

Let me say that just one more time.

In the BDSM world, everything is a negotiation.

There is power to be shared on both sides of a power exchange negotiation, and if you have not negotiated away a particular power of yours, it remains yours. 

I seriously urge anyone who is entering into a D/s relationship to think long and hard about what they want to give up and what they expect to receive as part of that power dynamic and to not only have an earnest discussion about what those things all mean for you personally, but to even write them down and codify them in a contract.   This will help to prevent misunderstandings and many of the not-so-fun aspects of D/s relationship dynamics can be avoided.

End rant.

And I am, as always, Rant.